The problem of adultery and cheating. Numbers 5:11-31
How to tell if your wife is cheating on you
-Cheating and adultery are a big deal
-Roughly 1/4 of all marrieds cheat or have cheated on their spouse (conservative estimate)
-Websites devoted to adultery make a lot of money. Ashley Madison is the most well known site--- it and its "Life is short. Have an
-Lot's of divorce lawyers drive very nice cars because of adultery
The Bible addresses adultery and cheating. The 10 commandments forbids it. The penalty under the law for being caught having adultery
was death. In Hebrews 13:4 it says; "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer
and all the sexually immoral."
Today we are going to look at what may strike you as a very bizarre passage. The text I have in mind is Numbers 5:11-31. This passage,
written from a male perspective, addresses the question "How can you tell if your wife is cheating on you." (This is actually a question
many married men and women ask and so this text is actually quite relevant in the question it asks).
In addition to raising the afore mentioned question, a ritual-- which you might initially think to be controversial- for determining the
answer is laid out.
When I read this passage this week, my first reaction was to say "Oh" "That is a pretty wild and potentially controversial passage"
However, I realize that in asking you to read all of God's Word that I have a duty to tackle passages that are complex and sometimes
strange to our ears.
READ Numbers 5:11-31
Please note: I am aware that some of you in a group of this size might have been the victim of adultery. I realize that today's lesson may
be difficult. This lesson is not meant to hurt you. If anyone wants to talk to me about this afterwards, please feel free to approach me
QUESTIONS, THOUGHTS, PRINCIPLES arising from Numbers 5:11-31
1. The number one question people have of the text is "Why is there no test for an unfaithful husband?"
Given that an equal number of men and women are unfaithful to their vows (and perhaps even more men than women), why is it only the
woman that is the focus of the text?
I don't have a complete answer to this question -- what I do know is that the society at the time was patriarchal in nature and so would
explain the obvious male perspective. Further: The answer has nothing to do with the false notion that the Bible is against women. Such
is patently false.
2. While some think it is, the test of Numbers 5 is NOT related to the evil practice of "trial by ordeal"--- such being practiced
for 1000's of years on every continent and in many different cultures
Info on "Trials by ordeal"
-practiced in iceland of yesteryear, Africa, America, Asia, India, the ancient near east, etc
-basically a miracle of God was needed to save the person since they assumed to be guilty
-the trial involved horrible things "fire, boiling oil, boiling water, being cast into water bound with a millstone (if you could float you were
KEY THING TO NOTE: The test of Numbers 5 was harmless in and of itself. Drinking water mixed with a tiny bit of dust and ink from the
scroll the priest wrote on would not have been harmful in and of itself.
3. The consequence of the text-- infertility, and public shame- sounds pretty intense v.27
Yet: Death was the normal penalty for adultery (Leviticus 20:10)
As the Scriptures tell us "The wages of sin is death". Such is the consequence for rebellion against God and His laws. It is just. Yet, God
in His mercy and love has provided us with a way to be forgiven and to be right with Him-- the Person and work of Christ. Hence; while
the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
4. As strange as it might seem to our ears, the instructions of Numbers 5:11-31 would have served to protect women of that
While you might be tempted to think that Numbers 5:11-31 is sexist or anti woman, given the culture and the views of the time towards
women, the instructions here would have served to protect women-- for it stopped an angry man from "taking matters into his own
Context: Jealous man -potentially adulterous woman/potentially innocent woman. Instead of throwing her out on the street and so
reducing her to destitution or assaulting her violently, God says "Not so fast. I am the One who determines a person's innocence or guilt.
I am the judge"**** Such is a critical point in the text: It was not the priest who determined guilt. It was not the husband. It was not
the testimony of the woman. By a miracle God would be the one to determine and declare the woman's guilt
Point: God is our ultimate judge--before Him we must all appear. Blessed are those who appear before Him with Christ as their Savior.
5. Jealousy- while not necessarily a bad/wrong thing- sometimes has a dark and scary side
VERSE 14 speaks of how the man's jealousy may be unfounded
a. Jealousy or feelings of jealousy are not always bad
For example: If a wife sees her husband talking to another woman and it looks a little to chummy, her feelings of jealousy are rightful and
Further: The Bible describes God as jealous God who does not tolerate our dabbling in the false religions of this world or are being
unfaithful to Him. (Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24, Joshua 24:19)
In our text, it talks about a man having feelings of jealousy as it regards his wife and the thought that perhaps she was not being faithful
to him. In and of itself, this is not a wrong feeling-- for he may be right about his wife.
Clues in that day that a woman might be having an affair. What might trigger a man into thinking his wife was committing adultery
She wasn't at home (most often women in that era stayed at home cooking and caring for their children) . She was seen talking another
man (It was not acceptable for married women to keep the company of other men)
b. Sometimes jealousy is wrong and misplaced
Some people have a problem in their head in that everything makes them jealous. Such people are super controlling, paranoid,
temperamental, and not quite rational. In this passage- with the idea in mind that the husband might be like this-- would protect an
Note: I can only imagine the damage to the marriage relationship if a wrongly jealous husband took his wife to the priest and it was
revealed by the LORD that she was innocent of the sin of adultery that he was suspecting her of.
Q Do you struggle with irrational feelings of jealousy. Have others talked to you about this? Admit it. Pray about it. Get some help or you
will unwittingly destroy the relationships you hold precious.
6. Adultery comes with consequences
In our text, infertility is spelled out as the consequence of adultery-- when determined by the priestly rite in question.
This consequence had to do with the inheritance issues. When the Israelites inherited the Promised land. The property was to be passed
down through the family line (which was supposed to be pure). So, before the age of paternity tests, we have the test of Numbers
Some consequences of adultery
-Divorce costs a lot
-Your chances of getting a venereal disease are pretty high-- so your health is at stake
-Your reputation will be ruined. You'll be known as a cheater
-There's a good chance your marriage will end (it doesn't have to. Reconciliation is possible and advocated by the Bible)
-There's the whole matter of the judgment of God. Disobedience brings judgment and his discipline. Ultimately we are reminded that we
are accountable to a holy God.
Make sure you are reconciled to God and have received the forgiveness of sins that is available in Christ alone.
7. Keep the marriage bed pure!
Given the Bible's warning against adultery, we are reminded to keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4)
Keep your mind pure too: Many people who don't physically commit adultery commit mental adultery. Note Jesus' words; "But I tell you
that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28. This is the true
standard of God's Word-- not merely concerned with behavior, but with the mind and heart.
8. Are you married? Do all you can to build and strengthen your marriage
-Pray together and for each other
-Review your vows
-Pray through 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a that you might be reminded what true love is
-Go on regular dates and specialize in doing nice things for each other.
-Learn how to fight fair
-Have regular sexual relations
-share intimate details of your life with your spouse (not opposite sex friends and co-workers)
-Do get caught up in trash (trashing books, trashing magazines--- all things that will encourage you to dabble and then cheat)
-Pursue your relationship with God
-Remember that a purpose of marriage is to become more like Christ. Christ is faithful, we are to be
Let us pray