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S4. Fornication: Engaging in Sexual Intimacy Outside of Marriage.    [Make a Comment]

We are not to engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 22:15(16)-16(17) (Maimonides RN355)
If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. But if her father refuses to give her to him, he must pay a sum equivalent to the bride-price for virgins.

Leviticus 19:29 (Maimonides RN355; Chinuch C570)
Do not debase your daughter by making her a prostitute, so that the land will not fall into prostitution and become full of shame.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (Maimonides RN355)
If a man comes upon a girl who is a virgin but who is not engaged, and he grabs her and has sexual relations with her, and they are caught in the act, then the man who had intercourse with her must give to the girl's father one-and-a-quarter pounds of silver shekels, and she will become his wife, because he humiliated her; he may not divorce her as long as he lives.

Deuteronomy 23:18(17) (Maimonides RN355; Meir MN133; Chinuch C570)
No woman of Isra'el is to engage in ritual prostitution, and no man of Isra'el is to engage in ritual homosexual prostitution.

Isaiah 23:17
And it shall be, at the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre. She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth.

Ezekiel 16:25-26
You built your high places at every streetcorner, turning your beauty into an abomination, spreading your legs for every passer-by, and multiplying your acts of fornication. You had sex with your big-membered Egyptian neighbors and engaged in fornication over and over, just to provoke me.

Ezekiel 16:29
You multiplied your acts of fornication with the land of traders, the Kasdim, and still weren't satisfied.

Ezekiel 16:34
You are the opposite of other women - you solicit the fornication, you aren't solicited; and you pay them, they don't pay you - you're the opposite!

Ezekiel 23:8-9
She did not give up the whoring she had begun in Egypt, where men had sex with her, fondled her virgin nipples and flooded her with their fornication. So I handed her over to her lovers, the men of Ashur she lusted after.

Ezekiel 23:18
Thus did she reveal her fornication and expose her private parts. When this happened, I was filled with revulsion at her, just as I had been filled with revulsion at her sister.

Ezekiel 23:27
Thus I will put an end to your lewdness and your fornication brought from the land of Egypt, so that you will no longer raise your eyes toward them or remember Egypt anymore.

Ezekiel 23:43
I thought, 'That woman! She's worn out from all her adulteries, but they still go to fornicate with her!'

Matthew 5:32
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery.

John 8:41
You are doing the deeds of your father. They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."

Acts 15:19-20
Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim who are turning to God. Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood.

Acts 15:28-29
For it seemed good to the Ruach HaKodesh and to us not to lay any heavier burden on you than the following requirements: to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will be doing the right thing. Shalom! MiztvahQuoteReference(Acts 21:25, , However, in regard to the Goyim who have come to trust in Yeshua, we all joined in writing them a letter with our decision that they should abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled and from fornication.)

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Don't you know that unrighteous people will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don't delude yourselves - people who engage in sex before marriage, who worship idols, who engage in sex after marriage with someone other than their spouse, who engage in active or passive homosexuality, who steal, who are greedy, who get drunk, who assail people with contemptuous language, who rob - none of them will share in the Kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 [NKJ]
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators ["people who engage in sex before marriage"], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 12:21
I am afraid that when I come again, my God may humiliate me in your presence, and that I will be grieved over many of those who sinned in the past and have not repented of the impurity, fornication and debauchery that they have engaged in.

1 Timothy 1:9-11
... knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

Hebrews 13:4
Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. But God will indeed punish fornicators and adulterers.

Revelation 14:8
And another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

Revelation 17:1-4
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication." So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.

Revelation 18:3
For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.

Revelation 18:9
The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning ...

Revelation 19:2
For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.

Supportive Scriptures

Matthew 15:19-20
For out of the heart come forth wicked thoughts, murder, adultery and other kinds of sexual immorality, theft, lies, slanders ... These are what really make a person unclean, but eating without doing n'tilat-yadayim does not make a person unclean.

