“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:13-14)
Today we are looking at the 6th and 7th commandments, which are prohibitions against murder and adultery. These commands are obviously moral laws, in that they have always been and are always sins when committed, for every people in every age. In other words, these commands are not unique to ancient Israel. Since this is the case, we might ask why God would state these commands in the law of the covenant for Israel. There are a number of good reasons as to why the obvious is stated, such as Israel coming out of Egypt and its false religious system. But one reason I think they are stated here in the setting up of the nation of Israel, is because God is emphasizing that these are fundamental commands for an orderly and prosperous society. Any society where adultery and murder are acceptable is not a society that can last long. These commands show us that the protection of life and the protection of the institution of the family are fundamental for order.
The fact is that we live in an increasingly murderous and adulterous society, which is a culture of death. In contrast, these are commands which promote life and stability. Murder destroys life, and adultery destabilizes society by destroying the family. We can see in our society that the rise of the acceptability of adultery goes right along with the erosion of the family institution.
I believe it is appropriate to consider these two commands together because there is so often a connection between these two sins. So often murder is seen as the solution to adultery. In our day, is not abortion so often the solution many turn to after adultery has been committed? Or even the example of King David who murdered Uriah so that he could take his wife. The effects of adultery are so destructive and the lure of lust is so powerful that men have gone to the extreme lengths of murder to try and rectify the havoc they have wreaked. This of course rectifies nothing, but compounds sin and destruction.
In our day, so-called sexual freedom must also have its so-called right to abortion. In the 1960’s it was the sexual revolution, and then shortly after that in the early 1970’s it was the Roe v. Wade decision. A society that accepts adultery must also accept murder in order to prop up its false economy of “free love.”
These commands contradict the modern religion of bodily autonomy which falsely declares “love is love,” and “my body, my choice.” These two modern dogmas cry out against the law of God which is meant to protect God-ordained sexuality and to protect life made in the image of God. One commentator says, “Unlike the permissive gods of antiquity and modernity, the God of Sinai is an intrusive God who won’t leave us alone.” God is the one who defines love and sexuality. God is the one who defines life. And thus, we do not have ultimate autonomy from God. By God’s standards, we may not do whatever we want with our body, or whatever we want to someone else’s. There is no area of our life, nor is there a room in our homes in which God does not have authority and does not demand that we conform to His ethics.
Thus we see that ethics are inherently religious. Having no other gods before Yahweh and not making idols for ourselves, means that we must then conform to God’s standard of ethics. God is showing Israel that since He is not like the other gods, His ways are then not like the ways of the other gods. God is showing Israel that since they are to worship only Him, then that means they are then to live only unto Him. As we saw, the first table of the law mainly concerns how they were to relate to God, and the second table mainly concerns how then they were to relate to their neighbor. God is showing them that to worship Him only, means that you will treat your neighbor in a certain way. You are not to take your neighbor’s life, or his wife. God’s law protects our life and our wife. It protects the individual and it protects the family. So let’s look at these two commands.
You Shall not Murder
The 6th commandment says, “You shall not murder.” In the King James Version it says, “You shall not kill.” The translators of the ESV in using the word murder, were trying to distinguish between lawful taking of life and unlawful taking of life, which is important to distinguish, because sometimes there is a time to kill. The death penalty is a legitimate taking of life for certain crimes. There are times of just war, where life must be taken. And sometimes self-defense requires the taking of life in certain scenarios. We see all of these things in other places in Scripture. However, the Hebrew word for “murder” here in the 6th commandment is a bit more broad than just murder, if murder is the premeditated taking of innocent life. Essentially, it would include manslaughter, which is carelessness or recklessness which kills someone. A modern example would be a drunk driver killing someone on the road. Or in the case laws of Israel, you have the parapet law. If someone died by falling off your roof because you didn’t have a parapet, or guard around it, you were liable. So the idea in this command is the protection of innocent life. So do not murder intentionally, AND do not be so careless with life, that you are liable for someone’s death.
God cares so much about protecting life because man is made in the image of God and that is not to be taken lightly. We see this in the Noahic covenant in Genesis 9:5-6, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’”
Thus, when man turns away from God, and turns away from God as the foundation for life, life is then less and less protected, because man is no longer viewed as being made in the image of God. Rushdoony says that man is depersonalized and thus expendable. You see this in pagan religions of human sacrifice, or in communist regimes, or in secular humanism.
