Adultery in the Old Testament

Adultery in the Old Testament. Adultery. Those aren’t exactly warm words. Many people associate it with the pain that comes from experiencing a broken family. Others view it as a reminder of what might have been if certain conditions had been met.

Adultery in the Old Testament
Adultery in the Old Testament

The word is seen as an obstacle that has been overcome by some, and they consider themselves survivors. There are those, however, who remain vigilant of every step that leads to this dreaded sin.

Then, there are those who stand humbled in the rubble around them (a life destroyed by that horrible act of adultery). Having enjoyed a brief night in paradise, they were awoken by torrents of horror the next morning.

The Old Testament Term

Old Testament Hebrew defines adultery as nàap. 

Every word belongs to a grouping of words with similar meanings. These words have a range of meanings; for example, they can have literal or figurative meanings and even describe people who are married or betrothed who are unfaithful. As far as cheating on a spouse is concerned, nàap is mostly used to indicate that a person has – as we say – cheated on their partner.

According to Wilson, ” nàap refers to adultery in its purest sense or fornication by a married person.” According to James Swanson, “sexual intercourse is the act of engaging in sexual activity with somebody other than a spouse, such as a married or betrothed person or a person of low social status.”

The Old Testament mentions nàap in the reading of the “10 Commandments” (Exod 20:14). It is clear from God’s words that “You shall not commit adultery.” These words of God are sandwiched between the “shall not’s” of murder and stealing, which should give us an idea of the severity of adultery in God’s eyes (Exod 20:13, 15).

In this command, Clyde Woods argues that the “sacredness of marriage” is stressed, which is the “principle of social purity” that “provides the basis for numerous [other] laws regarding sexual relationships and offenses” (cf. Exod 22:19; Lev 18:1-18; Deut 22:13-30). The rejection of Potiphar’s wife by Joseph can be explained in this way, as follows:

The heinous sin of having intercourse with another man’s wife was considered in patriarchal times as the most severe offense against God and man (Gen 39:9). 


As a matter of holiness, extramarital affairs must not defile the matrimonial bed (Heb 13:4). In some cases, people defile their marriage by sleeping with someone other than their spouse (John 8:4), while in others, they have so ingrained themselves in “daydreams” of having affairs that they will do so if the circumstances arise (Matt 5:28); and yet there are some who have slipped on more rings on one wedding finger than many Super Bowl champions on their whole hand – and do so without effort (John 4:16). Marriage was never God’s ideal plan from the beginning (Matt 19:9 cf. Gen 2:24).

Definition: Adultery in the Old Testament

People who claim to teach God’s Word hold a variety of views concerning adultery that contradict what the Bible teaches about its nature and meaning. Let us now consider some Old Testament evidence regarding adultery’s meaning and nature without much interaction with these distinct points of view. What is God’s representation of it in the Hebrew Bible?

What is the origin of the word adultery? It is quite interesting to learn the origin of the English word adultery. In fact, it is derived from a combination of several Latin terms:

The word adulterate is derived from the Latin word aulterare which means to alter, corrupt. This word doesn’t come from the word adult. In turn, adulterare is formed by combining ad (“toward”) and change (“other”), together with the infinitive form are.”


A new personal arrangement is made when a person moves towards another person to commit adultery in English. In addition, the Latin word adulterate could also mean “to pollute” – taking something pure and contaminating it.

A person who commits adultery has corrupted his or her marriage by introducing a third party. Changes have been made to the marriage, and the marriage has been polluted. Despite the graphic nature of the English word, it is wise to consult the Old Testament’s meaning since it was written primarily in Hebrew.


As specified in Leviticus 20:10, both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint state that a man who had sex with the wife of another man should be put to death, together with his sex partner. However, the way in which this should be done is not specified.

Who committed adultery in the Old Testament?

David commits adultery with Bathsheba

In the spring, when kings go out, David sent all of Israel and Joab with him. Rabbah was besieged and all the Ammonites were ravaged, but David remained in Jerusalem.  A woman was bathing on her roof one afternoon when David walked around on the roof of the king’s house after getting up from bed.

Suddenly, the woman appeared to be very beautiful. David sent a messenger to inquire about the woman, and someone said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers to take her, and she came to him and slept with him. In the meantime, she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness. As soon as the woman became pregnant, she informed David, saying, “I am pregnant.”


Adultery, according to the Old Testament, is when a woman has sex with someone other than her husband. As defined in the Old Testament, a man cannot commit adultery by having sex with an unmarried woman other than his own wife.

In fact, he may have more than one wife if he so chooses. An injunction against adultery (Deuteronomy 5:18) was so important to Jewish society in biblical times that it was included in the Ten Commandments. The warning against adultery in Proverbs 6:32 is accompanied by a more specific warning in Proverbs 6:33–35, which assumes an angry and vengeful husband.

Read also: How to get my ex back; Leprosy in the Bible; Baruch in the Bible; what is adultery in the bible.