John 8 - The Adulterous woman

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JOHN 8 - The Case of the Adulterous Woman

John 8 v 1 – 11


3 points of reference on adultery.

  1. View of the world

  2. View of the Torah and rabbinical law

  3. And the view of God through his son Jesus


Definition of Adultery

To start with, let’s have a look at what the woman was accused of;

As defined by;

  1. Old testament

  2. Now

  3. First, how do we perceive it in UK?

The definition of Adultery anglicised from Latin adulterium is extramarital sex that is considered objectionable on social, religious, moral or legal grounds.


Adultery Statistics

Recent case UNDISCLOSED WEBSITE – incident where many users details were spread across the internet.

  1. Nearly 23 million members

  2. This message is therefore applicable to today and always has been

 Looking specifically to this country statistics show 1 MILLION BRITS ARE UNFAITHFUL!!!

When I was looking at this subject, there were many sites offering CONTACTS. The internet is a great tool for commentaries, buying books, buying shoes and food even! It can also be a danger and can lead you off in many directions. Sin starts with looking at things which cause us to lust.

Did you know adultery has changed its name to infidelity! Let’s have a look at some statistics in the UK, I’m an analyst I can manipulate bad stats to look good

From the Daily Telegraph in 2016

  1. 36 % see it as a problem

  2. 2 out of 3 people don’t see it’s a reason to break up i.e. it’s acceptable

  3. Percent of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional 41 % i.e. Nearly a half!!!

  4. Percent of married men who have strayed at least once during their married lives 22 % i.e. 1 in 5

  5. Percent of married women who have strayed at least once during their married lives 14 % i.e.1 in 8

  6. Percentage of marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered 31 % - They are in the minority

  7. Percentage of men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 74 %. Remember God sees everything and as it says in

Hebrews 4:13 - And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account

Percentage of women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 68 % Similar to the man.

  1. How many women say cheating in marriage is wrong? - 84%

    1. They do it, but they say it’s wrong

    2. Proof that man know that what he is doing is wrong

    3. Whether that is to a living God or to your partner isn’t clear

    4.  As it says in James 4:17 - Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

    5. How many men share that sentiment 78% say that it's not okay for married spouses to have a romance on the side.

Adultery has always been about and some early cases of adultery in the bible were between Abraham and Sarah where he passed his wife off as his sister as well as David and Bathsheba in Samuel and Psalm 51.


Adultery in surrounding areas to what is now Israel

There were similar attitudes to adultery at that time in history which had had some similarities. The Assyrian Hittites punishment was to throw the accused man into the river and if he sank, he was guilty but survived if he didn’t drown. Egypt it was known as the ‘great sin’ and was generally viewed as a crime in non-Israelite eyes.

What is interesting is most of the legal system allowed the husband of the accused to waive the death penalty in exchange for money. Some years ago, ISIS would stone women accused of adultery. `


Israelite law (Old Testament)

The difference between the other religions and races, compared to the Israelites was adultery carried the death penalty and impacted the whole community. Like Israel’s kosher laws, the punishment distinguished Israel from its idol worshipping neighbours.

If you look at other books in the bible such as Jeremiah, Hosea and Joel, adultery is used as a term for the nation not following the covenant between them and God and worshipped idols i.e. they love somebody else like in a relationship. As a result, causing the calamities which happen to them and the consequences were prophesised, and they came true as in;

Jeremiah 52:12-13 Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 

13. He burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire.

If have a look now at the reading in relation to the law, there are two sets of verses which illustrate the law.


Adultery in Judaic law pt. 1

Deut 22: 22-24 - If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.

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.

Here adultery is prohibited in Jewish law by the Seventh (sixth in other versions) Commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery. "Adultery in traditional Judaism applies to both parties, but depends on the marital status of the woman;

Leviticus 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.

Though the Torah prescribes the death penalty for adultery the legal procedural requirements were very exacting and required the testimony of two eyewitnesses of good character for conviction. The defendant also must have been warned immediately before performing the act and a death sentence could be issued only during the period when the Holy Temple stood, and only so long as the Supreme Torah Court convened in its chamber within the Temple complex. This temple is not here today, therefore, no death penalty applies in our period. It is also the reason why Jewish people don’t sacrifice animals anymore.

