“This is the law of jealousy in a case where a woman goes off and has an affair and defiles herself while married to her husband, or a husband is tormented with feelings of jealousy because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand in the presence of God and go through this entire procedure with her. The husband will be cleared of wrong, but the woman will pay for her wrong.” – Numbers 5:29-31, MSG
Today’s verses come from an obscure passage in Numbers. In this passage, a ritual is proscribed for dealing with suspected adultery in a wife. The result of this ritual–if the wife is guilty of adultery–is curses of either barrenness (a grave curse in Jewish culture as women were valued by the children they produced) or outright death as some may read the physical curse mentioned in the passage. Either way, the sin of adultery is taken very seriously and punished severely under the Law of Moses.
However, the end result of this trial is not my focus in today’s post. I am not looking at the punishment for adultery today.
My focus is how God assigns blame or guilt to use Biblical language. A popular approach to adultery–even in evangelical churches (as I and others have experienced)–is to treat the adultery as a result of two people’s choices. I call this the “shared responsibility lie.”
Sadly, Satan has been very busy selling this one with great success. Let me be crystal clear: It is a lie.
Notice the last part of the passage today. I will quote it from the New International Version:
The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.(Numbers 5:31).
This is a test for suspected adultery. What part of the guilt for adultery or suspected adultery does the husband bear?
That is absolutely no responsibility for the infidelity. Or to quote the Bible, the husband is “innocent of any wrongdoing” to be precise.
God does not say the priest needs to check to see if the husband was ignoring his wife and that caused her to commit adultery. Did he take too many business trips? That does not excuse adultery. God does not say the priest needs to weigh the husband to see if he let himself go and the wife loss sexual interest in him “needing” to go elsewhere. This is not about physical appearance the faithful spouse. God does not say to question the wife if she was “unhappy” in her marriage and needed some excitement. This is not a report card on the faithful spouse’s emotional availability.
When the question is about adultery, the focus is upon the spouse who chose to sin. And I would suggest this would be true today if the roles were reversed, and it was a husband who chose to cheat on his wife.
Throughout God’s word, He consistently judges the actions of the actors. The reason the husband is not to blame is that he did not commit adultery.
It is all pretty straight forward:
Did someone commit adultery?
Was it the husband or the wife?
She is 100% guilty.
The faithful spouse innocent.