Home > Divorce/Remarriage, Mallinak > The Case for Lawful Divorce, Part 1

The Case for Lawful Divorce, Part 1

May 4, 2007

Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. Malachi 2:14-16

God hates divorce. I can’t use any plainer or stronger language than that. God hates divorce, and so does every Christ-honoring believer. I would hate to give anyone the impression that I felt otherwise than that. In fact, one of my fears in addressing this issue is that readers will use the arguments given for lawful divorce as a checklist in order to justify sin and salve guilty consciences. Oh for a day when men will no longer consume it upon their lusts!

That being said, over the course of this month, I intend to demonstrate that in some cases divorce is lawful. This will be no small or simple task, so you can anticipate some rather lengthy posts. About four years ago, I taught this issue to my church. In order to thoroughly examine all the pertinent passages, I spent nearly twenty weeks on the subject. There is no lack of controversy on the issue (even amongst the members of this blog), and I recognize that. Due to the nature of blogging, it will be best to slowly unveil my position. So, I’ll not attempt to answer every objection in this post. I’ll let the comment threads carry on the debate.

Now, some of those who oppose divorce ever for any reason will no doubt say that my position itself encourages people to seek divorce. In fact, a few years ago our church had to deal with a terrible situation of adultery, and one of my “friends” called me up to tell me that I deserved to have that happen because of my position on divorce. High standards are good, and I’m all for them. But some insist on having a higher standard even than Jesus Christ, and that is bad. As some famous blogger once said, there is a ditch on both sides. We must stand on Scripture, or we have nothing to stand on at all.

Marriage is a one-flesh union between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24). In teaching on divorce, Christ referred to this text to show what marriage violates (Matthew 19:6). However, this definition is incomplete. Paul called a relationship with a prostitute a one-flesh union (I Corinthians 6:16), but such relationships are not marriage. Marriage is more than a sexual relationship. In fact, Joseph was called the husband of Mary before there was a physical union (Matthew 1:19). What sets this physical/sexual union apart from all others is the wedding vows. Wedding vows are not merely a custom passed down through generations. They are an oath taken before God and man, an oath to faithfully perform the duties of marriage. The Bible uses the word “covenant” in reference to a marriage.

Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. Malachi 2:14

So, there are two parts that make a marriage — a physical union and a covenant oath. Romans 7:2 says that the wife is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth. Matthew 19:6 says, What therefore God hath joined together. The word “joined” there means “yoked,” and Adam Clarke says that “the ancients would literally put a yoke or chain binding the couple to show that they were to be one, closely united, and pulling equally together in all the concerns of life.”

In Joseph’s case, the oath had already been taken, though the marriage had not been consummated. Hence the need for Joseph to divorce Mary. Upon taking the oath, Joseph promised to fulfill the purposes of marriage (helpful companionship – Gen. 2:18; godly children – Mal. 2:15; protection from fornication – I Cor. 7:1-2). The oath was a pledge to honor the wife as the weaker vessel (I Pet 3:7), to honor the Lord by raising children together (Mal. 2:15), and to honor the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). These duties extended even to the man who took additional wives polygamously (Ex. 21:10). He must not diminish ought to his first wife or any subsequent wives.

So, marriage is a covenanted one-flesh union. Divorce, on the other hand, is a legal dissolving of the marriage contract. Divorce is a putting away of the marriage covenant and thus of all that it entails, including its purposes, responsibilities, and obligations. Thus Joseph sought to put Mary away because he believed that the marriage contract had been violated. Note that the Bible does not make any distinction between Joseph’s betrothal and an actual marriage. Both (at that time) were ended the same way, and were thus subject to the Old Testament laws. Nor does God rebuke Joseph for his desire to divorce Mary. In fact, the same verse that tells us that Joseph was minded to put her away also calls him a just man, and says that being a just man, he was minded to put her away.

With that in mind, I want to take a tour of the primary passages that deal with divorce. I will not attempt to deal with every passage at this time, although I anticipate that most of the passages dealing with the issue will surface at some time during the month. In order to shorten an already lengthy post, I will examine the teaching of Moses, and of Christ in this post, and in a later post I will examine the teaching of Paul. Moses, in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, gives the civil law of divorce. Christ, in Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:3-9, and Mark 10:2-12, gives the Christian law of divorce. Paul, in I Corinthians 7:10-17, gives the New Testament law of divorce. Believing all Scripture to be of equal authority, we will attempt to examine these three with brevity (relatively speaking), diligence, and thoroughness, in something that is hopefully less than a book-length article. 

The Law of Moses

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. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 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; 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. Deut 24:1-4

The law of Moses makes no attempt to define just cause for divorce, but simply mandates that those seeking divorce must follow a procedure. In short, the one seeking divorce must give a bill of divorcement, and when he does so, his former wife is legally free to remarry. It should be noted that this passage in no way seeks to justify divorce or remarriage. It merely teaches that by law such things can happen. But the fact that the law allows divorce does not mean that God is pleased with divorce. God is never pleased with divorce.

