| The Biblical
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
1) True Justice and Mercy
2) Marriage and Deceit
3) Man And Responsibility
|True Justice and Mercy|
The Lord Jesus, while He walked on this earth, made it clear that the purpose of His coming was not to destroy the law, or the prophets. Rather, He came to fulfill both, Matthew 5:17. In other words, one of the reasons for His coming was to show man the proper understanding and application of the law as He originally gave it to Moses, James 4:12.
The religious leaders of Christ's day were flagrantly abusing Moses' law for their own purposes at the expense of the people (cf. Ez. 34); religious leaders since do the same. The actions of the Lord in John 8, toward the woman taken in adultery deals with an attempted misuse of the law.
There were several Mosaic laws which apply to the situation in John 8: laws concerning adultery, contrasted with rape; a suspicious, jealous husband toward his wife; any controversy between two people; and false witnesses.
If Christ's actions while He was here on this earth are separated from the Mosaic law, He is a lawbreaker, 1 John 3:4. Furthermore, any who attempt to pattern their lives and actions after Christ separate from the law of Moses are also lawbreakers.
The first law we want to examine is the law concerning adultery. This is given short and sharp treatment by the Lord through Moses: If a man and woman married to an husband are found lying together, both are to die, Deuteronomy 22:22. But the Lord clarifies this law as He provides for rape, vs. 23-29. (Woman married to an husband is dealt with below.)
In vs. 22-27, the betrothed virgin is treated as a married woman. If she is forced where there was a chance that others could come to her aid, both were to die. This took for granted that the woman cried out and that someone would hear and come to her rescue. If the forcing was in a lonely place, the law took for granted that the woman cried out and there was no one within hearing range. The woman is given the benefit of the doubt, and only the man had to die. Rape is equated with murder, v. 26.
Notice the phrase in vs. 25, 28, if a man find a damsel.., indicates that this evil was not preplanned. Whereas, v. 22, if a man be found lying with a woman married., indicates that this was prearranged.
Thus, the point is that the man and woman had to be caught in the act for death to be enforced; the circumstances dictated if one or both died. If the woman was married, both had to die unless rape was involved.
The next law which we would like to examine is the law concerning a suspicious/jealous husband, Numbers 5:12-31. He suspects his wife of adultery, but there are no witnesses, nor does he have any proof. She denies any wrongdoing, yet he is not satisfied. [V. 14, the spirit of jealousy come upon him, the husband. Where did the spirit come from? Did the Lord send the spirit?]
The law permitted only the husband to bring charges of suspected unfaithfulness against his wife although it does not say that he must. In order to pursue charges against his wife, he brings her to the priest at the temple. He also brings with him an offering of memorial, suggesting a request that the Lord bring to mind the truth of the matter, v. 15.
The priest brings the accused wife before the LORD, v. 16 [note the spelling of the word LORD in this text, ie., the OT spelling for the Lord Jesus Christ]. The location is important; this would be a place where the general public was permitted outside of the tabernacle itself. Anyone not of the line of Aaron was forbidden to go any further.
The priest then takes holy water in an earthen vessel, stoops over to the floor in the sight of all present, takes an unspecified amount of dust from the floor and mixes it with the water which the accused woman will drink, v. 17. The priest then explains to the woman that if she has gone aside to another instead of her husband, the Lord will bring a curse upon her after she drinks the mixture. The woman agrees by answering, Amen, amen, v. 22. The priest records the whole matter before the Lord in a book; next, he symbolically claims the Lord's supernatural intervention by blotting the record with the mixture, v. 23.
Keil makes an interesting point about the dust used to mix with the water which the wife drinks in this trial of jealousy: "The dust was strewed upon the water,.. as an allusion to the fact, that dust was eaten by the serpent as the curse of sin, and therefore as the symbol of a state deserving a curse, a state of deepest humiliation and disgrace" (The Fourth Book of Moses, pg. 31).
In the first sin the woman was enticed, deceived or seduced by the serpent. The resulting curse was that he would eat of the dust from that time forward. Here the woman was enticed to enter into this sin of adultery; therefore, the dust of the curse is placed in the water which she must drink.
Furthermore, Keil identifies the dust from the floor here before the alter of the Lord's presence as symbolic of the Spirit of God. If this is true [which the context would confirm as well as the usage of this law by our Lord], this means that the priest, the woman and her husband are asking the Spirit of God to make the proper determination in this secret matter.
