Today, we are going to take just a bit of a detour to discuss in detail what the Bible says about divorce.
Mat 19:1-9 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. 3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
The Pharisees had a convenient misunderstanding of a passage in the Old Testament. Deu 24:1-4 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
The main point of Deut. 24 is not divorce. The main point is remarriage after a divorce has occurred. So, the passage is not condoning divorce in any way like the Pharisees assumed. It is merely acknowledging that divorce does happen.
The passage is not about adultery either. Adultery was a capital offense and there were no rules ever given for how an adulterer was to get remarried. As a matter of fact, there was no remarriage, for the guilty partner, because they were put to death. Deu 22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
If you look at the text in Deuteronomy 24, it is actually speaking of divorces that occurred as the result of some “indecency” or “uncleanness”. Some have said that the “indecency” or “uncleanness” is referred to in Deu 23:14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee. However, it’s pretty clear from the context that it is referring to the proper way to go to the toilet and not marriage, let alone divorce. However, over the years the Pharisees had come up with their own definition of “indecency” or “uncleanness” and it included everything from burning the beans to an ugly mother-in-law.
Old Testament Conclusion
Conclusion, the Old Testament never condoned divorce except for adultery which always led to death for the guilty. And, of course, the innocent remaining partner was free to remarry.
Divorce in the New Testament
Now, we turn to the New Testament and the text at hand. Jesus is not condoning divorce here in this passage or any other. Instead, he is merely quoted the Old Testament passages on the issue. Mat 5:31-32 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Again, Jesus is merely quoting the Old Testament. He is saying that any divorce, other than for adultery is not recognized by God. God views on the issue have never changed. Mal 2:16 "For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." That’s pretty direct.
In the end, under Old Testament Mosaic Law, God does not recognize any divorce except for the reasons of adultery. No one can argue with that then or today.
The Question of the Day
But, what about today? Can you get a divorce, remarry, and still be in the will of God? I believe that the answer is yes as long as there are scriptural reasons. I believe that there are three clear reasons given in the New Testament for a justifiable divorce: they are Adultery, Desertion and Death. We will discuss these next time.