Contend Earnestly: God's View on Divorce: Part I

Monday, July 14, 2008

God's View on Divorce: Part I

This is something that myself and one of my friends were talking about the other day, in relation to what is permissible under God's laws and the NT and then also what is permissible as far as remarriage. I figured I would do a short series on it and see what we can get as far as discussion. So, please, comment away and we'll try and search the Scriptures together to see if we can come to a conclusion.

Let's start in Deuteronomy 24:1-4

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house,and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife,and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife,then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

At first glance, what do these verses seem to make okay? It seems to make okay the idea of divorce okay, so we need to take this verse for what it actually says, and not what the Pharisees took it to mean.

To understand verse 1, we must first understand where Moses is coming from back in these days of the middle east: divorce ran rampant, it wasn’t a big deal. You could basically do it for any reason you found fit. The man could just up and write a writ of divorce, then if he decided to later, remarry, divorce her again, find a new wife, divorce her, etc.

We see that these were petty reasons because of what we see here in the first verse. Notice that it says that the husband finds no favor in his wife anymore, or finds some indecency in her. Some have thought that the term indecency used here means that maybe the wife cheated on her husband or found that she really wasn’t a virgin when he married her. So, some have said, if the husband found out those things he could divorce her, but what do we find happens, in the Old Testament, if someone is found to be an adulterer or fornicator?

If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Leviticus 20:10

Basically, Moses is saying, if you divorce your wife because you feel like it here are some rules for you to follow concerning it.

So, we can see that what is happening in the days of Moses, is exactly like what is happening today. What is the most famous term used today for divorcing someone? "We just fell out of love" or "we had irreconcilable differences."

So, the first verse gives the action that is happening in the house of Israel, namely that people are getting divorced because of petty things and so Moses is going to set up some laws and have some pretty crazy words for those who get divorced for petty reasons and then get remarried.

So what do we find the situation has become in verses 2 and 3?

We see that after the divorce that the woman has become married to another man and then, that man has either divorced her or died.

What is the law concerning the first husband? Is he to marry her again? No.


Here are the words that are very harsh, yet true of the one who has divorced and the one who has married the divorced person.

Moses says that the woman has been defiled, therefore the man also is defiled.

The term defiled means to be unclean and is the same term when used in both Leviticus 18:20 and Numbers 5:13,14 when it says that the one who commits adultery is defiled.

So, Moses is saying that if one is divorced and remarries that both the man and the woman that remarry are committing adultery. We’ll get to the two ways that divorce is permitted in the NT, but these are not even represented here.

Divorce was happening for no reason in Israel and so Moses says, if you do it for these stupid, petty reasons, it is the same as committing adultery.

Does Moses ever say that divorce is permitted? No, but he knew that the tradition of divorce was so rampant that people would keep doing it, so he puts some serious laws on those who decided to get divorced.

In Malachi 2:16 God says, For I hate divorce. So, we know that Moses is not being flippant about divorce here or even permitting it in a lawful sense.

Now Moses says, basically, if you do it, you have to be single for the rest of your life or you are an adulterer.

You think this will slow down some of these divorces that were happening?

Here is what Christ says about the same thing:

but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Matthew 5:32

This is what Christ says about marriage. It is so important that if one decides to get divorced besides unchasity, and you get remarried, you are an adulterer. Those are some very harsh words, so we must ask, “why?”

That is what we'll cover in the next post.


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