Exodus 20:14
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Thou shalt not commit adultery.—Next to the duty of respecting a man’s life is placed that of respecting his domestic peace and honour. Adultery is an invasion of the household, a destruction of the bond which unites the family, a dissolution of that contract which is the main basis of social order. It was forbidden by all civilised communities, and in uncivilised ones frequently punished with death. The Mosaic enactments on the subject are peculiar chiefly in the absolute equality on which they place the man and the woman. Adulterers are as hateful as adulteresses, and are as surely to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24, &c.). The man who acts treacherously against “the wife of his covenant” is as great a sinner as the woman who breaks the marriage bond (Malachi 2:14-16). There is “no respect of persons” and no respect of sexes with God.

Exodus 20:14. Thou shalt not commit adultery — This commandment forbids all acts of uncleanness, with all those desires which produce those acts and war against the soul.

20:12-17 The laws of the SECOND table, that is, the last six of the ten commandments, state our duty to ourselves and to one another, and explain the great commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, Lu 10:27. Godliness and honesty must go together. The fifth commandment concerns the duties we owe to our relations. Honour thy father and thy mother, includes esteem of them, shown in our conduct; obedience to their lawful commands; come when they call you, go where they send you, do what they bid you, refrain from what they forbid you; and this, as children, cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Also submission to their counsels and corrections. Endeavouring, in every thing, to comfort parents, and to make their old age easy; maintaining them if they need support, which our Saviour makes to be particularly intended in this commandment, Mt 15:4-6. Careful observers have noted a peculiar blessing in temporal things on obedient, and the reverse on disobedient children. The sixth commandment requires that we regard the life and the safety of others as we do our own. Magistrates and their officers, and witnesses testifying the truth, do not break this command. Self-defence is lawful; but much which is not deemed murder by the laws of man, is such before God. Furious passions, stirred up by anger or by drunkenness, are no excuse: more guilty is murder in duels, which is a horrible effect of a haughty, revengeful spirit. All fighting, whether for wages, for renown, or out of anger and malice, breaks this command, and the bloodshed therein is murder. To tempt men to vice and crimes which shorten life, may be included. Misconduct, such as may break the heart, or shorten the lives of parents, wives, or other relatives, is a breach of this command. This command forbids all envy, malice, hatred, or anger, all provoking or insulting language. The destruction of our own lives is here forbidden. This commandment requires a spirit of kindness, longsuffering, and forgiveness. The seventh commandment concerns chastity. We should be as much afraid of that which defiles the body, as of that which destroys it. Whatever tends to pollute the imagination, or to raise the passions, falls under this law, as impure pictures, books, conversation, or any other like matters. The eighth commandment is the law of love as it respects the property of others. The portion of worldly things allotted us, as far as it is obtained in an honest way, is the bread which God hath given us; for that we ought to be thankful, to be contented with it, and, in the use of lawful means, to trust Providence for the future. Imposing upon the ignorance, easiness, or necessity of others, and many other things, break God's law, though scarcely blamed in society. Plunderers of kingdoms though above human justice, will be included in this sentence. Defrauding the public, contracting debts without prospect of paying them, or evading payment of just debts, extravagance, all living upon charity when not needful, all squeezing the poor in their wages; these, and such things, break this command; which requires industry, frugality, and content, and to do to others, about worldly property, as we would they should do to us. The ninth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour's good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing to deceive our neighbour. Speaking unjustly against our neighbour, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against him, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and tale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, and in any way endeavouring to raise our reputation upon the ruin of our neighbour's. How much this command is every day broken among persons of all ranks! The tenth commandment strikes at the root; Thou shalt not covet. The others forbid all desire of doing what will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all wrong desire of having what will gratify ourselves.Matthew 5:21-32 is the best comment on these two verses.8. Remember the sabbath day—implying it was already known, and recognized as a season of sacred rest. The first four commandments [Ex 20:3-11] comprise our duties to God—the other six [Ex 20:12-17] our duties to our fellow men; and as interpreted by Christ, they reach to the government of the heart as well as the lip (Mt 5:17). "If a man do them he shall live in them" [Le 18:5; Ne 9:29]. But, ah! what an if for frail and fallen man. Whoever rests his hope upon the law stands debtor to it all; and in this view every one would be without hope were not "the Lord our Righteousness" [Jer 23:6; 33:16] (Joh 1:17). Here is mentioned one kind of uncleanness, as being eminently sinful, and unjust, and pernicious to human society. But under this are comprehended and forbidden all other kinds of filthiness, as bestiality, sodomy, whoredom, fornication, &c., and all means, occasions, and appearances of them; as it appears,

1. From other scriptures that forbid those things, which either belong to this command, or to none of the ten, which is very improbable.

