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Perhaps porneia, a general word for any unlawful sexual

intercourse, may here (Mt. 5:32; 19:9) refer only to cases where

marriage itself was discovered to be illegal because of



Through divorce and remarriage a man can commit adultery

against his wife (Mk. 10:11). Similarly Jesus’ extension of what

constitutes adultery (Mt. 5:27-28) shifts the focus away from a

man’s rights over his wife, to the mental attitude of one who even

entertains the thought of adultery.”


Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, p.693, 694.

“The marital ideal (as) laid down in Gen. 2:24, established

monogamy as a working principle for mankind. Once the fall

occurred, the wife was placed in a subordinate position and


immediately was vulnerable to exploitation, one form of which was

polygamy. This type of marital relationship occurred under a

variety of circumstances. Women captured in battle (Dt. 21:10-14)

became part of the victor’s spoils. While some women were taken

as wives, others were reduced to brutal concubinage, ministering to


the captor’s lusts while their legal wives bore the legitimate family

offspring. Women who found themselves serving as slaves for

other reasons frequently became the object of sexual exploitation in

households by men who regarded them as inferior wives.


By the Mosaic period polygamy was being legislated for as

though it was a current social institution (Dt. 21:15-18). King David

was unashamedly polygamous as was Solomon. One form of

polygamy was (actually) provided for in the Law. This was the

marriage knows as the “Levirate”, and was apparently sanctioned


in the interests of endogamous marriage and the continuation of

the family line. Levirate marriage (Dt. 25:5-10) provided that a

deceased man’s brother should take the widow as his wife and

raise a family to perpetuate his brother’s name and keep inherited

land in the family. Levirate marriage seems to contravene the


legislation in prohibiting marriage with one’s brother’s wife (Lev.

18:16; 20-21), but in other respects was a humane way of dealing

with what was frequently the desperate plight of widows by

keeping them within the family and tribe.


There are thus numerous reasons for the rise of polygamy

which, apart from sensuous considerations, included the need to

maintain endogamous marriages, desire to increase the Israelite




population, necessity for providing for destitute widows in order to

avoid slavery, prostitution and the like, and maintaining the

nation’s work force. These factors notwithstanding, the ideal

Hebrew marriage continued to be monogamous, despite the

examples set to the contrary by royalty.


The NT teachings on marriage presupposed monogamy. While

polygamy was tolerated among the rich and powerful, it was

recognized as a violation of that covenantal fidelity that God

demanded of Israel His bride, and that Christ also demanded of the

church (2 Cor. 11:2)


– ISBE, vol. 3, p. 901 –

“From Gen. 2:24 we may evolve the following principles:

….(3)Monogamy as the original law of marriage. In the patriarchal

age polygamy prevailed but to a great extent divested of the

degradation which in modern times attaches to that practice. The

Mosaic law discouraged polygamy.


Our Lord and His apostles re-established the integrity and

sanctity of the marriage bond by the following measures: (1) by the

confirmation of the original charter of marriage as the basis upon

which all regulations were to be framed, Mt. 19:4,5; (2) by the


restriction of divorce to the case of fornication, and the prohibition

of remarriage in all persons divorced on improper grounds, Mt.

5:32; 19:9; Rom. 7:3; 1 Cor. 7:10,11; (3) by the enforcement of moral

purity generally, Heb. 13:4, and especially by the formal

condemnation of fornication, Acts 15:20.”

– Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p.382 –


Our observations:

In spite of these emphatic statements that monogamy was the

original law of marriage, there is no possibility of demonstrating

that premise from Scripture. All we can say for certain about Gen.

2:24 is that God originated human life on this earth by creating only

one of each sex. The Bible does not say that He did so “because it

was His will that one man and one woman be married for life,


excluding all others.” If that was God’s intention, He did not say so.

And when men began to practice polygamy there was never a

single word from God to correct the practice. His most faithful

servants, and those whom He chose to be the fountainhead of blessing for




humanity for the rest of human history, practiced polygamy and

concubinage. Yet, as zealous as Jehovah is for righteousness, holiness

and truth, He never corrected these who were to serve forever as

the prime examples of faith and obedience. They all heard His

voice; they all love His Law; they all were obedient to His


commands. If God was displeased with their many wives and

concubines, why did He not say so and correct it at the outset of

human history so that it would not flourish and become common

practice? And if we declare that God was displeased with

polygamy, on what basis do we do so? God doesn’t indicate such


displeasure in any way. And He most certainly makes no statement

to the effect that monogamy is His will for all men forever. Such

ideas are not derived from Scripture. They are placed upon Scripture

in spite of actual contrary evidence.


After Lamech’s polygamy and after the flood, as soon as Noah

and family exited the ark, God commanded them to avoid eating

blood, Gen. 9:4, and established the death penalty for murder,

(Gen. 9:6). Since the whole motive for the flood was to cleanse the

earth of sin and give mankind a brand new start, then why did God

not also command Noah and family to avoid polygamy, especially

since it was a part of the human experience before the flood,


(Gen.4:19). If monogamy was God’s preference, why did He not

make this as strong a law as he did against eating blood? The fact

that polygamy was in human experience already, yet was not even

hinted at in this post-flood setting, should cause us all to reflect


soberly on God’s real attitude toward polygamy.


The fact that God’s very best servants, the “elite” among all

saints, practiced polygamy, concubinage and accepted prostitution,

with not so much as a hint of God’s displeasure, weighs heavily in

favor of the fact that God did not forbid it, that He even accepted it

as normal among humans, just as He created it to be a normal instinct


in the animal kingdom. The evidence that God felt otherwise about

this practice simply does not exist.


Consider this list of God’s greatest examples of faith in Hebrews

chapter 11.


Abraham - polygamist and concubinist - no censure anywhere.

Isaac – polygamist and concubinist - no censure anywhere.

Jabob – polygamist and concubinist, went in to a prostitute - no

censure anywhere.




Gideon – polygamist and concubinist - no censure anywhere.

Samson – polygamist and concubinist - no censure anywhere.

David – polygamist and concubinist - no censure anywhere.


In all God’s dealings with these men He never even attempted to

tell them it was sin or even inadvisable for them to marry more

than one wife or to have concubines. Nor did it perturb Him that

the one whose name was changed to Israel, the father of the Jewish

nation, bore a child by his daughter in law thinking she was a

prostitute, and that this child, Perez, was an ancestor of Israel’s

greatest king, David, and of Jesus Christ, (Lk. 3:31-33).


Contrary to church teaching and bold statements that the NT

corrects polygamy, and makes monogamy the only possibility for

humanity, there is not one statement in all the NT that says this. The

best that can be found are some verses that might imply this to be so.

Even these are by no means determinative. Let's consider them:


“He who created them from the beginning made them male and female

and…the two shall become one flesh,” (Matt. 19:4,5). From this it is

argued that, “God intended one man and woman to become one

flesh. He never intended that more than a couplet engage in

marriage.” The answer to this quibble seems obvious and easy.


What is problematic about one man and two women becoming one

flesh? Is it possible for two to become one, but impossible for three

to become one? Jesus’ point is not that two and two only can become

one. His point is that marriage creates oneness between the mates,


however many there be. If we do not think so, then do we think

Jacob, Leah and Rachel were not “one flesh?” If only one of his

wives could qualify, then surely Jacob was “one flesh” only with

Leah for she was his first wife. Thus Rachel, though a wife, was not

“one flesh” with her husband! Isn’t this really too absurd to argue



“Because of immorality let each man have his own wife and let each

woman have her own husband,” (1 Cor. 7:2). Again this is thought to

eliminate the possibility of each man having his many wives, and

each wife having her many husbands. But it no more eliminates


multiple marriage than does the preceding text. This simply states

God’s recommendation that people marry in order to avoid

“immoralities.” If we are disposed to be utterly literalistic with this




text, perhaps we should take literally the admonition that “it is good

for a man not to touch a woman,” (vs. 1). Add to this that, “to him who

knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin,” (Jas. 4:17). Thus

we have “Biblical authority” for condemning as “sinners” all men

who touch a woman. We can see too clearly for such to be taken


seriously. Paul is not trying to reinforce monogamy as God’s

preference for humanity. Monogamy is not in the subject matter at

all. His one concern is to protect God’s people from the troubles

coming upon them because of the “present distress” (vs. 26). Any

attempt to press the words of vs.2 beyond their singular meaning,

and apart from their context, is inexcusable.


In light of the fact that Corinth was a pagan city, laden with

Greek culture, including large-scale practice of polygamy, this

would have been the perfect place to make an inspired statement

about “monogamy alone for all who want to go to heaven.” If


monogamy is in fact mandated for humanity, then how can we

possibly explain total absence of references to it in the NT, and

especially in this epistle whose whole emphasis is on correcting

spiritual (1 Cor. 1 - 3), moral (1 Cor. 5 - 6), relational (1 Cor. 7-10),


liturgical (1 Cor. 10 -14) and doctrinal (1 Cor. 15) problems in the

church at Corinth? We should find here, if nowhere else, God’s

transparent declaration for monogamy, plus His requirement that

all Corinthian polygamist men must divorce all wives except the


first one. The absence of such admonition in such a context speaks

volumes. The “thunder of God’s silence” in this case is compelling.

“An elder…must be the husband of one wife…” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus



“Deacons… must be husband of one wife, (1 Tim. 3:12).

The requirement that elders and deacons be husbands of one

wife, cannot be made to infer anything more than that church

leaders must have only one wife. This is akin to the requirement

that Israel’s kings not “multiply wives unto yourselves…” The


possibility of being led away from truth because of the great

influence of many wives and concubines is illustrated by Solomon’s

history. It would be the same for Christian leaders. Because they

are responsible for the souls of many they must be extra careful


about any influence that will lead them away from truth. Yet even

for elders in the church there is a possibility that some might be

acceptable even though they have more than one wife on the same




premise that one might be acceptable as an elder even though he

fell short in one of the other qualifications. If we look at the

qualification as a list to which one must measure up perfectly then

no one would ever qualify as an elder. If a man had 3 wives, and

yet measured up to all the rest of the qualifications in admirable

manner, would it not be ridiculous to forbid him leadership in the

church when his spiritual qualifications might outstrip those of all

other applicants? If his spiritual leadership is of high enough


quality then he would be able to handle multiple wives without

being led astray from God. This probably explains why David

could be such a great king and a man “after God’s own heart,”

though he had many wives and concubines. And in spite of the fact

that God told the kings to not multiply wives for themselves, we


remind you that it was God himself who gave to David his many wives

and concubines, and said He would have given him many more if he

wanted them, (2 Sam. 12:7, 8). So God’s specific order was not meant

to be an absolute prohibition against a king having many wives. It

was a warning of the dangers such could bring. But because He


knew David’s heart, and because apparently God considered

having many wives and concubines to be a blessing, He gave many

of them to David. In the same manner we probably ought to see

Paul’s instruction for elders to have only one wife. It cannot be

viewed as more rigidly prohibitive for elders in the church than it


was for kings in Israel. The safest course to pursue for spiritual

leaders is monogamy; not for moral reasons, but because of their

responsibility to avoid influences that would lead them to apostasy

and thus endanger the souls of those whom they lead. It is


doubtless much less of an absolute requirement for elders than we

want to think. As it was with Israel’s kings, so it is with leaders in

the church.


An important question here is, “what circumstances existed in

Ephesus and Crete that would make such a requirement as this

appropriate for the epistles to Timothy and Titus?” If polygamy did

not exist in the churches of that time this restriction makes no sense

at all. If there was no probability of church leaders having more

than one wife how could Paul, by inspiration, make an issue of it?


The fact that this restriction appears in these epistles is secondary

proof that polygamy was in the church at that time just as church

history affirms. The surprising thing is that, even though polygamy

was in the church Paul made a restriction only regarding elders and




deacons. If polygamy was a detestable thing how could Paul refuse

to tell Timothy and Titus to eradicate it from the church? God

required a similar thing of Israel, under Nehemiah’s leadership,

requiring them to leave their pagan wives.


God was very pointed about telling Christians what things

would keep them out of the kingdom of God. He gives detailed

lists of such sins in 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5: 19-21; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5-9,


etc. Since polygamy existed in the church how is it possible that

God considers it a great sin and yet fails to mention it even once as a

“sin” requiring repentance? This fact appears strongly to


demonstrate that God’s mind has not changed from what we see in

the OT record. What He accepted before the cross He still accepts.

Society’s attitude is not the standard of right and wrong on this

issue. The church’s attitude is not the standard. Nor is hatred for


the Mormon church. God’s word is the standard. The combined

facts of polygamy’s existence in the NT church, with God’s silence

about it, demonstrates God abiding acceptance of it. God did not

correct it in the NT simply because He did not see it as needing



The statements in Smith’s Bible Dictionary can be disposed of

easily. He says

“Our Lord and His apostles re-established the integrity and

sanctity of the marriage bond by the following measures:

(1) by the confirmation of the original charter of marriage as the

basis on which all regulations were to be framed, Mt. 19:4,5;”

Reply: This “original charter” states nothing of monogamy.


Nowhere is there a law, principle or anything else that shows God’s

original intention was monogamy. Jesus deals only with the matter

of divorce, not of multiple wives. It is adultery for a man to divorce

his wife and marry another. But nothing is said of the well

established practice of being faithful to the first wife, and marrying



“(2) by the restriction of divorce to the case of fornication, and

the prohibition of remarriage in all persons divorced on improper

grounds, Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Rom. 7:3; 1 Cor. 7:10,11;”

Reply: Again Jesus deals with divorce, not polygamy. Jesus

intended men to understand that they are bound to faithfully care

for their wives and not divorce them simply in order to marry




another wife. If they desired another wife they could marry one,

but they could not divorce the first one to do so. This was a

protective measure for the wife that was God’s original intention

from the beginning.

“(3) by the enforcement of moral purity generally, Heb. 13:4,

and especially by the formal condemnation of fornication, Acts



Reply: “Moral purity” is not defiled by polygamy. It was

never so in the OT, and nothing in the NT makes it so. The “moral

purity” of Abraham, Jacob, Gideon David and all the rest was not

defiled by their polygamy. If it was, then God’s offer to give David

even more wives and concubines was an offer to defile his morality


even more! If a man was faithful to love and care for as many wives

as he had, he was “morally pure.” And “fornication” was never

associated with polygamy or concubinism. God’s “formal

condemnation of fornication” has less than nothing to do with

polygamy and concubinage. The meaning of the word and its

application do not allow for such a statement as the above.

Quotes from early church fathers:


It is always interesting to examine the writings of the earliest

church leaders, historians and writers, for what they can show us

about the attitudes of the earliest saints in spiritual matters.


Consider these:

“Your impudent and blind masters even until this time permit

each man to have four or five wives. And if anyone sees a beautiful

woman and desires to have her, they quote the doings of Jacob.”

(Justin Martyr, c. 160a.d.)


“If it were allowable to take any wife or as many wives as one

chooses – and how he chooses – David would have permitted this.

Nevertheless the men of your nation practice this all over the earth,

wherever they sojourn.” (Justin Martyr)


“Others, again, following upon Basilides and Carpocrates, have

introduced promiscuous intercourse and a plurality of wives, and

are indifferent about eating meat sacrificed to idols, maintaining

that God is not greatly concerned about such matters.” (Irenaeus, c.





“The contracting of marriage with several wives has been done

away with from the times of the prophets. For we read, “Do not go

after your lusts, but refrain yourself from your appetites” (Sir.

18:30). And in another place, “Let your fountain be blessed and

rejoice with the wife of your youth.” This plainly forbids a plurality

of wives.” (Methodius, c. 290)


On qualifications for those chosen to be elders, we have statements

like these.


“We have already said that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon,

when they are constituted, must be married but once, whether their

wives are alive or whether they are dead.” (Apostolic Commission,

compiled c. 390)


“You say “it is true that the apostle has permitted remarriage

after the death of a spouse. You also say that it is only those who

are of the clerical order that he has stringently bound to the yoke of

one marriage. For that which he prescribes to one certain person, he

does not prescribe to all.” (Tertullian, c. 217).


Historian and Editor, David Bercot, says this about these quotes

and many like them:


“(They) understood the verses above (1 Tim. 3:2, 12) to apply to

any second marriage, including a remarriage after one’s spouse had

died. If a person had been remarried for any reason, that person

was disqualified from being ordained into the clergy…The


Montanists went even further, prohibiting even laypersons from

remarrying after the death of their spouses.”

(all above quotes from Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Church Beliefs, p.



These quotes prove that the church recognized and accepted

polygamy and contained much of it within their individual

fellowships. It also shows the beginnings of that same legalistic,

human law making tendency that forever plagues those trying to

find and follow simply the truth, without having to wade through

the dogmatic, hair-splitting, Scripture twisting tactics of those who


think they know better how the church should function, and how

humans should live, than the God who created the church and





No one today, except radical legalists, holds the position that no

one is allowed to remarry even if their spouse dies. Most do not

believe that a man is disqualified from being an elder if he is

remarried after the death of his previous wife. Those today who

believe such nonsense are as wrong as these quoted above, and for

the same reasons. They are not content to allow God to say what


He wants to say and allow all saints to abide by God’s simple

words. They are compelled to begin splitting hairs until they have

devised a code book that goes far beyond anything God said or

intended. Like the Jews in Jesus’ day they “make many laws that are

grievous to bear,” against whom Jesus pronounced this curse: “In

vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the commandments of



Jesus had no patience with Phariseeism in His day, and neither

should we. It is interesting to see that the perverse nature of man’s

heart is such that within 150 years of the apostle’s deaths, the

church was beginning to adopt human rules that went beyond

God’s actual words.


The premise still stands it seems to us: Polygamy existed

throughout the entire era of Biblical revelation, from Moses

(Genesis), through John (Revelation). By the testimony of some of

the early church fathers it existed in the church during the first two


centuries. Yet when everything else was changing and there was

the one perfect opportunity – we should even say the only possible

opportunity – to set the course of the church in a different direction,

when the NT was being written, no apostle wrote a syllable about

God’s preference for monogamy. If the apostolic writings are


indeed our sole basis for faith and practice must we not be satisfied

with their silence on this subject? And is that silence not

profoundly significant in view of the prevalence of polygamy in

that century, even in the church? Are we justified in making our

human and fallible interpretations the rule for faith and practice in the

church? If we truly believe that God condemns polygamy now,



Why condemn it now, but never before?

