Email 25

My question refers to the Mosaic Law. What is adultery when it relates to men? I was recently told that a man having relations with a married woman is adultery but a married man having relations with a unmarried woman is referred to as fornication not adultery. This person explained that the correct term was based on the marital status of the woman not the man. He further explained that this had something to do with maintaining the Hebrew blood line. Please clarify. I really appreciate your help.


Dear Lance,

In the KJV adultery and fornication are listed many times and an understanding of the words may be had by consulting your Strong’s concordance.

In Webster’s English dictionary, this is the definition of the English word fornication n. 1. voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other. 2. (in the Bible)a. adultery.b. idolatry. fornicatory adj

For Adultery it is: adultery n., pl. teries. voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse.

This is what informs most understanding of the Hebrew English Bible. Hebrew is a block, concept language, and it’s understanding has to be had from that perspective. For instance, the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” includes the lusting after a woman as a violation of this commandment. Or “You shall not commit murder,” also includes not gossiping even if true (Lashon hara) about anyone as this is akin to murder. The old rabbis understood this to be the case and taught about these concepts even before the Advent of Yahshua (Jesus).

In the Bible, fornication and adultery are not so distinct as understood in English. You can see from the listed items below. Adultery always includes fornication. In other words the act of sex union has to be present to be Adultery. Judiciously different penalties are exacted when certain elements are present as to the marital status of either party involved. Only when both people are unmarried is it seen as truly fornication in the English understanding. There are laws in the Torah regarding these situations of sexual union between a man and woman who are married and unmarried, both married and unmarried, and both married. Also note, In Judaism, having sex with a woman also constitutes a marriage. Betrothal has legal obligations, but marriage constitutes consummation of the sex act. One of the legal obligations of a betrothal is chastity. In some instances, singled out in the Torah such as in the case of one of the persons being married, the death penalty is still enacted upon both if the sexual union was voluntary. In the case of rape, if the rape takes place in the fields, there are penalties for both the married and the unmarried if the act is discovered, the man must take the woman as his wife and cannot divorce her. See below.

Deu 22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
Deu 22:26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
Deu 22:27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
Deu 22:28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Deu 22:29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
In this book it also clearly says: Deu 22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

What if the man is married and the woman is not? Then the woman must be a virgin, or a prostitute would apply, in any case not married, for as you can see in the earlier entry above he must marry her and make compensation or if the details are such and it is a rape (forced) and she could not summon help the death penalty is enacted. All depends on the circumstances. It is not so clear cut as your friend states that a married man having sex with an unmarried woman is fornication for judiciously in this case it exacts the penalty of death which is adultery. In the English bible there is no specification of death for fornication but, the Scriptures teach otherwise which tells us something about the inadequacy of translation.

Deu 22:23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

Deu 22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

Here is another set of circumstances to peruse. If she had cried out she would have been spared, and he would have been executed, if not both are executed.

There is little distinction between the two words in the Scripture. For instance in Matthew Yahshua states, the only cause for divorce is “fornication.” This word used here is the same as adultery, but He is speaking of spiritual adultery. Had He been speaking of adultery as the Mosaic Law addresses it would have called for stoning to death the perpetrators, so He could not have been speaking of physical adultery for the wife or husband and partner either betrothed or married would have been executed, because they were guilty of physical adultery. If they were guilty of “fornication” as the English conveys then what crime are they guilty of, and for which there is a penalty. I believe I have a sermon on the web on this subject.

Not all your friend told you is completely correct in my estimation. I have heard this same definition made by many. I will start right off by saying there is no credibility to the statement that such a “law” was given to maintaining a Hebrew bloodline. The only Jewish law that I can recall that would remotely relate to an issue from an illegitimate union is the one that relates to Jewish women being raped by foreign conquerors of which there were many. A baby from such a union was considered Jewish under Jewish law. That is why the Jewish bloodline today, is traced from the matrilineal descent.

Adultery is likened to spiritual apostasy. A marriage is likened to our relationship to G-d in that it is a picture of a faithful relationship to G-d as our earthly marriages should be faithful relationships with one spouse. Adultery carries with it legal ramifications and there is a temporal and spiritual penalty exacted for breaking this union. We are to have both a stable earthly marriage, and a spiritual marriage with G-d without courting or committing “fornication” (the act of sexual union) by engaging in extra-marital relationships or in false worship.

If you look up “adultery” in any Hebrew dictionary you will see that ‘fornication and adultery” are used interchangeably.

Like a good rabbi I will leave you with a question. First, adultery is deception. So, if a man or woman allows or gives their mate permission to have intimate sex with someone outside of the marriage union, for whatever reason, health, disability, etc., does that constitute adultery, or would that be ‘fornication” (sexual union). From a halakic (rabbinical legal decisions) it would not be adultery because it was permissive, and therefore not liable to civil or criminal penalty if the other party in the equation was not married.

Therefore, any sexual act outside the parameters of G-d’s Torah (either fornication or adultery in the broad sense) is considered illegal and liable for penalties.

Your subject entails much more than is own the surface. Good question! I enjoyed it and hope this helps or most likely it just draws up more questions. That’s the beauty of Scripture. There is always more depth than we find on the surface.

Shalom v’brachas, Rabbi Davis (R. Milchamah b. David