Whenever I counsel a couple before marriage, I always ask them if divorce is ever an option. Of course, I only marry Christian couples and church members, so invariably they will say that “no, divorce is never an option.” While I applaud that sentiment, I also remind them that we live in a nation where a majority of marriages end in divorce. Divorce certainly is an option, and is unfortunately an all-too-often used option. Believers would do well to remember that, and to “render due benevolence.”

The Teaching of Christ

Christ picks up where Moses left off while teaching on adultery in Matthew 5:31-32 (read vv. 27-30 for background):

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 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.

Hopefully, you took the time to read the context. If you did, you will note that Christ is very clear about what should be cut off and what should not be cut off. Cut off body parts, but do not cut off your spouse. Christ starts with the law of Moses, expanding on it into the Christian teaching on divorce. In this passage, Christ does not attempt to tell us when we can or cannot seek divorce. We would do well to remember that the Bible is not meant to be a checklist for when we “get to” divorce. This is an ungodly misrepresentation of the purpose of Scriptural teaching.

Christ repeats the law of Moses, and then states the higher law of God. That higher law of God states that divorce is always adultery, unless the husband puts away the wife because of fornication. In that case, in the case of fornication, the divorce is not adultery. The fornication is the adultery. Nor is Christ telling us that we get to seek a divorce if there is fornication. Rather, Christ is saying that the only time divorce is not adultery is the time that fornication caused divorce to be sought. Fornication violates the marriage covenant. In this case, the adultery was committed before the divorce, so the divorce itself is not adultery. Which explains why Joseph was just in desiring to put Mary away.

When there is adultery within a marriage, the couple should always seek reconciliation first, and neither party should jump at the first possibility of divorce. However, in Matthew 5, Christ is saying that the offended party can seek divorce. Sin is transgression of the law. Adultery is sin, as it transgresses the law. But Christ says that putting away is adultery unless the putting away is for the cause of fornication. Clearly, the Bible says that when there is adultery within a marriage, the offended party can seek divorce without sin. The adultery was the sin in this case, and the divorce simply recognizes that the marriage covenant has already been put away.

In Matthew 19, the Pharisees set a trap for Christ on the subject of divorce – a subject that was controversial even in that day.

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?

According to those who know better than I, Pharisees came from one of the two Rabbinical Schools: the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel. On the subject of divorce, these schools were at odds with each other, though both allowed divorce. The school of Shammai maintained that a man could not legally put away his wife, except for whoredom. On the other hand, the school of Hillel taught that a man might put away his wife for a multitude of other causes, and when she did not find grace in his sight. This included when the man in question saw any other woman that pleased him better than his wife (1).

The Pharisees frequently used dilemmas to trap Christ (consider John 8:3-5; Matthew 22:15-17). In this case, the Pharisees tried to force Christ into a position that would put him at odds with one or both of these rabbinical schools. If Christ allows no divorce, he will be at odds with both schools as well as with the law of Moses (thus the question in v. 7). If he allows divorce, he will be forced (or so they thought) to take one of the two positions.

But instead of taking either of these two positions, Christ teaches attitude.

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 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? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Christ had already given his position (in Matt. 5:31-32), and these men were aware of that. The marriage bond is higher than any other bond on earth. So, when reminded of the law of Moses, Christ said:

Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 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.

Hard hearts, Christ said, seek divorce. New hearts love what God loves and hate what God hates (Mark 10:5). From the beginning, it was not so. For in the beginning, God created them male and female, with no other options (Mark 10:6). Essentially, Christ points out that lust and infidelity are at the base of divorce, for divorce did not become a practice until men began to lust after other women.

So, Christ reiterates what he had said earlier in His Sermon on the Mount. Divorce is adultery in every case except when the covenant is already broken through adultery or fornication. It should be pointed out here that Mark, in his account, did not mention fornication. The emphasis is not on the exceptions, but on the importance of the marriage bond. Divorce is not a light issue. God hates divorce, without exception.

Looking back over the passage, we should note a few things. First, when asked “is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause,” Christ refers to the creation of marriage (Gen. 2:24), and states that the law of marriage prohibits divorce, for what “God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Why then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? Christ recognizes the fallen nature of man, understanding that man will violate the law of marriage the same as man violates every other law. Man will break apart what God has joined. So, Christ answers the problem… Moses wrote them this precept because of the hardness of their hearts. We would do well to remember at this point that the law of Moses came 2500 years after the institution of marriage. From the beginning of the creation, GOD joined them as one with an unbreakable bond.

Now, Mark’s account demonstrates the true emphasis of this particular discussion, and of Christ’s teaching on divorce. In Mark 10:2-12, Christ begins by asking them what the Law of Moses commands, demonstrating His respect for the Law of Moses. Then, Christ responds to their answer by showing the Pharisees that Moses gave this command because of hard hearts. Now, the reader should not think that I am having a “senior moment” right now. I realize that I am repeating myself, and I’m repeating myself on purpose. Mark’s arrangement demonstrates another concern that the Law of Moses addresses. Ungodly men who despise women, if absolutely prohibited from divorce, would be liable to find another more violent way to put away their wives. Thus, the Law of Moses protects wives from wicked husbands. Then immediately, Christ follows this thought by showing that the people of God, while legally permitted to use the Law of Moses, should never make use of that permission.

