Understanding the Trap

When the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they were more interested in tricking Jesus than doing what was right.



There almost certainly must have been a trap set for the woman. Jewish law required that two witnesses actually see the physical act in order to convict someone of adultery. But, the equally guilty man was not arrested someone let him escape. Also, the woman’s husband was curiously absent from the scene. Further, Jewish procedure dictated that a person must be warned once and given a chance to repent before action is taken, but there is no hint of a warning. Finally, there was no need, other than vindictiveness against the woman that she be brought into the temple courts for public accusation.[1]



The scene was also a trap for Jesus. The Law of Moses commanded that the Jews stone not only such woman. The accusers deliberately used the famine form – but also the men involved (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22)* the legal experts ignored that aspect of the law. They also ignored the women’s right to a formal trail and execution, not merely stoning by a lynch mob. Jesus’ view on the Law were well known, and the accusers were probably confident that He would not endorse a death penalty for adultery with no chance of mercy. If He refused to pass any judgment, the women would be stoned and He would be tacitly responsible. But if He declared that she should not be stoned then He could be accuses of teaching against the Law.[2]


Leviticus 20:10 – “If a man is found having sexual relations with his neighbor’s wife both the man and the woman are guilty of adultery and must be put to death.”


Deuteronomy 22:22 – “If a man is found having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the woman and the man who had sexual relations with her must die. Get rid of this evil from Israel.”



[1&2] – Gospel according to John by Leon Morris

* – The New Century Version of the Youth Bible