Q. John 8:1–11 tells about the accused woman who was dragged to Jesus because she had committed adultery. Jesus then wrote something on the ground. Do we know what He wrote?
A. No, the Bible doesn’t say. Bible teachers have offered several possibilities. We notice that whatever Christ wrote, the accusers were convicted and “went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (v. 9). What might have been written that silenced their boisterous finger-pointing words when they first came to Jesus with the woman?
One possibility is that He wrote the Commandments and the men’s names beside the ones they had broken. I have heard that Jewish priests had the practice of writing laws on the dust of the temple when people had broken them. Before writing, Jesus said to these accusers, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (v. 7). Exodus 31:18 states, “And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” These accusers might have recognized this passage and realized the finger connection and that they were breaking the laws of God too.
Another possibility is that Jesus, knowing all things, knew the names of women these men had themselves committed adultery with, and wrote them on the ground. Jesus also knew the men’s ages and could have written them down along with their names.
Some Bible teachers cite Jeremiah 17:13: “Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.” The accusers might well have been familiar with these words from the prophet. Christ was applying the passage to them and giving them the opportunity to repent. But sadly they instead went their way, being convicted, but failing to repent and accept their Messiah.
By the way, the accusers were breaking a law in itself by bringing only the woman to Jesus. Both the man and the woman were to be brought. Further, they brought no witnesses, another violation of the law.
The men left Jesus and the woman one by one, from oldest to youngest. We do not know the reason for that order. Perhaps the older the men were, the more conscious of their sins they were and thus the more anxious they were to get out of there.
Interestingly, this passage is the only one in Scripture mentioning that Jesus wrote something.
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