The Seventh Commandment reads, “You shall not commit adultery.” The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Ten Essential Words.
We read in Genesis:
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So Yahweh God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then Yahweh God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Several principles can be taken from this account. First, God created the male and female species to be compatible with each other. Observing the other creatures in the Garden, Adam was somehow incomplete without the woman: “but for Adam no suitable helper was found.” Author Marvin Wilson writes, “Through marriage one learns the uniqueness of maleness and femaleness by the one being matched to the other.” Second, marriage is a re-creation of the original act of creation. Far more than a contractual agreement, marriage has in its origins a bonding together of two people – socially, sexually, spiritually, and emotionally: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Lastly, the marriage relationship would become the most important earthly relationship in human society, even above other familial relationships: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.” Since the Fifth Commandment already upheld the importance of family, the only reason God would call them away from their family of origin would be to engage in another relationship of the utmost spiritual significance – marriage! We could say more about this passage, but whether it is taken to be literal or figurative, the creation story framed the significance of marriage in Israelite society.
It is the framing of this command prohibiting adultery in the context of the creation story that moves it past the issue of simple property law to the protection of a sacred institution. In fact, the sacredness of this institution can be found in its mirroring of the giving of the Law. Again, Marvin Wilson, who explores the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, writes, “The rabbis regarded the Jewish marriage service as reflecting the main features of God’s covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai. The covenant ceremony of marriage was seen as a replica or reenactment of what happened at Sinai. It was designed to be a reminder of that basic covenant obligation which binds God to his people.” If the giving of the Ten Commandments was central to the relationship between Yahweh and the Israelites, marriage was a constant reflection of the centrality of that relationship.