Comments/Questions from Readers

Question #12: I really enjoyed reading your controversial topics and have come to understand that the Bible does not condemn polygamy.

I have heard people say that in Old Testament days men owned women and paid for them. Because these days women are not owned by men there is no such thing as adultery anymore [they argue that adultery was simply a violation of property rights over the women]. They also argue that premarital sex is not a sin because fathers used to own their daughters and sell them. They were only put to death for 'playing the harlot' as the man who married her paid for a virgin (the virgin dowry). What do you say about these issues?

It is true that, in a sense, the men had possession of their women and children. In a Patriarchial system, the husband/father had authority over his entire household. In our society, many women no longer submit to the God-given authorities in their lives (daughters to their fathers, wives to their husbands), but the authority is still there, even if they are in rebellion to it.

However, the real issue here is the question of the definition of adultery. These people who are saying that adultery is nothing more than a violation of the husband's marital property rights are conflicting with the actual Biblical definition. If the husband's rights are the true defining point of adultery, then logically, the husband would be able to give up his exclusive rights to his wife (if he chose to do so) and she would be free to have sex with another man. However, the Bible tells a different story.

Genesis 12:10-20: "And a scarcity of food came to be in the land, and Abram went down to Mitsrayim (Egypt) to dwell there, for the scarcity of food was severe in the land. And it came to be, when he was close to entering Mitsrayim, that he said to Sarai his wife, "See, I know that you are a fair woman to look at. And it shall be, when the Mitsrites see you, that they shall say, 'This is his wife.' And they shall kill me, but let you live. Please say you are my sister, so that it shall be well with me for your sake, and my life be spared because of you." And it came to be, when Abram came into Mitsrayim, that the Mitsrites saw the woman, that she was very fair. And Pharaoh's officials saw her and praised her before Pharaoh, and the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house. And he treated Abram well for her sake, and he had sheep, and cattle, and male donkeys, and male and female servants, and female donkeys, and camels. But Yahweh plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not inform me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister'? And so I was going to take her for my wife. Look, here is your wife, take her and go." And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him, and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had."

Genesis 20:1-7: "And Abraham set out from there to the land of the South, and dwelt between Qadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. And Abraham said concerning Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelek sovereign of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But Elohim came to Abimelek in a dream by night, and said to him, "See, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife." However, Abimelek had not come near her, and he said, "Yahweh, would You slay a righteous nation also? Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she, even she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and in the innocence of my hands I have done this." And Elohim said to him in a dream, "Yea, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart, and so I kept you from SINNING AGAINST ME. For this reason, I did not let you touch her. And now, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and let him pray for you and you live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall certainly die, you and all that are yours."

Now there are several important things to note in these two passages. Abram was afraid that people would kill him because they would desire his wife. He figured they would get rid of him in order to lawfully have Sarah, so he asked her to tell everyone that she was his sister rather than his wife. He understood that this arrangement would naturally make it possible for another man to have Sarah. But clearly God did not approve, regardless whether Abram was willing to allow it to happen. In fact, God specifically told Abimelech that He kept him from sinning against God, not sinning against Abraham. The same evidence that adultery is actually a sin against God can be seen in Genesis 39:9, where Joseph asks Potiphar's wife, "How shall I do this great evil and sin against Elohim?"

The issue of adultery had nothing to do with the husband’s property rights and everything to do with the covenant that God witnessed and blessed between the man and his wife. God’s definition of adultery in His Word is quite clear:

Leviticus 20:10: "And a man who commits adultery with the wife of another man, who commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, the adulterer and the adulteress shall certainly be put to death."

Deuteronomy 22:22-24: "When a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman. Thus you shall purge the evil from Yisra'el. When a girl who is a maiden is engaged to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and shall stone them to death with stones, the girl because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he has humbled his neighbor's wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from your midst."

There is no exception allowed in God’s Word. The husband does not have the right to give up his exclusive marital rights to his wife, even if he wants to. If she willingly lies with another man, even if her husband allowed it or commanded it, she becomes an adulteress and the man she lies with becomes an adulterer.

Now the concept of "pre-marital sex" is a complicated one to discuss because this is a fairly modern concept. To discuss it, we would first need to know precisely what we mean when we say "pre-marital sex". For example, if the woman was a virgin before laying with the man, then "pre-martial sex" is precisely the correct term. The man that laid with the virgin was required to do two things. He was required to pay the bride-price for her virginity, and he was required to marry her if her father would permit it.

Exodus 22:16-17: "And when a man entices a maiden who is not engaged, and lies with her, he shall certainly pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he pays according to the bride-price of maidens."

Deuteronomy 22:28-29: "When a man finds a girl who is a maiden, who is not engaged, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty pieces of silver, and she is to be his wife because he has humbled her. He is not allowed to put her away all his days."

