Do gods exist? 28 Adultery

Picture adapted from Rembrant’s Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law

The seventh commandment of the Christian god is that you should not commit adultery, because men own their wives.

According to the Bible, the seventh commandment is

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Ex 20:14, Deut 5:18)

But why is adultery wrong? Based on the Bible, adultery is a crime committed against the husband of the woman involved, but not against the wife of the man involved. A man owns his wife from the time they become engaged. Predictably, the punishment is death (Lev 20:10).

“20:10 The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.”

If another man has sex with an engaged virgin, he has committed a crime against her future husband, and must be stoned to death. If the woman did not scream for help, she must also be stoned to death (Deut 22:23-27).

“22:23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbour’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

25 “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbour and kills him, even so is this matter. 27 For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.”

If a newlywed man alleges that his bride was not a virgin, the bride’s father must prove her virginity. If the bride’s father can bring her blood-stained bedsheets to the elders of the city, her husband will pay him a fine for slander. If her father cannot produce the blood-stained bedsheets, the bride will be stoned to death on her father’s doorstep (Deut 22:13-21).

“22:13 If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, 14 and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’ 15 then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her.

17 Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; 19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.

20 “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.”

If a man suspects his wife of adultery, he must bring her to a priest, who will make her drink bitter water that will curse her. If she has been unfaithful, this will cause her to have a miscarriage. If she has been faithful, she will be able to give birth. (Num 5:11-31).

“5:11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘If any man’s wife goes astray and behaves unfaithfully toward him, 13 and a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and it is concealed that she has defiled herself … 14 … or if he becomes jealous of his wife, although she has not defiled herself, 15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest.

17 The priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 And the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone astray to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse.

20 But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you” 21 then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman “the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh rot and your belly swell; 22 and may this water that causes the curse go into your stomach, and make your belly swell and your thigh rot.” ‘Then the woman shall say, “Amen, so be it.”

23 ‘Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall scrape them off into the bitter water. 24 And he shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her to become bitter … 27 When he has made her drink the water, then it shall be, if she has defiled herself and behaved unfaithfully toward her husband, that the water that brings a curse will enter her and become bitter, and her belly will swell, her thigh will rot, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself, and is clean, then she shall be free and may conceive children.

29 This is the law of jealousy, when a wife, while under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes upon a man, and he becomes jealous of his wife; then he shall stand the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall execute all this law upon her. 31 Then the man shall be free from iniquity, but that woman shall bear her guilt.”

The Bible has a lot else to say about sex generally, but its laws against adultery are based on the unethical premise that a woman is the property of her husband, and are enforced under the threat of being stoned to death.

So that is commandment number seven. I will examine the eighth commandment in my next post.

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