Today we are going to look at The World of the Text of the seventh commandment, as found in Exodus 20:14:
You shall not commit adultery.
This is another command, much like murder, that is both simple to understand, but also belays something very deep. This passage says you shall not commit adulty. You shall not violate the sacred bonds that you have made to your husband or wife. As we say in the opening statement of the marriage service in our Book of Worship:
The covenant of marriage was established by God,
who created us make and female for each other.
With his presence and power
Jesus graced a wedding at Cana of Galilee,
and in his sacrificial love
gave us the example for the love of husband and wife.
Adulty is a violation of that vow that is made to another (and to God) at one’s wedding ceremony. As I tell couples who I marry when we get to the vows the rest of the crowd fades away and they are talking to each other. They are making these vows, these promises, to each other. To commit adulty is to break that promise, and my mama always told me that one of the most important things you have in your life is your word. You do not break a promise.
But when you look deeper at what the words on the paper are saying to the original hearers, this commandment is not just a command of protection of your marriage, it is a command of protection of their marriage. These commandments are law and they are for the good of all the people. The word for adultery is different from that of fornication, or sexual sin. This command calls on me (and you) not just to respect my marriage, but to respect your marriage. Family is the basic building block of a society. Marriage should be held sacred by all. The sin here is not on the one who breaks the vow they made to their spouse, but it is also upon the one who disrespects and destroys the marriage and union of their neighbor. Even if one person in the adulterous relationship is not married, if they are single, they have not just fornicated, they have committed adultery. Both parties have committed adultery because both parties have destroyed a marriage. Adultery is more than just about the sexual act, it is about the destruction of a marriage. We are called to respect and honor our vows made in our marriage. But in the same way, we are called to respect and honor the vows that others have made upon their marriage as well.
This is the deeper textually understanding of adultery.
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