2. From the large extent of the other commands, noted before.

3. From our Saviour’s explication, Matthew 5:27. And contrariwise, all chastity and sobriety in thoughts, affections, words, habits, and gestures, is here prescribed. See 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4 Heb 13:4.

Thou shall not commit adultery, Which, strictly speaking, is only that sin which is committed with another man's wife, as Jarchi observes; but Aben Ezra thinks the word here used signifies the same as another more commonly used for whoredom and fornication; and no doubt but fornication is here included, which, though it was not reckoned a crime among some Heathens, is within the reach of this law, and forbidden by it, it being an impure action, and against a man's body, as the apostle says, 1 Corinthians 6:18 as well as sins of a more enormous kind, as unnatural lusts and copulations, such as incest, sodomy, bestiality, &c. and even all unchaste thoughts, desires, and affections, obscene words, and impure motions and gestures of the body, and whatever is in itself unclean or tends to uncleanness; as it also requires that we should, as much as in us lies, do all we can to preserve our chastity, and the chastity of others, pure and inviolate, see Matthew 5:28, this is the seventh commandment. Thou shalt not {k} commit adultery.

(k) But be pure in heart, word and deed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. The seventh commandment. The purity of the married state to be maintained (cf. Genesis 2:24 J). Cf. Leviticus 18:20 (H), Job 31:9-12, and Matthew 5:27-32. For the penalty for adultery, see Leviticus 20:10 (H), Deuteronomy 22:22. In LXX. (B, and several cursives,—both here and in Dt.), and the Nash papyrus, the seventh commandment comes before the sixth: the same order is found in Mark 10:19 (Text. Rec.), Luke 18:20, Romans 13:9, James 2:11, in Philo, and in many of the Fathers (Kn.).

Verse 14. - Thou shalt not commit adultery. Our second duty towards our neighbour is to respect the bond on which the family is based, and that conjugal honour which to the true man is dearer than life. Marriage, according to the original institution, made the husband and wife "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24); and to break in upon this sacramental union was at once a crime and a profanity. Adulteresses and their paramours were in most ancient nations liable to be punished with death by the injured party; but the adultery of a married man with an unmarried woman was thought lightly cf. The precept of the Decalogue binds both man and woman equally. Our Lord's expansion of this commandment (Matthew 5:27-32) is parallel to his expansion of the preceding one (ib, 21-26). He shows that there are adulterous marriages in countries where the law gives a facility of divorce, and that without any overt act adultery may be committed in the heart. Exodus 20:14The other Five Words or commandments, which determine the duties to one's neighbour, are summed up in Leviticus 19:18 in the one word, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." The order in which they follow one another is the following: they first of all secure life, marriage, and property against active invasion or attack, and then, proceeding from deed to word and thought, they forbid false witness and coveting.

(Note: Luther has pointed out this mirum et aptum ordinem, and expounds it thus: Incipit prohibitio a majori usque ad minimum, nam maximum damnum est occisio hominis, deinde proximum violatio conjugis, tertium ablatio facultatis. Quod qui in iis nocere non possunt, saltem lingua nocent, ideo quartum est laesio famae. Quodsi in iis non praevalent omnibus, saltem corde laedunt proximum, cupiendo quae ejus sunt, in quo et invidia proprie consistit.)