The sin is a secret sin that only she, the man and the Lord knows about. Therefore, the judgment takes place in the secret parts; she must drink the water, vs. 24-26. The Lord makes the judgment, vs. 27, 28. If He determines that she is free from guilt, she will conceive seed by her husband [her vindication, Ex. 21:10], v. 28.
If the Lord determines she is guilty, He causes the curse (her belly swell, her thigh rot), and her punishment is that she will become a curse among her people, not death as in Deuteronomy 22:22. [Josephus says that she agrees "that she might die thus." Antiquities, vol II. Book III, ch. xi, pg. 221. In other words, this is a slow, painful death brought on by the Spirit of the Lord. She asks for, submits to, and receives the Lord's righteous judgment.]
This provision for the husband would seem to be one-sided, so we need to keep some things in mind.
First, as foreign as it seems to our Western Christian minds, more than one wife, as well as concubines, were permitted in antiquity. Therefore, the husband would only be guilty of adultery if he had an illicit connection with another man's wife. Consequently, Deuteronomy 22:22, says a woman married to an husband, and not a man married to a wife. [Today we kill the man with more than one wife while protecting the sodomite, adulterer, whoremonger, and promote state-sponsored fornication with free condoms in the state schools.]
Second, the husband whose family has been violated can also proceed against the adulterer, "in order that he [the other guilty party] might receive his punishment too" (Keil).
Third, the presence of the priest (the man of God) would symbolize three things: First, the presence of God at the judgment. Second, the controversy is just as much a religious matter as it is a civil matter. Third, the Lord is being asked to judge the secret thoughts and intents of the heart (He. 4:12).
All parties are asking the Lord to make righteous judgment according to the secrets of the heart. This means that they are asking for the Lord to take all the facts into consideration according to His total law-word; therefore, there are other laws which the Righteous Judge would consider. We need to quickly mention a couple of these additional laws before we conclude the present law concerning the jealous husband.
First is the law concerning any controversy, Deuteronomy 19:16-21. Significantly, this law comes before ch. 22, and the conflict between a jealous husband and his wife. It concerns any controversy which arises between two individuals. The controversy is brought before the priests and judges. If one party is found by the priests and/or judges to be an intentional false witness seeking to harm the other for his (or her) own benefit, the false accuser is required to suffer whatever he is seeking to have done to the other.
Second is the law concerning witnesses. If witnesses (2 or more) catch the woman in the act of adultery, they must report both the woman and the man, or the witnesses will be as guilty as the ones who committed the actual act, cf. Leviticus 5:1; Psalms 50:18; Romans 1:32. (Never is just one person allowed to bring a charge against another which might result in the death of the one charged, Deuteronomy 19:15-21.) But, if the witnesses are false, they are to be stoned, Deuteronomy 19:15-21; 22:22-29. Furthermore, the witnesses must cast the first stone, Deuteronomy 17:6, 7.
We now return back to the law concerning the jealous husband. All parties ask the Lord to be the Righteous Judge in the matter. The one witnessing against the other is claiming to be an honest witness, and is asking for the Lord's vindication according to the integrity of his heart.
The intervention of the Lord Himself with righteous judgment shows us the importance of the marriage relationship in a social structure. If the spirit of jealousy is not dealt with in a marriage, it will destroy the very foundation of social order, the family. Furthermore, only when every matter is treated as a religious matter can there be any civil justice. It is impossible to have justice apart from the application of the law of justice, Romans 7:12. [en Recently, news reports stated that a local man shot and killed his wife from whom he had been separated (but not divorced) for some time. He also shot the boyfriend whom he caught with her. She was about 45; the boyfriend was about 25. God's justice would have required the civil authority to deal harshly with them both as it did in our own past history, providing the husband with restitution. Obviously, he should not have shot them, but on the other hand, the civil government should deal with the situation. There must be just laws of restitution, or we will have more people demanding restitution and taking matters into their own hands. Without just restitution, as God defines justice, society will disintegrate into anarchy.]
In summation of the law concerning a jealous husband, notice these points.
First, it is the husband's responsibility to bring charges of suspected infidelity against his wife.
Second, if the husband intentionally brings false charge against his wife in order to rid himself of an unwanted wife, he is asking the Lord, as the Righteous Judge of the thoughts and intent of the heart, to do the same to him that he is seeking to have done to his innocent wife.