In Mark’s account, Christ continues by referring to the Creation ordinance of marriage. God made them male and female (singular), so that there were no other options. God placed a priority on this relationship above all others. God joins these together. As Matthew Henry said, Marriage is not an invention of men, but a divine institution, and therefore is to be religiously observed. We must especially guard the sanctity of this relationship because it pictures Christ’s faithfulness to the church.

Some of those who oppose divorce in any case will prefer Mark’s account to Matthew’s, partly because Mark gives no exception. First, it is dangerous to ignore either passage, and equally dangerous to attach more weight to one passage over another. All Scripture is profitable and of equal authority, and if we are to fully understand all that Christ taught then we must examine both. But secondly, this is wrong-headed because these two accounts are not in opposition to each other. Rather, Mark’s account sheds additional light on Matthew’s. Matthew said that “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.” Mark leaves out the phrase “except it be for fornication.” We can conclude from this that Mark is saying if a man puts away his wife in order to marry another, even if his cause for divorce was fornication, he has committed adultery.

Mark emphasizes the importance of a pure heart in approaching this subject. Mark reminds us to look at divorce as something we should never seek or want. We should never say, “when can I?”

Considering the length of this post, it would be better to come back to Paul’s teaching on divorce in I Corinthians 7 in a later post. So, hold those (proverbial) horses while everyone pounds away at this one.

(1) For a further discussion, see Alfred Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, chapter 22.

  1. May 4, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    So tell me Pastor Mallinak, are you this long winded when you preach?

  2. May 4, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Very intersting post. I look foward to reading your interpretation of I Corthians 7. This is a tough issue and has been for a long time.

    (20 weeks, wow!)
    This should be quite a month here on Jackhammr!

  3. May 5, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve been asked before if the issue of pornography is the same thing as fornication and adultery and therefore justifiable for divorce. Wether it is or isn’t, this post has definetely shed light on the wrong attitude about divorce. Excellent beginning post.

  4. May 5, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    I have a moment to write something about this post. Since I’m presenting a different view on this, some of what I present will actually debunk what he said. I want to, however, respectfully, disagree with his position. I don’t want to come out with a flame-thrower and burn everything for three city blocks. Brother Mallinack and I are in fellowship. Three of my best friends take a different view on this, but we’ve never really had a full-fledged discussion on it. I don’t know that I have time, right at this moment, to answer the whole thing, but I will start here with what I think should be a reply in light of coming with my (the Scriptural 🙂 ) position on Monday.

    I’m going to enumerate points to help you keep this organized.

    1. He starts with a verse that says that God hates divorce, and then he goes on to say that God makes a law supporting divorce. This would be the only kind of usage like this in the Bible—God says “I hate it,” and then says, “But this is when you get to do it.” That should be tell-tale on one’s interpretation.
    2. I would not use–“more people will get divorced”–as an argument. It doesn’t work as an argument.
    3. At the end of the second line of the fourth paragraph, I think he meant, “what divorce violates,” not “what marriage violates.”
    4. Notice in the fourth paragraph, that he talks about “wedding vows.” I agree, yes, that wedding vows are a qualification for actual marriage. I agree with that point.
    5. Brother Mallinak buttresses a lot on his view that Joseph and Mary were actually married, because of the use of the term “husband” and “wife.” Just to start simply, the two Greek words are also often translated “man” and “woman.” The word translated “husband” is aner, which is translated “man” in Mt. 7:24, 26; 12:41; 14:21; 14:35; etc. It is actually translated “man” far more than it is translated “husband,” so nothing is hard fast here to say, “This is the word for husband.”

    In his paragraph about this (6th), he says that betrothal and marriage were treated identically. Earlier, he talked about marriage needing the “wedding vows.” Now he contradicts that by saying that Joseph and Mary made a covenantal oath before the wedding that was as good as marriage. That is an argument from silence, because nothing states that anywhere in Scripture. What good are the “wedding vows,” if the betrothal was as good as a wedding?

    Those two aren’t clinchers on this, however. This is the clincher. Look at John 8:41 and what the religious leaders say to Jesus, “Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” Let’s interpret Scripture with Scripture. This is their argument against virgin birth. They were saying that Jesus was born outside of wedlock. They use the Greek word porneia, the very same word that is used in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. This was different from moicheia, the Greek word for “adultery.” Since they didn’t accept the virgin birth, they called this porneia, referring to something pre-marital. If she had committed adultery, then it would have been moicheia that they used. Premarital unfaithfulness is porneia, not moicheia. Now this is the very first chapter of Matthew and it comes in later in Matthew’s dealing with 5:32 and 19:9 when he prohibits divorce in what he writes. If divorce equalled adultery, then Joseph would have committed adultery by divorcing Mary, but Matthew was clarifying a difference between divorce in the betrothal period and divorce after marriage. I will give more contextual evidence for this when I get to my presentation.

