Do Not Commit Adultery

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Dec 1, 2014

The Best Way to Protect the Family
Why do the Ten Commandments single out adultery as particularly harmful? Because adultery can destroy the foundational unit of a society -- the family. If exposed, adultery leads to a sense of betrayal. If hidden, it forces the offending spouse to lie. Children are often the unintended victims. This may be one of the most difficult Biblical laws to follow, but it's also one of the most important.

The life of deception an adulterous affair entails inevitably damages a marriage—even if the betrayed spouse is unaware of the affair.

  • Dennis Prager points out that it even affairs that are never discovered gravely damage marriages because they require “that the adulterous partner lives a fraudulent life. When a husband or wife is having sex with someone other than their spouse, their thoughts are constantly about that other person and about how to deceive their spouse. The life of deception that an adulterous affair necessarily entails inevitably damages a marriage even if the betrayed spouse is unaware of the affair.”View Source
  • Studies have found that less than a third of marriages (31%) last after an adulterous affair has been admitted or discovered. Another lasting consequence is children: 1 in 40 (2.5%) children are born out of infidelity.View Source
  • Related reading: Infidelity – American Association of Marriage and Family TherapyView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

The Commandment prohibiting adultery doesn't come with an asterisk saying that adultery is OK if both spouses agree to it. 

  • Dennis Prager notes that the Commandment to not commit adultery does not provide any exceptions for permissive partners: “Spouses who have extramarital sex with the permission of their husband or wife may not hurt their spouse's feelings, but they are still harming the institution of marriage. And protecting the family, not protecting spouses from emotional pain, is the reason for the commandment.”View Source
  • Studies have found that less than a third of marriages (31%) last after an adulterous affair has been admitted or discovered. Another lasting consequence is children: 1 in 40 (2.5%) children are born out of infidelity.View Source
  • Related reading: Infidelity – American Association of Marriage and Family TherapyView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

No higher civilization can be made or can endure that condones adultery. That is why it is prohibited in the Ten Commandments.

  • Dennis Prager on the importance of the Commandment not to commit adultery: “Why is adultery prohibited in the Ten Commandments? Because, like the other nine, it is indispensable to forming and maintaining higher civilization. Adultery threatens the very building block of the civilization that the Ten Commandments seeks to create. That building block is the family – a married father and mother and their children. Anything that threatens the family unit is prohibited in the Bible. Adultery is one example. Not honoring one's father and mother is another. And the prohibition on injecting any sexuality into the family unit – incest – is a third example.”View Source
  • Studies have found that less than a third of marriages (31%) last after an adulterous affair has been admitted or discovered. Another lasting consequence is children: 1 in 40 (2.5%) children are born out of infidelity.View Source
  • Related reading: Infidelity – American Association of Marriage and Family TherapyView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

God specifically forbids committing adultery because it threatens the family—and the family is essential to a healthy society. 

  • Dennis Prager maintains that God specifically forbids adultery because it threatens the “building block” of civilization, the family: “Why is the family so important? Because without it, social stability is impossible. Because without it, the passing on of society's values from generation to generation is impossible. Because commitment to a wife and children makes men more responsible and mature. Because, more than anything else, family meets most women's deepest emotional and material needs. And nothing comes close to the family in giving children a secure and stable childhood.”View Source
  • Studies have found that less than a third of marriages (31%) last after an adulterous affair has been admitted or discovered. Another lasting consequence is children: 1 in 40 (2.5%) children are born out of infidelity.View Source
  • Related reading: Infidelity – American Association of Marriage and Family TherapyView Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

Less than a third of marriages survive after an adulterous affair. In other words, if you want to keep your family together, don’t cheat!

  • Studies have found that less than a third of marriages (31%) last after an adulterous affair has been admitted or discovered. Another lasting consequence is children: 1 in 40 (2.5%) children are born out of infidelity.View Source
  • Multiple national studies have shown that about 1 in 5 people have committed adultery – around 15% of women and 25% of men. The numbers are about 20% higher if you include emotional intimacy outside of the marriage, a total of around 40% of marriages suffering either physical or emotional infidelity.View Source
  • Dennis Prager maintains that God specifically forbids adultery because it threatens the “building block” of civilization, the family: “Why is the family so important? Because without it, social stability is impossible. Because without it, the passing on of society's values from generation to generation is impossible. Because commitment to a wife and children makes men more responsible and mature. Because, more than anything else, family meets most women's deepest emotional and material needs. And nothing comes close to the family in giving children a secure and stable childhood.”View Source
  • Related reading: The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Think a Second Time – Dennis PragerView Source

There is an old joke about The Seventh Commandment, "Do Not Commit Adultery."  Moses comes down from Mount Sinai, and announces:  "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I got Him down to ten. The bad news is that adultery stays." 

The joke is telling. The prohibition on a married person having sexual relations with anyone except his or her spouse may be, for many people, the most consistently difficult of the Ten Commandments to observe.  The reasons shouldn't be hard to guess. 

One is the enormous power of the sex drive. It can be very hard to keep in check for the entirety of one's marriage -- especially when an attractive outsider makes him or herself sexually or romantically available.  Another reason is the human desire to love and be loved. For normal people, there is no more powerful emotion than love. If one falls in love with someone while married, it takes great effort not to commit adultery with that person. And if we add in the unfortunate circumstance of a loveless marriage, adultery becomes even more difficult to resist. That's why the joke with which I began is funny -- because it reflects truth. 

Why is adultery prohibited in the Ten Commandments? Because, like the other nine, it is indispensable to forming and maintaining higher civilization.  Adultery threatens the very building block of the civilization that the Ten Commandments seeks to create. That building block is the family -- a married father and mother and their children.  Anything that threatens the family unit is prohibited in the Bible. Adultery is one example. Not honoring one's father and mother is another. And the prohibition on injecting any sexuality into the family unit -- incest -- is a third example.

Why is the family so important? Because without it, social stability is impossible. Because without it, the passing on of society's values from generation to generation is impossible. Because commitment to a wife and children makes men more responsible and mature. Because, more than anything else, family meets most women's deepest emotional and material needs. And nothing comes close to the family in giving children a secure and stable childhood. 

And why does adultery threaten the family? The most obvious reason is that sex with someone other than one's spouse can all too easily lead to either or both spouses leaving the marriage. Adultery should not automatically lead to divorce; but it often does.  There is another reason adultery can destroy a family. It can lead to pregnancy and then to the birth of a child. That child will in almost all cases start out life with no family -- meaning no father and mother married to each other -- to call his or her own. 

And if adultery doesn't destroy a family, it almost always does terrible harm to a marriage. Aside from the sense of betrayal and loss of trust that it causes, it means that the adulterous partner lives a fraudulent life. When a husband or wife is having sex with someone other than their spouse, their thoughts are constantly about that other person and about how to deceive their spouse. The life of deception that an adulterous affair necessarily entails inevitably damages a marriage even if the betrayed spouse is unaware of the affair.

Finally, the Commandment prohibiting adultery doesn't come with an asterisk saying that adultery is OK if both spouses agree to it.  Spouses who have extramarital sex with the permission of their husband or wife may not hurt their spouse's feelings, but they are still harming the institution of marriage. And protecting the family, not protecting spouses from emotional pain, is the reason for the commandment. 

Many marriages, sadly, are troubled. And it is not for any of us to stand in judgment of others' behavior in this realm. No one knows what goes on in anyone else's marriage. And if we did, we might often well understand why one or the other sought love outside the marriage. But no higher civilization can be made or can endure that condones adultery. That is why it is prohibited in the Ten Commandments.

I'm Dennis Prager.

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