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What The Adulterous Woman In The Bible Can Teach Us About Mercy

There are so many Bible stories that can inspire and change us, and the story of the Adulterous Woman In The Bible is no exception. It is through this story that we get a wonderful picture of God’s mercy and great compassion for us His children. 

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A Lesson In God’s Mercy The Adulterous Woman In The Bible

John 8 maybe a well know Bible story but there is so much to glean from this story. The adulterous woman in the Bible is a beautiful picture of forgiveness and mercy that each of us could learn from. 

Where In The Bible Is The Woman Who Committed Adultery?

The story of the adulterous woman in the Bible can be found in a short passage of John chapter 8. The story spans 11 verses and is a wonderful picture of God’s mercy toward us, to save us while we were still sinners and make us a new creation. While this story is small, and we have no back story to who this adulterous woman in the Bible is we can however find hope in the adulterous woman’s encounter with Jesus in John 8. 

Woman Caught In Adultery Scripture

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:2-11 NIV

How Does God Feel About Adultery?

Before we dive into the story of the adulterous woman in the Bible let’s talk a little about God’s heart on the matter. God hates adultery and tells us this in many places throughout the Bible including the verses:

  • You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14 NIV
  • But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.  Proverbs 6:32
  • For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” Matthew 15:19–20 NRSV
  • Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Hebrews 13:4

Adultery goes against His plan for marriage and leaves behind broken hearts, marriages, trust, and families. It is not only a sin against the husband or wife but against God and His law which much be kept and upheld. 

What Is The Punishment For Adultery In The Bible

Adultery was a very serious crime in Biblical times that held a very serious penalty, death. Everyone in that time would have known the sentence adulterous woman in the Bible would have received and yet they brought her to Jesus.

Who Was The Woman Caught In Adultery In The Bible?

The Bible doesn’t tell us who the adulterous woman in the Bible in John 8 is, in fact, we don’t know a whole lot about her. Many people have speculated about her identity, however. Sadly her name and much of her story save this encounter with Jesus are lost to time. We don’t know what brought her to this moment where she discovered God’s overwhelming mercy. We don’t know what choices she made after this predestined encounter, only that she appears in John 8 and disappears in the cloaks of time just as quickly. 


The Story Of The Adulterous Woman In The Bible

The adulterous woman in the Bible had been dragged before Jesus as a test. She knew her guilt, knew their accusations were true. The crowd knew her sins, and even more than that Jesus saw her sins. He knew every decision this woman in the Bible had ever made. He had known her since she was an infant in her mother’s womb, He’d followed her every step along the way to adulthood and even to this very moment. He’d seen it all. Witnessed His lost child stumble and fall, His heartbroken for Her. Waiting for her to realize that He’d been there the whole time. 

Her sins were like scarlet and the law said she must be punished. I think it’s interesting that the Bible makes no mention of her crying, or begging. She’s resigned to what she knows she deserves. She doesn’t ask for mercy, doesn’t plead that she’s a mostly good person- and still Jesus in His great mercy, and compassion meets her in the dusty streets of the New Testament. 

Why Did The Pharisees And Scribes Bring The Woman To Jesus?


The Pharisees and Scribes would have been well versed in the law and known the penalty for adultery according to the law of Moses. And yet they brought this woman caught in adultery in the Bible to Jesus and asked Him what He said they should do. To the observant reader reading John 8 several things stick out when the religious leaders bring this woman to Jesus. 

  • They know the law of Moses, they had been brought up and trained for their roles from a young age so they would never have needed to get Jesus’s opinion.
  • If this woman was in fact caught in the act, then where is the man?

The fact that the religious leaders only brought the woman who committed adultery (when under the law both she and the man would be punished), attests to the fact that they had no real interest in justice. Instead, they brought the woman to Jesus as a trap.

If Jesus were to tell them to follow the law of Moses and call for her execution, the religious leaders 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. While if Jesus said to show her mercy for her sins He would be accused of taking the law lightly. 

He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone

To the religious leaders this looked like the perfect trap to discredit Jesus, but what they didn’t know is this moment had been ordained since the begining of time. He was here for her, the adulterous woman in the Bible. He knew it was a trap when He journey to this area, and still He came. Like the man living amungst the tombs He had come to seek her out, to find her right here in this moment. 

The voices of accusation, rejection, and condemnation all were silenced as He stooped -the creator of the Universe- and slowly began to run His finger through the soil that He had spoken into existance. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The accusers fell silent in His presence, at the weight of His words. Every sin marked in bold, all the masks ripped away to show the dirt beneath, the things they tried so hard to hide.

People are quick to judge, the slightest hint of a blemish and they gather like hungry vultures. They draw up battle lines and prepare to destroy – all in the name of the preserved blight, never mind mercy, never mind whether it’s true or not. Never mind how many skeletons they hide. God knew her sins, knew her guilt in bold brush strokes nothing was hidden from him. He saw every tear, every choice, every place she had fallen, every alley she’d stumbled through- but He also saw theirs.

As they stood there, stones of judgment clutched tightly in their hands ready to condem the adulterous woman in the Bible. Instead they came face to face with their own sin, the spots they hadn’t turned over to Him. They saw just how dirty their own hands were. They became uncomfortably aware that they were just like this woman, their whitewashed lives were filled with just as much dirt and grime. There sins were just as unforgivable as this adulterous woman in the Bible. 

What Did Jesus Scribble In The Sand?


The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus scribbled in the sand when they brought the adulterous woman in the Bible to Him. Many have speculated over the years that He was writing the sins of those in the crowd in the dirt. However we don’t know what He wrote, whatever it was coupled with His words convicted their hearts enough that they dropped their stones and left. 

What Does It Mean To Cast The First Stone?

Jesus told the crowd in John 8 “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Meaning whoever that has not ever sinned, who is pure and blamless and perfect in every way could throw the first stone at the adulterous woman in the Bible. No man or woman is completely free from sin, so no one in that crowd was eligible to throw the first stone- only Jesus could do that. And He chose to show her God’s mercy.

God’s Mercy Toward The Adulterous Woman In The Bible

The adulterous woman in the Bible was everything they said and yet Jesus showed her mercy- can you imagine her reaction to those words? As she looked around- and found, no one. Her accusers had all left, disappeared convicted of their own blemishes, their own sins glaring and unignorable leaving her at her Savior’s feet. Six words, twenty-four letters, and with those unassuming words he wiped it all away, swept her record clean – removed the bruised, worn, broken places- and set her free.

What Does The Story  Of The Adulterous Woman In The Bible Teach Us?

We can learn so much about God’s mercy from the adulterous woman in the Bible. Forget the world, your would-be accusers, and fall at your Savior’s feet. Fall into His grace and mercy, let Him wipe it all away, sweep clean your slate, remove the bruised and broken places and set you free. Let Him close the chapter with Himself, and open a fresh page. A new beginning, just like the adulterous woman in the Bible.


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