Third, if he is guilty of the sin of unfaithfulness to his wife, he can not expect the Lord to judge the one he is bringing charges against. (There is an additional consideration in Ex. 21:10. If he had bought her as a bondmaid to be his wife and was not preforming his husbandly duty toward her, she was free.)
Therefore, this trial of jealousy against the woman assumes three things: 1. The husband's motives are right. His motive is to see the law of the Lord protected, not his personal feelings, Deuteronomy 13:6-10. He loves his wife, but he loves the law of Lord more (cf. Ps. 119:47). The issue dealt with is the Holiness of God and His covenant people. 2. The husband is innocent of the sin of which he is charging his wife. 3. He desires the Lord to provide righteous judgment in secret matters whether against himself or against his wife. ("The Lord as my witness. The Lord do so to me and more also if am not innocent of this sin." Did he drive her to do it, & c?)
Fourth, human witnesses are required against the one charged with a capital offence for the charges to be valid. Otherwise, the penalty is left in the hands of the Righteous Judge.
Having examined the laws concerning infidelity within marriage, we now turn our attention to Christ and the woman taken in adultery, John 8:1-11.
We must keep in mind the context. In Chapter 7, the Lord goes to the temple, as it were in secret, because the Jews seek to kill Him. About the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. His teaching is so strong that the Jews seek to lay hands on Him, but they cannot because of the crowd. Then the religious leaders sent officers to take him, who returned without Christ. This upset the leaders who sent them, v. 37.
The next day after the feast, Jesus goes back to the temple and continues His teaching, again drawing a large crowd. While He is in the court of the temple, the woman is brought before Him by the scribes and Pharisees. The crowd had prevented their evil efforts thus far against Jesus; His enemies now attempt to turn the crowd against Christ so they can take Him. Having placed the woman in the midst of the crowd where Jesus is teaching, these evil men refer to the law of Moses concerning the stoning of the adulteress. [Isn't it amazing how people can become so concerned about Moses when they see a chance to advance their cause.]
The location of this event is significantly in the temple court where the public could gather; this is where the OT law required the suspected wife to be brought. The Lord is being asked to take the place of the priest, so He applies the law as a priest was required to do. In addition, the woman is brought before the Lord Jesus; the OT priest placed the accused woman before the LORD.
Let's tie some ends together.
1. For the civil law requiring stoning to be enforced, there must be two or more true witnesses whose motive is the protection of the holiness of God. There are witnesses in this case, but they do not bring the other guilty party forward, John 8:5. The identification of the other party would permit the offended husband to proceed against him.
Obviously, they are evil witnesses intent on pursuing their own evil cause, v. 6. Therefore, under the spirit of the law, these false witnesses will have done to them what they are seeking to do to the woman. Furthermore, the same law requires both parties of the adultery to be stoned after diligent inquiry into the matter.
2. The witness to an evil act is to cast the first stone. This would identify the one(s) of the group who caught the woman, in the very act.
3. If there are no witnesses, the woman's husband is the one responsible to bring charges against her for adultery. When he does this, he is saying that his motives are pure, that he is not guilty, and that he is asking the Lord to make a righteous judgment between the two of them according to the integrity of his own heart. He is saying that his only motive is to see God's justice done, and His holiness upheld. This was not these men's motive.
These men who brought the woman are the scribes and Pharisees, the experts in the law of Moses. They know all these requirements and implications, but evidently they do not think that Christ does. After all, He had not been to their school (Jn. 7:15), which the multitude around them knew.
4. These men are bringing charges against this woman without the other guilty party present. Therefore they are claiming the position of the husband. Accordingly, all that was required of the husband would be required of them.
Rather than answer them, Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground,arently ignoring them. It is extremely significant that this takes place in the court of the temple where the suspicious husband is to bring his wife if there are no witnesses. Consequently, Christ is writing in the dust on the floor from where the priest was to take the dust to make the bitter water which caused the curse. This signified the Spirit of God making righteous judgment concerning the thoughts and intent of the hearts of the husband and wife.
The scribes and Pharisees continue to press the issue, so in v. 7, the Lord asks the witness to step forward and cast the first stone. The witness is now in a fix. He must identify the other guilty party so both the man and the woman can be stoned. If the witness is false, he is also to be stoned. If he does not identify the other party in the adultery, the only way he can bring charges against the woman is by taking the part of her husband. This requires godly motives, as well as many other things. If he takes this part and steps forward, he says that he agrees before God to meet the requirements of the same law which required her stoning. He is saying that he agrees to have the same thing done to him by the Lord if he has evil motives.