    Brother Mallinak says that there is a law of Moses, a Christian law, and a New Testament law. Don’t look for that outline in Scripture. It isn’t in there. This outline is important for him to his conclusion.  He uses it to tie all of his things together.  I don’t know where he gets it. There is only one law about divorce in the Bible, and it is consistent, and I’ll show you that.

    That’s how far I’m going right now. I’ll be back later to answer his section called The Law of Moses.

  5. Bobby Mitchell
    May 5, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    I thought the term “fornication” was used because it encompasses other sexual sins that would not be called adultery. As in “bestiality,” “sodomy,” “lesbianism,” etc. Can married folks only commit adultery, or can they commit fornication too? Is not adultery one act that would be classified as fornication?

  6. May 5, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    I don’t mind answering your fornication question Bro. Mitchell, but I already know that I’m going to say something about it in my presentation on Monday, so I’m going to wait until then. I will give a key though. It is important to look at how it is used through the NT, but also how it is used especially in the book of Matthew. In other words, how does Matthew use porneia (“fornication”).

  7. May 7, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Thanks for pointing out my error in the fourth paragraph… and to think, I edited five times!

    Answer to #1: It isn’t inconsistent to say that God hates divorce and then to say that divorce is adultery unless it is for fornication. The issue here is where the “putting away” occured. In this case, the “putting away” that God hates is the fornication, not the divorce.

    Answer to #2: I didn’t use “more people will get a divorce” as an argument (at least not knowingly, but maybe I did in the Greek).

    Answer to #3: You are correct.

    Answer to #4: I agree too.

    Answer to #5: I don’t think I said that Mary and Joseph were actually married. That would be a nice way of dismissing the argument, but I didn’t say that. I said that “Joseph was called the husband of Mary before there was a physical union.” That is not saying that they were actually married, nor was that the point. The point was that a divorce was required to break the covenant, just like in a marriage.

    What I said was “In Joseph’s case, the oath had already been taken, though the marriage had not been consummated. Hence the need for Joseph to divorce Mary.” As to whether the word in Matthew should actually be “husband” or not, I will let the reader decide (if it matters). Certainly your Greek exegeting didn’t undue the possibility that it should be husband. I myself will trust the translation. If you think it should only be man… “Then Joseph, her man…” Well…

    As for the rest: Pastor Brandenburg said, “Now he contradicts that by saying that Joseph and Mary made a covenantal oath before the wedding that was as good as marriage. ”

    I didn’t say that the oath was as good as marriage. To be clear, I don’t think that the oath was as good as marriage. Just that the oath was very serious, and must be put away in the same way as marriage would be put away. It seems to be essential to Pastor Brandenburg to catch me arguing from silence. For clarity’s sake, I will point out that the section on Joseph and Mary was used to define what “marriage” is, not to argue for divorce, although I think it argues that divorce is lawful in cases of fornication. Arguments from silence have an odd way of working both ways, so that the one who rebuts that way is actually wrestling for the right to hold up the argument from silence on his side.

    As for my outline, thanks for pointing out that it is not to be equated with Scripture. It is my outline (as far as I can recall, I didn’t borrow it… but if you find it in someone else’s writing, please bring it to my attention so that I can give them credit for it). It isn’t inspired. But I do think it is helpful.

  8. May 7, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    First, to do some house cleaning. On Answer #2, Pastor Mallinack, you said that you would be getting that treatment from others in your post, and my comment was simply that I wouldn’t be giving that argument. I didn’t say it was your argument. 🙂
    Second, you say that you didn’t say that the oath was as good as marriage, but you said this—“Thus Joseph sought to put Mary away because he believed that the marriage contract had been violated. Note that the Bible does not make any distinction between Joseph’s betrothal and an actual marriage. Both (at that time) were ended the same way, and were thus subject to the Old Testament laws.”—so maybe I was confused.
    Third, I have been silent with my arguments so far, but I won’t argue from silence. You do make a point from Joseph, saying that because he was willing to divorce Mary during betrothal, and he was the same thing as married even though only betrothed, then divorce for adultery is lawful. I’m saying that it is an argument from silence because the OT doesn’t say that betrothal and marriage are the same. You make a conclusion from something that Scripture doesn’t say. That’s the point. We do know that Joseph was betrothed and we know some other things about the word “fornication,” which make my side NOT an argument from silence.
    Fourth, you divide up the teaching on marriage into almost dispensational sections, and I see the teaching as homogenous throughout Scripture since it is based upon God’s original design all the way through.
    Fifth, he never answered my clincher argument under #5.

    I’m going a little further on his post and then I’ve got to get up something to be shot at. Here is the truth about Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

    Deuteronomy 24:1–4 does not institute or allow for divorce with approval, but merely treats divorce as a practice already existing and known.

