The Reproach of Adultery
30Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; 31But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.
1. Solomon speaks about the sin of stealing.
a. Men do not despise a thief when he steals a loaf of bread when he is hungry.
b. The passage seems to be speaking about an otherwise honest man, who has fallen into hard times, and has no food to eat… so he steals. Perhaps he steals because his children are hungry.
c. This is not a drug addict stealing to support his habit; or a slothful man stealing because he is too lazy to work. This is not a bank robber who steals in order to get rich quick.
d. It is a poor man… who is hungry. He steals just enough to eat and cause the hunger pains to go away… and perhaps some for his family to eat.
e. Men do not despise such a person.
• His actions are understandable…
• We can easily forgive such a man…
• A judge in court would probably be quite lenient on such a man.
• This is not the kind of crime that would cause a public outcry of rage against the man.
• People might despise a bank robber who steals their hard earned money… but most people wouldn’t despise a hungry man who stole a loaf of bread.
2. However, Solomon is not condoning such behavior! (vs. 31)
a. It is still sin. This is not a matter of situational ethics. Stealing a loaf of bread is sin whether we are hungry or not.
b. There is no such thing as a set of circumstances in which it is OK to sin… to break God’s commandments.
c. Thus, Solomon states that this man is to restore sevenfold.
d. In fact, if caught, he is to restore sevenfold, even if he has to empty the contents of his house to pay for his crime!
e. The law was quite strict about such crimes. (Ex. 22: 1,3,4) Sometimes the punishment would be according to what the judge decided.
f. Stealing was wrong. It was a violation of the ten commandments. It was sin… and there were no excuses for it… not even hunger.
3. The main point of these verses is this: if a hungry man steals, it is sin, and there are consequences and punishment according to the law if he is caught.
a. You will be punished. The Law does not excuse your behavior.
b. BUT—on the other hand, men WILL have mercy. Most men will be sympathetic to such a man. Men will forgive such actions. Most men would say, “There but for the grace of God go I!”
c. Jas. 2:13 – Mercy rejoices over judgment. There are times when judgment might be appropriate, but mercy is better. A man who steals a piece of bread is such an example. (cf. vs. 15-16)
d. Men are much more likely to show forgiving mercy rather than severe judgment on such a situation.
e. The thief who repents will receive forgiveness from God and from men.
4. At first glance, these two verses seem out of place in the context of the chapter.
a. From vs. 24-29 – Solomon had been speaking about the evil woman and the sin of adultery.
b. Then in vs. 30-31, he seems to suddenly interject a command concerning stealing a loaf of bread.
c. And following this passage on stealing, he reverts back to the topic of adultery.
32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. 33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.
1. BUT—Solomon had just mentioned stealing… BUT in contrast to stealing a loaf of bread, is the sin of adultery.
2. Actually, the verses on stealing were not just a diversion of thought, but are PART OF his teaching on adultery.
3. BOTH sins are in essence, stealing… a loaf of bread… and stealing a man’s wife.
4. BOTH acts are sinful.
5. BOTH are forbidden in the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not steal.” “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
6. BOTH sins can be forgiven by God upon repentance.
7. However, there is one huge difference.
a. Men won’t despise a thief who steals bread when hungry… when he hungers and lusts for food.
b. But men WILL despise the man who hungers and lusts after his neighbor’s wife… and commits adultery!
c. The sin of committing adultery is not like stealing a loaf of bread. It is far worse.
• A loaf of bread stolen might be a nuisance. But it can easily be replaced… restored as the breadbox was before. (Our dog stole 6 muffins off the counter one day. We forgave him.)
• When you steal a man’s wife and commit adultery—that can never be restored as it was before.
• If a man stole a loaf of bread and was caught, the people from whom he stole would probably have given it to him any way! Not so with a man’s wife.
• Even beyond bread—anything physical can be replaced. (car; house; machinery; jewelry; gold nuggets)
• It is one thing to put your hands on another man’s property. It is another thing altogether to put your hands on his wife!
• The husband/wife relationship is a sacred thing. Hands off!
8. The man who commits adultery lacks understanding.
a. He does not understand that pleasure of sin lasts but a few moments… but the consequences –the shame, guilty, and reproach go on and on!
b. He does not understand that he is being enticed to bite a hook… like a fish going for the bait—only to be hooked.
c. He does not understand his sin will find him out.
d. He does not understand that such a woman will reduce him to a piece of bread. (vs. 26)
e. He does not understand that by taking hot coals in his bosom, he is going to get burned.
f. He doesn’t understand that he is really being led like an ox to the slaughter (7:22).
g. Therefore, he is called a FOOL repeatedly.
9. The man who commits adultery destroys his own soul.
a. The man who commits adultery thinks it is going to be nothing but pleasure. He is dead wrong. It will destroy his soul.
b. Just like the man who turns to drugs for comfort, excitement, or pleasure. It starts off as fun, but soon becomes destructive. So too with the sin of adultery.
c. Prov. 5:22 – he shall be holden with the cords of his sin… enslaved by it…
d. Prov. 8:36 – but it is especially destructive, because it is sin against God.
• Remember what Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife? “Shall I do this great evil and sin against God?
• It destroys our relationship to Him. It’s not worth it. RUN!
10. A wound and dishonour shall he get. (vs. 33)
a. Prov. 5:11 – it can destroy the body physically with disease.
b. But worse than the physical sickness is the dishonor and shame it brings.
c. It brings a wound to the soul! (Ps. 38:1-8 – David’s inward wound after his sin with Bathsheba.)
11. His reproach shall not be wiped away. (vs. 33)
a. People will never forget David’s sin with Bathsheba. This reproach just doesn’t go away. (I Kings 15:5)
b. Men will forgive and forget the sin of the man who steals a loaf of bread when he is hungry. But it is far more difficult to forgive and forget the sin of adultery.
c. This reproach will haunt him for years and years.
d. It is NOT the unpardonable sin. God will forgive… but men will not forget. (That’s why it is NOT a good idea to receive men back into the pastorate after they have committed adultery—men don’t forget!)
34 For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.
1. The consequences of adultery are far worse than of stealing bread… and longer lasting.
2. The jealousy and rage of the man whose wife was stolen… he will not spare in his vengeance.
a. He will not spare—he will stop short of nothing—even killing the adulterer!
3. There is nothing the adulterer can do to make it up to him either.
a. You can restore a stolen loaf of bread—even sevenfold.
b. But you cannot restore this situation… though you try with a ransom and with large gifts.
c. The man offended will never be able to look at the man who committed adultery against him without thinking of the adultery… even after many long years.
4. Thus, Solomon teaches his son about long lasting consequences of the sin of adultery. His hope is that his son will listen and spare himself from guilt and shame.
a. Listen to the words of Augustine: “When that which delighteth is soon gone, that which tormenteth remaineth without end.”
b. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”
c. Listen to the words of Joseph: “Shall I do this great evil and sin against God?”
d. Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
e. We would do well to take heed. FLEE youthful lusts.