Chapter 6


  Definition of Metaphorical Fornication   
  Old Testament Usage of Metaphorical Fornication  
  New Testament Usage of Metaphorical Fornication  
  Definition of Metaphorical Adultery  
  Old Testament Usage of Metaphorical Adultery  
  New Testament Usage of Metaphorical Adultery  

- Definition of Metaphorical Fornication -

There is a figure of speech that plays an important role in understanding sexuality in relation to GOD.   In Scripture, fornication and adultery are used in relation to GOD by way of a figure of speech called metaphor.   GOD employs the words used primarily to describe physical sexual relations through an implied comparison.  HE utilizes fornication and adultery to illustrate how HIS people (Israel) had corrupted their spiritual relationship with HIM.  To further understand this concept, let us begin by examining a definition of metaphorical fornication according to biblical usage:

The commission of idolatry through the pursuit of other gods, illustrated as physical fornication.

Before delving into the specific usages of metaphorical fornication and adultery, some additional material must be added to our foundational understanding.  The "pursuit of other gods" needs to be addressed in order to understand the relationship between the utilization of fornication and adultery as they relate to idolatry.  Only then can we truly appreciate the lessons being taught and understand their meaning.  We will explore metaphorical fornication first and address metaphorical adultery at its proper place in this Chapter.

In order to understand the metaphorical usage of fornication, we should have a clear understanding of its physical or fleshy side.  This we have endeavored to do in Chapter 2.  We will expound on the groundwork previously laid in order to understand its counterpart.

Physical fornication was exemplified through the activity of secular and temple prostitutes.  For both classes of prostitutes, the principal goal was some type of material gain.  Financial gain would satisfy the desires of the secular prostitute but what of the temple prostitute?  Temple prostitution was one of the core concepts in pagan idol worship.  This was particularly true for fertility rites and festivals and these have been celebrated by various cultures since the fall of man (Genesis 3).  The common thread, as we continue to develop the idea, is that of material gain.

Temple prostitution and its associated religious activities were designed to secure the favor or elicit the activity of a god or deity in one's material life.  Those who used temple prostitutes had a material life that consisted of land and animals as well as households.  Their livelihoods and even their very lives were dependent on the prosperity of their agriculture and livestock.  Indeed, their children would help ensure laborers to till the ground, tend the livestock and inherit the property and perpetuate the family at the appointed time.

Most if not all of the pagan religions were polytheistic.  They had multiple gods or idols at any given time.  The Ammonites worshipped Molech and Chemosh.  For these and other nations (i.e., Canaanites, Moabites and Egyptians), their gods arose from the essentials of creation (e.g., sun, earth, sky, moisture or rain and even the air) and were believed to control the elements.  They had gods who ensured the fertility of the land and the reproduction of the people and animals.  Ashtaroth was one of these as was Baal.  Gods like Dagon were consulted to obtain advice on military actions (i.e., war).

The underlying theme in relation to these gods or idols and their worship was to please and appease.  If the worshippers could just DO something for these gods, it was believed that they could secure from them all that they needed for life and daily living (i.e., fertility for the people, land and animals; sunshine and rain for agriculture; plenty of food for livestock; and even victory when war broke out).  It was these "gods many and lords many" from whom pagan cultures believed they obtained their safety and well-being.

It was the influence of these pagan nations that brought the people of Israel from being a monotheistic nation believing and serving the LORD GOD of the Bible to one caught up in and promoting polytheistic idolatrous practices (e.g., 1 Kings 11:7).  When the LORD GOD brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, they were to be a separated people.

Lev 20:22-24  Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.  (23) And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.  (24) But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.

Ps 106:34-39  They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them:  (35) But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.  (36) And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.  (37) Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,  (38) And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.  (39) Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.

As aforementioned, the one element that is common to all fornication is that of GAIN.  To make the comparison, a prostitute secures material gain through sex.  The sexual relationship is the vehicle but not the goal.  This is the allurement of physical fornication; a means to have more.  However, spiritual fornication is the method of securing material gain from an idol through worship.  The act of worship is the vehicle but not the goal.  The allurement of spiritual fornication is the same; the attempt to obtain more.