Later on the death penalty for adultery was changed by death by strangulation except in the case of a woman who was the daughter of a Kohanin (Aaronic priestly caste), which was specifically mentioned by Scripture by the death penalty of pouring molten lead down the throat. In itself there never was mentioned in Pharisaic or Rabbinic Judaism sources a punishment of stoning for adulterers as mentioned in John 8. At the civil level, however, Jewish law (halakhah) forbids a man to continue living with an adulterous wife, and he is obliged to divorce her.

Also, an adulteress is not permitted to marry the adulterer and to avoid any doubt as to her status as being free to marry another or that of her children, many authorities say he must give her a divorce as if they were married.


Adultery in Judaic law pt. 2

Numbers 5:16-17 16.And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the Lord. 

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.

Numbers 5:27-28

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.

To summarise the procedure was the wife who strayed brought before the priest where he gives her water mixed in with dirt from the ground of the Tabernacle. The Priest then presents a meal offering as a sacrifice “Minhah” (pronounced MIN HCAA). If she is innocent there is no effect and if she is guilty her stomach extends, and she becomes barren unable to have children.

So the question is why was there no death penalty in the book of Numbers? Simply put It was because the term for adultery in Hebrew is “na-af” and it is not used.  So, the death penalty wasn’t as per the previous punishment in the book of Exodus.


Ordeal Annulled

In the book by Graetz titled "History of the Jews," the rabbinical interpretation of the law relating to the ordeal in Numbers practically annulled it, and it soon fell into disuse. During the Roman invasion of Palestine, and the last days of the commonwealth, the Sanhedrin, under the presidency of Johanan ben Zakkai, abolished the ordeal entirely;

As the Mishnah (Jewish Oral laws) states, "when adulterers became numerous, the 'ordeal of the bitter waters' ceased, and it was R. Johanan ben Zakkai who abolished it.

Within the bible;

Hosea 4:14 'I will not punish your daughters, when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses, when they commit adultery; for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots'"

The book continues that “For it appears that under the Roman regime, immorality spread among the people, the judges became corrupt, the springs of justice were defiled, and general demoralization resulted”


The law (New Testament)

Within Roman law at the time of this incident, it did not permit private Israelite executions especially for adultery. The Israelites were under this jurisdiction but as we know form the rest of the bible this didn’t always work as in Acts 7 when Stephen was stoned because he exposed the hearts and minds of the Sanhedrin and was clearly against the law at the time.


Jesus and the Trap

The Pharisees / Sanhedrin always asked Christ a ‘loaded’ question as when they asked Jesus should they pay taxes to Caesar. Hence the outcomes were;

  • If he says yes – he is a traitor and law breaker

  • If he says no, he is party to rebellion

  • He called them ‘vipers’ lethal in Matthew 23

There are many references in Psalms to traps, I always think of these with reference to Jesus and his rabbinic tormenters.

Psalm 140:5 - (CJB) Keep me, Adonai, from the hands of the wicked, protect me from violent people who are trying to trip me up

But those who love the Lord always remember in the bible how the traps are eventually their downfall i.e. Achitophel and David in Samuel.

But in short this was a trap to see what Jesus reaction to the situation was. The adulteress was brought to Jesus to embarrass them both. There are some interesting observations here that the man who was the adulterer was not brought before them and as we know it takes two participants in the adultery. Also how did the Pharisees get the two witnesses as adultery is a private sin and hence difficult to prosecute as they would have to be witness to the adulterous act. As James Montgomery Boice puts it in his commentary on Acts  

"Under these conditions the obtaining of evidence in adultery would be almost impossible were the situation not a setup."

Some commentators even ask the question “Was the man in on it”?

The trap was in their words “What do you say?” Should Jesus break the Torah Gods law and accept adultery, or should he break Roman Law and have her stoned and as we know Jesus came to fulfil the Torah not to break it.


Jesus Response (verses 6-7)

Jesus showed in his response;

  • He was not against the Torah, the Judaic law

  • He was merciful to her and he saw she was a pawn in the Pharisees power games.

  • He opposed her sin as in Exodus.

  • His aim was to silence Hecklers i.e. those who shout from the side-lines who use the law to justify their unclean hearts and he put them to shame by their silence.


If you notice, Jesus initially ignored the accusers and did not speak but wrote in the sand. When you are accused sometimes it is best to stay silent. His body language also showed the character of Christ i.e. he stooped down in an act of humility similar to when you talk to children or an injured person. He identified with the humiliation of the woman (as he too was soon to be humiliated on the cross, nearly naked, beaten and left suffocating to death for all to see)

There is also a deeper reference to Numbers 5 v 17 mimicking the priest picking the dirt off the floor of the tabernacle. Jesus wasn’t going to judge her.