    Grammatically the passage is an example of biblical case law in which certain conditions are stated for which a particular command applies. The protasis in verses 1–3 specifies the conditions that must apply before the command in the apodosis in verse 4 is followed. In other words 24:1–4 describes a simple “if…then” situation. The legislation specified in 24:1–4 actually deals with a particular case of remarriage. Grammatically the intent of this law is not to give legal sanction to divorce or to regulate the divorce procedure. The intent of the passage is to prohibit the remarriage of a man to his divorced wife in cases of an intervening marriage by the wife. The first three verses of Deuteronomy 24 describe the situation of a woman who is twice divorced by different men or once divorced and then widowed. Divorce is neither commanded nor commended. The circumstances leading to divorce are simply described as a part of the case under consideration. The verses do not indicate that divorce is necessarily sanctioned under such circumstances.

    In this particular case the wife lost favor with her husband because of “some uncleanness in her” (literally, “nakedness of a thing” or “a naked matter”). The precise meaning of the phrase is uncertain. Consequently it became the subject of heated rabbinic debates on divorce. The Septuagint’s translation, (“some unbecoming thing”), is equally obscure. The phrase may refer to some physical deficiency—such as the inability to bear children. The expression appears only once elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it serves as a euphemism for excrement (Deut 23:14). This suggests that the “uncleanness” in Deuteronomy 24:1 may refer to some shameful or repulsive act. In the first century conservative Rabbi Shammai interpreted the phrase as referring to marital unchastity, while Rabbi Hillel interpreted it more broadly to refer to anything unpleasant.

    Deuteronomy 12–26 contains 31 examples of case law. In 19 of these examples the protasis contains a situation that is either immoral or has some negative connotation. The other 12 present situations that appear morally neutral. Deuteronomy 25:11–12 is an example of case law in which the protasis contains a situation that is immoral or has negative connotations. A woman who seizes the genitals of a male opponent to help her husband in a struggle shall have her hand cut off. No one would dare suggest that the case being described is presented with approval. Many other similar examples could be cited. The main point of this example of biblical case law in Duet. 24:1-4 appears in the apodosis (the “then” clause) of verse 4 . Here it is clear that the law relates not to the matter of divorce as such, but to a particular case of remarriage. Moses declared that a man may not remarry his former wife if she has in the meantime been married to another man. Even though her second husband should divorce her or die, she must not return to her first husband. The prohibition is supported by an explanation, a reason, and a command. In the Hebrew, verse 4 is the only regulative statement in this passage.

    These verses should be read as one continuous sentence, of which the protasis is in vers. 1-3, and the apodosis in v. 4.

    A remarkable thing about Deut. 24:1-4 is that, while divorce is taken for granted, nevertheless the woman who is divorced becomes “defiled” by her remarriage (verse 4). It may well be that when the Pharisees asked Jesus if divorce was legitimate he based his negative answer not only on God’s intention expressed in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, but also on the implication of Deuteronomy 24:4 that remarriage after divorce defiles a person. In other words, there were ample clues in the Mosaic law that the divorce concession was on the basis of the hardness of man’s heart and really did not make divorce and remarriage legitimate. The prohibition of a wife returning to her first husband even after her second husband dies (because it is an abomination) suggests very strongly that today no second marriage should be broken up in order to restore a first one.

  9. May 8, 2007 at 7:59 am

    You are right that I said the Bible makes no distinction between betrothal and marriage. For clarity’s sake, I was referring to the oath. Based on the context, the Bible considered the two oaths to be of equal weight. Both were put away the same way.

    And secondly, I do not view the Law of Moses, the teaching of Christ, and the teaching of Paul as different “dispensations” regarding divorce. Scripture gives one cohesive and coherent teaching on divorce, which I have not finished demonstrating.

    As far as answering your “clincher” argument, well… You consider it a clincher, and now that you consider it a clincher, we won’t be right until we answer it. But to be honest, I can’t answer it because I don’t understand it. You said that you were going to deal with it more later, so I was waiting for you to do that in hopes that I would understand what your point is.

    But since it will now be a basis for why you are right and I am wrong (since I “can’t” answer your self-described “clincher”), I’ll tell you what I am understanding you to say, and you tell me if I’m understanding you correctly. Then, when I understand what you are saying, I’ll see if I can answer you on it.

    From what I am reading, your “clincher” is: Fornication is pre-marital sex, and Matthew used the word “fornication” to indicate that Joseph could divorce Mary justly before the marriage because of fornication, and that this divorce would be lawful because it was before the marriage. So, Matthew says (5:32; 19:9ff) “unless it be for fornication” indicating that divorce after marriage is adultery, and divorce before marriage is not.

    Is that what you are saying?

    And since I’m bound to hear that I didn’t answer your arguments about Deuteronomy unless I say something, here goes…

    I think I basically said the same thing.