If, therefore, the first three commandments in this table refer primarily to deeds; the subsequent advance to the prohibition of desire is a proof that the deed is not to be separated from the disposition, and that "the fulfilment of the law is only complete when the heart itself is sanctified" (Oehler). Accordingly, in the command, "Thou shalt not kill," not only is the accomplished fact of murder condemned, whether it proceed from open violence or stratagem (Exodus 21:12, Exodus 21:14, Exodus 21:18), but every act that endangers human life, whether it arise from carelessness (Deuteronomy 22:8) or wantonness (Leviticus 19:14), or from hatred, anger, and revenge (Leviticus 19:17-18). Life is placed at the head of these commandments, not as being the highest earthly possession, but because it is the basis of human existence, and in the life the personality is attacked, and in that the image of God (Genesis 9:6). The omission of the object still remains to be noticed, as showing that the prohibition includes not only the killing of a fellow-man, but the destruction of one's own life, or suicide. - The two following commandments are couched in equally general terms. Adultery, נאף, which is used in Leviticus 20:10 of both man and woman, signifies (as distinguished from זנה to commit fornication) the sexual intercourse of a husband with the wife of another, or of a wife with the husband of another. This prohibition is not only directed against any assault upon the husband's dearest possession, for the tenth commandment guards against that, but upholds the sacredness of marriage as the divine appointment for the propagation and multiplication of the human race; and although addressed primarily to the man, like all the commandments that were given to the whole nation, applies quite as much to the woman as to the man, just as we find in Leviticus 20:10 that adultery was to be punished with death in the case of both the man and the woman. - Property was to be equally inviolable. The command, "Thou shalt not steal," prohibited not only the secret or open removal of another person's property, but injury done to it, or fraudulent retention of it, through carelessness or indifference (Exodus 21:33; Exodus 22:13; Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4). - But lest these commandments should be understood as relating merely to the outward act as such, as they were by the Pharisees, in opposition to whom Christ set forth their true fulfilment (Matthew 5:21.), God added the further prohibition, "Thou shalt not answer as a false witness against thy neighbour," i.e., give false testimony against him. ענה and בּ: to answer or give evidence against a person (Genesis 30:33). עד is not evidence, but a witness. Instead of שׁקר עד, a witness of a lie, who consciously gives utterance to falsehood, we find שׁוא עד in Deuteronomy, one who says what is vain, worthless, unfounded (שׁוא שׁמע, Exodus 23:1; on שׁוא see Exodus 23:7). From this it is evident, that not only is lying prohibited, but false and unfounded evidence in general; and not only evidence before a judge, but false evidence of every kind, by which (according to the context) the life, married relation, or property of a neighbour might be endangered (cf. Exodus 23:1; Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Deuteronomy 22:13.). - The last or tenth commandment is directed against desiring (coveting), as the root from which every sin against a neighbour springs, whether it be in word or deed. The חמד, ἐπιθυμεῖν (lxx), coveting, proceeds from the heart (Proverbs 6:25), and brings forth sin, which "is finished" in the act (James 1:14-15). The repetition of the words, "Thou shalt not covet," does not prove that there are two different commandments, any more than the substitution of תּתאוּה in Deuteronomy 5:18 for the second תּחמד. חמד and התאוּה are synonyms, - the only difference between them being, that "the former denotes the desire as founded upon the perception of beauty, and therefore excited from without, the latter, desire originating at the very outset in the person himself, and arising from his own want or inclination" (Schultz). The repetition merely serves to strengthen and give the great emphasis to that which constitutes the very kernel of the command, and is just as much in harmony with the simple and appropriate language of the law, as the employment of a synonym in the place of the repetition of the same word is with the rhetorical character of Deuteronomy. Moreover, the objects of desire do not point to two different commandments. This is evident at once from the transposition of the house and wife in Deuteronomy. בּית (the house) is not merely the dwelling, but the entire household (as in Genesis 15:2; Job 8:15), either including the wife, or exclusive of her. In the text before us she is included; in Deuteronomy she is not, but is placed first as the crown of the man, and a possession more costly than pearls (Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 31:10). In this case, the idea of the "house" is restricted to the other property belonging to the domestic economy, which is classified in Deuteronomy as fields, servants, cattle, and whatever else a man may have; whereas in Exodus the "house" is divided into wife, servants, cattle, and the rest of the possessions.

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