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for the badly treated the author turns to love within the marriage bond. The opening expression implies an imperative
: "Let marriage be held in honor." "By all" probably means "in all circumstances." Some ascetics held marriage in low esteem,
 but the author of Hebrews rejects this position. "The marriage bed" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.
 He considers the physical side of marriage important and "pure." Contrary to the views of some thinkers in the ancient world,
there is nothing defiling about it. Over against honorable marriage he sets the "sexually immoral" and the "adulterer"
 (a word used for a violation of the marriage bond).

All forms of sexual sin come under the judgment of God. This was a novel view to many in the first century.
 For them chastity was an unreasonable demand to make. It is one of the unrecognized miracles that Christians were able not only to make this
demand but to make it stick. Sexual sinners are likely to go their way, careless of all others. But in the end they will be judged by none less than God.

Matthew 5:28

28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Read more from NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

5:28 anyone who looks at a woman lustfully. Whereas the law merely said, “You shall not commit adultery,
” Jesus demanded, “You shall not want to commit adultery.” Many ancient Jewish moralists condemned lust;
 some later rabbis even compared extreme lust to adultery. Jesus’ warning here develops the context of the prohibition against adultery
 in the law: the seventh commandment prohibited adultery, but the tenth commandment warned that one should not even covet one’s neighbor’s wife
 (Ex 20:17; Dt 5:21). Jesus uses here the same verb as in the standard Greek translation of the tenth commandment.
 He refers, then, to wanting to have one’s neighbor’s wife. The principle, of course, extends beyond Jesus’
 illustration, applying to both genders and to single people, coveting one who might be someone else’s spouse someday.

Exodus 20:14

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

Read more from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament

Adultery (20:14). Biblical texts (e.g., Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22) reveal that the death penalty could be imposed on those found guilty of committing adultery.
 In the ancient Near East, adultery was considered an act of sexual relations between a married woman and any man not her husband.
 Married men could have sex with single women and either not be subject to any penalty
 (in the case of prostitutes or their own female slaves) or be subject to a penalty much less severe than those for adultery (Deut. 22:28 – 29).

It is difficult to identify in the Old Testament or in other ancient Near Eastern literature a well-developed system of sexual ethics.
 Some passages within wisdom literature (e.g., parts of Prov. 5 – 7)
 come closer than the legal material in the Pentateuch to establishing an ethical basis for proper sexual behavior;
still, the overriding concerns about sex were primarily social.

There seem to be at least two reasons for an ancient society’s desire to control sexual behavior.
 First, certain sexual acts brought about a change in legal status. It was often the act of sexual consummation that established a couple as fully married.
 Sleeping with the wives and concubines of a deceased monarch
 demonstrated that the successor had made the transition from heir apparent to king. Such changes in status had to be regulated.
 Second, a man needed to know that the offspring of his wife were indeed his own children. He particularly needed to know who his sons were,
 because they would be his legitimate heirs. It is this concern that is the most likely motivating force behind rules concerning adultery.

Ancient societies viewed acts of adultery as wrongs against the husband of the woman involved.
 This meant that the husband had the right to determine the penalty for his adulterous wife and her lover.
 He could not, however, pardon his wife and punish her lover. Provisions from the Laws of Hammurabi and the Middle Assyrian Laws
(see sidebar on “Law Codes from the Ancient Near East” at 20:13) make this clear.

LH 129: If a man’s wife should be seized lying with another male, they shall bind them and cast them into the water;
 if the wife’s master allows his wife to live, then the king shall allow his subject (i.e., the other male) to live.

MAL A 15: If a man should seize another man upon his wife and they prove the charges against him and find him guilty, they shall kill both of them ...
 if the woman’s husband kills his wife, then he shall also kill the man ... if [he wishes to release] his wife, he shall [release] the man.

The same seems to have been true in ancient Israel. The husband had the right to determine the penalty, and he was free to choose a penalty other than death.
For instance, Jeremiah 3:8 indicates that divorce was one of the lesser penalties a husband could impose on his adulterous wife.


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