Ezek 23:5-7  And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours,  (6) Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses.  (7) Thus she committed her whoredoms with them, with all them that were the chosen men of Assyria, and with all on whom she doted: with all their idols she defiled herself.

There was an attraction to the people of Israel; something pleasant or desirable.  That which promotes physical fornication is some type of material advantage.  Israel desired what the nations around them had.  The appeal to the senses is always for more.  There is no settling for the "bare minimum" or that which is "just sufficient."  Spiritually, the people of Israel were never satisfied with what the LORD GOD gave them; they always wanted more.  It was what they heard and what they saw that fed their lust for more.  They imagined they could secure this through worshipping the gods of other nations.  Add sex with temple prostitutes to the formula and you have a nation given to idolatry.  Indeed, "godliness with contentment is great gain" (cp. 1 Tim 6:6; Heb 13:5; Matt 6:33).  Consider the following;

Neb 15:37-41  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  (38) Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:  (39) And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:  (40) That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.  (41) I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.

Neb 25:1,2  And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.  (2) And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.

Ps 106:15  And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

Neb 21:5  And the people [Israel] spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

Deut 8:2-3  And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.  (3) And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Neb 33:50-55  And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,  (51) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;  (52) Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:  (53) And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.  (54) And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.  (55) But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.

Ezek 23:11  And when her sister Aholibah saw this, she [Aholah] was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms.

It is the "inordinate love" with idols we have been speaking about with regard to metaphorical fornication.

Ezek 23:22-23  Therefore, O Aholibah, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy mind is alienated, and I will bring them against thee on every side;  (23) The Babylonians, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them: all of them desirable young men, captains and rulers, great lords and renowned, all of them riding upon horses.

Hos 9:1  Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.

The "reward" was what Israel had attempted to secure from idols through their metaphorical fornication.  Understanding the influence that pagan idol worship had on the people of Israel and what they had hoped to gain through their participation will shed further light on the usage of metaphorical fornication throughout the scriptures.

- Old Testament Usage of Metaphorical Fornication -

Ex 34:10-17  And he [the LORD] said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.  (11) Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.  (12) Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:  (13) But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:  (14) For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:  (15) Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring [Hebrew zanah] after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;  (16) And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring [Hebrew zanah] after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring [Hebrew zanah] after their gods.  (17) Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.

This is the first metaphorical occurrence of the Hebrew word zanah.  It relates to Moses’ seventh assent of Mount Sinai (vs 1) and occurred shortly after the golden calf incident, in which the people committed idolatry (Ex 32).  The covenant of Jehovah was reestablished and HIS commandments were repeated (vss 10-26).  HE gives them the solemn warning (vs 12) to "take heed" (Hebrew shamar), meaning to beware or to be on guard 94 so as to avoid making a covenant with the inhabitants that the LORD purposed to drive out.  "Covenant" is the Hebrew berith, meaning a treaty, alliance or pact. 95  The children of Israel were not to make a treaty with these inhabitants for the LORD said, "They will be a snare [Hebrew moqesh, to bait or lure; therefore, causing injury96] among you (NIV)."

The Israelites were to "destroy their altars," "break their images [sacred pillars or stones (NIV)]" and "cut down their groves [Hebrew ‘asherah: wooden poles carved from trees as the symbol of a penis (phallus) with the image of the sex goddess Asherah]." 97  The altars, images, and groves were paraphernalia used by the inhabitants in their idol worship.

It is GOD who deserves worship, for HE is the one that took care of them.  This is why HE says, "Thou shalt worship no other god; for the LORD . . . is a jealous God."  Vss 15 and 16 are a divine warning similar to vs 12 and expose the idea of the snare more fully.  As previously mentioned, establishing a covenant with the inhabitants would lure the children of Israel into idolatrous practices.  The usage of whoring or prostitution is seen in relation to the religious activities of these inhabitants as they worship their gods.  Israel was forbidden to make intermarriages between other nations 98 and any alliance, here, would encourage intermarriage with the Canaanites (vs 16).  Such intermarriages would lead the sons of Israel to commit idolatry (through spiritual fornication).

