In the tenth discourse, the teacher takes another pass at the issue of adultery. This time, it seems to be more intimate, more person than in chapter 5.
Verses 20-25 provide some transition from the previous discourse, reminding the student to take to heart the basic things that their parents taught them so lovingly; the most basic of all being that adultery is off limits.
For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread,
but another man’s wife preys on your very life.
Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.
As I read this, these verses are at the heart of the matter, for if it is just about sex, a prostitute is cheap enough; why destroy someone else’s family in the process? It doesn’t get any more personal than that.
A man who sleeps with another man’s wife strikes at the very heart of the other man, at his home, his family; at the very core of his life. When the injured party discovers this treachery, there will be a price to be paid. In the ancient world, this price could be execution, for a Commandment had been violated, but more commonly, the other man wouldn’t want that, for his wife would also be executed. No, his remedy might be just as personal against the man who violated his home. Beatings, disgrace, dishonor, all fully supported within the community would be likely to result. Who would ever trust the adulterer again? His whole family would be disgraced…
Why did those parents make such a big deal out of their insistence about not committing adultery? Because in those days, execution for the offense would have been the easy way out of the situation; that’s how big of a deal this was; in fact, it was such a big deal that we aren’t finished with the subject yet, for the next discourse deals with it as well.