If it was acceptable in OT times, what happened that changed it

into a sin?


If polygamy was a blessing for David, what transformed it into a

curse for us? Certainly not God’s law, for there is no such law.




The nature of polygamy has not changed. If God with His

infinite wisdom, looked with approval at polygamy in OT

times, how can we believe He looks at the same thing now, with



If it is as important as we think it is, why not a word about it in

the only book God gave us that enables us to follow His will?

Why are we left to arrive at the conclusion that polygamy is sin

by using human reasoning, rather than having a direct

revelation? Human reasoning is good for many things, but is

utterly worthless for establishing Divine law.


If we follow the same reasoning used to condemn polygamy,

then we must also condemn instrumental music in worship,

clapping, raising hands and dancing in worship. Anyone who

accepts any of these worship expressions, does so in the face of

the silence of the NT.


This study is not meant to publicly embrace or recommend

polygamy in practice or teaching. The value of this study to any

child of God is that we strive to learn truth and that we honor His

word regardless of how it may conflict with opinions and

traditions. It is a dishonor to God to dispute His word for any

reason. Once learning truth we dishonor God if, for any reason, we


choose man’s laws, traditions, rules, etc. over God’s truth.

Doubtless most readers would not choose polygamy even if it was

acceptable in our society. And if we must avoid the practice of

polygamy because of prevailing social mores and civil laws, we are


not therefore obligated to consent that man’s way is best. At all

times God’s people must affirm God’s truth above all, even when

that might incur the wrath of others.


We do not advocate that anyone begin a crusade to attempt to

convert the church and modern society to the position taken in this

writing. All that is necessary is that, if one believes this to be truth,

then one embrace it in relationship first with God, by admitting


that we have been wrong and then affirming His truth. Then we

must allow this truth to control our attitude toward those who

attempt to practice it. We cannot at the same time believe that

polygamy is basically acceptable with God, and then join those


who castigate Mormons, e.g. because they attempt to practice it.

And then we must, if we say anything about it at all, say what we

believe is true. If we lack the courage to say that we believe




polygamy to be acceptable to God today just as it always was, then

we need to simply be silent.


Our conclusion:


Nothing in the NT changes what throughout the OT was a

widespread practice accepted by God and even granted to David as

a blessing. Polygamy was never a sin in OT, nor is there any

indication in all Scripture that God even disapproved of it. God’s

attitude did not change after Christ died. From a moral vantagepoint

a man may now, as then, have as many wives as he is able to

fully provide for and protect. From a practical vantage-point

polygamy is not tolerated in the hostile environment of our society

and should therefore be avoided.




First, to be sure that we know what we are considering, we will

look at the definition of this word and some comments from

modern scholars.


Concubine: Heb. “a paramour.” (Strong’s #6370, 3904)

“A female slave responsible for bearing children to insure

continuation of the family name. Access to the royal concubines

was viewed as a legal claim to the throne, hence they were

accorded special protection. Concubines were viewed with


affection by their husbands and any assault on their well being

might be cause for vengeance. Although frequently their function

was to provide sexual gratification (“man’s delight” Eccl. 2:8) they

might also be given considerable responsibility. ”

–Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, pg. 230 f.


“The difference between wife and concubine was less marked

among the Hebrews than among us, owing to the lack of moral

stigma. With regard to the children of wife and concubine, there


was no such difference as our “illegitimacy” implies. The state of

concubinage is assumed and provided for by the law of Moses. A

concubine could generally be either (1) a Hebrew girl bought of her

father; (2) a Gentile captive taken in war; (3) a foreign slave bought;




or (4) a canaanite woman, bond or free. Free Hebrew women might

also become concubines. To seize on royal concubines for his use

was often a usurper’s first act. Such was probably the intent of

Abner’s act, 2 Sam. 3:7, similarly the request on behalf of Adonijah

was construed, 1 Kg. 2:21-24. ”

– Smith’s Bible Dictionary, pg. 122 f.




Let us see what the Bible actually says about concubinage. We

begin by listing all the texts that refer to polygamous relationships,

with brief notations.

Sarah asks Abraham to have sex with Hagar. There is no hint of

God’s displeasure with either Sarah or Abraham, and no

condemnation of Abraham’s “adultery(?)!” (Gen. 16:2f).

Abraham had sons by several concubines, (Gen. 25:6). Inasmuch


as Abraham is held forth to us as the premier example of faith and

close relationship with God (e.g. Galatians and Heb. 11) it is

passing strange that God would not say something about his

concubinage, in order at least to warn us, if God did not want us to

follow his example in that. Did God disapprove of this practice,

and yet never even hint at such displeasure to this great man of

faith, whom He called his “friend?”


Keturah is named as Abraham’s concubine, (1 Chron. 1:23).

Rachel gives her maid to Jacob for sex, more than once, (Gen.

30:3, 7). God does not correct. Leah also gives her maid to Jacob for

sex, (Gen. 30: 9, 12). Thus Jacob has two wives and two concubines

with whom he has sexual relations. God does not correct it,

indicating that God is not displeased with it.


Timna was concubine to Esau’s son Eliphaz, (Gen. 36:12).

One who buys a female slave must be fair to her. If he takes

“another woman” he may not neglect the first one. This “ordinance” is

God’s law, (Ex. 21:1, 8-10). This is God’s allowance for a man having

more than one sexual mate.


Gideon had a concubine who bore Abimelech, (Jdg. 8:31). He

was a valiant warrior, a faithful servant and he died without God

ever rebuking him or correcting his concubinage.




A Levite takes a concubine for himself. She leaves to play the

harlot against him. He is called her “husband,” (Jdg. 19:1-3).

Saul is married to Ahinoam, (1 Kg. 14:50), and has a concubine

named Rizpah, (2 Sam. 3:7).


David has 10 concubines whom he leaves in charge of his house

while fleeing Absalom, (2 Sam.15:16). Absalom has sex with the 10

concubines on the roof of the palace, in the sight of all Israel, (2

Sam. 16:21,22). David isolates the 10 concubines and has no more

sex with them, (2 Sam. 20:3).


David grows old and cold, so his servants find a “beautiful young

virgin,” Abishag, to lie with him to keep him warm, (lKg. 1:1-4).

Why a “beautiful-young-virgin?” Obviously it is the sexual

excitement that would increase the “heat” so David would be

warm. She was to “service” David, or “to be familiar with” him in a

sexual way, (Strong’s #5532). The Septuagint (Greek Translation of

OT) renders it “to excite him.” The natural body of even an


extremely beautiful woman would provide no more physical

“warmth” than any of the many wives and concubines David

already had. It is the added sexual “heat” that they count on to

warm David. And since David has so many women already, what


difference does one more make? Abishag becomes his concubine.

Now, what might this example have to say about the nature and

definition of “lust of the flesh” and “lust of the eyes?” Why do we not

have here even a simple sentence like, “Now the Lord was not

pleased with this plan…” or something to indicate that it was

wrong, if it was?


David had sons by several wives, “besides the sons of the

concubines,” (1 Chron. 3:1-9).


As per custom, Solomon “inherited” all of David’s wives and

concubines, including Abishag, then proceeded to add hundreds

more! Adonijah asks to have Abishag for wife. Solomon is enraged


and has Adonijah killed, (1 Kg. 2:17-25). Solomon acquires a

“harem” of concubines and wives, (Ecc. 1:8).


Caleb, Jerahmeel’s brother, had a wife and 2 concubines, Ephah

and Maachah, (1 Chron. 2:42- 48).


Manasseh’s “Syrian concubine” bears Machir, (1 Chron. 7:14).

Rehoboam “took 18 wives and 60 concubines,” (2 Chron. 11:18).




The Song of Solomon praises the beauty of the “Shulamite”

maiden and chooses her above 60 queens, 80 concubines and

virgins without number, (Song of Sol. 6:4-9). This is amazing in

light of the fact that virtually the whole church sees this story as an

allegory of Christ’s love for His church. If God detests or even

disfavors polygamy and concubinage, how can we think he would

put Christ in even a figurative position of choosing the church as the


best among His many wives and concubines? If polygamy and

concubinage are detestable, and if God planned to end these

practices at the cross, He would never use it as a symbol for any

part of the relationship between Christ and the church.


The practice of concubinage, with God’s approval, proves that

God does not fundamentally care about the number of sex partners a

person may have. The fact is clear, that God does not care

fundamentally about the sex act as such. He cares that the people

involved not do what is harmful to each other.


Rom. 13:10 says,


“Love does no wrong to his neighbor, love therefore is the fulfillment of the

law.” In sex as in all else, God requires that we not harm others.

Otherwise, He is not demonstrably concerned with who has sex

with whom or how often. As with polygamy, concubinage

demonstrates the Biblical reality that sexual activity is not inherently

dirty, and that God’s demand is not that one man has sex with only


one woman for life. Concubinage, just as polygamy, provided a

God approved outlet for the greater sexual desire of the male. If

providing for the actual fulfillment of the sexual desire is not

wrong, then obviously the desire itself is not wrong. Even God

acknowledges this, by accepting, and even legislating in favor of











Nowhere in the Bible do we find a clearer illustration of God’s

attitude toward sex and the human body, than in the Song of



Few people understand the graphically erotic nature of

this love poem. Its explicit yet unashamed eroticism has been the

cause of problems for commentators even before NT times.


Spiros Zodhiates says this about the book, “Because of its explicitly erotic

character, ancient Jews and Christians alike rejected its literal

interpretation and allegorized it…


The early Christian inability to

deal with this book at the literal level was influenced more by the

Greek philosophy of the time than by the Bible itself…The erotic

nature of the book was probably a source of embarrassment, but

these legal God-ordained gaieties should not be shunned, only properly

understood…” (Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, introduction to Song of

Solomon emph. mine, D.C.).


 Other commentators are likewise

straightforward in labeling this book as erotic poetry.

The issue of whether the book is to be interpreted literally or

allegorically is irrelative. That God used erotic language in either

case, says something about God that we must consider carefully.


 If the language God uses in this book is unfitting to be used in a literal

sense how can we possibly argue that it is good to use it in an

allegorical sense? If the allegory is appropriate, then so is the

language in which the allegory is framed.


Sex and sexual language,

in this case very explicit sexual language, cannot be inherently nasty

and still be used as an allegory for Christ and the Church. The

human body cannot be considered shameful and yet be used as an

allegory of Christ’s delight in His Bride, the church. It cannot be

vulgar to describe the sexual body parts of the opposite sex, and at


the same time good to use such descriptions to allegorize Christ’s

love for His Bride. Like it or not we have here a book in which God,

through the Holy Spirit, uses the most explicit sex language some


people will ever hear. The language God uses here and the sexual

situations He describes, cannot be thought of in any other way than

that God delights in and approves of what He is writing about. In

doing so, God reveals more about His attitude toward sex, the

naked human body, and the beauty and sexual eroticism involved

in looking at another’s sexual organs, than most church leaders and




most Christians can handle. Most of them will not accept the literal

references of this book. In his commentary on the Song of Solomon,

Adam Clarke overtly condemns much of it as being too sexually

graphic for even true translation. Some have even decided that the


book should not even be accepted as Divinely inspired, on the sole

basis of its erotic language.


So here we have a book, inspired by God, that deals intentionally

and positively with all aspects of sexuality, without shame or

apology. This is truly erotic poetry. It was inspired by God. What is


recorded in this little book stands as God’s testimony to sexual

experience and the beauty of the human body. Let’s look at what is



A woman asks for the kisses of her lover, “Let him kiss me with

the kisses of his mouth,” (1:2). Later, she says, “his mouth is full of

sweetness,” (5:16), and he says, “her mouth is like the best wine,” (7:9).


In both these last two cases the same Hebrew word for “mouth” is used (Strong’s #2441). It means the inside of the mouth. The

marginal note says it literally means “palate.” She is asking for, and they enjoy, deep mouth kissing. The Anchor Bible,


commenting on these verses, says these verses were “explicit references to kisses…including amative oral activities,” (i.e. oral sex).


That is, not only the lips, but also the tongues were involved, and not only the mouth, but other parts of the body were involved, including kissing the genitals.


The Jerusalem Bible also implies that the kissing

was all over the body: “Your lips cover me with kisses.” So right at the

start of this poem, we have references to an activity that most

“holy” people can’t believe to be in the Bible. But the references are

there! And it only gets “worse!” (?)


The sexual closeness of the couple has excited the woman and

she says: “While the king was at his couch, my spikenard gave forth its

smell,” (1:12). This refers to the custom of perfuming her sexual

parts. Her rising body heat caused the smell of her perfume,

mingled with her natural sexual musk, to fill the air.


“How handsome you are my beloved, and how luxurious is our

couch,” (1:16) is an unabashed reference to her delight in looking at

him and delighting in the place where they make love. He asks to

“see your form…for your form is lovely,” (2:14). He wants to look at

her body because she had a great figure! That he asks to look at her


naked body becomes apparent as we continue reading through the

book, noting the many description of her body, from head to toe.

There is an abundance of highly sexual images in this poem,

even though veiled from the modern reader. The translators

evidently could not bring themselves to actually translate many of

these words literally and demurred from literal translation in other

places because of the figurative references to explicit sex practices.


Adam Clarke, a highly esteemed and respected, conservative

commentator, wrote:


“There are many passages in it which should not be

explained…the references being too delicate; and Eastern

phraseology on such subjects is too vivid…Let any sensible and

pious medical man read over this book, and if at all acquainted

with Asiatic phraseology, say whether it would be proper, even

in medical language, to explain all the descriptions and

allusions in this poem.” (Clarke’s Commentary).


The questions we just must ask about such a statement, is: “Did

God intend that His people read this book, and understand it? And

did God realize that His language was too crude and indelicate to

be translated into language that the common person could



 If God caused it to be written, He intended it to be

understood, and if God inspired the language of this book, then our

assumption must be that this inspired language is appropriate.


Surely such statements as the above reflect more upon Mr. Clarke’s

faulty sense of propriety than it does upon the book itself. And surely

such attitudes impugn the spirituality and holiness of the God who


inspired this book.


 If there is anything wrong with the language in

the Song of Solomon then there is fault with God, for He should

have known better than to use such language! How insane it is for

humans to think they have reached such a state of superior

morality, that they can correct God and overtly label anything He

does or says as “improper.”


 Perhaps we humans actually

understand sex better than the God who created it! Perhaps God

should now condescend to adopt our moral standards, rather than

we adopting His! Perhaps God should have consulted such

superior intellects as Mr. Clarke’s before He wrote this erotic poem.


Surely Mr. Clarke would have been glad to guide God into a choice




of language that would have been “acceptable” to the human

reader! Surely we can think better than this.


The imagery in this book may be meant to be an allegory of

something else, but it is definitely sexual imagery, and is used in

other places in the Bible. “Fruitful” is elsewhere a reference to

sexual reproduction (Gen. 1:28), and “fruit of the womb” refers to

offspring, (Gen. 30:2).


Semen is called “seed” in Lev. 15:16. Today

we say a man “sows his wild oats”; a virgin has a “cherry”; testicles

are “nuts,” etc. Exactly the same sort of sexually euphemistic

imagery is used throughout the Song of Solomon.


One of the fruits that represented sexual activity in Israel was

the pomegranate. Because of its many seeds it has been a symbol of

fertility from the most ancient times.


In Mythology, the mother of

Attis conceived him by putting a pomegranate between her breasts.

A fertility deity that Naaman worshipped was called “Rimmon,” (2

Kg. 5:18), the same word that is translated “pomegranate” in Song of

Solomon (Strong’s # 7416, 7417).


So when the woman says “I would cause you to drink the spiced

wine of my pomegranate,” (8:2) she is not offering him a juice drink!

She is offering him her fertility, her sexual love. Some believe she is

asking for oral sex! But sex indeed is what she is after, for the next

line (8:3) shows that the couple is reclining, and his left hand

should be under her head while his right hand “embraces” her. It is

in this position that she tells him to drink of the juice of her

pomegranate. As Adam Clarke says above, those who are “at all

acquainted with Asiatic phraseology” can see the erotic reference


“The fig tree puts forth her green figs…arise my love, and come

away.” (2:13) “Figs were used from early times as symbols of sexual

fertility. The word “fig” signified “vagina” in several


Mediterranean languages, and one only needed to split open a

purple fig to see why.” (Kevin Aaron, Journey From Eden, p. 196).

The obscene gesture of “giving the finger” by which the male penis

and testicles are manually represented, is also called “making the



“Mandrakes” (7:13) also are figurative of sexual fertility. They

are called “love apples”, and the Arabs refer to them as “the Devil’s

testicles.” The mandrake root itself resembles a man’s sex organs.

Many cultures believed that mandrakes were an aphrodisiac; they

were thought to arouse sexual desire. This is the explanation




behind Rachel’s attempt to bargain with Leah for her mandrakes in

exchange for the sexual favors of Jacob, (Gen. 30:14-16).

“Pomegranates,” “figs,” “apples,” “grapes,” “mandrakes,” all to

be enjoyed “in the garden” – all these are erotic images, used over

and over in this poem, as now the woman and then the man use


these fruits to refer to their persistent passion for sexual love. All

this comes to a focus when we read that the young woman is herself

a “garden,” and she invites her male lover to “come into his garden

and eat its choice fruits!” (4:12-16).


For a parallel in Eastern poetry, read these lines from a

Palestinian poem:

“Your breast, O You, is like a pomegranate fruit,

And your eyes have captured us, by God and by the

Merciful One.


Your cheek shines as it were a damascene apple;

How sweet to pluck it in the morning and to open the

garden.” (The Anchor Bible)

An Egyptian poem has this similar line:

“I entered your garden and plucked your pomegranates…”

(The Anchor Bible)


Now if we were trying to explain the meaning of these lines,

(4:12-16), how would we go about it? Would you not have to

comment that the woman’s body, specifically her vagina, is the


“garden,” and that her invitation to her lover to “come into your

garden” and “eat its fruit,” is an invitation to enter her vagina and

make love to her. And wouldn’t you also need to mention that the

probability is also extremely high that oral lovemaking was a part

of this invitation?


The erotic power of this woman’s invitation arises from the fact

that this man’s “garden” (her body) smells delightfully of myrrh,

aloes, cinnamon and frankincense (4:13, 14). These spices were

much in use in those days, to perfume the sexual organs, and

provide a sensual aroma for the love bed. Prov. 7:18,19 reads: “I


have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take

our fill of love until the morning.” The Song of Solomon has the man

describing her beauty, specifically her breasts, then saying “Until

the day breaks, and the shadows flee away, I will get me up to the




mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of incense.” (4:5, 6). He is not talking

about a midnight hiking trip into the mountains! He is going up to

the “mountain” and the “hill” of her pubic area!