  10. Alyssa
    May 18, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Hello, I have been studying this subject quite diligently for a few months now and I am stumped on Matthew 5:32. Jesus is clearly addressing the MAN who divorces his wife. According to Jewish Law, women did not divorce the man. So how does our modern church teach that this Scripture applies to both the male and female.

    I am divorced. My husband remarried 10 years ago and I got saved after the divorce. I am struggling with whether I am free to remarry. But Matt 5:32 and Matt 19:9 is not speaking about a woman who divorces her husband…It is just the opposite. I did not divorce my husband, but how does this verse make the woman free? It seems to be that only the man who is innocent is free.

    I would greatly appreciate your opinion on this.

    Too, we can’t always call divorce a sin…because God divorced Israel and God obviously is not a sinner! There is a provision for divorce (in the case of fornication)…and then there is also divorce that is sin. But I don’t see how a woman is free to remarry from all the Scriptures I’ve studied.

    Thanks and God bless,

  11. May 18, 2007 at 3:12 pm


    Thanks for your participation. I don’t take the same position as Pastor Mallinak. I believe that all remarriage is adultery. According to the text, if someone were to marry you, they too would be committing adultery.

    I will be dealing with 1 Cor. 7, but I do believe that if a wife is not obligated to fight a divorce from her husband who wants to leave her. The one doing the divorcing is the one sinning. God hates divorce. I don’t know of an example in the Bible of God divorcing. He did not divorce Israel.

  12. Alyssa
    May 18, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Kent,

    Thank you for your response.

    If God did not divorce Israel then why does the Bible appear to say that?

    Jer 3:8 “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all of her adulteries.”
    Isaiah 50:1 “This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away?”

    I realize God wooed Israel back eventually… and this was more like a separation, but why do our Scriptures use the words that we see above? Is this an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew?

    God bless…

  13. Thomas Ross
    May 18, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Some thoughts on Deut 24:1-4, and on God divorcing (?) Israel:

    Some further thoughts on Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
    1.) I don’t remember who said this now (I actually wrote this response at work from memory and cut and pasted it below) indicated that the discovery that v. 1-3 is the protasis and v. 4 the apodosis of the law in question would require a minimum of three years of Hebrew. Having taken a good deal of Hebrew, so that I would enjoy teaching the subject, I am not sure why he said it would take three years. A discussion of clause types is something found in a first year/introductory grammar like Lambdin, and detailed discussion of these things is expected in a course in Hebrew syntax, which would normally be covered in a second year of Hebrew. I do not know if the one who made the three years of Hebrew statement makes his declaration from his personal experience, or if someone who has taken that much told him that a study of syntax was not made until at least three years of the subject was undertaken, but it seems to me that one who waited to discuss such fundamental things about the nature of sentences as the protasis and apodasis after three years of Hebrew needs to get a much better teacher of the subject.
    Furthermore, one does not need to know any Hebrew at all to discover what Pastor Brandenburg has indicated on this passage is correct; he simply needs to read Keil and Delitzch: “The four verses form a period, in which vv. 1-3 are the clauses of the protasis, which describe the matter treated about; and v. 4 contains the apodosis, with the law concerning the point in question. . . . [The point of the law was that] the first husband could not take the [divorced woman back] as his wife again.”
    Keil and Delitzch make a few other comments I thought worthy of mention: “Adultery . . . is certainly not to be thought of [as a justifiable reason for divorce], because this was to be punished with death.”
    “The custom of giving letters of divorce was probably adopted by the Israelites in Egypt.”
    “The law that the first husband could not take his divorced wife back again . . . would necessarily put a check upon frivolous divorces. Moses could not entirey abolish the traditional custom, if only ‘because of the hardness of the people’s hearts’ (Matthew 19:8).” By the way—the ones who were hardhearted in the wilderness were the unconverted ones who went to hell when they died, Hebrews 3-4. Even if v. 1-3 was an inspired provision to justify divorce, which it is not, it would be a condition that was only for unbelievers, not for those with new hearts flowing from the new covenant.
    “Moses [indicated] that the divorced woman was defiled . . . by her marriage with a second husband. . . . [This included] a moral defilement, i. e., blemishing, descration of the sexual communion with which was anctified by marriage, in the same sense in which adultery is called a defilement in Lev 18:20 and Num 5:13, 14. Thus the second marriage of a divorced woman was placed implicitie upon a par with adultery, and some approach made towards the teaching of Christ concerning marriage: “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Mat 5:32).”

    Note that Deut 24:4 does indeed clearly state that the woman who remarries is defiled. So this passage does not help the advocates of divorce (in some instances) at all. Rather, it conforms to the teaching of all of Scripture, that divorce is always sinful.
    The fact that the woman is defiled can be determined without knowing any Hebrew at all, but simply reading v. 4 in English, and reading a good exegetical commentary can show that Pastor Brandenburg is right on the mark in his analysis of this passage can also be determined without knowing any Hebrew.

