That they might have to accuse him - Had our Lord condemned the woman to death, they might have accused him to Pilate, as arrogating to himself the power of life and death, which the Romans had taken away from the Jews; besides, the Roman laws did not condemn an adulteress to be put to death. On the other hand, if he had said she should not be put to death, they might have represented him to the people as one who decided contrary to the law, and favored the crime of which the woman was accused.
With his finger wrote - Several MSS. add their sins who accused her, and the sins of all men. There are many idle conjectures concerning what our Lord wrote on the ground, several of which may be seen in Calmet.
We never find that Christ wrote any thing before or after this; and what he wrote at this time we know not. On this the pious Quesnel makes the following reflections: -
"1. Since Jesus Christ never wrote but once that we hear of in his whole life; 2. since he did it only in the dust; 3. since it was only to avoid condemning a sinner; and, 4. since he would not have that which he wrote so much as known; let men learn from hence never to write but when it is necessary or useful; to do it with humility and modesty; and to do it on a principle of charity. How widely does Christ differ from men! He writes his Divine thoughts in the dust: they wish to have theirs cut in marble, and engraved on brass." Schools for children are frequently held under trees in Bengal, and the children who are beginning to learn write the letters of the alphabet in the dust. This saves pen, ink, and paper.
Tempting him - Trying him, or laying a plan that they might have occasion to accuse him. If he decided the case, they expected to be able to bring an accusation against him; for if he decided that she ought to die, they might accuse him of claiming power which belonged to the Romans - the power of life and death. They might allege that it was not the giving an opinion about an abstract case, but that she was formally before him, that he decided her case judicially, and that without authority or form of trial. If he decided otherwise, they would have alleged that he denied the authority of the law, and that it was his intention to abrogate it. They had had a controversy with him about the authority of the Sabbath, and they perhaps supposed that he would decide this case as he did that - against them. It may be further added that they knew that Jesus admitted publicans and sinners to eat with him; that one of their charges was that he was friendly to sinners (see Luke 15:2); and they wished, doubtless, to make it appear that he was gluttonous, and a winebibber, and a friend of sinners, and disposed to relax all the laws of morality, even in the case of adultery. Seldom was there a plan more artfully laid, and never was more wisdom and knowledge of human nature displayed than in the manner in which it was met.
Wrote on the ground - This took place in the temple. The “ground,” here, means the pavement, or the dust on the pavement. By this Jesus showed them clearly that he was not solicitous to pronounce an opinion in the case, and that it was not his wish or intention to intermeddle with the civil affairs of the nation.
As though he heard them not - This is added by the translators. It is not in the original, and should not have been added. There is no intimation in the original, as it seems to be implied by this addition, that the object was to convey the impression that he did not hear them. What was his object is unknown, and conjecture is useless. The most probable reason seems to be that he did not wish to intermeddle; that he designed to show no solicitude to decide the case; and that he did not mean to decide it unless he was constrained to.
Again the priests and rulers proceeded to lay plans for arresting Jesus. It was urged that if He were longer left at liberty, He would draw the people away from the established leaders, and the only safe course was to silence Him without delay. In the full tide of their discussion, they were suddenly checked. Nicodemus questioned, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” Silence fell on the assembly. The words of Nicodemus came home to their consciences. They could not condemn a man unheard. But it was not for this reason alone that the haughty rulers remained silent, gazing at him who had dared to speak in favor of justice. They were startled and chagrined that one of their own number had been so far impressed by the character of Jesus as to speak a word in His defense. Recovering from their astonishment, they addressed Nicodemus with cutting sarcasm, “Art thou also of Galilee? Search and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” DA 460.1
Yet the protest resulted in staying the proceedings of the council. The rulers were unable to carry out their purpose and condemn Jesus without a hearing. Defeated for the time, “every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.” DA 460.2
From the excitement and confusion of the city, from the eager crowds and the treacherous rabbis, Jesus turned away to the quiet of the olive groves, where He could be alone with God. But in the early morning He returned to the temple, and as the people gathered about Him, He sat down and taught them. DA 460.3Read in context »
The Feast of Tabernacles had just ended. The priests and rabbis at Jerusalem had been defeated in their plottings against Jesus, and, as evening fell, “every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.” John 7:53; 8:1. MH 86.1
From the excitement and confusion of the city, from the eager crowds and the treacherous rabbis, Jesus turned away to the quiet of the olive groves, where He could be alone with God. But in the early morning He returned to the temple; and as the people gathered about Him, He sat down and taught them. MH 86.2Read in context »