Murder and Hatred of the Heart
This command to not murder is so basic to us as Christians today, that it can be tempting to hear this and think “Yeah, go get the pagans, and the communists, and the abortionists.” While indeed they are called to repent, the Word of God does not let us off the hook so easily. The problem with murder is not just the outward act of killing someone. The problem of murder starts in the heart.
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:21-22,
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire.
Jesus is basically saying, “If you think you are so righteous because you do not murder someone, you are missing the point.” Because if you have anger or hatred in your heart for your brother, you are liable to judgment. If you hate someone, you have murdered them in your heart. How can the Bible make such a claim? I think it was Paul Washer who said something similar to this: if you hate someone in your heart, you have the seeds of murder in your heart, because if there were no consequences, if no one would know, if you would not be judged by God for it, then in that hatred, you would kill that person. Thank God for outward restraints of law, government, authority, and consequences. We see this play out today in certain inner cities, for example, where the government does not prosecute murder, and the less that they do, the more bold men are to murder one another. And the hatred in YOUR heart, would drive you to do that too.
The apostle John says the same thing in 1 John 3:11-15,
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers,[c] that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
So how do we deal with this anger or hatred in our hearts? Jesus tells us there in Matthew 5, if you have anger or something against your brother, you go to him and you get it right, and you do it right away. You don’t let that anger fester. You don’t nurse sins in your heart, lest they grow and destroy you and your brother.
You know what else helps? Praying for that person. In prayer God can change that person, or most times, He will change you, and your heart toward them. Because if there is anger or hatred in our heart, we are a part of the problem that needs fixed.
While murder is one of the most destructive sins, and hatred toward the brethren is one of the most disgustingly hypocritical sins, they are not unforgivable sins. When Jesus tells us that the problem with murder is the anger in our hearts, that is bad news, and good news. Bad news because we are more sinful and murderous than we thought. But good news because Jesus changes our hearts. He gives us new hearts filled with love for one another. He forgives and totally redeems murderers such as the apostle Paul. Such as King David. Such as you and me.
One commentator leads us to Christ through the sixth commandment by saying, “Jesus’ entire life incarnates “Thou shalt not kill.” He doesn’t assault God’s image, but restores it. He doesn’t wound, but heals. He doesn’t take life, but gives it, abundantly. He doesn’t oppress, but liberates. His words…are words of life. Jesus [had] cause to defend himself and to seek vengeance. He has legions of angels at his command. Instead, Jesus gives Himself, suffers in silent patience, loves and asks forgiveness for his executioners. He doesn’t kill but dies a victim of murder, and so gives life.”
You Shall not Commit Adultery
The seventh commandment: You shall not commit adultery.
Autonomy and consent are the modern gods of sex. As long as those things are present, anything goes, we are told. But these are not the standards for God-ordained sex. It doesn’t matter if everyone involved wants to participate if God says that we are NOT to participate. Narrowly defined, adultery is a married person, or persons, having sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse. It is a violation of the marriage covenant and a devastating erosion to the institutions of marriage and the family. Sexual sin is not just something that affects ourselves, it also brings destruction on those involved, and aids in destabilizing societal order. It is an assault on the one-flesh union between a man and a woman before God. Any sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is prohibited because God cares about life, and adultery leads to death and destruction. In Israel, adultery was literally punishable by death. In forbidding adultery, God was protecting life by protecting you from the literal death penalty. But even in societies where adultery does not have the death penalty, adultery still leads to death and destruction.
We see this in Proverbs 5:1-6,
My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
2 that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
3 For the lips of a forbidden[a] woman drip honey,
and her speech[b] is smoother than oil,
4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to[c] Sheol;
6 she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.
Also, Proverbs 6:20-29,
My son, keep your father’s commandment,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they[d] will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
24 to preserve you from the evil woman,[e]
from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.[f]
25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,[g]
but a married woman[h] hunts down a precious life.
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
none who touches her will go unpunished.
We also see this in Proverbs 7, speaking of the young man following the adulteress, “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” God forbids adultery because He cares about protecting life. And when we stray from God’s law, and biblical wisdom, we are only led to death.
