A Couple Thoughts on Adultery and Virginity in the Bible (with a lot more to come.)

A Couple Thoughts on Adultery and Virginity in the Bible (with a lot more to come.) 

Trigger warning for rape and assault. Mentioned but not explicit detail of any kind. 


I’ve been on a bit of a rampage in the Bible as of late, studying specific words that often cause heated back and forths between Christian individuals as well as others. I’ve studied the word Paul used for “sexual immorality,” the word Jesus used for “lust,” “adultery,” and “divorce” and so on. This post isn’t about my studies on those words. Those will come in due time. This is more like a scattered dumping of some recent thoughts I’ve had regarding the overall view of adultery and virginity in the Bible, because, in a lot of ways, the two go hand in hand. 

Why do adultery and virginity go hand in hand? Because they were both about preserving the lineage of families within the nation of Israel. Or...something along those lines. 

Adultery is an interesting topic to explore because, in some parts, it’s punishable by death (Lev. 20:10) In the Gospels, Jesus steps in to save the life of a woman who has committed adultery (John 8:7), There’s a weird test for adultery in Numbers 5 involving dusty water? None of them seem to match up.

I am a stronger believer, however, in the fact that the Bible does not contradict itself. Teachings about the Bible often contradict one another. 

I won’t go into each of those examples in this post, but I will say that from all of my reading, I’ve concluded that adultery isn’t so much about cheating or “breaking faith with your spouse” as it’s about family lineage. I.e. if a woman sleeps with a man who is not her husband and becomes pregnant, the child is not a legitimate heir of her husband and then all kinds of things about family lineage becomes muddled and chaos ensues. 

To understand why this is so important, one would have to study the structure of Israel’s nation in the Hebrew bible as a whole, which I’d love to do but won’t include here for the sake of (trying) to keep things not the length of a novel. 

One thing I will point out here is that it seems to be very important. One example is of all of the strenuous efforts Tamar went through just have her own son. And well...she slept with more than one man in one family, posed as a prostitute along the way and was not only glorified for her actions by God but also made it possible for Jesus to come into our world and save us. 

It would make sense that adultery was wrong because it disrupted the order of Israel instead of being about cheating because there seems to be no penalty of the exact same kind if a man breaks faith with his wife. So there’s that. 

Not only was adultery punishable by death according to the Levitical law, a supposed virgin woman, who had sex with someone before her bethrothed married her, was killed if found out. (Deut. 22...which I’d argue is also not about virginity at all but about preventing abusive husbands from killing their wives. I’ll save that one for another time.) 

Don’t get me wrong. Me arguing that adultery isn’t about (or isn’t just about at the very least) cheating doesn’t mean I support cheating. I just don’t think cheaters should be...you know…be stoned to death. 

Then, there’s this whole thing about virgins that got me thinking. Women in ancient Israel were married as soon as they could bear children. Meaning, after their first menstruation cycle. Meaning, they were probably between the age of 12-14 give or take a few years. Meaning, they were married pretty young compared to the average age a woman marries today (which is 27 in the U.S.) This whole “virgins were highly prized” thing makes a lot more sense when age is considered because, even today, if a girl has sex before she’s even begun bleeding, she has probably been raped and/or preyed upon. 

(Note: I’ve found nothing in the Bible that directly supports this. This is all speculation. I just think it's speculation worth considering.) 

I would think that a young woman who marries in ancient Israel is then accused of having sex with someone else before marriage was forced, raped, or, at the very least, preyed upon. How many 12-14 year old girls do you know that are actively looking for sexual partners? And if they are, how much coercion is going on? It’s never zero. It’s just not happening. 

Am I saying that a young girl who has been raped makes her a horrible option for a wife? No, I’m saying it’s not about how “good” or “bad” of a wife she’ll be because, honestly, I don’t think it’s about what kind of wife for a man she’ll be. I believe that many of the OT laws were written for the sake of damage control in an already sinful world and among other things, to protect those at a disadvantage. Women, widows, orphans, sojourners, etc. These were all the people who were at a significant social and financial disadvantage. 

Women had less afforded them than men. 

Widows had less afforded to them than married women or young virgins. 

Orphans had less afforded to them than children with living parents. 

Sojourners had less afforded to them than people who were born into the nation of Israel. 

All over the Old Testament, God says over and over again to take care of these people at a disadvantage. And then Jesus not only supported the same principles but demonstrated them throughout His ministry. And then He died on the cross, thus enacting the ultimate deed of inclusion. 

Anyway, back to the virgins. I would think that, if so many other laws protected women from harmful husbands (Numbers 5, Deuteronomy 22, Deuteronomy 24, etc.,) then this would be in the same vein. I would think that if a young girl was raped and/or preyed upon, it would be God’s heart to keep her away from a marriage where the same thing could potentially occur. She needed time to heal… in the same way that women who had given birth were given 40-80 days to heal afterwards. In addition to physical healing, trauma had to be addressed. (And if you’ve paid any attention to all that goes on in the OT, you’ll see how much generational wounds, trauma, and curses were a thing.) 

I’ll end this here for the sake of not making you read forever, but I plan to write plenty of follow up posts that examine specific scriptures, namely the ones I mentioned above. Any questions, concerns, or further discussion is welcome via my inbox through the contact page on my website. 

As always, thank you for reading.