Lev 17:7  And they shall no more [no longer (NIV)] offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring.  This shall be a statute forever unto them throughout their generations.

This is an address from the LORD via Moses to "Aaron . . . his sons, and . . . all the children of Israel" (vss 1 and 2) regarding the offerings or sacrifices, unto the LORD, and their appointed place.  Verse 7 implies that they must have previously partaken in sacrificing unto devils (e.g., before they came out of Egypt, to the goat image Pan 99 ; cp. Josh 24:14; Ezek 20:7; 23:3; II Chron 11:15).  The word "devils" is the Hebrew sa`ir, meaning he-goat or satyr (see Isa 13:21; 34:14); an imaginary demon, half-goat and half-man.  Whoring (fornication) is a metaphor, here, for idolatry.  It was these devils or satyrs whom they worshipped and with whom they committed idolatry.

Jer 2:20  For of old time I [should read you 100] have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest [Hebrew tsa'ah, to bend or stoop; hence, to lie down 101], playing the harlot [Hebrew zanah].

A prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the Judeans illustrates an idolatrous crime (vss 10-28).  Bands were the restrictions or prohibitions that GOD had placed as boundaries for the good of the people of Israel to prevent them from straying into idolatry.  They said, "I will not serve you (NIV)" to the idols and yet "upon every high hill and under every green tree" the people were committing idolatry.  The high hills and green trees were the places of idol worship. 102  Illustrating a harlot's activities in lying down and comitting fornication depicts their idolatry.  The Judeans idol worship is portrayed as spiritual fornication.

We suggest an additional examination of Ezek chapters 16 and 23 which are enlightening and illustrate quite vividly the use of the term harlot in a metaphorical sense.  This will further help the reader understand what it means to metaphorically play the harlot and commit whoredom.

Lev 20:1-6  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  (2) Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.  (3) And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.  (4) And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:  (5) Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring [Hebrew zanah] after him to commit whoredom [Hebrew zanah] with Molech, from among their people.  (6) And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring [Hebrew zanah] after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.

This passage illustrates unlawful defilements concerning worship of the idol Molech and witchcraft.  The sacrifice of children to the king-idol Molech (god of the Ammonites) was common in Phoenicia and the surrounding area. 103  The punishment for those who committed this deed was death by stoning (vs 2) and being severed from the covenant people (vs 3).  If the punishment (i.e., stoning) was not executed, either due to indifference to or approval of the guilty party's offence, the LORD said HE would "set my face against that man and his family" and "cut him off" from the community of Israel.

Verse 6 illustrates other things one could go a whoring after, such as familiar spirits and wizards, which are displeasing to the LORD.  The familiar spirits (one of the types of devil spirits) impersonate dead human beings.  They attach themselves to mediums and spiritualists or any who will give up their free will to them.  A greater appreciation of this can be obtained by examining the record of Saul and the woman of Endor in I Sam 28.  The wizards, or " knowing ones," are those who are involved in and have knowledge of the occult. 104   To "go a whoring after them" was to seek to obtain knowledge and wisdom from them rather than the LORD GOD.  This substitution is ever so close to the heart of man.

Ps 106:19-20  They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.  (20) Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.

Ps 106:28-29  They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.  (29) Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.

Gal 5:19-20  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  (20) idolatry, witchcraft,…

One way to show spiritual corruption in relation to idolatry was for GOD to use an understandable term that would communicate an illicit spiritual relationship with someone or something rather than HIMSELF.  HE chose fornication to demonstrate Israel's attempts to secure benefits through worshipping other gods just as a prostitute would secure gain through sex with men.

Num 15:37-41  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  (38) Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes [tassels (NIV)] in the borders [corners] of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:  (39) And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:  (40) That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.  (41) I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.