Romans 1:26-28
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting

Romans 13:13-14
Let us live properly, as people do in the daytime - not partying and getting drunk, not engaging in sexual immorality and other excesses, not quarrelling and being jealous. Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Yeshua the Messiah; and don't waste your time thinking about how to provide for the sinful desires of your old nature.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5
It is actually being reported that there is sexual sin among you, and it is sexual sin of a kind that is condemned even by pagans - a man is living with his stepmother! And you stay proud? Shouldn't you rather have felt some sadness that would have led you to remove from your company the man who has done this thing? For I myself, even though I am absent physically, am with you spiritually; and I have already judged the man who has done this as if I were present. In the name of the Lord Yeshua, when you are assembled, with me present spiritually and the power of our Lord Yeshua among us, hand over such a person to the Adversary for his old nature to be destroyed, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13
In my earlier letter I wrote you not to associate with people who engage in sexual immorality. I didn't mean the sexually immoral people outside your community, or the greedy, or the thieves or the idol-worshippers - for then you would have to leave the world altogether! No, what I wrote you was not to associate with anyone who is supposedly a brother but who also engages in sexual immorality, is greedy, worships idols, is abusive, gets drunk or steals. With such a person you shouldn't even eat! For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Isn't it those who are part of the community that you should be judging? God will judge those who are outside. Just expel the evildoer from among yourselves.

1 Corinthians 6:13
"Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food"? Maybe, but God will put an end to both of them. Anyhow, the body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.

1 Corinthians 6:18-19
Run from sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the fornicator sins against his own body. Or don't you know that your body is a temple for the Ruach HaKodesh who lives inside you, whom you received from God? The fact is, you don't belong to yourselves

1 Corinthians 10:8
And let us not engage in sexual immorality, as some of them did, with the consequence that 23,000 died in a single day.

Galatians 5:19
And it is perfectly evident what the old nature does. It expresses itself in sexual immorality, impurity and indecency

Ephesians 5:3
Among you there should not even be mentioned sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or greed; these are utterly inappropriate for God's holy people.

Colossians 3:5
Therefore, put to death the earthly parts of your nature- sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (which is a form of idolatry)

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
What God wants is that you be holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to manage his sexual impulses in a holy and honorable manner, without giving in to lustful desires, like the pagans who don't know God.


Fornication is sexual intimacy (sexual contact of any kind) between a man and a woman who are not married to each other. One immediately notices that the definition is quite broad and encompasses adultery, prostitution, and having sexual relations with prohibited persons such as family members. Since these other categories are dealt with separately in this compilation, this Mitzvah on fornication will focus on what the Bible has to say about sexual intimacy between two unmarried persons where prostitution (conveyance of value for sex) is not involved. This kind of fornication sometimes occurs between individuals who intend to marry, in which case it is called "premarital sex," but it also occurs in casual dating.

There are two things that make writing this Mitzvah on fornication a challenge. The first is that there is no Hebrew or Greek word in the Bible that means "fornication" and nothing else. The other is related to it; it is that different translators of the Bible have decided how and when to use the word "fornication," and some English translations (e.g. the NIV) opt to use other words and do not use the word "fornication" at all. For the above reasons, the approach to this subject I have chosen is to list and discuss Scriptures that use the word "fornication" regardless of the English translation from which they come.

In all cases where fornication is mentioned in the English Bible, it either prohibits sex outside of marriage, or it is analogized to another activity with which God is displeased. This negative attitude toward (or prohibition of) sex apart from marriage is inferred by Scriptures in which a high value is put on a woman's virginity. An example of such a Scripture is Leviticus 21:13:

"He [the High Priest] is to marry a virgin ..."

Another example is Deuteronomy 22:28-29:1

If a man comes upon a girl who is a virgin but who is not engaged, and he grabs her and has sexual relations with her, and they are caught in the act, then the man who had intercourse with her must give to the girl's father one-and-a-quarter pounds of silver shekels, and she will become his wife, because he humiliated her; he may not divorce her as long as he lives.

The lesson learned from these Scriptures is that sex between a man and a woman outside of marriage is displeasing to God if not outright prohibited; nevertheless, the word "fornication" is not used.

1. See also, Deuteronomy 22:13-17 and Revelation 14:3-4.

Classical Commentators:
Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch all wrote mitzvot prohibiting having sexual intercourse outside of marriage.


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