This woman is a “garden enclosed,” but she will open to her

lover. She invites him into his garden – her body – to eat her fruits,

and drink the water of her love (4:12-16). The Interpreter’s Bible says


this: “In Oriental imagery the wife is described in terms of a

fountain, and sexual enjoyment in terms of drinking water.” This

same symbolism is used in Prov. 5:15-20: “Drink water from your

own cistern…Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of

your youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts


satisfy (margin: “water”) you at all times; and be ravished always with

her love.” Eating and drinking are euphemisms for sexual activity as

are the “hind and doe,” images that repeatedly appear in Song of



After inviting him into her garden, the man responds as he says,

“I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my

myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have

drunk my wine with my milk,” (5:1). He has enjoyed all the delights

of her body. God evidently sees sex as a pleasant appetite to be

filled, not as something dirty and disgusting to be endured only


when it is necessary!

A marriage poem from Sumeria uses this same imagery, as the

bride speaks to the groom, enticing him with an erotic description

of her charms:

“My god, sweet is the drink of the wine-maid,

Like her drink, sweet is her vulva, sweet is her drink,

Like her lips sweet is her vulva, sweet is her drink,

Sweet is her mixed drink, her drink.” (The Anchor Bible)


In such lines as these, the references to oral lovemaking cannot

be missed. In both this Sumerian poem and in the Song of Solomon,

the delights of sexual love most obviously involve enjoying the

entirety of the partner’s body, and “eating” and “drinking” sexual


enjoyment until each lover is full. Objections to oral sex are imposed

upon people in spite of the Bible’s teaching. Such objections do not

come from the Bible.


Another scene depicts the male lover in this Song, as feeding

among the lilies (2:16,17); “My beloved is mine and I am his: he feedeth

among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my

beloved, and be like a roe or a young hart upon the mountain of Bether.”




The roe and the hart were known for their beauty and

sensuality. The reference in this case to the all night “feeding”

among the lilies, is an erotic reference to love making. From ancient

times, in many cultures the lily or lotus has been used as a symbol

for sexual activity. The term “lotus licking,” is just another way of

saying cunnilingus. Lilies are used in reference to the mons veneris.

The Anchor Bible says that feeding among the lilies on the “mountain

of Bether,” refers to the “mountain of division,” referring


transparently to the divided vulva. Because women perfumed the

“mountain” of their “division,” or vulva, Moffatt’s Translation

translates this line this way: “Play like a roe or hart on my perfumed

slopes.” References to the male lover “feeding among the dark lilies”

located at the “divided mountain,” virtually demand that we

understand this to be a reference to oral sex. And such a reference,


in this context, means God recommends such delightful activity for

the enjoyment of His children. We suspect these references are

among those phrases that Adam Clarke felt should not even be

explained by a doctor using medical language! In other words, even

if God Himself refers to oral sexual activity, we should not read it that

way, should not approve of it, and should never teach it to others.

This means that, even if God said it, it is wrong!

In another scene, (2:3,4), the man is likened to an apple tree,

beneath which the woman sits with great delight. “As the apple tree

among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down

under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting table, and his banner over me was love.”

The meaning of these phrases may be a general reference to love

making, but they can also clearly be taken as a reference to fellatio,

as she sits “under his shade” or between his legs, and pleasures him

with her mouth. The Anchor Bible says “one could hardly miss the

sexual sense of the metaphor.” The “meal” these lovers are eating

in the “banqueting house” is not physical food, but sexual love.

And “the banner of love” he spreads over her, is not a tapestry he

hung on the wall!

Having compared the man to an apple tree, the Song now says

the woman is a palm tree, which the man intends to climb! (7:6-9).

“How beautiful and how delightful you are my love, with all your charms!

Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I

said, I will go climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks: O may


your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the fragrance of your breath

like apples.”

This man is going to delight himself in the sight and feel of his

lover’s breasts. As one would pick the fruit from the branches he

sees her breasts as the fruit he will pick: they will be as clusters of

the vine, ready to pick and eat. When she asks him to “sustain me

with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, because I am lovesick,” (2:5),

she is asking him to delight in her body.

The Song refers to a woman’s breasts as “clusters of grapes”

hanging down, sweet to taste, delightful to behold and delightful to

touch. He mentioned one woman who had breasts like “towers”

and expressed concern that his little sister’s breasts had not yet

developed, (7:8; 8:8-10). The woman says “A bundle of myrrh is my

well beloved to me; he shall lie all night between my breasts.” (1:13).

God is obviously not embarrassed by a woman’s breasts. He

created woman’s breasts as much to be sexual objects as for nursing

children. For a man to delight in a woman’s breasts is pure and

natural. And the desire to “eat” the nipples as he would eat grapes

is not only normal, it is recognized by God as part of the very reason

He made women’s breasts as He did, and made them a delight to men.

In other words, the reason men like women’s breasts is because God

made women’s breasts for men to enjoy.

There are more such references to sexual love making, and the

pure delight of a man and woman looking at each other’s naked

bodies, and describing them in the most explicit fashion. Such

forthright sexuality in the Bible has been a real stumbling block for

humans. This book has been the source of more controversy than

any other Biblical book – only because of its sexual language. The

Song refers to the human body, sexual organs, and love making in

all its forms, as beautiful, wholesome and erotically satisfying. The

body is not something that must be covered. It is not “nasty” to

talk about the human body nor to delight in its naked, sexual

beauty. Rejoicing in sexual activity is not something only

“perverts” do. Enjoying the act of sex for the pure pleasure of it is

good, healthy, and blessed by God. This book stands forever as

God’s personal commendation of human sexuality as something

good and delightful for His children. What is “perverted” is the

opposite attitude, that sees human nakedness and sexual activity as

inherently “unclean” or “unholy,” and something that all truly

spiritual people avoid talking about or thinking about.


Consider this scene: “Come back, come back O Shulammite; come

back that we might gaze at you! Why should you gaze at the Shulammite,

as at the dance of Mahanaim,” (6:13).

In 7:1-6, the girl is wearing nothing but shoes, for the boy’s

description of her whole body moves from feet to head. Admiring

her “navel” refers to her vulva, according to Interpreter’s Bible. In

the context, the girl is dancing, (thus the shoes) and the people call

to her to “come back” or as we would say “encore!” so they can

continue to look at her naked body. As the girl dances the “dance of

Mahanaim,” she is evidently either totally naked, or covered only by

a sheer, see-through garment, for the lover sees her whole body,

and describes it in detail, (7:1-9). Not only he, but also a number of

onlookers watch this nude dance, and he teases them by asking

“why are you looking at the Shulammite while she dances?” He knows

that they look for the same reason he looks. This girl is

exceptionally beautiful and her figure is “lovely.” They are looking

with great admiration upon this naked girl. As she finishes her

dance they beg her to return so that they can continue to look at

her. The Interpreter’s Bible commentary says this was some special

dance apparently performed in the nude. The Pulpit Commentary

says the dancing girl may have worn clothing of a light texture

through which the details of her body and breasts could be seen,

“according to the mode of dancing in the East.” (Journey From Eden, p.

49). Such nude dances as these were common place in that culture.

Adam Clark thinks she wore “transparent garments,” which would

allow her body to be viewed. The girl was dancing in such fashion

that her breasts were visible and described as a perfectly matching

pair, “two young roes that are twins.” As she danced, her breasts

bounced like young roes jumping on the hill. This girl had breasts

like “towers” – large, firm breasts – and this was a major factor that

caused the man to delight in her, (8:10).

God designed the male body and the female body specifically and

intentionally to be sexually attractive to each other. There is such an

openness in this book in describing the body and the act of love

making, and such a delight in the whole process that we humans

surely should take thought about the legitimacy of our attitudes

toward these things. If God speaks this way about nakedness and

sexuality why is it wrong for us to do so? If God sees all this as

beautiful, clean, desirable and even “holy,” how can we view it as

dirty and needing to be kept in the closet?


This erotic poem also represents the girl as being equally

unabashed about enjoying the sight of her naked lover. No

blushing rose here! In 5:11-15, the woman describes with obvious

delight, the man’s naked body from head to toe, including

euphemistic references to his penis (“belly”). Strong’s #4578 says

mayaw refers to “the abdomen…by extension the stomach, the

uterus ( or of men, the seat of generation…)” or as one translator

wrote, “His rod is arrogant ivory,” indicating that she marvels at

his erect penis. She likes to look at his body, he likes to look at her

body, and as the preceding paragraphs show, others like to look at

both of them too. Appreciation of the beauty and sexuality of the

human body is recognized here. Men and women looking at each

others bodies and loving the sight, is approved of in these


Studying the Holy Spirit inspired language of this book forces

us to reconsider the validity of all our presumptions, opinions and

convictions about anything sexual. We can see from the foregoing

study that there is nothing about the body and its sexual organs, or

using those organs for their created purpose, that is dirty enough or

“unseemly” enough for God to hesitate to write a book about if for

all the world to read and understand. If The Perfectly Holy God

Who created our bodies and sexual apparatus and made us such

that our most powerful passion is sexual passion, sees sex as we

read about it in this book, then we must admit that this attitude is

the right attitude. God’s attitude toward sex is the perfect attitude

toward sex. If God brings sex out of the closet for all the world to

see, then we must resist every urge to stuff it back in there.

Nothing in all the Bible suggests to us that we should not talk

about sex with one another, even using the real words for all the

parts of the body. We have created euphemisms for sexual love and

sexual organs because we have a sense of shame and impropriety

about these things and just can’t bring ourselves to talk about them

without “covering” our language. Thus instead of saying penis we

say pecker, rod, dick, tool, etc. When we must refer to a woman’s

vulva, we say pussy, cunt, pet, door, etc. etc. If we refer to

masturbation we have to say things like spank the dog, beat the

meat, pump the handle, etc. Why? Since the Creator of all things

sexual does not show embarrassment about sex, why do we?

Our attitudes have not been derived from the Bible. We

assume the Bible avoids sex and treats it as basically dirty. The truth


is that the Bible regards sex highly and counts it as one of the

greatest blessings humans can enjoy. If not for our jaundiced views

of sex and the human body we would be free to fully and openly

enjoy sex. If we were not ashamed of our bodies we would not feel

compelled to hide from the view of all others. All of our foolish

opinions about these issues come from church leaders who cannot

trust people to read their Bibles and draw correct impressions from

it about sexual matters. They have taken the practical position that

God did not sufficiently reveal to humans all the rules and

regulations we need in order to truly control sex. We believe we

must be more sensitive and secretive about sex than God is. We

think we know better than to use the same “crude” language of sex

that God used here.

The modern church has tried its best to help God out since

apparently, in many minds, He did not do an adequate job of

defining decency. Modern religious people are offended at the

suggestion that God would actually inspire such a book as Song of

Solomon. Yet the fact remains that this book is part of the inspired,

eternal Word. Any suggestion that its language and sexual

references are crude, unacceptable for decent society, vulgar, etc, is

an accusation against God’s Personal Holiness, Purity and

Righteousness. On the other hand, if we can accept that this book is

inspired by God Himself and that its sexual content is not

shameful, unholy or in any other way foreign to God’s character,

then we are in a position to be able to understand God’s true

attitude toward sex. God made sex. God made sex enjoyable. God

made human bodies. God made them beautiful to look at. God also

created men and women such that we experience automatic sexual

reaction to the naked bodies of others. God sees this as good. And it

is all in harmony with His essentially Holy nature. There is no dirt

connected with sex or human nakedness. All dirt exists in human


We do not defend vulgarity or disregard for public morals. We

do however, defend Biblical morality, and the Biblical manner of

referring to and thinking about sex. Our deeply rooted, underlying

assumption that sex is basically dirty, is the reason we cannot see sex

as Scripture actually presents it. If we can get over this one hump

we are well on the way to developing a healthy, Biblical view of

sex. May that day hasten for as many individuals as are able to look

at God’s Word objectively and escape their sexual prisons.








In sexual matters, adultery is probably the primary sin.

Adultery is without question sinful. No one who commits adultery

can expect to receive God’s blessing or forgiveness until repentance

has been rendered. We do not mean that adultery is any “worse”

than other sins. We simply mean that adultery is absolutely

condemned by God. No circumstances may bring adultery into the

“exception” area. However, when adulterers repent they receive

immediate mercy exactly like all other penitents.

Since adultery is unalterably evil, and is warned of through

both OT and NT, no serious study of sexuality can ignore it. At the

same time anything as hellish as adultery must be considered with

intense care so that we are certain we know exactly what it is and

what it is not. We are convinced that severe misunderstanding

surrounds this subject, just as it does other sex matters. The

consequence of this misunderstanding takes at least the following


• People think adultery is particularly a sexual sin. It is not, as

we will show.

• Because people do not understand the true nature of adultery

many commit adultery unawares. Having done nothing

“sexual” they do not realize they have committed adultery.

• Some marriages that should be dissolved continue in

relentless misery simply because neither party has been sexually

unfaithful. Since “adultery” (as they conceive it) has not been

committed they think they are bound by God’s law to remain


The truth about adultery will prove both liberating and

restricting. Truth here will enable some people to live without fear

of having committed this sin. Truth here will also bring some under

conviction of having “adulterated” against their mates even though

they have been sexually faithful to them. Let us look at what the

Bible actually says about adultery. Once again, we begin with

definitions of the Biblical words.



Heb. “To apostatize; a woman that breaks wedlock.” (Strong’s #’s

5003, 4, 5)

Gk. moixeia, “to commit adultery, a (male) paramour; fig. apostate,

adulterer.” (Strong’s #’s 3428, 3429, 3430, 3431, 3432)

“…adultery, an adulteress.” Moixalis, an adulteress, applied as an

adjective to the Jewish people who had transferred their affections

from God.” (E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Concordance to the English and

Greek New Testament, pg. 28.)

“The parties to this crime, according to Jewish law, were a married

woman, and a man who was not her husband…Symbolically

adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to covenant vows to God,

who is represented as the Husband of His people.” (Smith’s Bible

Dictionary, pgs. 21, 22)

“(The words) mean ‘to commit adultery’ or ‘to seduce’…to

adulterate, illicit intercourse, adulterer, lover, adulterous,

adulteress, mistress, harlot.” (Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New

Testament, pg. 605, 606)

“In Scripture, (adultery is) sexual intercourse by a married man

with another than his wife, or by a married woman with another

than her husband. It is distinguished from fornication, which is

illicit sexual intercourse by an unmarried person…It is a violation

of the original, divinely instituted marriage bond. Adultery

involves more than physical promiscuity. It also violates the

integrity of the person. The penalty for adultery in OT is death; no

partiality is shown the man: both parties in the act are equally

guilty.” (ISBE, vol. 1, pg. 58, 59)

Some observations must be made relative to this last quote. It is

not true that Scripture defines adultery as “sexual intercourse by a

married man with another than his wife.” As we will see, Scripture

does not recognize the possibility of a man, married or unmarried,

committing adultery except when he violates the married status of

the woman. Otherwise a man might copulate with numerous

concubines, slaves and even prostitutes without committing

adultery. As our study on polygamy and concubinage proved,

many of God’s choicest servants “had intercourse with another

than his wife” and was never charged with adultery, nor suffered


any rebuke or correction from God. Further, as we will

demonstrate, adultery is not the simple sexual act committed with a

married woman, but is the intent to deprive the husband of his property.

Further, it is not true that “fornication…is illicit sexual

intercourse by an unmarried person…” While this definition seems

to be standard in much writing and teaching it is nevertheless not a

valid lexical definition, and it does not meet the test of Biblical

usage. Fornication is a generic word, and is defined strictly as “any

illicit sexual activity.” “Fornication” does not in itself specify any

sex act as illicit. It encompasses all sexual acts that Scripture

defines as “illicit.” Unless Scripture defines “sexual intercourse by

an unmarried person” as illicit then the word “fornication” does

not apply to that act. “Fornication” has no inherent relationship to

the married status of the person committing it. Both married and

unmarried people may commit fornication by engaging in any act

that the Bible defines as illicit. Such acts as adultery, rape, bestiality,

incest, pedophilia and forced prostitution, are generically defined by

the word “fornication.” We will discuss the ramifications of these

observations as we proceed. Let us examine the Biblical references

to the sin of adultery.

Scripture References to Adultery:

Reuben lays with Bilhah, Jacob’s concubine, (Gen. 35:22). He is

cursed for this act, (Gen. 49:4). The adultery in this case is sexual

intercourse with a woman who belonged to another man.

Potiphar’s wife wants Joseph to have sex with her. He refuses,

giving the reason that “you are his wife,” (Gen. 39:7-9). Joseph

believes that to commit adultery is a “sin against God.” We wonder

if Joseph might have copulated with her if she had been

unmarried? The answer to that question must be determined by

what the Bible says about sex under those specific circumstances.

Joseph is concerned about what violates God’s will. Whether he

would copulate with this or any other woman, depends on what

God had spoken about particular situations. We must not jump to

conclusions before we study the evidence.

Adultery is strictly forbidden, (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18, 21). One

may not “covet” a man’s wife or anything else that belongs to him,

(Ex. 20:17). Note first that these Scriptures do not deal with the act

of being sexually attracted to a woman even if she is married. They


deal with “coveting” which by definition, means to desire to deprive

another by taking what is his. Thus one cannot “covet anything that is

thy neighbor’s.” The desire to take what belongs to another is a sin.

So obviously a man cannot desire to take another man’s wife. But

this says nothing about sexual attraction to a neighbor’s daughter.

Can a man look at his neighbor’s daughter and be moved by sexual

attraction to the point of wanting to marry her? Certainly. But he

cannot look at his neighbor’s wife that way.

One must not commit adultery with a neighbor’s wife, (Lev.

18:20; 20:10).

Copulating with another man’s slave requires sacrifice, (Lev.

19:20). Since adultery is not dealt with on the basis of offering a

sacrifice, but by extracting the death penalty, it is obvious that this

act is not adultery. A man’s slave is not in the same category as his

wife. This is using another man’s property without paying

appropriate compensation. This is stealing. It requires a sin

sacrifice, not for the sex act, but for the theft of another’s property –

his sole rights to the sexual property of his slave.