What did he write in the sand?

This is as they say the million-dollar question but in summary we are not told. There are many possibilities.

  1. He wrote those who are not of the Lord, i.e. not in the book of life evoking the written Torah or law

   Jeremiah 17:13 - O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be ashamed. “Those who depart from me shall be written in the earth, because 

   they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.”

   2. Some think that Jesus wrote the passage in the law that condemned the adulterous woman, demonstrating his knowledge of Torah.

   3. Another possibility is the Mosaic covenant written in;

   Numbers 5:23 - Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall scrape them off into the bitter water.

   (What’s interesting is Numbers 5 is it details impurities within the Israelite camp where the priest writes down the curses)

   4. Names of men there i.e. her accusers?

   5. Sins of her accusers?

   6. Some think that Jesus simply doodled in the dirt. The verb translated wrote could also mean, "to draw."

   7. Some think Jesus simply stalled for time.

   8. Some think Jesus wrote out a passage like

   Exodus 23:1 - “Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness”

   9. Some think that Jesus followed Roman judicial practice and wrote out his sentence before he said it.

   10. My choice is Jesus wrote the law, with their names against it showing their hypocrisy and hence why they left one by one.

Who is without sin?

Jesus now calmed the situation down; he turned his attention away from the woman to the accusers. In life satan is our biggest accuser, he likes to tell us our sins and remind us of our pasts, but as scripture says;

Roman 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus

Here were the sins of the Sanhedrin vs the sin of the woman and they were following the law of the Torah rather than the spirit of the Torah. Jesus was the only one present who was without sin, yet he did not condemn the woman. Instead he demanded that the law be applied, and he condemned the men present and condemned their desire to punish even though they missed their own sins;

Matthew 7:5 - Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

They left because their consciences were pricked and as it says ‘Oldest to the youngest’



In the absence of accusers Jesus and the woman were left alone and she was left with the one who could spiritually condemn her. But her accusers liked to accuse, and Christ wanted to forgive. He recognised her sin, but told her to stop doing it and turn back to the Lord and repent;

John 3:17 - For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He gave the woman hope;

Romans 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

After this we guess that the woman would likely face more trouble i.e. a potential divorce and all its implications for any children as well as possible shunning by the community which may affect the social status of those involved, and may result in social ostracism. But we are not told what happened after, but the greatest thing happened to her, she wasn’t condemned by her heavenly Father. He told her to sin no more and repent and turn from your ways. The New Testament Greek word – “hamartánō” which means to miss the mark in the negative way as Christ warned the lame man, he healed in;

John 5: 14 - Afterwards Yeshua found him in the Temple court and said to him, “See, you are well! Now stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you!” 




What does the world say about adultery? I looked some articles and in general it is excused and encouraged. It is excused as mid-life crisis or to enrich your life. Some columns even said it will bring you closer together as a couple. The bible says in

Matthew 19:4-6 – 4. And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5. And said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

I know people who have had affairs and are now divorced, and my advice is don’t follow advice from the world. It leaves a mess; I’ve seen relations as well as friends break up and the pain it causes.


Point 2: SIN

God created one man for one woman and adultery is a sin and the bible is very clear in that sense. In this case Jesus was not against the law and he saw what was in the men’s hearts and exposed their lack of knowledge and compassion in their hearts.



This chapter of John is a good character reference or for Jesus as he used a trap against the enemy i.e. to be brought in public and shame people and he showed his compassion as in;

Matthew 11:28 - Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

God is compassionate and slow to anger but God will not be mocked by man and have the law used against him.


If you do sin and I’m hoping and praying you won’t fall to temptation or do them BUT IF YOU DO as with adultery or any sin if we ask for forgiveness and are genuine and want to turn away from sin then WE ARE FORGIVEN THROUGH JESUS !!! As Christ said to the woman in verse….” I do not condemn you”



By Christs suffering and death on the cross this was the ‘tikkun’ which is a Hebrew word for spiritual repair necessary to bring about our spiritual healing.



In short repent, stop your sin and move on and accept the only thing that makes us right with a living God is the blood of his son Jesus Christ and “sin no more”. As Jesus gave this woman hope and the whole point of Jesus dying on the cross was to give us hope from a path determined by sin and which is ultimately doomed. There is no condemnation in Christ

So, let’s give thanks today that the Lord forgives those repentant and he died for everybody in the hope that all may be saved;

1 Timothy 2:4 - who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.