May 30th, 2024

The Ten Commandments and the Prohibition of Adultery


There’s an old joke about the seventh commandment, “Do not commit adultery.” Moses comes down from Mount Sinai and announces, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I got Him down to 10. The bad news is that adultery stays.”

The joke states that the prohibition on a married person having sexual relations with anyone except his or her spouse remains in play. And, this may be for some people the most consistently difficult of the Ten Commandments to observe.

The reasons why shouldn’t be hard to guess. One is the enormous power of lust and the sex drive. Some are challenged to keep adultery in check for the entirety of their marriage, especially when an attractive outsider makes him or herself sexually or romantically available. Another reason is the human desire to love and be loved. For the masses, there is no more powerful emotion than love. If someone claims to fall in love with someone else while married, it takes great effort not to commit adultery with that person. And, if we add in the unfortunate circumstance of Loveless marriages, adultery becomes even more difficult to resist.

The Dangers of Adultery

The joke with which I began is funny because it reflects truth. Why is adultery prohibited in the Ten Commandments? Many reasons. One, because like the other nine, it is indispensable to forming and maintaining a higher civilization. Adultery threatens the very building block of the civilization that the Ten Commandments seek to create. That building block is the family – a married father and mother, and their children. Anything that threatens the family unit is prohibited in the Bible. Adultery is one example, not honoring one’s father and mother is another. And, the prohibition on injecting any sexuality into the family unit, AKA incest, is yet another example.

Why is the family so important? Because without it, social stability is impossible. Without it, the passing on of society’s values from generation to generation is impossible, because commitment to a wife and children makes men more responsible and mature; because more than anything else, the family often meets most women’s deepest, emotional and material needs. Nothing comes close to the family and giving children a secure and stable childhood.

How Does Adultery Threaten the Family?

adulteryThe most obvious reason is that sex with someone other than one’s spouse can all too easily lead to either or both spouses leaving the marriage. Adultery should not automatically lead to divorce, but it often does. There’s another reason adultery can destroy a family. It can lead to pregnancy. Will that child start out life with no family, meaning no father and mother married to each other to call his or her own?

And, if adultery doesn’t destroy a family, it almost always does terrible harm to a marriage. Aside from the sense of betrayal and loss of trust that it causes, it means that the adulterous partner lives a fraudulent life. When a husband or wife is having sex with someone other than their spouse, their thoughts are constantly about that other person and about how to deceive their spouse. The life of deception that an adulterous affair necessarily entails inevitably damages a marriage even if the betrayed spouse is unaware of the affair.

Finally, the commandment prohibiting adultery doesn’t come with an asterisk saying that adultery is okay if both spouses agree to it. Spouses who have extramarital sex with the permission of their husband or wife may not necessarily be hurting their spouse’s feelings, but they are still harming the institution of marriage. Protecting the family, not protecting spouses from emotional pain, is the reason for the commandment.

Many marriages sadly are troubled, and it is not for any of us to stand in judgment of others’ behavior in this realm. No one knows what goes on in anyone else’s marriage. And if we did, we might often well understand why one or the other sought love, intimacy, or physical touch outside of the marriage. But, no higher civilization can be made or can endure that condones adultery. Neither will betrayal or deception ever be acceptable within the confines of God’s design for marriage.

That is why it is prohibited in the Ten Commandments. Think about it.

So, What’s The Play Call?

  1. Are you having trouble with lust? If so, what are some things you can change in order to keep your EYES on God? (Pun intended)
  2. Married couples, what honestly attracted you to your spouse?
  3. Were you only excited about the wedding? Or were you excited about the wedding and prepared for marriage?


Keiston France
A summa cum laude graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, Keiston France majored in Journalism & Mass Communication and served as the captain on the men's varsity tennis team. Keiston currently works for NASCAR as a developmental tire changer for Chip Ganassi Racing. His favorite Bible verse is 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen.' Hebrews 1:11
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