Unfaithful wives are to be tried by priests, and punished if

guilty, (Num. 5:11-31).

A man who commits adultery with a married woman brings

death to both, (Deut. 22:22).

If an engaged virgin lies with another man in the city, both must

die, (Deut. 22:23-24). She dies for not “crying out,” and he dies for

humbling his neighbor’s wife. Because she was engaged she was

considered as good as married and therefore she was already the

sole sexual property of her betrothed/husband. Thus sex with

anyone other than her fiancé is “adultery.” The fact that she did not

“cry out” implies that her sexual act was consensual; i.e. she was not

raped. But if a man rapes an engaged virgin in the country, only he

dies, (Deut. 22:25-27). The presumption here is that the virgin

“cried out” but no one could hear her. The presumption is “rape”

which carries the death penalty against the rapist only.

If a man seizes an unengaged virgin and copulates with her he

pays the bride price to her father, marries her and can never

divorce her, (Deut. 11:28-29). This is his penalty for forcing himself

on her and ruining her as a prospect for carrying on the pure


lineage of another man as his wife. If she had voluntarily copulated

with him there would have been no penalty except that the man, if

discovered, would have to either marry her or pay her father a

dowry. We will note in passing that this text and similar texts

recognize the act of sex between unmarried people, but do not

define it as “fornication.”

“If I have been enticed by a woman or lurked at my neighbor’s door…”

i.e., If I have sinfully desired to take my neighbor’s wife, (Job 31:9).

His self-imposed curse is, “let others have sex with my own wife,” (vs.


“Wisdom” delivers us from the “the immoral woman” and the

“seductress… who forsakes the companion of her youth; her house leads to

death,” (Prov. 2:16-19). This refers to an adulteress, a married woman

who forsakes her husband for other men.

The lips of an immoral woman drip honey. In the end she is as

bitter as wormwood; her feet lead to death and hell. Do not ponder

her way of life; she is unstable, (Prov. 5:3-6). Again, as defined by

2:16-19 and all else in Scripture, this is a married woman who leaves

her husband for other lovers. See also Prov. 5:7-14.

Rejoice with the wife of your youth; let her breasts satisfy you;

why be enraptured by an “immoral woman?” (Prov. 5:18-20). This

verse does not forbid marrying more than one woman. Nor does it

forbid all circumstances of copulation with a woman other than

one’s wife. This is proven quickly by the fact that the author,

Solomon, had 699 wives after the “wife of (his) youth” plus 300

concubines. This text demands faithfulness to the original wife. She

is not to be neglected, but is to receive favored attention and full

satisfaction in all aspects of marriage, especially sex.

God’s commandment is a lamp to keep one from the “evil”

woman, a seductress. Don’t lust after her beauty in your heart,

(Prov. 6:24-26). There is great harm to one who goes in to his

neighbor’s wife. So these are references to adultery; sex with a

married woman. One who commits adultery – steals another man’s

wife – lacks understanding and destroys his soul; he reaps wounds,

dishonor, lasting reproach and a husband’s fury, (vs. 32-35).

A young man meets an ”immoral woman” who is “rebellious” and

“would not stay at home,” (Prov. 7:7-11). She seduces him, (vs. 13ff),


promising “my husband is not at home,” (vs. 19, 20). This is a married

woman, an adulteress. The young man yields to temptation and

suffers the consequences, (vs. 21-23). Do not fall into her trap,

avoid her, she leads to death, (vs. 24-27).

A “foolish woman” entices the “naïve” to come in to enjoy “stolen

water” and “bread eaten in secret,” but death is in her house, (Prov.


The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit. The Lord abhors

those who fall in it, (Prov. 22:14). A harlot is a deep pit, a seductress

is a narrow well. She victimizes men and increases the “unfaithful”

among men, (Prov.23:27). This is an adulterous woman; a married

harlot. She refuses to admit guilt, (Prov. 30:20).

More bitter than death is the woman who is a snare, etc. A man

who pleases God escapes her, but she snares sinners, (Ecc. 7:26).

Exactly why this woman is a snare is not specified. In light of all we

have seen she must be an adulteress.

Israel turned from God to spiritual and sexual adultery with idols,

(Isa. 57:4-8).

Israel “tore off her bands and…lay down as a prostitute,” (Jer. 2:20).

Like a wild donkey in heat, she mated quickly with any male that

pursued her, (vs. 24). This is a married woman who tore off the

bands of her marriage vows to commit adultery.

Israel is so skilled at adultery that she can teach even the “worst

of women,” (Jer. 2:33).

Israel has “lived as a prostitute with many lovers,” (Jer. 3:1). There

is no place where she has not been ravished, (vs. 2); she has no

shame, (vs. 3); She has committed adultery everywhere, (vs. 6).

God divorced her and sent her away because of her adulteries yet

Judah followed her example, (vs. 8). Her immorality mattered so

little to her that she “defiled the land, committing adultery with wood

and stone,” (vs. 9). She is like a woman “unfaithful to her husband,”

(vs. 20).

Because of God’s judgment, Israel will pursue adultery in vain,

(Jer. 4:30). That is, Israel will try to leave God and find safety,

provision and blessing with another “husband” but God will not

allow her to be satisfied.


God supplied Israel’s needs yet she committed adultery &

thronged to the houses of prostitutes, (Jer. 5:7). She is like “lusty

stallions, each neighing after another man’s wife.” This is adultery. As

judgment, God will give their wives to other men, (Jer. 8:10). Wait a

moment! If God gives their wives to “other men,” is God going to

sovereignly make “adulterers” out of these “other men?” Is God

going to simply impose a sinful condition upon them? This cannot

be. But this situation will help us see that simple sexual relations

with another’s mate is not “adultery.” Something else is required

in order for the sex act to be adulterous.

Israel is full of adulterers and unfaithful people, (Jer. 9:2).

“He that looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery

already with her in his heart,” (Matt. 5:27, 28). We will return to this

classic statement later.

“Everyone who divorces his wife except for … unfaithfulness, makes

her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits

adultery.” (Mt. 5:32; Mk. 10:1ff; Lk. 6:18ff).

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will

be given,” (Mt. 12:39).

“Whoever will be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous

generation…” (Mk. 8:8).

“If while her husband lives, she is joined to another man, she shall be

called an adulteress, but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so

that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.” Rom.


“Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers inherit the kingdom

of God,” (1 Cor. 6:9).

“The deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality,

impurity….” (Gal. 5:19).

“Whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge,” (Heb. 13:4).

“Adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the

world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4).


Comments and Observations:

The single greatest fear prohibiting people from enjoying the

range of sexual pleasure available to them is the fear of adultery.

This is to be expected. Adultery is condemned and those who are

guilty are threatened with severe punishment. No holy person will

even consider committing adultery. But is it crucial to our study to

understand what adultery actually is: not what it is said to be “by

those of old time.” Definitions matter supremely. Biblical examples

must be understood. Most of our paranoia about adultery comes

not from the Bible but from incorrect information handed down to

us for generations. Adultery has traditionally been defined as “sex

with someone other than our marital mate.” This definition of

“adultery” is false for two reasons:

1] It is not the true meaning of either the Greek or the

Hebrew word;

2] It does not meet the test of agreement with Biblical


Both adultery and prostitution are considered in Scripture to be

governed by property rights rather than by purity codes. Consider

again these quotes from above, (emphasis by the present authors).

Adultery is defined as, “To apostatize; a woman that breaks

wedlock.” (Strong’s # 5003, 4, 5)

“Symbolically adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to

covenant vows to God, who is represented as the Husband of His

people.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, pgs. 21, 22)

“…adultery, an adulteress.” Moixalis, an adulteress, applied as

an adjective to the Jewish people who had transferred their affections

from God.” (E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Concordance to the English and

Greek New Testament, pg. 28.)

“A young man meets an ”immoral woman” who is

“rebellious” and “would not stay at home,” Prov. 7:7-11.”

“Israel “tore off her bands and…lay down as a prostitute,” Jer.

2:20. This is a married woman who tore off the bands of her

marriage vows to give herself to another husband.

These statements suffice to demonstrate the core issue of

adultery. Adultery is committed by a woman who rebels against her


husband in going after sex with other men, or in other ways giving

her resources to them and depending on them, relating to them as

if they were her real husband. It is adultery because the husband

has not granted her freedom to have such association with other

men. She is his property (according to OT concepts) and she must

not breach his property rights by giving to others what he reserves

for himself alone.

A man commits adultery by taking from the married woman

what her husband has claimed as his sole privilege. It is this

“property rights” issue that distinguishes adultery. Strictly

speaking adultery is not a sex issue. Adultery is not “sex with

someone other than one’s spouse.” Adultery is taking what belongs

to someone else.

Adultery is not merely a sexual act. As we read from Scripture

Israel committed “adultery” against God numerous times yet all of

us understand that God and Israel never had sex, nor did “Israel”

as a nation have sex with other nations. Adultery is a matter of

rebelling against one’s spouse then putting trust in, depending on,

transferring one’s affections to another mate. By aligning herself

with foreign nations and taking their gods for herself Israel

committed adultery against God who was her true Husband. She

left God for another mate. Many things constitute adultery other

than a sex act. And a sex act itself is not adulterous unless it violates

the claim of exclusive ownership by one’s spouse. In other words, if

exclusive rights to a wife’s sexual favors is not claimed by a husband

then if his wife has sex with another man she has not thereby

committed adultery. There is no “rebellion” in her act and she has

in no way been “unfaithful” to her commitment to her husband.

She has not “broken the bands” of her marriage. If her faithfulness

to her marital commitment is not injured, the sex act has no moral

repercussions and it is not “adultery.”

It is impossible for us to perceive life as did Israel and her

neighbors. We have made many strides in the past few decades

toward realizing the full rights of women. We no longer have a

culture in which men generally consider women as “property.”

Especially in the Western world husbands do not feel they “own”

their wives. Women are granted liberty and privilege in every walk

of life, including marriage. But for us to understand the Biblical

concept of “adultery” we must understand that to the men of that


age a wife was as much his personal property as was a slave, a

horse or a house. His wife was granted more consideration that a

slave but she had very little more freedom or authority. From the

time of espousal the woman “belonged” to the man. Therefore for

another man to attempt to win a woman away from her fiancé was

considered “adultery.” Even if the two never had sex, any romantic

complicity between a fiancé and another man was “adultery.

Likewise in a marriage the husband maintained sole rights to

everything that pertained to his wife, including her sexuality.

Israelite men especially protected this sexual exclusivity because

his wife’s child-bearing capacity was absolutely crucial to his tribal

standing and posterity. A man’s future depended on his having

many children, especially sons. But these children must be his, and

not another man’s. Anything that might in anywise raise a doubt

about whether a child truly was his own was potentially

devastating to an Israelite husband. Their clannish, tribal Hebrew

culture demanded that a man have only “pure” offspring to receive

his inheritance. Otherwise his inheritance might fall into the hands

of another family.

The OT concept of adultery can be understood only when we

view it in light of its cultural setting. A man’s problem with a wife’s

sexual adultery was not merely a problem with her having sex with

another man. It was a problem with potential destruction of his

tribal lineage; a problem with knowing whether her children were

actually his. We have no such cultural concerns today, so it is hard

for us to see the importance of this issue. But to them it was a

survival matter.

And adultery was not limited to sexual unfaithfulness. Adultery

was a matter of being unfaithful to the marriage covenant. A man’s

wife could not leave him and live with another man as long as she

did not have sex with the second man. Property rights came into

play. Since she belonged to her husband, to leave and go to another

man was to participate in marital theft; taking the husband’s

property (herself, her presence, her abilities, her house-keeping,

cooking, etc.) and giving it to another man. Because she was an

accomplice to this theft she was as guilty as the second husband

and they were both to be executed. Adultery was, and is, breaking

marriage, destroying the marriage bond. There are more ways to

do this than mere sexual unfaithfulness. When a man abuses his

wife physically, mentally, emotionally or financially, he has


“broken covenant” with her and is an “adulterer.” Most marriages

in our society are formed around public vows whereby a man

swears before God and human witnesses that he will “love, cherish,

and honor” his wife, and promises to “protect and provide for her”

as well as to “keep myself (sexually) for you alone.” Any breach of

those vows is “adultery.” If a man makes six distinct vows, and

breaks all but one of them, how do we consider him “faithful?” If a

man honors his sexual vow but refuses to “love, honor, cherish,

protect and provide” for his wife has he been faithful to the

marriage covenant? Absolutely not!

Consider too, that whatever is not mutually enjoined upon each

other by the marriage covenant cannot be made a matter of

adultery. Suppose neither of the pair vowed to love, honor, cherish,

protect and provide for the other. To fail in any of those specifics

would not constitute breaking marriage covenant because none of

them was a part of that covenant. And if the couple did not vow to

grant the other exclusive rights to their sexuality, then to have sex

with someone else would not constitute breach of marriage

covenant. In other words it would not be adultery. It could not

possibly be so because sexual exclusivity was not a part of the

covenant. We say it again for emphasis: adultery is not “having sex

with someone other than one’s spouse.” Adultery is breaking the

marriage bond. Whatever breaks that bond is adultery. If a husband

and wife did not “bind” themselves to sexual exclusivity, then for

either of them to have sex with a third party is not adultery. It may

be something terrible, but it is not adultery.

If this is almost too outlandish to accept, put yourself again in

the OT setting and think of a righteous man like Jacob. He married

Leah first, then Rachel. Did he commit adultery with Rachel? Or

was it OK just because they were both married to him? Well, then

consider Judah’s encounter with his daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen.

38). He thought she was a prostitute and paid to have sex with her.

But even though adultery was a serious crime he was not accused

of adultery. Instead, when the affair was discovered he suffered

nothing more than a mild embarrassment at not having fulfilled his

promise to her. Maybe Abraham will help us again. He was

married to barren Sarah. In order to have children she could claim

as her own, Sarah insisted that Abraham copulate with Hagar,

Sarah’s maid. Abraham did so, thus having sex with someone other

than his wife. But Abraham did not commit adultery. Nor did he


commit any sort of sexual sin. Or how about all the others who had

wives yet without a second thought had sex with their wive's

“handmaidens,” with concubines, with slaves and with prostitutes.

All of this occurred under a law that mandated the death penalty

for both the man and woman caught in adultery. The sexual

proclivity of men like David, Solomon, Gideon and others was

public knowledge. If having sex with so many women to whom

they were not married was “adultery” why were none of those men

ever accused? Why were none of them ever punished? The truth

stares us right in the face doesn’t it? In a culture that knew exactly

what adultery is and is not, and took severe measures to do away

with adultery, having sex with people other than one’s mate was a

common occurrence, yet was never treated as adultery. Indeed it was

never treated as even unusual. Think about it! Even godly men

going in to prostitutes was not thought to be anything worth

fretting about. Doesn’t it make you wonder how we got all our

concepts about the sordidness of all sex except monogamous

intercourse in the missionary position?

In the OT system a slave woman who has sex with a man other

than her master is not considered an adulteress. She and her lover

are not to be killed, “because she has not been emancipated,” (Lev.

19:20-22). The law demands “damages” instead. The sexual act

itself was not “defiling,” otherwise there could not have been such

leniency on God’s part. The law in this case gives the reason for

leniency: she is a slave, not a wife. Thus “adultery” can be

committed only with, and by a woman who is free to “rebel”

against her husband. It is a property rights matter. In Scripture

adultery is primarily an offense against property. It is theft – whether

actual or intended – of another’s property.

An objective study of Biblical sex law makes one thing clear:

sexual practice was largely regulated by the principle of respect for

sexual property. God forbade what violates one’s personal sexual

property (thus forbidding rape, incest, and parents prostituting

their children), and sexual property belonging to others (thus

forbidding adultery and requiring restitution for “using” another

man’s slave.). Bestiality is forbidden evidently as inherently

abominable and unnatural. All other sex laws have to do with

honoring the personal rights of the other parties involved.

Property is an extension of the owner. To violate my property is

to violate my person. It is to steal something from me. In marriage,




violation of property rights by taking, or seeking to take a married

woman from her husband, is adultery. The notion of personal

sexual property formed the foundation of OT sexual ethics.

Impurity and dirtiness did not define sexual sin but “covetousness”

the desire to have something that belongs to someone else, did. Not

impurity and dirtiness, but disrespect for the rights of others

defined sexual sin. In other words, sexual practices were not

condemned because they were “filthy, unclean and dirty.” Sex acts

were condemned because they in some way hurt other people.

Take away this factor and you eliminate virtually all regulations

against sexual activity. That is, if a sex act does not in some way

harm another person, it is not of concern to God. It is a matter of

personal choice.


Deut. 20:5-7; 28:30, etc, equates acquisition of house, vineyard,

and wife. The wife, like these other possessions, became the

property of the husband and of the husband’s family as well. This

seems to be the logic of the Levirate marriage law which required

that if a man failed to impregnate his wife his brother was required

to do so. (cf. the previous chapter on “Polygamy”) If the brother

refused, it was a disgrace because he was setting his personal

desires above the good of the family, (Deut. 25:5-10).


In Israel, if another man had intercourse with a married woman

it constituted theft of her husband’s right to legitimate offspring.

Purity of physical lineage was crucial to inherited property rights,

preservation of the family name, and Messianic lineage. To corrupt

this in any way was a gravely serious issue. Thus the OT law


against adultery applied only to a man having sex with a married

woman, because this act threatened her husband’s lineage. And a

man could not commit adultery against his own wife, because she

had no claim to him as her property. A man could copulate with as

many women as he desired without ever corrupting his family


lineage. So for a man to have sex with many women was not an

issue, as long as he did not copulate with another married woman. If

he copulated with a different woman every night for a month, and

only the last woman was married, then he committed adultery only

with the last woman. Adultery was an issue only with a married

woman. A married woman committed adultery if she ever had sex

with any other man, under any conditions. Yeah, I know: “Where’s

the equality in that?” With Jesus’ alteration to this situation, the

woman became equal property owner of the husband thereby




gaining the same privileges in sexual matters as he has. Granting

equal status to both husband and wife did not shackle both of them

with prohibitions against privileges that were available to the man

in OT law. It had the effect of opening to both man and woman the

same sexual privileges. We discuss this in detail below.


Adultery compromised the continuity of the family lineage.

Having legitimate, tribal heirs was a primary concern to Israelite

culture. This is why an Israelite man hesitated to marry a nonvirgin.