Laws regarding dress are stated in this chapter.  The tassels were to keep the people focused on the word of the LORD and remind them to obey it.  If the children of Israel did not remain focused on the LORD, through the tassels, they would seek after whatever their heart could contrive or imagine, or follow after whatever their eyes saw to be desirable as a god.  The LORD, HIMSELF, says that the heart and eyes are used by people to stray from HIM and commit idolatry.  "Seek" is the Hebrew tuwr and means to espy, explore or check out.  They were instructed not to follow the leading of their heart and eyes.  Their curiosity in the idolatrous affairs of the nations that surrounded them only served to promote spiritual whoredom.

Jud 2:16-19  Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges [those who put right what was wrong], which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.  (17) And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.  (18) And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.  (19) And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

This section displays the apostasies of the children of Israel.  In vss 11 through 13, the people committed evil in the sight of the LORD and served Baalim (the many idols representing Baal).  They forsook the LORD and served Baal and Ashtaroth.  As alluded to earlier, Baal was a god worshiped by the Canaanites and Phoenicians.  They believed that he gave fertility to the womb and life-giving rain to the soil.  Ashtaroth was the goddess of fertility and war. 105  The people of Israel were delivered into the hands of their enemies because they forsook the LORD and the worship due HIM and sought a spiritual relationship elsewhere.  They continued to repeat a cycle (i.e., apostasy from GOD >>> oppression from others >>> repentance >>> deliverance by GOD through a judge >>> apostasy from GOD, etc.).  When there was a judge, the people were delivered.  However, when the judge died, the people consciously decided to return to idolatry (vss 18 and 19).  [For more information regarding consequences concerning metaphorical fornication, examine:  Deut 31:9-21, Jer 2:31-3:11, and Nah 2:11-3:7.]

Hos 1:2  The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea.  And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.

We mention the book of Hosea because of the peculiar command given to this prophet.  There is much debate regarding the literal vs. symbolic marriage of Hosea with a "wife of whoredom (fornication)."  GOD either gave Hosea a command that was literally fulfilled (Hosea married a harlot) or, through a prophetic vision, gave him a command illustrating the stark reality and spiritual condition of the nation of Israel.  Some authorities maintain that Gomer became unfaithful after her marriage to Hosea. There is much conflicting opinion, and each scholar takes his own viewpoint.  However, GOD is quite clear within the Scriptures as to the immorality of fornication and adultery.

- New Testament Usage of Metaphorical Fornication -

The New Testament usage of metaphorical fornication is limited to the book of Revelation, in which many Old Testament prophecies will have their fulfillment.

Rev 17:1-5  And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgement of the great whore [Gk. porne] that sitteth upon many waters:  (2) With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication [Gk. porneia], and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication [Gk. porneia].  (3) So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  (4) And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication [Gk. porneia]:  (5) And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS [Gk. porne] AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

This section symbolically portrays Babylon as a whore or harlot who commits fornication.  Babylon is depicted as a harlot because it was the beginning (the major producer) of all idolatry or systems that supported false worship.  All such systems substitute another god made by man's imagination for the GOD of the Bible. 106  Lacking contentment, man sought to satisfy his desires by "sleeping with another" and thus forsaking GOD.  He believed giving his worship to other gods could fulfill his lust.  Such fall prey to "BABYLON THE GREAT."

- Definition of Metaphorical Adultery -

As word usage shows, the biblical definition of metaphorical adultery is:

The commission of idolatry by way of the fracture of a vow of faithfulness (obedience) to GOD [to keep the LORD as their GOD], illustrated as a wife breaking her marriage vow of sexual faithfulness to her husband.

The concept of metaphorical adultery shares a similarity to that of metaphorical fornication.  It is the worship of idols in order to obtain an anticipated or desired result (material benefit).  However, the difference lies in the fact that the vow of spiritual faithfulness must be broken in order to have metaphorical adultery.  As we study the scriptures, it will become evident that Israel became as a wife to the LORD GOD.  As such, the nation would come to understand that spiritual intercourse with idols or other gods constituted spiritual adultery.  In other words, by implication, the consequence would be no different than when a husband or wife had sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse.