    Concerning God’s divorce of Israel, here is what my take on that was when I wrote a paper on the subject at Fairhaven for Contemporary Theological Issues (where I adopted a no-divorce, ever position after studying the passages):

    Those who believe that divorce is justified in certain instances appeal to Jeremiah 3:8, and conclude that “God Himself recognized (and thereby taught us) that divorce for the sexual sin of adultery is an option. He taught us this by both precept and example in His own relationship with Israel. What God has taught, let no man deny!” [Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage in the Bible, Jay E. Adams, pg. 71.] The passage presents an apparently strong argument: “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.” Furthermore, Hosea 2:2 reads: “Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband…” How can these declarations be reconciled with the passages mentioned above, that clearly forbid divorce? First of all, we must recognize that the metaphor of marriage when employed to describe the relationship between men and God symbolizes the closeness of communion between the faithful and their Lord. We see in the Old Testament that those faithful to God’s chosen nation, Israel, are pictured metaphorically as a bride or wife. The same holds true in the New Testament for the church, God’s recruiting agency for His kingdom in this dispensation. In the Mosaic economy, as in all ages, salvation has been a free gift to all who believe in Christ, but the special miracles of God, His greatest manifestations, and the fullness of worship was only available in the Old Testament to those that allied themselves with the nation of Israel and could consequently participate in the sacrifices, the Tabernacle and Temple worship, and so on. In the New Testament, the church, the congregation of baptized believers, is God’s chosen institution, and is pictured as Christ’s body (1 Cor 12), and bride (2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:23-32). The church is also called God’s temple (1 Cor 3:9-17, 1 Tim 3:15)— it is the NT place of God’s special presence. The fellowship of the church with Christ is seen in the NT quotation of Genesis 2:24 in Ephesians 5:31-32; the OT word “cleave,” which deals with the close communion of man and wife in their unique relationship, is translated “joined” from the Greek in Ephesians with reference to the church and her Savior. One does not need to join the church to be saved, but fullness of communion with Christ will not be available to the NT believer who refuses church membership. In contrast to both unscriptural universal ecclesiology which equates all believers with the bride of Christ at this present time and the “future glorified” view that correctly sees the church as a local entity but removes her from a present status as bride, the Bible places the church in a present bridal relationship (2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:29-32). The same was true for Israel in the Old Testament; her bridal status with God was spoken of in the present tense (Ezekiel 16:8ff, Jer 3:14, etc.). “Cleaving” closeness to God is the present joy of His obedient saints (cf. 1 Cor 3:16-17).
    In the Old Testament, as in the New, one of God’s children could sin and fall away from obedience and His Lord’s chosen institution (cf. Heb 10:25, 1 Cor 5:7, 13). While still eternally secure, such would temporally lose the special fellowship available for the faithful. A backslidden member of a true Baptist church today can leave and join a Methodist church with less strident preaching, and thus, while still reckoned righteous in the sight of God, lose the temporal joy of being part of the bride of Christ. In eternity, however, the New Jerusalem is referred to synechdochically as the bride (Rev 21:2), and all the blood-washed, whatever their degree of disobedience to the Lord or faithfulness to God’s institution during their lifetime, will, free from sin, “cleave” to their God forever. It is God’s purpose that those dead to sin by Christ “should be married to another,” (Romans 7:4), that is, brought into that place of close fellowship, and He will not allow His will to be eternally frustrated. We can see this same working in God’s covenantal promises to Israel; as He swore to Abraham, “all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26, Genesis 17:7-8), inherit the fullness of the promised land, and see the fulfillment of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31), which was given specifically to “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah” (31:31). At the end of the Tribulation, when Israel turns back to God, her Messiah shall come, destroy her enemies, and re-establish the nation in its bridal relationship. A careful comparison of Romans 9:25-27, Hosea 1:10 and 2:23, and Revelation 19 will demonstrate this [Paul does not take his quotes in Romans 9 out of their original context; verses 25-26 deal with the restoration of Israel, as seen in Romans 11, not with Gentiles— the “also” of 9:27 demonstrates this, as does the natural interpretation of Hosea one and two. Some make a distinction between Israel, which is alleged to be God’s earthly wife, and the church, which is then made Christ’s heavenly bride. A close study of the terms employed of both entities will demonstrate their fluidity; for example, 21:9 refers to “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” while a thousand years after the marriage supper the New Jerusalem is called “bride,” not “wife” (Revelation 21:2). The saints of this dispensation will also “reign on the earth” alongside their Old Testament brethren (Rev 2:26-27, 20:6)]; the marriage supper of the Lamb does not occur in heaven for the church alone, but occurs on the earth at the commencement of the Millennial kingdom with the participation of all the saints. The Supper only commences after the destruction of the great whore (19:2), which is far along within the