There are a couple of ways tradition had veered away from the Torah and altered the consequences for committing adultery by Yeshua’s time.
The first major difference is that only women needed to fear the accusation of adultery.
This was wrong.
Let’s revisit Leviticus 20:10
“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife,
that is, with the wife of a fellow countryman,
both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”
It clearly says that BOTH the married woman and the man who participated in the adulterous act are to be put to death.
But that wasn’t happening in Yeshua’s time.
In Yeshua’s time, the charge of adultery had become a joke because everybody was doing it (kind of like our modern times I guess).
See, here’s the thing.
Although the Torah clearly calls for the death of penalty of BOTH parties (the man and the woman) for committing adultery, the harsh death penalty consequences had been replaced by divorce.
In other words, the situation had sadly evolved to the point that when a man got tired of his wife, he would simply make up an excuse that he suspected his wife of committing adultery and then up divorcing her.
No evidence (in other words witnesses) of adultery was necessary.
So these were the two main ways tradition had veered away from Torah concerning adultery.
The first way was that men were simply no longer accused of adultery in spite of the Levitical ruling that plainly says BOTH THE MAN AND THE WOMAN ARE TO BE EXECUTED.
And the second way was that divorce had replaced adultery as the form of punishment for adultery.
Again, understand that this was pure tradition and NOT Torah!
This is just one instance of many where over time tradition had begun to override God’s true Torah and Yeshua spoke out violently against this.
Understand that Yeshua was NEVER against Torah.
Quite the contrary actually, his mission was to lead Israel to return to the pure unadulterated (pun intended) truth of God’s Word.
Now one interesting question is why was it decided to replace Torah-ordained execution with divorce?
The answer is quite simple actually.
Adultery had become so ridiculously commonplace that men decided that sentencing a woman to death was way too harsh.
Given how rampant adultery was, executions would probably have to be performed on a daily basis.
This was the sad trend of the times in Yeshua’s day when the men hauled the alleged adulteress over to Yeshua to be judged.
Given that there was not even a hint that the woman had admitted to her supposed crime, she should have been taken to the priests to have the Numbers 5 water ordeal performed on her.
Now some may ask was this water ritual in Numbers 5 still active in Yeshua’s time?
Because we’re talking about a full 1300 years after this law was first established.
Well, according to the documented historical evidence, the answer is YES, this water ordeal ritual was still being practiced in Yeshua’s time.
Check out this excerpt from the MISHNAH.
“SHE BEGAN THE TRANSGRESSION WITH THE THIGH etc. Whence is this? Shall I say because it is written: When the Lord doth make thy thigh to fall away and thy belly to swell? But it is likewise written: Her belly shall swell and her thigh shall fall away! — Abaye said: When [the priest] utters the curse, he first curses the thigh and then curses the belly; but when the water produces its effect it does so in its normal order, viz., the belly first and then the thigh. But also in connection with the curse, it is written: Make thy belly to swell and thy thigh to fall away!— That is what the priest informs her, viz., that it affects her belly first and then the thigh so as not to discredit the water of bitterness.”-Sotah 9
Here’s the thing.
Yeshua was crucified about 40 years BEFORE the above was written.
So we know that this Numbers 5 water ritual was in use in his day.
And we also know that a certain Rabbi Yochanon Ben Zakkai eventually outlawed this water ritual sometime before 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the temple.
Why did Rabbi Yochanon Ben Zakkai decide to outlaw this water ordeal.
Check out this bit I pulled from http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/sotah-hot-topic/.
“Indeed, a Tannaitic tradition, given in the name of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, maintains that the ritual was discontinued because “adulterers proliferated.”
It was just as I said.
This water ritual law was so misused and abused by husbands simply because they wanted to get rid of their wives that they would force them to go through this Numbers 5 water ritual and regardless of the outcome divorce their wives anyway.
This was a really convenient copout on the husband’s part.
Because God knows how many years it would take to find out if his wife had been cursed with barrenness for her alleged crime of adultery and the husband didn’t wanna sit around waiting.
Boy, how the sickness of men’s hearts causes even the misuse and abuse of God’s Word.