It was not that she was “defiled” or “dirty.” It was because


she might possibly be pregnant with a child that would be outside

the man’s pure lineage. It was for this same reason that a man did

not want his wife to have intercourse with another man. Not that

the sex act itself was sinful but that it threatened the purity of the

lineage and put in question legitimate inheritance of family wealth.

Take away these factors and adultery becomes a non-issue when a


man has sex with another man’s wife or if the wife has sex with

another man. If a sex act ceases to be a situation where a man’s wife

is being taken from him, or his rights to legitimate offspring are

threatened, or inheritance of family wealth is not compromised, or

Messianic lineage is not being compromised, then the act of sex


with the mate of another becomes something other than adultery.

Regardless of how we might otherwise define it, it is not adultery. It

may be good, bad or indifferent, but it is not adultery. A married

man, under OT law, could have sex with virtually any other

woman who was not already married. It was not adultery for him

to do so because the above circumstances were not a factor in his

actions. Adultery was a factor only when sexual intercourse


involved a married woman. It was always adultery for a married

woman to copulate with any other man. It was never adultery for a

married man to copulate with anyone other than his wife, unless

the other woman was married.

The 7th Commandment, prohibiting adultery, is in proximity to


that of theft, (Ex. 20:14,15). One is forbidden to covet his neighbor’s

house or wife or servant or ox or ass or other property, (Ex. 20:17).

Adultery refers to a man taking, or desiring to take, a married woman

from her husband. This concept of adultery is strange to the

Western world but only because we have adopted concepts that

suit our own cultural setting and that flow from our polluted

doctrinal inheritance. We understand adultery to be sexual activity

outside the marriage by either spouse. But OT teaching proves that




a woman who was another man’s property must not violate his

property rights, yet the same man could have sex with a single

woman, a prostitute, another wife, a concubine, a slave, a divorced

woman or a widow, without committing adultery. This fact proves

beyond doubt that the sex act alone does not breach marital status and

is not adultery.

We moderns define adultery as “betrayal of trust,” but the Bible

never does so. Scripture teaches adultery is theft of another man’s

property, or rebellion against covenant commitment. This is true even in

the NT. Jesus redefined adultery such that both the husband and

the wife could commit adultery against each other. In the NT the

woman owns her husband just as he owns her, (cf. 1 Cor. 7:3,4). So


his sexual freedom is no greater than hers. They share “equal

opportunity” both with each other, and with others. In Jesus’

teaching adultery is defined such that its nature was in divorcing

one’s spouse and marrying another without sufficient reason. This

was to discard one’s wife without consideration to her rights to him


as her property. He was destroying her rights to possess her

property. He also broke the covenant bond of permanency – i.e.

“until death do us part.”

So with Jesus and NT authors, intention becomes the main thing.

Even in the “looking at a woman to lust after her,” it is the intention

Jesus deals with. It is not the “looking” that is adultery, but it is the

intention to take away the man’s property and have it as his own; to

break up the marriage and marry the woman whom he “covets.”

This is why polygamy was not an issue with God. God’s

concern has never been with “who is having sex with whom, and

how?” For a man to have several sex partners was never a matter of

adultery, even if a Solomon had 1,000 sex partners, always

available. In the NT the same privilege remains for the man simply

because God never took it away. But now, because woman is

sexually and maritally equal with man this privilege is open for the

woman also. Since God did not change His law and did not forbid

polygamy in the NT, it remains a freedom for a man to marry many

wives, have several concubines and even visit prostitutes, without

the sin of adultery. Such multiple relationships were not sin in the

OT and are not classified as sin in the NT. Since man and woman

become equal in NT ethics God makes it possible for woman now

to enjoy the same privileges that were once open only to a man.

Rather than destroying a man’s former privileges and bringing him


down to a lower level, Jesus raises woman up to the man’s previous

level. What constitutes adultery in Jesus’ teaching is not having sex

with someone other than one’s spouse, but it is divorcing and

remarrying without just cause. It is getting rid of one’s mate– breaking

marriage covenant – that constitutes adultery in His example. It is

rebelling against the covenant vow to live together “until death do

us part.”

Purity of physical lineage is no longer an issue in marital sex.

Messianic lineage is no longer an issue. And it is obvious that

copulating with multiple partners was never a moral issue with

God. Thus it seems clear that since God does not change the basic

structure of sexual license for the man, woman’s privilege now is

the same as his – across the board. A man may have sexual

pleasure with another woman but he may not prohibit his wife

from enjoying the same pleasure with another man. Property rights

– the right to expect the husband/wife to remain husband/wife

and not seek divorce – remain intact. Covenant commitment – mutual

vows to be married until death – remain intact. Having sex with

other partners does not automatically threaten the marriage bond.

Neither husband nor wife is free to divorce their mate in order to

pursue other mates. This could be done in the OT. A man who was

not rich enough to have more than one wife could divorce her and

marry another. The change made by Jesus is that now mates must

remain married to each other and make their sexual practices fit

with their absolute commitment to remain married until death

separates them. The point is that Biblically nothing changed

relative to a man having sex with another woman than his wife.

What changed was Jesus opening to the wife equal privileges with

the husband. In NT ethics “marital fidelity” is not defined as sexual

exclusivity; it is defined as “fidelity” to mutual property rights, and

to covenant vows of lifetime marriage.

To protect both husband and wife Jesus prohibited divorce for

either husband or wife except on the grounds of covenantal

unfaithfulness. What breaks covenant is reason for divorce. What

does not break covenant is not valid reason for divorce. If vows

were made concerning sexual exclusivity those vows must be kept.

But since such vows were made, not by God’s requirement but by

man’s invention, they can be altered by mutual consent. If they are

altered so as to eliminate the demands for sexual exclusivity then


sexual non-exclusivity cannot break marriage, and cannot be the

basis of either divorce or adultery.

The basis of marriage is lifetime commitment to each other.

Sexual intercourse with another person does not imply anything

about that commitment. Adultery in the mind and in actuality, is

either the desire or the actual attempt to end a marriage where there

has been no breach of covenant. God demands that a man and

woman not attempt to sever their marriage ties unless their mate

has been unfaithful to their original vows. Biblical vows evidently

included only that they would remain married for life. If evidence

arose that one mate was attempting to rob the other of his/her

property by severing the marriage bond it became grounds for

divorce by the innocent party. Jesus makes this a valid reason for

divorce and remarriage (Matt. 5:32ff; 19:9ff; Mk. 10:1ff; Lk. 16:18ff).

He was not talking about one mate having sex with someone other

than his/her mate. He was talking about desiring, planning or

attempting to undo the life long commitment they made to each

other. The appropriate and Biblically provable definition of “adultery”

is “severing or attempting to sever the marriage bond.” Doing so,

even in thought, “adulterates” the bond, lessens it, destroys it.

In Jesus’ statement about divorce and remarriage, two

significant facts appear.

[1. Jesus said if a man divorces his wife except for cause of

unfaithfulness he “makes her commit adultery,” (Mt. 5:32). How can

this be so? The woman in this case has obviously not had sex with

another man. So if “adultery” is “having sex with someone other

than one’s spouse,” how do we make sense of this statement? Since

the woman is innocent in this case, it is not possible that the mere act of

divorcing her has somehow made her guilty of having sex with

another man!

The Greek word here is moixeuthenai (aorist tense, passive

voice). The form of this word is intriguing in that the passive voice

puts the woman, not in a position of doing something, but of

something being done to her. What is said here is that the woman in

this case has been forcibly made a participant, not in a sex act, but

in “marriage breaking.” Beck’s translation says, “makes her a

partner in adultery.” Tyndale’s translation says, “causeth her to

break matrimony.” This makes the matter plain. Adultery is “the

act of breaking marriage.” The case cited above forces the woman

against her will, to become a party to marriage breaking. And any


man that marries her is also forced to participate in “marriage

breaking.” Neither of them are guilty of illicit sex. The situation of

unjustifiable divorce has broken marriage illegitimately, and this is

what God considers “adultery.” The woman has “been made to

participate in marriage breaking.” Sex has nothing to do with it.

[2. Adultery, in Jesus’ words, does not mean “sex with someone

other than one’s spouse.” Jesus defines “adultery” in His own

words as “divorcing one’s wife without legitimate reason.” As we

have been saying, this demonstrates that “adultery” is the intention

or the actual act of “breaking marriage bond.” If the marriage bond

is not broken, i.e. if the “partnership” is neither threatened nor

destroyed, then “adultery” is not an issue regardless of what sex

has been participated in. If sexual activity has been enjoyed with a

man other than this woman’s husband yet there was no intention to

break the marriage, then the sex act did not break the marriage.

Again we say emphatically, adultery is not a sex act. One may have

sex with many partners and never even come close to committing

adultery just as occurred in thousands of instances in the OT. If we

can get our definitions right then we can get our thinking and our

theology right.

God never voiced displeasure with multiple wives or

concubines or even prostitution. God did demand that when a man

married a woman he remain married to her and never allow her to

be thought of as less than other women in his life. He is

commanded to rejoice in the wife of his youth, (Prov. 5:18), that is,

treat her with the honor, dignity and favor she deserves as his first

and most highly cherished wife. It doesn’t exclude other wives or

concubines. It demands that a man give priority to his relationship

with his first wife. This requires that he not demean her, neglect

her, deprive her of sexual pleasure, etc. It also means that he must

not seek to get rid of her in order to marry other wives.

We mentioned the importance of intent in this issue. NT teaches

that it is not the act itself that is sin so much as the motive that

drives it. In the statement, “he that looks upon a woman to lust after her

has committed adultery already with her in his heart,” (Matt. 5:27, 28),

the sin is neither in the looking nor in sexual desire. The sin is “to

lust after.” The words refer to covetousness. This is, looking with the

intention to possess what belongs to someone else. Adultery is

present in intention even when it is not enacted. This infers that

where sexual thoughts and even sexual actions are exercised


without the intention of taking another’s property then neither the

sexual thoughts nor the act itself is adultery. If both mates agreed that a

wife was free to copulate with someone other than her husband

then doing so would not be adultery. If there was no intention to

possess the woman for oneself and take her away from her

husband it would not be adultery even if they have sexual

intercourse. A woman may set her eyes on another man and plan a

way to take him away from his wife and have him for herself. This

is adultery even in the thought. But if the desire is only for sexual

pleasure then it does not qualify as adultery for the intent to deprive

another is not there. And as with other possessions, a man may

“lend” his tools, car, boat, etc. to other people with perfect

propriety. Borrowing is not stealing and it does not deprive the

owner of his property. But if a man enters his neighbor’s garage at

night and takes his tools against his will it is theft. A man must be

allowed to exercise control over what belongs to him. To do

otherwise is theft. No one suspects that a neighbor desires to steal

his car, boat, tools, etc. if the neighbor asks to borrow them. And for

one to desire to borrow his neighbor’s property in no way

compromises the neighbor’s sole rights to that property. Others can

use it only by permission of the owner. But the owner does have the right

to allow others to use it. The same principle is true of both men and

women in marriage. They each possess the other’s body. They have

equal rights, and sole rights to the sexual favors of their mate. A

husband may have intercourse with another woman if his wife will

allow another woman to “borrow” her property. And a wife can

have intercourse with another man if her husband is willing for

another man to “borrow” his property. If mutual consent prevails,

sexual non-exclusivity in no way breaks the marriage bond.

“Outrageous?” No, it is Biblical. Just go back again to the OT and

read the hundreds of examples.

The idea that “I do not want to share my mate with anyone

else,” suggests that something is lost if one’s mate has sex with

another person. The reality is otherwise. There remains as much

sexual pleasure available to the mate as before. Nothing is

diminished or lost unless there is intent to end the marriage.

Otherwise it is nothing more than sexual pleasure, the same as it

was enjoyed by Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Gideon, Samson, David,

Solomon, etc. Can we get it in our mind that sex, in and of itself,

has no moral quality? Sex is a biological function. We have stated that


sex in humans is of no more moral consequence than is sex in

animals. It is only when sex is used in such a way that others are

harmed or their personal rights are disregarded that sex becomes

wrong. God’s laws for sex relate directly to this one issue. No one is

allowed to try to steal my wife from me or me from her. My wife is

not free to ditch me so she can marry someone else and I cannot

divorce her so I can remarry. Even the desire to do so is adultery.

Our vows to be united for life are God’s required vows. Having sex

with another person is not a part of that equation except when it

breaches one partner’s sole ownership of his/her mate’s body. If

either or both mates grant permission and freedom then sexual

experience may be enjoyed with other people. It no more threatens

their marriage bond than borrowing one’s tools threatens the

owner’s possession of them.

Wives of OT saints did not “share” their husbands with other

women for they lost nothing by their husband’s sexual activities

with other women. If a wife has sex with another man the husband

has not “shared” her with the other man. He still “possesses” his

wife as his own and he still has as much of her sexual favors as he

desires plus all other marital blessings. If a woman’s husband has

sex with another woman the wife has not “shared” him with the

other woman. She still “possesses” her husband as her own and she

still has as much of his sexual favors, protection, provision, etc. as

before. In either case the husband and wife must not diminish the

sexual pleasure desired by their mates. If they exercise themselves

sexually outside the marriage they must be faithful to the needs of

their mates at all times. These things said, there is no reason for

men not to enjoy the same sexual advantages now that God’s

holiest men did in OT. And since women are now sexual equals

with men there is every reason to liberate them, inform them of

their privileges, and release them to take advantage of their sexual

freedom and enjoy this wonderful pleasure to their full satisfaction.

Men have always had this privilege (in spite of church dogma). Are

we “man enough” to grant it to our women?

We do realize that this sounds radical. But we encourage

readers to reflect again on the fact that this very situation prevailed

in OT Israel with God’s approval, with the exception that only the man

could enjoy this privilege and that he enjoyed it whether or not the

wife approved! How, when and why does it become “crude”

“lascivious” “promiscuous” etc. to continue the same freedom for


the husband but now open it also to the wife? In other words how

could it be a blessing for the man then but a curse for the woman now?

How can we accuse God of vulgarity and other such accusations by

implying that He should never have sanctioned these very

situations? And how can we think we have a better concept of

sexual propriety than God does? If we can get it in our minds that

adultery is to deprive another of their property we will cease to have

difficulties with this subject. The advantage granted by the ethics of

the NT is that now the woman has a voice in this whole arena and she

has the same sexual liberty as her husband. A parallel to this is the

raising of woman to the same spiritual status of the man so that she

can now exercise leadership in the church equally with the man.

What was not generally allowable in OT is now allowable in this

area. So it is with sexual liberty. Only the man could enjoy sexual

liberty then. Since God did not eliminate that freedom it remains

for the man. But because the gospel liberates woman and raises her

to the same status as man, now the woman can also enjoy the same

sexual liberty that man has always enjoyed. Man was not brought

down; woman was brought up.

What difference does this concept make? We believe that

marriages by the thousands can be saved if husband and wife can

accept the facts that sexual desire is natural and clean and that desire

for sexual pleasure is as normal now as it was in the OT. The desire

for more sexual pleasure is no more “perverted” or “unnatural” or

“unholy” than is the desire for more food! A husband’s appetite for

more food does not threaten the wife just because she does not

desire more. A wife’s desire for another helping does not threaten

the husband just because he is already full. It is no more sinful or

unclean today for men to desire sex with many women than it was

for David, Solomon, Gideon, and all the rest. If it was good then it

cannot be evil now! And it is not sinful or unclean for women to

desire to have sex with more than one man. The sex act itself is not

an issue with God. What God protects is the relationship we have

with others. He demands that we respect their personal rights, their

property rights, and our/their mutual commitment to lifetime

marriage. God requires only that husbands and wives do not sever

their marriage ties in order to pursue sex with other partners. If the

commitment to marriage ties remain strong there is no prohibition

against, nor limit to each spouse enjoying the sexual favors of


others. It was so for men in the OT. It is so for both men and women


Spouses should not feel threatened by the desire of their partner

to have sex with another person. It is literally as natural and

common as the desire for water. Such a desire is not a lack of love

for one’s mate. It is nothing more than a desire for additional sexual

pleasure. When David added wives to his harem it in no way

implied a loss of love for his previous wife/wives. Neither partner

should feel threatened by their spouse’s desire for sexual variety.

Sex is not love, it is pleasure. When combined with love sex is

intensified, but sexual intercourse does not inherently imply love. It

certainly does not imply love in the animal world. That a spouse

desires sexual pleasure with others does not mean he/she loves

their mate any less. The love and the marriage bond of life-long

commitment is still as strong as ever. But they have opened

themselves up to pleasure that God has explicitly allowed for

thousands of years. We would do well to cease referring to sexual

activity as “making love” because truthfully, it has nothing

inherently to do with “love.” We could more appropriately call it

“having pleasure,” “enjoying sex,” or whatever, and thereby

eliminate the thought that to engage in sex with a person means we

“love” that person. There is no more reason to equate love and sex,

than to equate a back-rub and love; eating together and love; etc.

Sex with one we love intensifies the enjoyment and emotion of sex.

But in the same way eating a meal with one we love makes the

meal more enjoyable than eating with relative strangers. Marriages

that are founded on sex rather than love will not endure beyond the

physical limitations of our bodies and our physical capacity for sex.

Marriage founded on love will remain strong despite whatever else

comes along. We can and should make the effort required to rid

ourselves of the junk that fills our minds because of life-long

misinformation heaped upon us “by them of old time.” We can

give our partners a wonderful gift by giving them the freedom to

use their sexual liberty in ways that will enhance their joy of living

and increase their fulfillment.

These things being said, it may now be apparent to wives, that

when their husband “checks out” a beautiful woman he is not

somehow being “mentally unfaithful” to her, or wishing he had

married someone else, or no longer thinks she is beautiful, or no

longer loves her, or....… If a husband looks appreciatively at


another woman the wife need not feel hurt as though she has

somehow become less in his eyes. If a husband enjoys looking at

photos of beautiful, nude women, the wife should not think he has

become perverted and that she is an unworthy wife. When

husbands show such proclivity for the beauty and sexuality of

other women it implies nothing about the worthiness, sexuality,

attractiveness or anything else, of the wife. She should absolutely

not feel the least bit threatened. All it means is that her husband

enjoys sex and beautiful women in the same way David, Abraham,

Solomon and other great saints did. Surely no one believes that

when a couple marry then suddenly all other women become

unattractive to the husband and all other men become unattractive

to the wife. Possessing a beautiful house does not suddenly cause

all other houses to become ugly. Husbands do not suddenly

become blind to beautiful women when they marry and wives do

not suddenly become blind to handsome men when they marry.

