“They said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.” (John 8:4-6)
The Sadducees and Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus while He was sitting and teaching in the Temple. No information is given as to how these religious leaders happened to catch the woman in the very act of adultery? Did they set up the whole scenario? We do not know. Additionally, where is the man she was with? No mention is made of him, either by John, the religious leaders or Jesus.
The religious leaders immediately wanted to know what Jesus would say about this situation. They referenced the Law of Moses that such women were to be stoned. The Old Testament references may have been Leviticus 20:10 and or Deuteronomy 22:22-24.
Leviticus 20:10 says, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
Deuteronomy 22:22-24 says, “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
However, even the casual observer must note that in both Old Testament references, the law indicates that both parties engaged in adultery were to be put to death. In the case of the situation recorded in John 8, only the woman is brought before Jesus. Where was the man who committed adultery with her? His absence, and John’s editorial comment that this was all a test in order to arrest Jesus, reveals the utter hypocrisy of the Sadducees and Pharisees.
Pastor Burk Parsons comments that, “John 8:6 confirms that these leaders were not concerned with justice. They brought the woman to Jesus to test Him, asking whether they should execute her as the law demands. From a human perspective, this put Jesus in a predicament. If He were to deny that she deserved death, He could be accused of taking the law lightly and might lose much of His Jewish audience. If He were to call for her execution, the religious authorities could complain to the Roman government that controlled the Holy Land that Jesus was calling for the Jews to do something only the Romans could do in that day, namely, enforce capital punishment. Seeing their trap, Jesus crouched down and began writing in the dirt, making them wait for His answer (v. 6).
We do not know what Jesus wrote on the ground and it is unwise to speculate. John Calvin writes, “By this, Jesus stooping down and writing on the ground, He intended to show that He despised them. Those who conjecture that He wrote this or the other thing, in my opinion, do not understand this meaning. For Christ rather intended, by doing nothing, to show how unworthy they were of being heard; just as if any person, while another was speaking to him, were to draw lines on the wall, or to turn his back, or to show, by any other sign, that he was to attending to what was said.”
Calvin concludes by saying, “Thus in the present day, when Satan attempts, by various methods, to draw us aside from the right way of teaching, we ought disdainfully to pass by many things which he holds out to us.”
Pastor Burk Parson’s writes, “Deuteronomy 16:20 stresses that the judges in ancient Israel were to pursue justice and only justice. The religious authorities who brought the adulterous woman before Jesus didn’t care about justice, for they went after the woman only and not the man she was sleeping with as well. As God’s people, we must be concerned with justice, with making sure that the innocent are protected and the guilty held accountable.”
Soli deo Gloria!