The Lordagain stooped down, and wrote on the ground, v. 8. When Christ does this, these religious leaders and experts in the law cannot miss the implications of what they are demanding as well as what is demanded of them. If they continue to press the demands of Moses upon this woman, then they are also pressing for the demands of Moses upon themselves.
This they cannot do because the law of Moses convicts each of his own sin, v. 9. They depart and leave the woman alone in the midst of the crowd with Jesus. [No wonder they hated Christ so much. For three and a half years He had called them hypocrites, and He had forced them to prove that they were the hypocrites that He said they were.]
Jesus now looks up at the woman who had been left standing alone among them. She is left with no accusers to condemn her, v. 10. What can the Lord do except tell her to go her way and sin no more, v. 11?
All Jesus has done in this situation is insist that the ones who are clamoring for the law to be followed, follow the law themselves. This they were unable to do because of their own sin.[EN Senator Ted Kennedy, at the Clarence Thomas hearings, admitted that he was silenced by his own 'shortcomings.' No one had to say a thing to him about his sexual behavior. All anyone had to do was make some kind of gesture with their hands, and his own conscience would have quieted him if he had tried to speak.]
The following exchange between Christ and the Pharisees confirms what had just taken place with the woman and her accusers. Christ told them that He is the only Light in the darkness of this world. The actions of the scribes and Pharisees represent darkness which fled when confronted with the Light. Christ insisted on honesty in terms of the law of Moses. His enemies fled from the Truth and the Light. The result of the total application of the law was justice for the woman.
The Light dispelled the darkness when Truth (the total law-word of God) stepped in. This is an important point: it is only when all of the law is applied to a given situation (as Christ did), and not just a small portion of it (as the enemies tried to do), that justice and mercy are accomplished for the woman. In addition, no doubt the woman was guilty, but she received mercy rather than the deserved death when the law was properly applied.
As we follow the text of John 8, we see that because Christ has no living man to confirm His words, and in order to undermine Him, His enemies accuse Him of being a false witness. He tells them that He has another witness: the Heavenly Father. His judgment is just because His power and authority to judge comes from the Father.
The conclusion here is that only as the total of God's law-word is applied to a given situation will there be any justice and/or mercy.
|Marriage & Deceit|
While we are dealing laws involving marriage, we will look at a law concerning deceit of a woman by a man, or vice versa, Deuteronomy 22:13-21. This passage gives us two points.
First, we see that God protects a woman from deceitful intentions of a man. The desires which led to his taking her as his wife were not pure, v. 13. After their wedding night, his lust gratified, he desires to get rid of his new wife (cf. Amnon, 2 Sam. 8:15). In order to do this, he brings charges against her concerning her purity before their marriage. These were serious charges resulting in her death if they were proved true, v.21. Therefore, God's law made provision for her protection.
Second, we see that God protects a man from deceitful intentions of a woman, vs. 20, 21. For whatever reason, the woman deceived her prospective husband into thinking she was pure. He finds out on their wedding night that he was deceived. Therefore, God's law makes provision for his protection.
The law permits the husband to go to the elders of the city, who act as the judges in the matter, and charge his new wife with not being a virgin, v. 14. The wife's father is her defence; he comes forward and presents the evidence to the elders, v. 17. If the evidence proves his daughter is innocent of the charge by her husband, then the husband is chastised for bringing the false charge, fined 100 shekels of silver (which is given to the girl's father, thus out of the husband's reach), and the husband is deprived of any future divorce right. This fine (50 shekels was a single dowry equal to about 3 years wages for the average man) provided the wife with financial security. Furthermore, the husband's forfeited divorce right, in practicality, would make him her slave. Thus, she is protected by the law from both unholy desires and false charges from her husband.
On the other hand, if it is determined that the woman did intentionally deceive the man before their marriage, God's law requires her death, vs. 20, 21. But the woman here is not put to death for impurity before marriage (cf. Ex. 22:16, 17), rather she is put to death for deceiving the man.
There are two points in this law worth our notice.
First is the principle of the importance of beginning the marriage relationship with complete honesty. The Lord forbids anyone from passing themselves off as something they are not; this principle does not require opening up every detail of one's past life to the other unless ignorance of that detail could damage the marriage relationship.