Once married, husbands and wives do not cease to have any sort of

sexual response to other attractive people. It is unrealistic for

married people to expect their mates to never again take a second

look at an attractive person of the opposite sex. And it is not

necessary for married people to feel they must choke off sexual

urges and desires that simply exist. They do not need to feel that

they must “protect my property at all cost,” and thereby deny the

one they love some sexual adventure and pleasure that is legitimate

for them. And those who desire to take advantage of their sexual

liberty should not feel guilty or ashamed or condemned because

they have that desire.

A man should not feel the least bit threatened if his wife looks a

second time at a handsome, well-built man. There is absolutely no

excuse for jealousy in such a situation. If she comments on how

good-looking he is the man should be able to agree and be glad his

wife is not cowed and in bondage to unrealistic opinions and

expectations. What a wonderful thing it would be if all men would

allow their wives to open their eyes and enjoy the normal delight of

looking appreciatively at the other sex. How can a man truly love

his wife and refuse to allow her to fully experience natural,

legitimate emotions? If a man’s wife looks at other men and acts in

a way so as to suggest she might be having sexual thoughts about

other men he should not feel the least bit threatened by it. If a wife

enjoys looking at photos of well-built, nude men, the husband


should not feel the least bit inadequate as a lover or fear that he is

no longer satisfying his wife. Such “looking” implies nothing about

her commitment to their marriage, and nothing at all about her

husband’s attractiveness, sexuality or anything else. All it means is

that his wife enjoys sex and handsome men in the same way David,

Abraham, Solomon and other great saints loved beautiful women.

It means that she has come out of her shell, has been able to

straighten up her bent back, lift her bowed shoulders and raise her

head and gladly and confidently begin to enjoy her equal status

with her husband. The husband who genuinely loves his wife, who

can understand what this means to women in general and his wife

in particular, will rejoice and thrill in his heart that his wife has thus

come to full freedom and is able to do what few women have ever

been free to do. The very nature of “love” is the desire to give to the

loved one all that will make them happy; to sacrifice for the sake of

happiness and satisfaction of the loved one. The husband who can

understand and accept this will rejoice that his wife can fully enjoy

her whole person – soul, spirit, and body. Such a husband must be

very confident in himself and in his wife’s love for him. And a wife

who is offered such freedom should be able to see in it a gift of

supreme love and trust from a husband who desires for her

everything that she is able to enjoy and who trusts in her complete

devotion to him. Rather than being suspicious of his possible

“ulterior motives” she should see his gift to her of sexual liberty as

doubtless the greatest gift he is able to give her and to deeply

appreciate it as such and to demonstrate her appreciation by using

the gift! For a wife to extend to her husband such sexual freedom as

we have discussed requires a wife whose love for her husband rises

above suspicion, fear, jealousy and possessiveness and motivates

her to grant to him the liberty to enjoy everything that he can

legitimately enjoy. And she must trust in his complete devotion to

her. A husband who receives such a gift from his wife must surely

realize the great love she demonstrates in giving him the greatest

gift she is able to give him. He must be aware of the tremendous

depth of trust she has in him. Such a mutual gift of sexual liberty is

perhaps the clearest demonstration possible, of a couple’s mutual

commitment to the full growth and development of their partner.

If a married couple can overcome the mountainous hurdle that

has been placed before them in the opinions, traditions and cultural

standards of society and an ignorant church; if they can transcend


the fallacy that sex with anyone other than their spouse is utterly

forbidden, they are poised to begin exciting adventures together

heretofore unimaginable. They can go places together, do things

together, watch things together, talk about things together that will

enhance their enjoyment of life, of other people, and of each other.

If they have committed together to remain married no matter what

and then grant the gift of sexual freedom to their mate, they can do

nothing else that is so unselfish and so full of love and trust.

Jesus said, “the truth will makes us free.” Digging through the

morass of misinformation, traditional interpretation, doctrinal

error, prejudicial opinions, high minded dogmatism and outright

contempt for legitimate Biblical truth is a formidable task. But

finding Biblical truth is worth any effort required. We believe that

if people will sincerely study Biblical truth (rather than read it

superficially), and can accept Biblical truth (rather than yielding to

fear of breaching prevailing opinions), and are willing to think

through and draw correct conclusions for themselves from Biblical

truth, then they can step into sexual freedom with none of the

illegitimate baggage that would otherwise plague them. This takes

courage and determination. But the sexual freedom they gain for

themselves, and grant to each other would be so wonderful as to

make the price seem insignificant by comparison.

May women now, as men once did, experience the full freedom

of their equal status with men. And may men gladly grant to their

wives all the freedom that they should rightfully enjoy. May all

husbands and wives proceed together with gladness into the liberty

made possible by truth.

May they never again be shackled by unbiblical doctrines and

opinions of men.

Additional note on Rom. 7:1-4, relating to “adultery.”

Paul references the OT code regulating marriage from the

“patriarchal, wife-as-possession” perspective unique to the

cultural/national/messianic hope environment in which that code

was given. Referencing this code makes maximum impact upon

his Jewish readers for the purpose of helping them recognize his

point about being freed from the OT code entirely, (vs. 4). Thus, “I

am speaking to those who know the law,” (vs. 1). To reference this code

does not establish it as regulative for NT believers, any more than

to reference any OT ceremonial/sacrifice/holy day code would


become regulative for Christians. Jesus ended the law’s rule over

believers (Rom. 10:4). This emphatic statement from the Holy Spirit

ends any validity to arguments that the OT law is regulative for our

conduct in any way.

But this very truth is stated in the very text of Rom. 7:1-4. Verse.

4 is transparently clear: “You were made to die to the law through the

body of Christ.” Then Paul says, “Now we have been released from the

law, having died to that by which we were bound,” (vs. 6). Likewise, “if

the husband dies she is released form the law of the husband” (vs.

2) and “if her husband dies she is free from the law,” (vs. 3). The entire

section is written specifically to prove that our spiritual death with

Christ (Rom. 6:1ff) has ended our relationship to law, and it never

again can “bind” us to its rules, restrictions and penalties.

So Paul’s use of this OT law of “adultery” is an appeal to their

understanding of how that code operated for as long as they were

under it, in order to demonstrate that they had been set entirely free

from law by the death of Christ. Their freedom from the rule of law

was just as total as a widow’s freedom from a dead husband.

Regardless of what harsh laws he may have laid down, how severe

his treatment of her, or how controlling he might be, once he is

dead the widow owes no more allegiance to him or his laws. We

feel pity for a widow who cannot escape the emotional scars left by

a harsh, demanding husband. Yet spiritually, we find millions of

believers doing the same thing relative to the law, their dead

spiritual husband. We must walk away from all vestiges of that

former relationship and never look back. The law is dead. We are

set free. Our new Husband, Jesus, demands only that we “love God

with our whole heart, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” (Matt.

22:36-38). His “new commandment” is that we love each other just as

He has loved us, (Jn. 13:34; 15L12, 17; 1 Jn. 2:7f 3:11, 23; 2 Jn. 5). If

we will love God and neighbor, we fulfill all commandments God

ever gave, (Rom. 13:8, 10). Thus Christ’s one new commandment

has effectively replaced all God’s former individual

commandments. This includes all God’s commandments about sex.

We are not under that old husband’s rule anymore. We are under

the rule of our New Husband, Jesus. His law about sex and

everything else is singular: “In sexual matters do nothing that will

harm others. This will fulfill all God’s previous laws about sex.”




To return to Rom. 7 then, the OT “code of marriage” is a part of

that which we “are made free from,” (vs. 4). Therefore the “wife as

possession” regulative principle no longer exists. All NT believers

are “made free from” that law. Since the death and resurrection of

Jesus, marriage no longer makes a wife the property of her

husband. Therefore all the regulations that served to enforce that

concept, have no validity. The heart of that concept having been

killed, the extremities must also die.

It should go without saying, but we will say it anyway: that

code never eliminated God’s prima facie acceptance of polygamy and

concubinage. The God who gave that marriage code, still accepted

multiple sexual relationships. Paul does not attempt to explore the

ramifications of the OT marriage code. His sole interest is to

establish the basic OT principle of “bondage” of a woman to man in

marriage for the purpose of illustrating how NT believers are freed

from all such bondage, to be joined to Christ in a life of liberty.

Paul did not mention the fact that even under that code, one

could divorce his wife and marry another, but a wife could not thus

divorce her husband to marry another. Divorce and remarriage, in

OT, was a one sided privilege: for the man only. In making divorce

a privilege for the woman also, Jesus opened to her the same

advantages the man always had.

Paul himself, in 1 Cor. 7:15, releases a woman from “bondage”

to a husband who merely leaves her. He is still living, yet she is

“free.” Thus re-marriage is an option for her with no fear of

“adultery.” Paul’s point here demonstrates that his use of Rom. 7:4

is from the OT perspective for the sole purpose of persuading Jews

of the abrogation of the law. It is not, in any sense, an attempt to

enforce as an eternal, universal law what God mandated only in the

temporary setting of Jewish patriarchy.

We have no justification for trying to apply the OT law of

marriage to NT believers in such a way that we bind NT believers

to something even that OT law did not bind them to. Paul’s use of

this code cannot possibly be employed in a way that goes beyond

the bounds of its original OT application. Nor can his use of this

code contradict his own revelation that saints are set free from that

very code. Since OT law allowed multiple sexual relationships then

it is “unlawful” to use that law in an attempt to outlaw multiple

sexual relationships today. Paul’s use is in strict harmony with OT

application: he deals solely with the “woman” side of the issue to


make his point about being free from the law. Any use of OT

marriage code by NT believers must necessarily incorporate Jesus’

alteration of its basic regulation of women.

The “Open Marriage”

It is unfortunate that we no not have a good word to describe

the sexual activity of married couples who mutually agree to

enlarge their “circle of love” to include others in their sexual

activity. By now we can see that the word “adultery” is utterly

inappropriate to describe this activity. “Infidelity” is also

inappropriate, inasmuch as neither partner is being “unfaithful” to

the other. Both have agreed to explore sexuality with others than

their marital partners. As such, extra-marital sex becomes in fact a

manifestation of their true “fidelity” to each other; a demonstration

of their strong trust in each other and their mutual delight in the

spiritual, emotional and sexual growth and fulfillment of their

partners. Infidelity, like adultery, is much more involved than mere

sexual behavior. It is an issue of constriction of love; false security,

dishonesty; mistreatment, deception and general lack of respect for

the other’s person-hood. It grows out of suffocating possessiveness

which is life-destroying. Infidelity is manifested in many ways

other than in a sexual sense. It is a lack of trust and honesty. It is

based on fear of the other, and uncertainty about oneself. It shows a

disregard for truth, integrity and trustworthiness.

The open-ended marriage respects the integrity of the other

mate and values sexual liberty. Infidelity is as much an issue with

those who pursue open marriage as is adultery. Open marriage

advocates are careful to protect their primary relationship with

each other. They are committed to their vows of permanency and

mutual nurturing. Each works at encouraging the growth and

fulfillment of the other. Both partners are sensitive to the need for

truth and honesty in their sexual practices and in all other aspects

of their relationship. And at the same time they refuse to constrict

themselves and their partners to exclusive intimacy.

It is ironic and hypocritical for courts to grant divorce on the

grounds of “adultery” while refusing to accept and honor the

testimony of couples who wish divorce on the grounds of mutual

incompatibility, unhappiness, or on irreconcilable infidelity in the

broader non-sexual sense. Such incongruity often consigns people


to enduring hellish conditions in an exploded relationship, on the

theory that only “adultery” (restricted meaning: sex with another

than one’s mate) makes divorce acceptable. This ignores the reality

that many more lives are destroyed by the non-sexual lying,

deceiving, conniving, hurtful behavior of mates, than is the case

with “sexual infidelity.”

Open marriages are monogamous: the couple maintains a

primary one-to-one relationship based on mutual commitment and

intended to last a lifetime. But it does not exclude the possibility of

other intimate and sexual friendships. It may or may not involve

formal “marriage” (i.e. license, minister, public ceremony). We

understand that there are risks and challenges involved in open

ended marriages. But so are there risks in traditionally

monogamous marriages. But there are a significant number of men

and women who are ready and eager to face those challenges and

take those risks because they know that a more joyful and loving

marital lifestyle is possible and attainable. Open-ended marriage

promotes risk-taking in trust. It encourages the warmth and joy of

loving without anxiety. It fosters the extension of affection beyond

only one person in the universe. It proclaims the excitement and

pleasure of knowing a variety of persons in a sensual way. It

experiences the enrichment that a variety of personalities can

contribute to each other. Open marriage makes it possible to be

fully alive in every encounter with other people.

Christians desperately need an ethic of sex for enjoyment,

pleasure and interpersonal enrichment, all of which aligns with the

“goodness” of sex as God created it and as it is seen practiced

throughout the Bible. We need to discard the non-biblical notion

that sex is utterly forbidden except to married people and only for

purposes of reproduction. The subject of sexuality is so frightening

and threatening that few parents, educators or church leaders are

willing to do the hard work of trying to understand what the Bible

actually says about it and then allowing sex to have an unhindered

place in the human experience. If we could arrive at a sex ethic for

pleasure along the lines suggested by the Song of Solomon for

instance, it might include at least the following:

1. Consistently positive attitudes toward sexual pleasure.

2. Eradication of the double standard as harmful to both male

and female sexuality.


3. Learning methods of non-coital mutual orgasm as a birth

control option and as forms of enjoyable and healthy sex.

4. Openly joyful celebration of the human body and all its

sexual possibilities, with none of the hiddeness, shame and guilt

that currently shrouds human sexuality.

5. Education that values and encourages personal responsibility

and decision making, with integrity, sensitivity and love for the

other person.

6. Honest, non-judgmental information about options for

relational styles and modes of sexual behavior.

7. Enjoyment of what “turns one on” sexually without judging

those whose personal choices do not coincide with ours.

Traditional monogamy is in a crisis. It has been cheapened by

the double standard, is mocked by the high divorce rate and is

seriously threatened by the incredible weight of the functions it is

forced to serve. Parents and children teeter on the beguilingly

frosted tiers of unrealistic expectations, and many of them crumble

under the weight of failed expectations. We expect too much of

ourselves, of each other, of the community and of the fragile

complexity of marital and family obligations. To attempt to be all

things to each other at all times and under all circumstances is to

beg for defeat. We can begin the reparative work by teaching our

children the truth about the pain, frustration, agonies and puzzles

of married life. We must not shield them from the truth that they

will love and live in the midst of crises and tragedies that will make

their loving and living difficult. We can attempt to pull the fangs of

jealousy by truthfully telling them that their self-esteem and

confidence in self and others is in no wise damaged or threatened

by the naturally human desire to reach out intimately to other

people. We can help them immensely by teaching them that they

can be sexually faithfully to each other while at the same time

giving each other the freedom to explore openness and sexual

intimacy with others. In short, our young people have the right to

know that there is an option for their desire for a stable, long-term

relationship. Traditional monogamy is acceptable for all who desire

it. But the option is open for all who wish to explore the openended



Open marriages preserve the values and commitments of

traditional monogamy while overcoming its main limitation –

sexual exclusivity. There are many who do not automatically

equate sexual exclusivity with marital fidelity. Repudiating the

double standard, they enjoy intimacy, sensuality and often sex with

other friends. With no shame and with full trust in each other, the

partners in an open marriage enrich each other through their

mutual gift of sexual liberty, through encouragement to each other

to learn and grow sexually and through delight in each other’s joy

in loving other people. Their loving of others does not diminish

love for each other. Rather, it opens new vistas of love that only

enrich their mutual love and commitment. Open marriage offers

the possibility of a vibrant, committed monogamy that also

embraces the being of other persons, sharing with them the grace of

human caring and touch.

Finally, those who decide to pursue open-ended marriage must

be prepared for the social consequence. Most of those who learn of

your practice will not be able to exercise sympathy with your

lifestyle. Our cultural/religious training virtually prohibits most

people from seeing the morality of sex with someone other than

one’s spouse. “Infidelity,” “adultery,” “promiscuity,” “sick,”

“immoral,” “degenerate” and other such words will be the staples

of choice for accusers, judges and finger pointers. Traditional

morality focuses so much on the act that it can make no room for

relationships that are not sexually exclusive. Traditional morality

focuses on the number of sexual partners without reference to the

more important matter of the quality of relationship. Those who

practice open marriage must be prepared to be judged as immoral,

blasphemous and degenerates. But perhaps it will help to know

that this places you in the same category as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,

David and a host of other mighty saints. In our society they would

be judged as severely, with the same epithets. But God accepted

them and their non-sexually-exclusive practices. If it is good

enough to pass God’s inspection why worry overmuch about

passing human inspection? We trust that we have demonstrated

that what God defines as “adultery” does not fit at all the practice

of including others into the circle of our commitment to each other

as a couple-married-for-life. We have demonstrated that the most

godly of Biblical saints did not practice sexual exclusivity within their

marriages. This is simply an indisputable matter of the Biblical


record. We can safely follow their example without fear of

committing “adultery.” And our lives can be wonderfully

enhanced by mutually granted sexual liberty without the

judgmental baggage heaped upon it by an ignorant and prejudicial

church and society.








No study of sex and the Bible can be complete unless the issue

of “lust of the eyes” is addressed. This phrase, from 1 Jn. 2:16,

denotes a sinful, worldly longing for something one sees, but has

no right to possess. It is used regularly by church leaders and

laymen alike in reference to any “sexual gaze” that is anything

other than married persons looking at their mate. If a single guy

looks with sexual desire at a woman he intends to marry, this is

“lust of the eyes” and is unhesitatingly condemned in the church as

sin. If a married man looks at a beautiful woman other than his

wife, with anything that approaches appreciation for her sexual

beauty, it is “lust of the eyes” and sinful. The church is virtually

unanimous in condemning all non-marital sexual “looking” as

sinful. Naturally this makes all nude photos, statues, painting,

sketches, etc. sinful regardless of the context in which they appear,

or the attitude that prevails in the mind of the “looker.”