- Old Testament Usage of Metaphorical Adultery -

Jer 3:6-11  The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.  (7) And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me.  But she returned not.  And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.  (8) And I saw [should read, though she (Judah) saw107], when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery [Hebrew na'aph] I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.  (9) And it came to pass through the lightness [light-heartedness or carelessness 108] of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery [Hebrew na'aph] with stones and with stocks.  (10) And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.  (11) And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

Idolatry is depicted as metaphorical adultery for the children of Israel were espoused to the LORD (2:1-3).  Their crime of idolatry is illustrated in 2:10-28, 33-37.

Jer 3:1  If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again?  Would not the land be completely defiled?  But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers--would you now return to me? declares the LORD.  (NIV)

Jer 3:2-5  Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with.  In the ways hast thou set for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.  (3) Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hast a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.  (4) Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?  (5) Will he serve his anger forever?  will he keep it to the end?  Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.

In chapter 3:1, the LORD uses the provision man demanded (Deut 24:1-4) to help illustrate HIS situation with Israel as the husband with a wife.  After everything that Israel had done, the LORD was willing to forgive her spiritual unfaithfulness and asked her to come back.

Jer 3:8-9  And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery [Hebrew na'aph] I had put her away, and had given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.  (9) And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery [Hebrew na'aph] with stones and with stocks.

Adultery is used because, within the context, a marriage existed with the LORD as the husband and Israel together with Judah as the bride.  There was a breach of the vow of faithfulness by Israel (constituting metaphorical adultery) in breaking the first and second command of the covenant (Ex 20:3, 4).  The Mosaic legislation never encouraged, enjoined or approved the idea of divorce but tolerated the practice and gave certain rules to follow if a divorce took place 109.

Judah did not learn from the error that Israel committed but instead, fornicated (played the harlot) also.  Judah cared little for maintaining her spiritual commitment with the LORD and so, committed adultery with stones and with stocks.  There is a figure of speech, here, called metonomy (of the cause), in which the "wood" and "stocks [stones]" are put for the things made from them; hence, idols. 110

Ezek 23:36-45  The LORD said moreover unto me: Son of man, wilt thou judge Aholah and Aholibah?  yea, declare unto them their abominations;  (37) That they have committed adultery [Hebrew na'aph], and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery [Hebrew na'aph], and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them.  (38) Moreover this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths.  (39) For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of mine house.  (40) And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger was sent; and, lo, they came: for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments,  (41) And satest upon a stately bed, and a table prepared before it, whereupon thou hast set mine incense and mine oil.  (42) And a voice of a multitude being at ease was with her: and with the men of the common sort were brought Sabeans from the wilderness, which put bracelets upon their hands, and beautiful crowns upon their heads.  (43) Then said I unto her that was old [Hebrew baleh, old or worn out111] in adulteries, Will they now commit whoredoms with her, and she with them?  (44) Yet they went in unto her, as they go in unto a woman that playeth the harlot: so went they in unto Aholah and unto Aholibah, the lewd women.  (45) And the righteous men, they shall judge them after the manner of adulteresses [Hebrew na'aph], and after the manner of women that shed blood; because they are adulteresses [Hebrew na'aph], and blood is in their hands.

Israel and Judah are portrayed, figuratively, as two sisters, Aholah, representing Samaria or Israel, and Aholibah, representing Judah (vss 1-4).  In dealing with these sisters, a graphic picture is painted regarding illicit sexual activity, which figuratively refers to their idolatry.  Even so, there is both literal and metaphorical usage here.  The physical, or literal, adultery in the first part of vs 37, "that they have committed adultery," is connected with bloodshed or killing.  In the second part of vs 37, metaphorical adultery is referred to as "with their idols they have committed adultery." This is connected with passing their children through the fire in sacrifice to the king-idol Molech.  This may be more clearly seen by examining the structure below;

Extended Alternation: A.  Physical adultery (vs 37a)
B.  Slain children: murdered physically
       (blood in hands) (vs 37a)
A.  Spiritual adultery (vs 37b)
B.  Slain children: offered spiritually 
       (passed through the fire) (vs 37b)

In vs 43, the LORD, via Jeremiah the prophet, said "about the one worn out by adultery, 'Now let them use her [Aholah and Aholibah] as a prostitute [fornicatress], for that is all she is' (NIV)."  The extent of their spiritual intercourse with other gods was so extensive that it had exhausted their strength.  Because their participation had continued for so long, it would have been virtually impossible for them ever to stop. 112  Verse 44 uses fornication to demonstrate how the two invited these other gods into their lives to obtain all they had to offer.  However, vs 45 demonstrates their breach of spiritual faithfulness to the LORD through adultery.