A good example of this principle in action is Paul. We know very little about his past life, only what is needful, but he never passes himself off as something that he is not.
Second is the principle that a woman's father always has a certain amount of responsibility to protect his daughter. He is not actually 'free' of her until the death of either.
|Man & Responsibility|
While we are in Deuteronomy 22, we'll look at the second division, vs. 22-29. This passage gives us some interesting points to develop.
First, a betrothed virgin is treated as a married woman, vs. 22-27.
Second, if the damsel is not betrothed or married, AND the maid is a virgin, the guilty man had to pay the father 50 shekels of silver (about 3 years wages), the dowry of a virgin. The Lord protects the family. On the other hand, if the maid is not a virgin, the man does not have to pay the dowry. There are other laws which come into effect if the woman is playing the harlot which we will not look at now.
The third point is extremely important for our study. If the father of the girl permitted the marriage, the man had to marry the girl. He, not she, lost all right of divorce. He took marriage rights before marriage; therefore he loses any option after marriage. Because of his lack of freedom from his passions before marriage, he loses his freedom after marriage. He had no self-control before marriage; now she controls him after marriage. He seduced her into a compromised position before marriage; she has him in a compromised position after marriage. [Of course, adultery on her part after marriage would solve his problem. How tempting would it be for the husband to try to work something out along this line?]
Our point here is that the man is the one responsible at all times. There is no mention of, or provision for, what the woman might have done to entice the man.[EN Some time ago, a defendant in a rape trial in Florida pleaded that it was the immodest dress of the woman which prompted his action. People today use the same justification for not bringing their thoughts and actions under control as they are commanded, 2 Corinthians 10:5. Such justification is ungodly. (Remember Adam! The book of Proverbs covers this well, chs. 6 & 7.)]
In a word: The man is responsible before God to be the moral backbone of a society. He pays the price and loses his freedom for his moral failure. When he fails, society fails. He is a slave to his passions first of all, and civil freedom without freedom from his passions is impossible, John 8:32, 36. It is equally obvious that this moral fiber must emanate from the word of God. There can be no 'saving' morality for society without the word and Spirit of God.
By passions we must include far more than just the area of morality. A man may be as moral as the Lord Himself, yet be out of control in his passions.
Let us not think for a moment that the enemy of our souls doesn't know this. If he can break the backbone and cause the man to lose his self-control and moral fiber, he has gained society. Much of what we see around us today is geared for this: Pornography, advertising, TV and media of all kinds, & c.
Notice that the attack from all of these areas is primarily against the man, tearing down the self-control in his heart, 1 Corinthians 10:3-5. This is why our Lord stressed the self-control of the man, Matthew 5:27-29 & 15:18-20. A defiled man must produce defiled society. It is impossible for a man who is not free from the control of his passions to have freedom. A man who is a slave to his passions will reap from God an oppressive society, Galatians 6:3-8.
(Gal. 6:3-8. The person has confidence that he is in control, yet his spirit and passions are out of control - he is deceived, v. 3. Everyone is to prove their spirit by their works; the fruit of the Spirit of God, or the fruit of the spirit of the flesh, v. 4 [Gal. 5:19- 25]. No one can blame anyone else for his failures - each must bear his own fault, v. 5. Pay well the teacher of God's word, v. 6. The most blunt and easiest to understand Scripture in the word of God: Whatever spirit [5:19-25] that a person sows, that is what they will also reap, vs. 7, 8. Therefore, a person or society which is captive to the spirit of the flesh will reap captivity. This is a law of God which cannot be avoided. Only the power of the resurrected Christ can free one from this captivity, 6:14-16.)
Of course, this law applies equally to woman, but the responsibility before God falls squarely upon the man. Woman will reflect the attitude of the men in society.
Therefore, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of self-control on the part of the man, especially before marriage, but also after marriage.
Fifth, if the father does not permit the marriage, the dowry is paid anyway. This gives her a double dowry upon marriage, making her an attractive prospective bride. The immoral action was an attack against the family which robbed the father of what was his, a virgin daughter. It also robbed the daughter of her own value to the man of her and her father's choice. Restitution must be made to the family.
Sixth, this law also assumes that the man is not an incorrigible person (habitual offender), who was severally dealt with, Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
Finally, it is impossible for one of these laws to stand alone. They are all intertwined.
We are living in a society where men refuse to take responsibility for anything, especially their own emotions and passions. But God holds them responsible, and their society will reflect what they are, in the heart.