“Pornography” is the cousin of “lust of the eyes” for it is this ”lust”

that forms the sole basis for the existence of pornography. At least

that is what we are taught. But “it ain’t necessarily so.” It depends

on what the Bible actually means by the phrase “lust of the eyes,”

and also requires a correct perception of what exactly constitutes


Once again, our concern is not to search out modern concepts of

this issue. We seek to know what the Bible is condemning when it

condemns “lust of the eyes” as a “work of the flesh” and a

characteristic of the “world.” Our first search path, again, is the

definition of the actual words used in the Bible. For this study, we

will consider “lust” as well as several related words. This will be

interesting. Follow us.



“licentiousness, filthy, lasciviousness, wantonness.” “Unashamed

indulgence, unrestrained depravity, sinning in contempt of public

morals, arrogantly defiant of moral restraints.” (Strong’s #766)

“Gk. Aselgeia: excess, immoderation in anything; licentiousness,

wantonness.” (A Critical Lexicon to the English and Greek New

Testament, E. W. Bullinger, p.441)



Gk. Akatharsos: ” impurity, physical or moral, filthiness, foul.”

(Strong’s #’s167, 168, 169).

Lust, Evil desire;

Heb. Hamad:

”covet, desire, long, lust.” (Strong’s #183)

“delight in, delectable thing, desire, lust.” (Strong’s #2530)

”appetite, pleasure.” (Strong’s #5315)

“twisted, firm, obstinate, imagination, lust.” (Strong’s #8307)

“a longing, delight, satisfaction, desire exceedingly, greedily, lust.”

(Strong’s #8378)

Gk. Epithumia: “to set the heart upon, long for, covet, desire, would

fain, lust, crave.” (Strong’s #1937, 1938, 1939)

“to dote upon, intensely crave possession, earnestly desire, greatly

long after.” (Strong’s #1971)

“sensual delight, desire, lust, pleasure.” (Strong’s #2237)

“excitement of the mind; longing after, lust.” (Strong’s #3715)

“passion, inordinate affection, lust.” (Strong’s #3806)

“The word “lust” has become more narrow in meaning since the

time of KJV; the RSV generally reserves the terms for passionate

evil desires, usually sexual. As in English, the Greek term is of wide

meaning, with particular meaning dependent on the context. It can

represent any strong desire, including those that are sinful and

those that are not (Lk. 22:15; Phil. 1:23; 1Thess. 2:17) and can be as

broad as ‘materialism’ (Mk. 4:19; Rev. 18:14) or as specific as sexual

passion or obsession (Mt. 5:28; Rom. 1:24; 1 Thess. 4:5).”

Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, pg. 668

“Both the Heb. and Gk. indicate strong desire; the bad sense of

evil desire is present only in certain contexts.”

ISBE, vol. 1, pg. 797, 798

“1… epithumia, what is directed toward anything, desire which

attaches itself to or upon its object. It is used exclusively of sinful

desire, which corresponds to man’s depraved nature. The inward

passion of concupicence. 2. orexis, a reaching after, the appetite and

tendency toward the external object. No. 1 is only the mental

desire; No. 2 has conjoined with it the notion of the thing desired.

No. 1 may therefore be used absolutely, as in Rom. 7:7 and 8:9, but


No. 2 never. Hedone, pleasure, gratification, enjoyment, pathos,

suffering, passion (of affection or love). Epithumeo, to fix the desire

upon, to have the affections directed towards anything (of unlawful

desires). Epipotheo, to desire upon, i.e. over and above, to desire

earnestly, long for. (Bullinger, p. 472)

“Epithumia denotes strong desire of any kind, the various kinds

being specified by some adjective. It is used of a good desire in Lk.

22:15; Phil. 1:23; 1 Thess. 2:17 only. Everywhere else it has a bad

sense. In Rom. 6:12 the injunction against letting sin reign in our

mortal body to obey the lusts thereof, refers to those evil desires

which are ready to express themselves in bodily activity. They are

equally the lusts of the flesh…a phrase which describes the

emotions of the soul, the natural tendency towards things evil.

Such lusts are necessarily base and immoral, they may be refined in

character, but are evil if inconsistent with the will of God.”

(Expository Dictionary of New testament Words, W.E. Vine, part 3, pg.


So we know that “lust” is usually very bad, and that “lustful

looking” is sinful looking. But unless we know more than these two

facts, we know nothing useful about what God wants us to avoid in

this regard. Let’s look at the actual texts that deal with this subject.

Scripture References:

Job makes a covenant with his eyes: “why should I gaze upon a

young woman?” (Job. 31:1). Obviously this is looking with sexual


“If you see a beautiful woman and desire her…” Deut. 21:11. Quite

obviously, this is sexual desire sparked by the woman’s physical

beauty and it is approved by God and indeed provided for in His

law. So how does this shed light on “if a man look upon a woman to

lust after her…” (Mt. 5:27, 28). How is this different from “lust of the

eyes?” Why is one forbidden, and the other accepted? In view of the

prima facie acceptance of polygamy in the OT, what about a married

man who looks upon a beautiful unmarried woman, is sexually

attracted to her, and desires her for a second wife? Since this

occurred thousands of times in the OT, with God’s approval, it is

obvious that this does not constitute “lust of the eyes” or “committing


adultery in one’s heart.” It should already be apparent that “lust of the

eyes” is something more than looking with sexual appreciation.

“Do not commit adultery. But I say whoever looks upon a woman to

lust after her has committed adultery against her already in his heart,”

(Mt. 5:27ff). Is this the definition of “lust of the eyes?” Does one

commit this sin when one merely looks at a woman with sexual

desire? We think not.

The key to this verse is to know the correct meaning of adultery.

Throughout the OT the word “adultery” means taking a married

woman from her husband. (We dealt at length with this subject in a

previous chapter). This verse does not condemn a man for looking

at a single woman in appreciation for her physical beauty and

sexual desirability and desiring to enjoy sex with her. If such is

wrong it will have to be proven by other verses, for this one has to

do with adultery. If a single man cannot look “sexually” at a single

woman without committing adultery then what about the

normal(?) role of sexual attraction and desire in the

courting/mating process? And what of the sexual desire, sparked

by the sight of a beautiful woman, that led to the practice of

polygamy and concubinage by godly men such as David, Abraham

and many others?

And what does this indicate about simply looking, even at a

married woman, without the desire to take her from her husband?

If there is no desire or intention or effort to possess her, it is not

adultery to look at a married woman and be aware that she is

beautiful & sexually desirable. “To lust after” a married woman, is

to “desire to take her for oneself,” in the sense of a desire to break up

a marriage so one can have another man’s wife as his own. Enjoying

sex with a married woman does not, of itself, constitute adultery.

Adultery is not a sex act. Sex may or may not be a part of adultery.

Adultery is a matter of breaking the marriage bond; it is rebellion of

either a wife or husband against the vows they made to each other.

Israel committed “adultery” against God, yet no human imagines

that Israel ever had sex with God. Israel’s adultery was in leaving

God’s provision, protection and authority, for another “husband’s”

(nation’s) provision, protection and authority. Sex had nothing to

do with it. In exactly the same way for humans, adultery is the

actual, or the desired breaking of the marriage bond, for the purpose

of being joined to another mate.


Prevailing opinion in the church is that for a man to look at a

woman and have any sort of sexual response, is sinful, unless he is

married to her. One well known pastor said to an audience of

several hundred people, “It is wrong for a man even to lust after his

own wife!” (I know. I was there. I heard it with my own ears!) Who

can truly believe such foolishness? But the prevalence of such

absurdities raises questions about human nature, and about the

proper understanding of the actual words Jesus used in this


First, human nature is such that every normal male is sexually

attracted to a pretty woman. He doesn’t have to “work up” an

attraction, it is simply there. It is automatic for a man to delight in

the sight of a beautiful woman and to have a strong sense of her

sexuality. It is all part of one package. It is part of the attraction of the

sexes to each other. For a woman to look at a man and find him

sexually attractive is as normal as for a man to look the same way

at a woman. It is the way God made people. Surely no one thinks

that a single man is attracted to and motivated to marry a woman

without any thoughts of sexuality! Such thoughts and desires are a

strong part of courtship for both sexes. When a single man looks at

a beautiful woman and has sexual thoughts about her and asks her

for a date, he has not sinned. Nor has a woman sinned who

delights in the sight of a handsome and sexually appealing man.

Whether he is married or unmarried is irrelevant.

Next, we must be honest with the words Jesus used and avoid

assigning them meanings that are not valid according to their true

definition. As shown above, the word “lust” cannot be properly

defined as “having sexual attraction to.” The word means “desire

to possess as one’s own,” in a covetous way. It is desire to steal what

belongs to another. Simple sexual desire of a man for a woman is

not invalid and cannot be made to fit under the definition of “lust.”

To “lust after” something or someone is to have a strong desire to

take what belongs to another. Just as hate is the motivation behind

murder, so “lust” or “covetousness” is the motivation behind theft.

So Moses forbade men to “covet your neighbor’s wife, or your

neighbor’s house….” (Ex. 20:17). Lust is not inherently sexual: it is a

desire to possess the property of another person. If that “covetous”

quality – the desire to steal – is not there, then it is not “lust.” As we

quoted above from Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, “It can represent any

strong desire, including those that are sinful and those that are


not.” Apart from the desire to steal, it is simply a strong desire, and

that is not sinful.

The most important element in Jesus’ statement is His emphasis

on “adultery.” A man cannot commit adultery except with a

married woman (cf. next chapter). Jesus says this “looking” equals

“adultery in his heart,” so Jesus is talking only about a man who

looks at a married woman with an intention and desire to take her way

from her husband. If that intention is not there, then adultery is not

involved, and he is not condemned, even if he looks with sexual

desire. So, a man might look at a married woman with sexual

desire, yet not commit “adultery,” because he has no desire to take

her away from her husband.

This helps us deal with such issues as a person going to a

burlesque show, the sole purpose of which is the display of a

woman’s body to men, or a man’s body to women. Is the act of

looking at the naked body of the opposite sex sinful? If so, by

definition of what specific words? Which specific Scripture texts

teach that idea? Nothing in Scripture indicates that such is sinful.

The fact that such looking is overtly sexual, and purposely excites

those looking does not, in itself, make it sinful. In strictly Biblical

terms, for men to watch a woman strip is sinful only if the woman is

married, and then only if the man desires to take her from her

husband and marry her. This makes it “adultery.” It is the

“adultery” that is sinful: i.e. the desire to take another man’s wife.

Looking with sexual pleasure is not sinful. If a woman desires to

display her body for free or for payment, there is nothing in the

definition of words or Biblical examples, or anything else that

pertains to God’s law, that condemns such. As we have shown in

the Song of Solomon, the Shulammite girl performed just such a

nude dance for an audience of many people with the proud

approval of her lover, and all with God’s approval. If God’s word is

the only thing that can make a thing sinful then no one can make a

burlesque show sinful. We have a Biblical example of such, with

Divine approval of the dancer, her lover, and the delighted

audience who beg her for an encore! (Song of Solomon 6:13) It is

neither Biblical nor morally ethical to brand as sinful a person who

willingly sheds their clothes and allows other people to look at

their bodies. Nor is it sinful for those who look. Whatever

objections are made to this practice, they will have to be made on

some grounds other than Biblical condemnation.


One unfortunate aspect of this discussion is that because of

current, misguided values, invalid reasoning and non-Biblical

standards, all forms of sexual “entertainment” have, in this

country, been forced to the dark, seamy side of town and have been

placed in a category of “unclean” and “undesirable.” The fall-out

from this is that those who provide such services are forced to set

up in parts of town with higher crime rates, drug problems and

alcohol problems. It is then argued that burlesque shows have a

bad effect on surrounding areas. But the fact is that burlesque

shows are, by default, forced into bad areas by zoning laws, then

they are blamed for the area being bad! It is all politics, and bad

politics at that! In most other countries burlesque theaters and other

forms of sexual entertainment are regulated as any other business

and no discrimination is forced against them. Thus there is no

apparent “evil effect” of such businesses on the surrounding area.

In our day there are services which, for a set fee, provide a male

or female dancer who will come to one’s home or motel or

whatever and do a private show for one or more people. A typical

example of this is the “bachelor’s party.” Regardless of how we

react initially to this idea, the fact is that one cannot possibly brand

such a practice as sinful from a Biblical perspective. One may loathe

and detest such a practice if one desires. But one may not brand

such as “sin” on the basis of “lust of the eyes” because no such

meaning inheres in those words as they are used in the Bible.

This also has direct application to the issue of “pornography.” Is

it sinful for a man or woman to look at photographs of the bodies

of naked men and women? The reason given for such being sinful,

is that it is to “look with lust after” those people. Yet again, Jesus is

talking strictly about looking with the intention to commit

“adultery.” This involves the intention to deprive a man of his wife

and make her one’s own. If this is not part of the “looking,” then it

is not “adultery” and there is nothing in Scripture that forbids it.

Labeling any and all sexually oriented writings, photos or films as

“pornography” does not thereby make such sinful, unclean, etc.

Such labels would make the Song of Solomon a pornographic book.

Is God the Author of pornography?

We may take the thought further, to consider looking at

photographs or films of people having sex, or what is called “hard

core pornography.” Is it sinful for a person to watch other people


engaged in sexual activity? Might one watch a couple engaged in

sex play without sinning? We are not asking if the reader finds

such sights personally acceptable. We ask only if the Bible says

anything that makes it sinful for a person to observe other people

engaged in sexual activity. We do not believe such can be classified

as sin. Nor can it be said that it is sinful for a couple to enjoy sex

together while others observe. In a major U.S. city, a TV news team

reported on some local clubs whose practice was to provide an

“open house” for those who desire to come in to enjoy sex,

knowing that others would probably watch them from time to

time. The owner of one club said there were no doors to the various

rooms, requiring all participants to enjoy their sexual activities only

in semi-privacy. A stage was available where men or women might

dance nude for the appreciation of those who desired to watch. The

reaction of the news reporters was predictable: i.e. such clubs were,

if not vile, at least for “kooks, perverts and weirdoes.” Again, our

sole question is: “What does the Bible say?” Society’s standards

have no bearing on this question, because social standards have no

moral authority.

But a question arises about the nature of human sexuality and

its similarity to animal sexuality, and human response to both. No

one thinks it strange that people will watch animals mate. Public

TV often documents the mating habits of animals and it is not an

uncommon thing to see male animal genitalia in full erection. A

recent PBS documentary on apes did not blur out or apologize for

showing apes engaging in copulation. Male and female genitalia

were in full view, mother apes fed their babies with fully exposed

breasts, etc. Why is it not morally questionable to watch such

shows? Likewise, animals simply copulate wherever they have

opportunity and motivation. Animals do not seek privacy for sex.

Why do we conclude this is “normal” for animals but “abnormal”

for humans? Humans may, and do watch animals copulate with

not even a hint of wrongdoing. Yet we are horrified to think of

watching other humans do the same! Suppose we have two video

tapes sitting on the shelf. Tape one depicts a male and female ape

engaging in sexual intercourse and tape two depicts a human male

and female doing exactly the same thing. Many people would view

tape one and say something like, “Ah, interesting! Isn’t God’s

creation marvelous!” But most of those same people would view


tape two and react in horror at the disgusting, vulgar display of

lust, etc. Why? Why do we act this way?

Why do we conclude that it is sinful, or reprehensible, or

whatever, for humans to watch humans copulate? The act is exactly

the same; the organs are exactly the same; the orgasms are exactly

the same. Why is one wrong and the other right? People say, “Well,

with humans it is different!” OK, but exactly what is it about the

human sex act that puts it in a separate category from all else?

There is nothing about the act itself, because it is exactly the same as

animal sex. So is it the mere fact that we are humans? If so, where

does God declare, or even hint, that solely because we are humans we

must regard our sexual activity as totally different from animal sex?

Granted, God set some sexual boundaries for humans. But our

whole argument in these studies is that God set the boundaries He saw

necessary and left out all boundaries He did not feel necessary. Are we

smarter than God? Do we understand human sexuality better than

God? Should God ask us what we think is acceptable for humans to

do and to see? If God did not specify a sexual activity as sinful,

then it is not sinful regardless of what we think of it. No person is

required to do sexual things they find repugnant. But no person is

allowed to condemn others for activities that God has not

forbidden. In the realm of what God has not forbidden there is full

freedom for sexual enjoyment by those who desire it. In a culture

like ours where the masses have been brainwashed by a pharisaical

church, with the idea that sexual activity is inherently dirty, it has

become nearly impossible for most people to think soberly and

calmly about sex. Few of us have a healthy attitude toward this

most fundamental of all human, biological functions. It is tragic

that it is so. So much illegitimate shame, guilt, self-loathing, broken

marriages and such, would not exist if people could only be

convinced that the naked human body and its glorious sexual

function are “very good,” just as God said in the beginning. When

God created us naked and unashamed, establishing this condition

as His preference, He also made it innocent for men and women to

look at each other’s naked bodies with appreciation and enjoyment.

And God gave us the gift of sex for enjoyment, within very

specifically legislated parameters, and then set us free to enjoy this

gift in a wide range of ways. All restrictions apart from the few

God made against doing it, watching others do it, or being watched

while doing it, are human restrictions and no human is spiritually


or morally bound by those restrictions. We are no more bound by

such restrictions than animals are. The most we need to be

concerned about is regulating our personal activities in such a way

that others are not harmed spiritually or emotionally by the

freedom that we enjoy. Then if we desire to do it, we may go ahead

and do it without guilt or shame.

The bottom line is this: “Lust of the eyes” is looking with a desire

to steal the thing being looked at. Looking with appreciation,

fascination, sexual excitement and sexual desire is not contained in

this prohibition at all. This means:

• God has nowhere condemned the practice of men and women

looking at other men and women, whether married or

unmarried, with sexual appreciation.

• God has nowhere condemned the practice of men and women

looking at photographs of other men and women, and being

sexually excited by what they see.

• God has nowhere condemned the practice of men and women

looking at movies of other people engaged in sexual activity.

• God has nowhere condemned the practice of men and women

watching other men and women enjoying sex.

• God has nowhere condemned the practice of men and women

watching a live performance by a nude dancer, whether or not

they are sexually excited by it.

• God has nowhere condemned the practice of men and women

performing a nude dance, or otherwise displaying their body for

the admiration of the opposite sex.

• God must necessarily feel the same about these matters now as

He did when He inspired the Song of Solomon, which describes

the Shulammite’s nude dance and her sexual activities with her

lover. If God approved of it then in writing, He cannot possibly

disapprove of it in actual experience.

