Words from the Weary Wilderness - Lenten Journey Day 13
Day Thirteen - Wednesday, March 16
On Affairs, Adultery, and Death
Read: Leviticus 20:10-14 (See also Deuteronomy 22:21-22)
10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. 11 The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion, their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is depravity; they shall be burned to death, both he and they, that there may be no depravity among you.
Laws concerning Sexual Relations
13 Suppose a man marries a woman, but after going in to her, he dislikes her 14 and makes up charges against her, slandering her by saying, “I married this woman; but when I lay with her, I did not find evidence of her virginity.” 15 The father of the young woman and her mother shall then submit the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 The father of the young woman shall say to the elders: “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man but he dislikes her; 17 now he has made up charges against her, saying, ‘I did not find evidence of your daughter’s virginity.’ But here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.” Then they shall spread out the cloth before the elders of the town. 18 The elders of that town shall take the man and punish him; 19 they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver (which they shall give to the young woman’s father) because he has slandered a virgin of Israel. She shall remain his wife; he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.
20 If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman’s virginity was not found, 21 then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father’s house and the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a disgraceful act in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
22 If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23 If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, 24 you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Today’s Word from the Weary Wilderness: If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
Reflection: It was very important for this wilderness community to “purge the evil” from its midst. Life itself was at stake; order was required as the people progressed to the Promised Land. Every time we hear a biblical command in this part of Torah, we know there must be a back-story of disobedience, a problem that has arisen. Because these are all human beings, many of the problems are around sex. Affairs are judged harshly in Leviticus 20, and re-emphasized in the “second laws” of Deuteronomy 22. Families are disrupted, so this is a capital crime, just as male homosexuality is a capital crime in Leviticus 20:13. In every church I have served, I have counseled both adulterers and those victimized by adultery. I have seen no one put to death, and most retained their leadership positions in the church after a period of repentance and healing. How do we make sense of this in our wilderness world today? Is this okay? Why or why not?
Prayer: God of the Wilderness, you continue to set before us the stories of broken people. Some were broken by their missteps in wilderness wanderings, and others were broken by sexual passions. These conversations are painful, and we often ask for exception when it is us or someone we love. What do you say? Amen.
Blessings of Peace and Health,
Rev. Beverly B. Coppley
& Chief Missional Strategist