What is adultery?

Although, we all probably have an idea of what adultery is. In this article, we would like to search the Scriptures, and define "adultery" by the Scriptures alone. We are looking for verses that define the word. The goal should be to take that word and define it by the Scriptures. This follows the method described in the article on a systematic method of word study.

Context verse

Matthew 19:9 gives us a verse with context of adultery:

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife,
except it be for fornication, and shall marry another,
committeth adultery:
and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth
commit adultery.
Matthew 19:9

Greek-to-Hebrew verse

In Matthew 19:18, Jesus quotes Exodus 20:14

...Thou shalt not commit adultery...

The Greek adultery here is the word "moichao". In Exodus 20:14, the word translated as adultery is the Hebrew word "na'aph".

Systematic word study of "na'aph"

Now we can systematically investigate where the word "na'aph" is used. The first place it is used is in Exodus 20:14; however, no context is given as to infer what it means. The second place "na'aph" is used is in Leviticus 20:10:

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife,
even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife,
the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Leviticus 20:10

This verse at least tells us that adultery has to do with a man and another man's wife. The third place "na'aph" is used is in Proverbs 6:29,32:

So that he goeth in to his neighbor's wife;...
But whoso commiteth adultery lacketh understanding;

The fourth place "na'aph" is rather translated as "break wedlock" as in Ezekiel 16:32,38:

...but as a wife that commiteth adultery...
And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock
and shed blood are judged;

And the final place, that gives some context, is Hosea 4:14 which says:

...therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom,
and your spouses shall commit adultery.
I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom:,
nor your spouses when they commit adultery:
Hebrews 4:13-14

Here, Hosea distinguishes that daughters commit fornication and spouses commit adultery.


Therefore, from all the verses above, we can conclude the following:

Adultery is sexual intercourse between a man another man's wife. Adultery is also sexual intercourse between a married man with an unmarried woman.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?
Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards,
nor revilers, nor extortioners,
shall inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6.9-10

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