It does not make any difference how the world or the church

defines “pornography,” or otherwise categorizes these practices.

The only thing that truly makes a difference is what God actually

said or did not say. And if God recommends something as good, we

must agree with God that it is good in spite of what we, the church,

and the world have previously thought. We are bound to observe

what God said, and the laws He made. We are free to experiment


with and enjoy sex outside those boundaries, restricted only by a

“self policing” effort to avoid harming other people by our liberty.


The chapter detailing the erotic nature of the Song of Solomon

should show that erotic literature and art, in themselves, do not

violate Biblical moral standards. Some forms of erotic literature and

art may be illegitimate, but again, illegitimate, i.e. immoral forms of

erotic media must be defined by God’s word. So we are brought

again to the basic question, “What, if anything, does the Bible say

about what is commonly called pornography?”

The literal definition of “pornography,” comes from the

combined meaning of the two components, pornea which means

“forbidden sexual behavior,” and grapho which means “to write.”

So “pornography” is literally, “writings about forbidden sexual

behavior.” By extension it includes photographs and movies about

forbidden sexual behavior. Let us be sure we understand: it is not

“writing about sex” that is illicit; it is writing about “forbidden

sex,” that is wrong. Writing about sex or photographically

depicting sex is not wrong. It is only when one depicts sex that God

forbids that it becomes wrong, and then only if there is an impure

motive in writing; e.g. writing about incest in such a way as to

stimulate others to engage in incest. But many writings about incest

have nothing to do with sexual stimulation, and the writings

themselves are educational, and should be read by those who

desire to understand the nature of the act, its Biblical references,

etc. True “pornography” that merits censure, is writing about or

otherwise depicting sinful sexual activity. If the depiction is of

Biblically acceptable sexual activity, including photographs and

films of those activities, then it is not “pornographic” because

Biblically acceptable sexual activities are not forbidden. A writing is not

pornographic just because it is sexually explicit or stimulates sexual

desire. Desire for sexual activity is not forbidden. So depictions of

sex that arouse normal desires are not forbidden. It is so

unfortunate that our society uses the word “pornography” as a

blanket condemnation of all media depictions of human nudity and

sex. It is simply wrong to use the word that way. And that use of

the word makes the Song of Solomon a pornographic writing.


The word for pornography does not exist in either OT or NT.

However history is full of examples of sexual writings and

drawings that cover the gamut of every conceivable sexual

behavior. The question here is this: Is all writing about,

photographing or filming of sexual activity to be considered

pornographic, and does the Bible condemn it? In other words, is it

alright to have sex, but not alright to write about it or photograph it, or

watch it? Or is it alright to write about and photograph sexual

activity as long as it is kept within Biblically legitimate boundaries?

We believe the latter is the correct position to take on this issue. The

Song of Solomon is our proof. In the Song of Solomon we have one

of history’s best classical pieces of sexual literature. It presents

erotic sex, desire and nudity in a straightforward, unashamed, even

joyful setting. If the actual Hebrew words of that poem were

translated into their modern language equivalent, this poem would

surely stimulate sexual desire in some who read it. And its

descriptions of male and female genitalia, plus the unabashed

invitations by both boy and girl, to uninhibited love-making,

would quickly condemn it to the banned category. But the Song of

Solomon shows us what is good erotic media. It depicts human sex

in its wonder and passion, but within Biblically legitimate boundaries.

There is no depiction in this poem of any forbidden activity.

(Except for the fact that the boy and girl are not married! But that

subject will have to wait for another chapter.) We will add here

only that the kind of sex the Song of Solomon writes about may also

be photographed with the same propriety. If that poem had been

written today, who could doubt that it would be on the internet, in

full video splendor!

Since the word “pornography” describes depiction of illicit

sexual activity, the place to begin with a definition of pornography

is to ask: “What is forbidden sexual behavior?” Again we remind the

reader that only the Bible correctly answers that question. There is

but one reliable moral standard in the universe. It is the Bible. If the

Bible says a sex act is forbidden then it is so. But if the Bible does

not so define it then it is not forbidden regardless of what anyone

ever says or does. No human can define sexual morality. Writing

about sex or photographing people in sexual situations or making

movies that are explicitly sexual, does not automatically make

those things wrong. Again, we are trying to find what the Bible

says about all sexual matters. We are not concerned with


“community standards,” because the “community” rejects the Bible

as its moral guide, and therefore has no authoritative basis for its

definition of “pornography,” or for defining what is an acceptable

“community standard.” Also, the issue has nothing to do with

“redeeming social value.” If God defines a sex act as forbidden then

the act itself has no redeeming social value and neither does

depicting it in writing, photos or movies. On the other hand any

depiction of Biblically legitimate sex is acceptable whether

community standards agree or not.

Anything that glorifies, depicts in a favorable light, or sets up as

acceptable, practices that God has forbidden, is sinful. The principle

of Rom. 1:32 applies here: “…those who practice such things are worthy

of death, (yet) they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to

those who practice them.” Not only must we avoid what God has

forbidden, but we must also refuse to encourage or agree with

those who practice such sins. Writings, photographs and films that

depict incest, rape, child abuse, or bestiality, in a favorable light

must be avoided. The acts themselves are sin, and so is the

favorable depiction of them.

But explicit, graphic, verbal and pictorial representations of

nude men and women or of actual sexual acts are not forbidden in

either OT or NT. Personal and public opinion and church dogma

may hold such to be unethical and cry out for its annihilation, but

the fact remains that God did not see the practice as significant

enough to even comment on. Archeology proves that every

civilization had its forms of sexually explicit writings and

drawings. Such writings and drawings exist in the ruins of ancient

Egypt from which Israel was delivered as well as in every nation

that occupied Canaan surrounding Israel. While God took such

great pains to specify every other form of sexual vice which he

demanded that Israel avoid, why did He never mention even by

inference, such a prevalent practice? And how could He condemn

such writings, seeing that He also wrote such a book?

The existence of the Song of Solomon as canonic Scripture has

troubled religious people for centuries. This short book is filled

with unabashed, explicit descriptions of naked bodies including

descriptions of both male and female sex organs, an account of a

naked public dance, along with depictions of sexual intercourse

and oral sex. This book is accepted as Divinely inspired by most of

the modern church, yet its whole nature would have to be classified


as “pornographic” if we use the prevailing definition of that word.

The fact that God inspired the author of this graphically sexual

book, automatically means that to write about sex, to describe sex

organs, to depict sexual intercourse, etc., in a form that appeals to a

mass audience, is not pornographic, is not ill-advised, is not dirty, is not

immoral, is not sinful. The Song of Solomon was written to be read,

appreciated and enjoyed. One who reads it and enjoys the sexual

references cannot be faulted in any way. If writing about it is

innocent, then other means of depicting sexual activity is also

innocent. To depict sexual activity in photographs or films, either

for the purpose of sexual education or the enjoyment of the viewer,

is as innocent as is both the writing and the reading of the Song of


By our Western religious ethical standards, any depiction of any

sex act is pornographic. We view anything that is sexually explicit

as impure. All sex talk that is done outside the relationship of

husband/wife, is suspect, and even then, we are expected to use

only euphemisms, rather than actually call a penis or a vulva by

name. We are so paranoid about sex, that we cannot even talk

frankly enough to our children to educate them about sex.

The pleasure attached to viewing explicit sexual pictures,

movies, or writings, could actually be used as a powerful ally in an

effort to teach children the beauties, pleasures and responsibilities

of sex. Yet if we use sexually explicit photographs to educate our

children about sexual intercourse, we cannot then tell them that

such photographs are sinful and must be avoided. We involve

ourselves in a hopeless contradiction. We used the once popular

book, Show Me, to teach our children about sex. The photographs in

this book explicitly depict male and female genitalia, picturing

grown men and boys with erect penises, and couples having

intercourse. Yet our meager information, and still malformed

opinions, held all other form of sexual depiction as “pornographic.”

Nothing is inherently dirty, vulgar or sinful about a photograph

of a nude woman or man. Nor is anything inherently unclean about

a photograph or film depicting masturbation, sexual intercourse,

oral sex, etc. If God has not condemned the act or the observation of

the act by others, no human can make it wrong. Consider again, the

fact that humans watch animals have sex regularly and find

nothing at all offensive about it, and can even talk about it to

others. Many people intentionally breed their pets, and watch


while the breeding occurs. What makes this so radically different

from watching humans have sex? “Well, it’s different with

humans” is the first reply. But what makes it different, and who says

it is different? God watches humans have sex all the time. Why

have we come to the conclusion that it is sinful to watch people do

what God created them to do, and what God watches them do all

the time? Is a penis a sinful, dirty object? Is a vagina vulgar? Is it

the mere act of looking at them that is vulgar? When penis enters

vagina is the act dirty? Is it dirty to look at the act? How does it

become dirty by taking a photo of the act? Does transferring a

beautiful act to a piece of film transform it into an ugly thing? It is

truly miraculous that a wholesome activity becomes utterly

unwholesome somewhere in the transfer of its image to either

paper or celluloid. Again, let the existence of the Song of Solomon

serve as a sobriety test for us in this matter.

For those in whom God’s grace has worked sufficiently to set

them free from human rules and expectations; for those who see

that sex is gloriously beautiful and is to be accepted with

thanksgiving and joy; for those who can experience sex in all its

wonder without shame or guilt, let such know that what is so

beautiful, pleasurable and enthralling for themselves is so for others

and that there is no legitimate reason to exclude from personal

pleasure and sexual enjoyment, the erotic writings, photographs

and films that depict sex as the incredibly pleasurable, fun, indeed

entertaining activity that it is. Writing about, photographing,

filming, or performing live for those who desire to see that which is

created wholesome and beautiful, may be enjoyed without shame

or guilt. No shame or guilt can legitimately attach to either

depicting, or enjoying the depiction of legitimate sexual activity. Only

that which depicts, for purposes of sexual enjoyment, what God

condemns, can be legitimately defined as “forbidden writings.”

Our default setting on this issue is something like this:

“Pornography is filthy and disgusting, therefore the Bible must

condemn it.” Yet the truth is that a thing is not filthy and

disgusting unless the Bible condemns it. We have gotten the cart

before the horse on this issue. We have first decided that what we

call “pornography” is sinful, and then we turn to the Bible to verify

our conclusions. Our problems here as in all matters of sexual

morality, would be solved if we first look at the Bible, refusing to

form any conclusions about any sexual matter until we have


understood what the Bible says about it. Only after understanding

what God says about sex in the Bible, will any person be able to

form a right opinion about it. And it is useless to answer with: “But

there are some things that are just obviously wrong.” This very

attitude is the basis for condemnation of masturbation, oral sex,

back yard nudity and social nudity, women wearing dresses that

expose their knees or their ankles (depending on which religious

camp one comes from), women allowing their arms to show, or

even exposing the neck to public gaze, etc. What is “obviously

wrong” to one group of people is just as obviously right to another

group of people. Our subjective opinions, regardless of how deeply

we feel them, can never be made the basis for moral standards. Our

obligation is simple. Let God be God! Let God do all the legislating

about all sexual matters. If God does not condemn a sexual practice

we must not. If God does not see a sex act as worthy of even

mentioning in His word then we should refuse to form dogmatic

opinions about it. And if our opinion is that we should not do

certain things about which God is silent, we must refuse to make

our opinions binding on other people. And we must also refuse to

judge other people’s preferences and behavior on the basis of our

strictly personal opinions.

Another question arises. If media depiction of human nudity or

sexual activity is basically innocent, what about sexual arousal in

the one viewing this media? Does sexual excitement when a man

views a photo of a naked woman, make it wrong? If a woman

views a photo of a nude man and is sexually excited about it, does

she sin? Some people think that a photograph, painting, etc. of a

nude may be inherently innocent but that one must avoid any

sexual excitement from viewing it. Such an idea makes it okay to

look, but wrong to react normally to the sight. This falsely assumes

that sexual excitement is wrong unless it is directed solely at one’s

marital partner. The Bible does not teach such an idea. Nature also

speaks against it. A Catholic priest we knew of, years ago, was

known to frequent theaters showing sexually explicit films. He

attached a strip of gauze to his eye -glasses, which he would hang

over his eyes during the “bad” parts, evidently thinking he could

watch but he could not enjoy it. He could watch the act, but he could

not become sexually excited by watching. So he “filtered out the

bad parts” with gauze over his eyes. Are we the only one who can

see the absurdity of this?


If a married couple rent a sexually explicit video, watch it

together and either or both of them experience sexual enjoyment

from the experience, have they sinned? We think not. The same

question must be asked of those who read the Song of Solomon. If a

man reads this book’s descriptions of the Shulamite maiden’s body,

with unabashedly sexual references to her legs, breasts and vulva,

and experiences any sexual stimulation, has he sinned? Is God

displeased? Who can believe it! Sexual stimulation is not abnormal,

and we are not under bondage to some “unwritten law” that

condemns all sexual stimulation except in the marriage bed.

If it is legitimate to graphically depict sexual activity – and the

Song of Solomon proves that it is legitimate – then it must, by

necessary inference, be legitimate to experience whatever emotions

or reactions are naturally associated with those depictions.

May a couple view a sexually explicit film for their private

viewing pleasure and as part of their enhancement of their own

lovemaking? We believe so. We also feel that neither husbands or

wives should feel threatened that their mate desires to attend a

show where either male or female shows their nude body. A

burlesque show, in Biblical terms, is neither moral nor immoral for

the reason that nakedness is neither moral nor immoral, nor is sexual

arousal either moral or immoral. For one to dance naked for

admiring crowds is no more immoral now, than it was for the

Shulammite girl to dance naked for admiring onlookers in the Song

of Solomon, or for David to dance naked before the men and

women thronging the road to the city. The dancer is not immoral

nor is the onlooker even if he pays to see the “show.” It becomes a

moral issue when the dancing is done to entice the viewer to

forbidden activity, such as adultery. If a couple invited a male or

female dancer to come to their home to dance for their mutual

pleasure there is nothing to prohibit it. And to become sexually

excited while watching is natural but not immoral. Sexual

excitement, regardless of the source or cause, is neither moral nor

immoral. It becomes immoral only when that excitement comes

from illegitimate sources, (depictions of bestiality, incest or other

forms of forbidden activity) or leads to illegitimate action (anything

God has prohibited).

All animals copulate in the open. There is no such thing in the

animal world as private sex. If Adam and Eve had not sinned,


humans would also have sex in the open. There would have been

no shame, dirt, etc. attached to sex that would cause us to hide it.

We would copulate in the open as readily as we eat in the open.

There would be no private toilets and we would relieve ourselves

without shame or fear of being seen. Since there would be no

shame attached to our body parts we would have no more

reluctance to allow others to see our sexual organs than we have to

allow them to see our arms, feet, legs, face, etc. All body parts

would “hang out in the open” and their functions would be as

natural as breathing. It would not be an unusual thing for humans

of any age to witness other humans copulate without hiding. Just

as humans observe animals copulating, humans would observe

humans copulating and there would be nothing unnatural,

embarrassing or guilt-inducing about it. We realize this may seem

outlandish yet reality is all around us. Naked animals do what

comes naturally. They do not eat in public view then feel compelled

to hide when copulating or eliminating their body wastes. This is

the way God intended it to be for all His creatures.

Humans watching humans engage in sexual activities is neither

abnormal nor shameful. All guilt, shame, or embarrassment about

being seen or in seeing others engaged in sexual activity is a matter of

mental and spiritual conditioning; it is a factor of what we have

been taught. Hypocritical, opinionated, inappropriate, insufficiently

researched, non-Biblical teaching has produced an

unnatural fear of all things sexual in humans, and virtually all

humans suffer from the malady.

“Immodesty,” “indecency,” “exhibitionism,” “pornography,”

and such are all matters of one’s “degree of tolerance.” The

standards that cause humans to think in terms of these “sins” are

matters of strictly subjective opinion. Therefore every individual’s

standard and degree of tolerance will necessarily be different. Let’s

prove that statement!

“Immodesty” means different things to virtually everyone.

Since the Bible does not give us a definition of “immodesty” by

which to establish strict, objective standards, we are left with our

own subjective opinions. One person believes it is immodest for any

part of a woman’s body to be seen in public except her hands. She

must be clothed from head to toe and face veiled. Anything less is

considered “immodest.” Remember those video shots of the

women in Afghanistan? But the next door neighbor believes this is


radical, and thinks it is okay for a woman to show her face in public

and even bare her arms but no part of her leg can be uncovered.

Another neighbor believes both the previous neighbors to be

radical, and thinks women can allow face, arms and legs below the

knee to be seen publicly. Across the street lives an even more

liberated couple whose wife is so brazen she will go outside in

shorts, yet they will stop short of visiting the public swimming pool

because everyone there is “immodestly” dressed. But their next

door neighbors believe this is radical. They visit the public pool and

wear bathing suits like everyone else, but draw the line at bikinis

because bikinis are “immodest.” However, their friends next door

think they are radical, and they enjoy going to the public pool

wearing the most abbreviated swimming attire they can find. But

they cannot tolerate the idea of a “topless permitted” beach because

“exposing a woman’s nipples is immodest.” Yet they too have even

more liberated neighbors who not only visit topless beaches, but

also enjoy vacations to nude beaches, and regularly visit nudist


Well now, the problem here is obvious isn’t it? No matter where

people find themselves on the “chart of immodesty” described

above, their place is determined not by the objective standard of God’s

word, but by strictly subjective standards based on past experience

and subjective opinions handed down to them by parents, society

and religious teachers. Each one conforms their behavior to their

conscience; they are restricted, by misinformation, to whatever degree

of tolerance their conscience will allow. All would be well if

everyone would follow this principle for themselves alone and

allow all others to do the same without accusation. But few can do

that. Once we establish our degree of tolerance we are convinced

that any other opinion is wrong. Those who breach our opinion on

the “right” are too radical in their restrictions, and those who breach

our opinion on the “left” are too radical with what they allow. This

is true regardless of which of the above categories we fall into. The

true absurdity of all this comes clear when we realize that each one

of those neighbors say “We follow this standard because the Bible

says we must be modest.” Every one appeals to the same Bible verse

yet every one has a different standard of application for that verse.

Reader, where do you fit in that “chart of immodesty?” If you are

somewhere in the middle, thinking for example that it is OK for

women to go outside in shorts, but tha