In the case of a virgin, the man was obligated to marry the woman if the father would allow it. The law required that the sexual act with a virgin was to be followed up by restitution and marriage.

But what about a case where the woman is not a virgin? Well, we have to recognize that if the woman was never married and yet is not a virgin, then by definition she is a whore (zanah). We don’t like to think of it in these terms, especially in our sexually-permissive culture, but the Bible is quite clear. A whore or harlot, in Biblical context, is an unmarried woman who lays with a man outside of a marriage contract, including a woman who prostitutes her body for hire.

So when we use the term "pre-marital sex" to apply to a whore, we're really using the wrong term, since marriage is neither intended or required. The correct term to use would be "whoring". The whole point of whoring is having sexual relations without needing to secure a marriage covenant. Whoring was always a sin but the only prescribed penalty was death for the woman, and even then only when she lived under the authority of her father (ie. living in her father’s house).

Deuteronomy 22:21: "Then they shall bring out the girl to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done wickedness in Yisra’el, to whore in her father’s house. Thus you shall purge the evil from your midst."

In this example in Deuteronomy, the woman was supposed to be virgin but instead was discovered to have been a whore. The text specifically states that the reason she was to be stoned was because she whored in her father’s house, not simply because of virginity fraud.

Genesis 38:24: "And it came to be, about three months after, that Yehudah was informed, saying, "Tamar your daughter-in-law has whored, and see, she has conceived by whoring." And Yehudah said, "Bring her out and let her be burned!"

In this Genesis example, Tamar was not a virgin but a widow, and yet she was still to be burned for whoring. Gen. 38:11 specifically states that Tamar went back as a widow and lived in her father’s house. There is no way to misinterpret this as anything other than death for whoring.

Leviticus 21:9: "And when the daughter of any priest profanes herself by whoring, she profanes her father. She is burned with fire."

In this example from Leviticus, the daughter of a priest was to be burned if she was discovered to be a whore. There is no mention of marriage or virginity fraud because the issue worthy of death is her whoring.

The Hebrew word for whoring is "zanah" (Strong's #2181), and is translated by such expressions as "fornication", "whoring", "whore", "harlot", "play the harlot", "whoredom", and "go a whoring". The Greek word for whoring is "porneia" (Strong’s #4202) and is translated by such expressions as "fornication", "whoring", "sexual immorality", "marital unfaithfulness", "unchastity", and "impurity".

I will reference just a few Scriptures to demonstrate the clear sinfulness of whoring, according to God’s Word:

Genesis 34:7,31: "And the sons of Ya’aqob came in from the field when they heard it. And the men were grieved and very wroth, because he had done a senseless deed in Yisra’el by lying with Ya’aqob’s daughter, which should not be done...But they said, "Should he treat our sister like a whore (zanah)?"

Leviticus 19:29: "Do not profane your daughter by making her a whore (zanah), so that the land does not whore (zanah), and the land becomes filled with wickedness."

Matthew 15:19: "For out of the heart come forth wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, whorings (porneia), thefts, false witnessings, slanders."

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: "Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the reign of Elohim? Do not be deceived. Neither those who whore (pornos), nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor greedy of gain, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers shall inherit the reign of Elohim."

1 Corinthians 6:13: "Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods – but Elohim shall destroy both it and them. And the body is not for whoring (porneia) but for the Master, and the Master for the body."

1 Corinthians 6:15-16: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Messiah? Shall I then take the members of Messiah and make them members of a whore (porne)? Let it not be! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a whore (porne) is one body? For He says, "The two shall become one flesh."

1 Corinthians 6:18: "Flee whoring (porneia). Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits whoring (porneuo) sins against his own body."

Ephesians 5:3: "But whoring (porneia) and all uncleanness, or greed of gain, let it not even be named among you, as is proper among set-apart ones"

Ephesians 5:5: "For this you know, that no one who whores (pornos), nor unclean one, nor one greedy of gain, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the reign of Messiah and Elohim."

Colossians 3:5-6: "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: whoring (porneia), uncleanness, passion, evil desire and greed of gain, which is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of Elohim is coming upon the sons of disobedience"

1 Thessalonians 4:3: "For this is the desire of Elohim: your set-apartness! – that you should abstain from whoring (porneia)"

Hebrews 13:4: "Let marriage be respected by all, and the bed be undefiled. But Elohim shall judge those who whore (pornos), and adulterers."

I think these verses speak for themselves. Whoring, pre-marital sex, prostitution, harlotry, fornication...whatever English term you choose to represent what the Hebrew word “zanah” and the Greek word “porneia” mean, the definition is still the same. Now in truth, there was no prescribed penalty for the man, nor any for the woman living on her own. Nevertheless, whoring was still clearly a sin, and several New Testament verses confirm that those who whore will not enter into the Kingdom.




"...In essentials we maintain unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things love..."

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