- New Testament Usage of Metaphorical Adultery -

Matt 12:38-45  Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.  (39) But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  (40) For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  (41) The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.  (42) The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is. here.  (43) When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he [the unclean spirit] walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.  (44) Then he [the unclean spirit] saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.  (45) Then goeth he [the unclean spirit], and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.  Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Certain of the scribes and Pharisees were seeking a sign or miracle from Jesus to prove that He was the Messiah.  Verse 38 is really a temptation rather than a quest for knowledge (cp Matt 16:1 and Luke 11:16).  It is evident from Old Testament history that the Jewish nation was both evil and adulterous (metaphorically).  He responds by saying that the only sign these people were going to receive was that of the prophet Jonah.  Verse 40 states the quotation from Jonah 1:17, which spoke prophetically of Christ's burial for three days and three nights.  Jesus makes the point that they would receive no sign other than the testimony of the Scriptures themselves.  The spiritual condition of the nation of Israel is depicted as being adulterous.  They had broken their vow of faithfulness (obedience) to the LORD and continued in idolatrous practices.  They were always seeking for signs to confirm their beliefs.  When GOD did not give them everything they wanted, they looked elsewhere to satisfy their selfish desires.

The next occurrence of metaphorical adultery is James 4:4.  Its context and chronological position place it within the Pentecostal Dispensation.  Therefore, the term "adulteresses" must be understood considering the reoffering of repentance to the nation of Israel as occurred during the Acts period; Israel was still primarily in view.  In our dispensation of grace, there is no usage of metaphorical adultery or fornication as these terms are only applicable to Israel.

Rev 2:22  Behold, I will cast her [Jezebel] into a bed, and them that commit adultery with [Gk. meta (genitive case), among, amid and in company with 113] her into great tribulation, except they repent of their [should read, her 114] deeds.

This is concerning the antitype of the Jezebel of the Old Testament.  Jezebel, who was the wife of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat (see I Kings 16:30-34 and 21:25) will have a fulfillment, or portrayer of her activities in the period of Revelation; hence, antitype.  The Old Testament Jezebel was involved in and promoted Baal-worship.  She will be a model for the one yet to come.  The figurative bed into which she is cast, and also her followers, is one of sickness and tribulation.  Her associates are those that commit spiritual adultery with her.  She was an idolatrous woman who promoted and undermined the people's faithfulness to the LORD.  Many joined with her in idol worship and practices.  They will be cast into a bed with her unless they repent of their [her] deeds.  The NIV gives a clearer translation of this vs:

So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.

- Conclusion -

We believe we have provided enough Scriptural background and understanding of metaphorical fornication and adultery that one may search out the other usages and form accurate conclusions.  To reiterate, metaphorical fornication shares a vehicle and goal just as physical fornication.  To understand this in relation to prostitution is essential if one is to take home the lesson.  Israel used worship as a means to obtain favor, blessings and advice from the gods and idols of other nations.  The LORD GOD never intended this to be so and warned of consequences if Israel did not follow HIS specific instructions.  GOD's concept of a virginal, spiritual purity was mocked and Israel suffered for it.  Metaphorical adultery differs in this respect; a vow to the LORD GOD was broken by the people of Israel who had spiritually become HIS wife.  Such a vow to be faithful was to be of the same character as that which existed between a husband and wife.  Israel again belittled the commitment they had made with the LORD GOD and had spiritual intercourse with the gods of other nations.  They gave their worship to idols and thought the care they would receive from the same would surpass that which the LORD GOD provided.  Scripture and history demonstrate that they were wrong.

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