Tribulation period; we hear that the marriage supper “is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (19:7) immediately before the second coming of Christ (19:11ff) to redeem Israel, the “wife” in view, who has now turned back to God and received imputed righteousness (19:8)— the church age saints have already been glorified for seven years, so to make them only “ready” at this point is unreasonable, whatever one may have personally experienced about the speed with which women adorn themselves. “Is come” (elthen) is a futuristic aorist; it “involves the use of the aorist tense to indicate an event which has not in fact happened but which is so certain to happen that it is depicted as though it had already happened.” “[H]ath made herself” (hetoimasen) refers to the conversion of Israel which had just occurred; it should be classified as a dramatic aorist, “a use for emphasis or dramatic affect… it describes something which has just happened, the effect of which is felt in the present.” It was the common belief of first century Jews that “in the day of the Messiah redeemed Israel would be gathered to a great feast, together with the patriarchs and heroes of the Jewish faith” [The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim, Book 3, chapter 19, p. 379.] (cf. Is 25:6, Mt 8:11-12, 20:21, 23, 22:1-14, Lu 13:28-29, 14:15-24, 22:29-30). Indeed, were the marriage supper in heaven during the Tribulation, rather than in the Millennium when Christ has established His kingdom, the Savior would not be able to drink anything (Mt 26:29, Mr 14:25, Lu 22:18). It is apparent from the Scriptures, then, that God brings the nation He married back to Himself; the separation because of her sin lasts only until the impending future time when, by repentance, “the wife hath made herself ready.”
    We have seen that in the bridal metaphor which relates God and His people separation because of sin, including spiritual adultery, is only temporary. The context of Jeremiah 3:8 supports this as well; the Lord says He “put them away,” yet still affirms “I am married unto you” (Jeremiah 3:14) and foretells her restoration; He is still her husband and Lord, and He will bring her back to Himself. In the immediate context of Hosea 2:2 we see that God promises Israel “I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.” (2:19-20). The Lord both declares that Israel is not His people (Hos 1:9), since they have violated the Sinaiatic covenant, yet they remain His and He will restore them (Hos 1:10, 2:16-20, 3:5, 11:1-11, 13:14-14:9), in accordance with His unconditional promises to Abraham. Isaiah 50:1 and 54:1-17 show God as “husband” still to Israel, without an abiding “bill of divorcement”— because of their sin, God “for a small moment… fors[ook] [Israel], but with great mercies will [He] gather [her]” (54:7). On strictly Mosaic grounds, God could divorce Israel, but “the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was… after, cannot disannul, that is should make the promise of none effect” (Gal 3:17)— the promises to Israel in Abraham and the greater, eternal covenant promises that, by grace, bring a sure (Rom 4:16) and eternal salvation to the chosen, forbade the Lord’s divorce of His people (Rom 11:28-29). These higher principles of grace, expounded by Jesus Christ (Mark 10:1-12) in accord with God’s original design (Gen 2:24), apart from the lower permissive standard (Dt 24:1-4) allowed temporarily because of hard hearts (Mark 10:5), prohibit human divorce, just as they prevent God from putting away His people forever. The child of God, if he finds himself in a marriage to a persistently sinful and adulterous spouse, should act as his Lord commanded Hosea: “Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine” (Hosea 3:1, cf. Jer 3:1). He should follow the precept and example of his God and Savior and seek for reconciliation, not divorce.
    Examination of the relevant passages on divorce in the Bible make it clear that God’s original plan in marriage of one man and one woman for life cannot be violated by the New Testament Christian. Originally instituted in the Garden of Eden and clearly reaffirmed by Christ (Mark 10:1-12) and the apostle Paul (Rom 7:2-3, 1 Cor 7:10-11), sound hermeneutics dictate that less clear passages which involve seeming exceptions to this rule must be interpreted in light of such plain Scriptural affirmations. The fact that God “hateth putting away” (Mal 2:16) is also demonstrated in His restoration of Israel, despite her sinful and backsliding ways. All believers can rejoice in this as another in the cornucopia of Scriptural evidences that God’s faithfulness and unconditional love will bring all of His people home (Jn 10:27-30, Ro 8:28-39, etc.) to be joined to Him as His everlasting and eternal spouse (Rev 21:2), with none put away or ultimately lost— and consequently, out of love for their great God and Savior, and in His power, obey His admonitions to shun divorce absolutely.

  14. Rene
    June 5, 2007 at 3:35 am

    Huh? Jeremiah 3:8 clearly says that the LORD had put away Israel and given her a certificate of divorce. I understand that verse 14 then says that the LORD is husband to the backsliding children, but I don’t understand how what you said reconciles these two verses. It does appear at first (and even second) glance that the LORD is going against what was established in Deuteronomy 24 by Moses. I’ve been waiting for an answer to this question myself since April 14th, although I have to admit, that I haven’t diligently sought the Lord in this. I guess I was kinda hoping He would reveal the answer by the time I got to Jeremiah.

    As far as Isaiah 50:1, the LORD is asking a rhetorical (?) question and not stating that a certificate has actually been issued.

  15. Rene
    June 7, 2007 at 5:17 am

    Before responding to this post, please see my post under “What God Hath Put Together…” – Part 4. Thank you.

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