Adultery and the Old Testament (3) – A Brief Note

Posted on February 22, 2011 by


[We will conclude our study with a final note on Jeremiah’s woe upon Ahab and Zedekiah.]

Adultery and Jeremiah

In Jeremiah 29.1-28 the prophet sends a letter from Jerusalem to the captives in Babylon encouraging them that they will return after 70 years, rebukes those who oppose the truth of God’s punishment upon Judah. Moreover, following these words, Jeremiah makes an oracle regarding the false prophets Ahab and Zedekiah (Jeremiah 29.20-23).

The Lord promises that these two would receive Babylonian execution in fire (Dan. 3.6). This would be orchestrated by the Lord’s providential hand (Jer. 29.21). In fact, their treachery and sinful behavior would become a curse among the exilic Israelites:

The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire, because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the LORD. (Jer. 29.22-23)

This language is as transparent as Leviticus 20.10 where Moses writes, “if a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

And, too, the Lord assures Jeremiahs readers that Zedekiah and Ahab would receive the death penalty even in Babylon. Representing the Lord falsely as a prophet (Jer. 29.21) and making adulterous conquests (Jer. 29.23) were met with divine hostility.


The Old Testament and New Testament are two testimonies that share the same conception of adultery, a behavior that Russell describes as, a “special and aggravated case of fornication.”[1] In a literal sense, adultery is sexual activity between a married person and a person who is not their spouse. As a spiritual metaphor, adultery is spiritual and moral activity contrary to God’s teaching and will – a spiritual betrayal.

This concept has not been altered or distorted through the passing of time; consequently, we have no right to redefine it in modern times, contemporary times, or in any subsequent generation to come, for God’s truth endures to all generations (Psa. 100.5). He means what he says. Heaven help us to keep it secure and unaltered in our minds.


  1. Emmet Russell in Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary (Gen. Ed. Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), 17.