Instructions on Sexuality in the Old Testament
So then, what does the Law say? Probably the best known prohibition in this area is one of the first ten commandments: “Do not commit adultery” (Deuteronomy 5:18). (Adultery is defined as a married person having sex with someone who is not their spouse.) In Leviticus 18, a list of other unlawful sexual relations are enumerated. Those acts prohibited are primarily incest, bestiality, adultery, homosexuality, and prostitution. (The punishment for these are described in chapter 20.)
In both Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:16, marriage is commanded for unmarried/un-engaged people who have sex. In Deuteronomy 22:13-27, if a woman is discovered to have had sex before marriage, stoning (execution) is commanded (for both her and the man, except for the case of rape, where only the rapist is condemned). Leviticus 21:13-15 is also an interesting passage. It commands that priests are only to marry virgins.
It’s true that you won’t find a passage in the bible which clearly states that it’s wrong for unmarried people to have sex. Yet as can be seen from the above commands, it seems marriage and sex are intended by God to be closely related. In many of the commands, marriage and sexual relations are written into the same sentence. I believe this also demonstrates the close association between the two.
So how much of this still applies today? (The Mosaic Law isn’t in effect over those of us who are not Jews, so for example, I’m not asking whether or not we should still enforce the punishments prescribed in the Law. What I’m asking is what principles of sexual immorality still apply?) One thing that could cause modern application problems comes in trying to discern the reason God closely connects sex and marriage. Does it have to do with social factors which would not be as much of an issue today? For example, would a woman who is not a virgin have a hard time getting married and therefore be taken care of? Or are these laws simply meant to differentiate Israel from pagan worship practices? Other laws we can look at and see the reasons for them regarding health, idol worship, and social care that may not be issues today in our culture.
If we would discover reasons for tying sex and marriage together which are separate and not intrinsically tied to those sex and marriage, and if we could determine that those reasons were no longer applicable today, we might be able to say that sex apart from marriage isn’t a big deal. However, I don’t know how we would go about definitively determining the reasons God so closely associates sex and marriage. So I’m going to go ahead and believe that the principles behind these laws are still valid. I know many people want to find a way to explain away sexual morality. However I believe a real solid argument is needed in order to do so, and I haven’t heard one yet.