What Did Jesus Write in the Dirt?

If you’ve ever read the story about the woman caught in adultery, you know that the Jews who wanted to stone her walked away after Jesus bent down and wrote something in the dirt. The Gospel never tells us what he wrote, but by putting together four different scriptural clues, Jeff thinks he’s got a pretty good guess. Find out Jeff’s take on the story, and how his interpretation shows God’s desire to free you from shame.


John 8
  • John 8:3-11 – “3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?’ 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8 And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.’”
  • The woman felt shame. What is shame?
    • Shame is how we feel when something that should have been private is made public.
    • It is very painful.
What did Jesus write and how can we know?
  • If we know how Jesus teaches us it gives us clues.
    • Jesus used the Remez (to hint) teaching style with the accusers.
  • This story is set up starting in John 7.
    • John 7:37-39 – “37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. 38 He who believes in me, as[a] the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
      • Clue Number 1: “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.”
        • Every day during the feast of Tabernacles they would pour out jars of water as libations.
        • It is during this time that Jesus says this clue.
      • John 7:40-44 – “40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ 41 Others said, ‘This is the Christ.’ But some said, ‘Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?’ 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.”
        • Clue Number 2: They are rejecting him
      • John7:45-53 – “45 The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why did you not bring him?’ 46 The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this man!’ 47 The Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you led astray, you also? 48 Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, who do not know the law, are accursed.’ 50 Nicode′mus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 ‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?’ 52 They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee.’ 53 They went each to his own house”
        • Clue Number 3: They are trying to shame a woman.
      • John 8 picks up after they went to their own homes in John 7
        • They return and bring the woman
        • Jesus does not respond to their accusation but begins writing in the dirt.
        • The fact that they leave, starting with the oldest, is another clue
          • Jesus is hinting back to the old testament
What was Jesus hinting at?
  • Jeremiah 17:13- “13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake thee shall be put to shame; those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.”
    • This is about Judah’s shame of because of their own unfaithfulness.
    • Jesus was writing their names in the dirt which is a reference to this passage.
Why did Jesus send them away?
  • He wants us to bring him our shame
  • He wants to be the one to forgive us.

More Great Resources from Jeff

Find free blogs, videos, and resources about Scripture and the Catholic faith at http://biblestudyforcatholics.com/.

Learn more about The Great Adventure Bible Timeline and preview any study for free.

For an easy way to transform your approach to reading Scripture, check out Jeff’s Bible Timeline Chart.

For an illustrated resource introducing God’s love story to children while helping them to understand how the Catholic Church is the body of Christ on Earth try The Great Adventure Storybook.

We’d Love to Hear from You

Do you have comments or questions for Jeff? Use the comment box below, or email Jeff at thejeffcavinsshow@ascensionpress.com. You may hear your question or comment in an upcoming podcast episode!

Listen and subscribe:

iTunes | Stitcher Soundcloud | Google Play

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Never Miss an Episode!

Get show notes, exclusive bonus content, and more sent straight to your inbox.