We live in a day in which the adulteress is everywhere seeking to catch our eye, tempt us, and lead us astray. We live in a very much undressed society. The adulteress is everywhere in all forms of media and entertainment crying out for our attention, online, or in the checkout line at the grocery store. It is as vital as ever that we fight without relenting to protect our eyes, ears, and thus our minds, and our hearts. This goes both ways for men and for women. It is not a joke or a joking matter. The Bible forbids crude joking among believers because it slyly trains us to take a weighty and serious thing lightly, and we can become reckless with something that leads to death. And as with murder, the problem of adultery is not just when the act is committed, but it starts in the heart.
Adultery of the Heart
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:27-30,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Once again Jesus is basically saying, “If you think you have kept this law, look in your heart.” It is so easy to let our eyes and minds wander, because we think that no one can see it. But God does, and eventually others will as well. Again, think of the example I gave earlier. If there is adultery in your heart, if you imagine yourself committing adultery, the seeds are there, that if all restraint, accountability, and everyone else’s knowledge and consequences were not there, you would do it, but for the grace of God.
Men AND women, guard your hearts, guard your minds, watch your steps, and do not follow the adulteress to death. And watch your dress, honor the marriage bed by covering yourselves in public, that you not be the adulteress, man or woman, leading another to death.
Do what you can to help protect your spouse, by giving one another your conjugal rights. Part of holding the marriage bed in honor is by using it and enjoying it together as God intended. Part of guarding and protecting yourself is by delighting in the wife of your youth and drinking deeply from your own well.
There is another kind of adultery we see in the bible and that is spiritual adultery. Israel played the harlot and whored after other gods the Bible says. They forsook the God of their covenant, and broke it, committing spiritual adultery. In this we see how intertwined the ten commandments are, for this kind of adultery is also idolatry. And so often it was that their idolatry was not only spiritual adultery against God, but physical adultery as well, with temple prostitutes and the like.
In James 4:4, James rebukes his readers, saying, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” As Christians we are to keep ourselves for our spouse, whether that is our earthly spouse, or Christ, of whom we are His bride. God is a jealous God and He will not share us with another, so we should be jealous for our spouse, which is to be utterly faithful in thought, word, and deed.
Before God’s law we are all condemned and guilty adulterers. Yet, thanks be to God, that is why Jesus came.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
If you have committed sexual sin, there is absolutely forgiveness and restoration in Jesus Christ. Jesus came not for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. He came for prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He came to forgive sin. He came to heal and restore those who were broken and lost in sin. He came to wash the dirty and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He came to restore order, to heal broken marriages, and to give us new desires.
Adultery is so serious because marriage is a picture of the gospel, and so adultery is a picture of a false gospel. But the shocking thing about the gospel is not that Jesus came to FIND a pure and spotless bride. It is that the Father sent His Son to REDEEM His bride from the depths of harlotry and impurity. The bride that the Father has for His Son is one that is impure and filthy in sin, but that the Son redeems, by dying for her. He takes the penalty of death for her adulterous ways. He takes all the cost upon Himself. He dies the death that she deserves, so that no matter how much she has sinned, she is forgiven. And this bride to be is taken and not left in the squalor of adulteries, but she is cleansed, she is washed in the water with the Word, made new by the spirit of God, washed through the waters of baptism, and covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The harlot who was covered in the filth of sin, is washed and covered by Christ and made spotless before Him.
Unlike our unfaithfulness, Christ is utterly faithful to His bride. He will never leave her or forsake her. He has seen her at her ugliest and worst, and loved her still, to make her His own. He keeps no record of her wrongs and holds not her sins against her, for her sins were nailed to the cross, as Christ her head was nailed there, to cancel the record of debts against her. Jesus commits no adultery, neither did He in His life, nor in His faithfulness to His people. And He takes all of ours and washes it away in His blood. Blood was required, Jesus gave His.
Maybe you have had a spouse commit adultery against you. You have felt that pain of such betrayal. Maybe you had parents that committed adultery. You have felt that pain of a broken home. Jesus is for you too. He knows what it’s like to have an unfaithful people, to be rejected by His own, betrayed. Yet, He did not, and does not, return sin for sin. Jesus is the faithful husband, pure and spotless. Jesus is the perfect man who faithfully delights in His people. He will never leave you nor forsake you.