Answering The Atheist
March 28, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 13
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Is it wrong to commit adultery? Texts such as Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18, and Hebrews 13:4 indicate it is wrong, while texts such as Numbers 31:18, Hosea 1:2 and Hosea 3:1 show it to be permitted. Is there a contradiction?
The first set of texts listed show clearly that adultery is wrong, and that it is a violation of God's will. Let us thus focus on the latter list of verses.
Adultery is identified as having "...unlawful intercourse with another's wife..." (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 417). With that in mind, let us look at the texts which have been suggested.
Numbers 31:18 reads, "But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately." Notice, those who were kept had not been with a man intimately. They were not married, and therefore, not another man's wife. Those who had been with a man (and thus presumably were married) were to be killed (31:17).
In the book of Hosea, the LORD uses the marriage of the prophet to a harlot as a picture or figure to speak against the nation Israel and her harlotry before the LORD (turning to idols). In no way is the LORD or Hosea condoning adultery in this illustration, but rather, condemning the unchaste conduct of God's people. Read the verses mentioned in the context of the whole book, and it certainly will become much more clear.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible