Home > Divorce/Remarriage, Mallinak > The Case for Lawful Divorce, Part 3

The Case for Lawful Divorce, Part 3

May 22, 2007

Ezra 9-10 is a dilemma for those who argue that divorce is never allowed in Scripture. If the marriages were illegitimate in the first place, then why did it take four men from January to April to complete the “putting away” (Ezra 10:15, 16-17)? And if the marriages were legitimate, then why was God pleased with Shechaniah’s solution? Whether anyone admits to the legitimacy of these marriages or not, Ezra required an official putting away. When Schechaniah gave his recommendation to Ezra (10:3), he said “let it be done according to the law.” If the marriages were not legitimate, then the men would simply send these women packing. But Schechaniah called for these women to be put away in accordance with the Law of Moses.

A combination of two arguments have been offered in order to show that these marriages were illegitimate. First, because Israel was under theocratic rule, and second, because the Hebrew for “putting away” is different here than in other passages on divorce. Now, we should note that both premises are true. The Hebrew for “putting away” is unique to this passage, and Israel was under theocratic rule, just as Israel was a theocracy in the time of Boaz. If marriages to heathen wives were considered illegitimate, then Boaz was under no obligation to Ruth the Moabitess as kinsman redeemer. After all, the marriage didn’t count, so Boaz need not hash things out with the nearer kinsman first. But of course, Ruth’s first marriage to the son of Elimelech was a legitimate marriage, which is implied in the fact that Boaz had an obligation to marry her. The idea that we can arbitrarily declare some heterosexual marriages legitimate and others not is itself an illegitimate idea. Scripturally, there is no warrant for selectively declaring one marriage illegitimate and another legitimate, unless said marriage should be punished by death (as in the case of homosexuals). The Bible never calls marriages to foreigners illegitimate (consider Deut 21:10-14), nor does the Bible give any guidance as to when such a marriage should be considered illegitimate (or “not a marriage”). Certainly, the Bible never indicates that the marriages in the Ezra 9 and 10 passage were illegitimate.

Nor does the different term for “putting away” in this passage indicate that the marriages themselves were illegitimate. The different Hebrew term could indicate that this “putting away” was an unusual case, and that these wives were put away for unusual reasons and in unusual ways. This certainly was a unique case. But it would be difficult to prove that the marriages were illegitimate on the grounds that yatsa is not normally used for divorce. For one thing, the term for wife, found in Ezra 10:2, 3, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18, 19, and 44, is ishshah, the first and most common term for wife found in the Bible. The passage says that these women were strange or foreign wives (ishshah). So, the natural understanding would be that these strange ishshah were legitimately married to these Israelite men, and there is no indication that the marriages were illegitimate. For another thing, yatsa is a term for sending out or sending away. Though yatsa is not ever used for divorce in any other passage, the idea of putting the wife out or sending her away is the same. Perhaps the difference in terms can be explained by the fact that these wives, when put away, were sent out of the country as well — an unusual manner of dealing with “putting away” to be sure. The idea of yatsa certainly is synonymous with “putting away” in other parts of Scripture. We might say that yatsa is to shalach what “putting away” is to “divorce”.

Besides, whether we view this case dispensationally or not, and whether or not this divorce was unique because of the theocratic government in Israel at the time, God still hated divorce. Whether the Hebrew word for “putting away” in this passage is the same as that in other passages on divorce or not, these men had “taken wives.” And that phrase is used other times in the Bible to refer to legitimate marriages (Jeremiah 29:6; Deut 22:13; Deut 25:5, 7). God’s wrath was appeased by the actions of these men to put away their wives.

The other side in this debate has also argued that polygamous marriages have never been considered legitimate marriages in all of Scripture. I certainly can understand why it is essential to their case to say so. They would argue for divorce in cases of polygamy, which would undo their position unless polygamous marriages are illegitimate. But if polygamous marriages are always illegitimate, then Jacob, David, and Solomon lived in open adultery without rebuke. David had already taken multiple wives when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Not once was he rebuked for his polygamy. After David killed Uriah, he took Bathsheba to be his wife. From that marriage came Solomon, whom God made the next king of Israel. It was a legitimate marriage, though Bathsheba was added to David’s harem. The point is that we cannot be so quick to claim illegitimacy for certain marriages that don’t fit in our little box.

Of course, those who differ will argue that a homosexual marriage would be an illegitimate marriage, and they would be right. Homosexuality is punishable by death. In a nation that does not honor this Biblical requirement, homosexual marriages must be ended immediately and legally, by whatever means necessary. We run into problems when we try to guess which marriages were legitimate in Scripture, and which were not. We wind up assuming what we should be proving, rather than simply accepting the plain meaning of the texts.

Vows mean something, and in Scripture, a covenant between two people was legally binding, even when the covenant was made with the heathen (Joshua 9:18-20). God hates truce-breaking. Period. So, either way, the guilty in Ezra 9 and 10 did something that God hated. And their actions in putting away their wives appeased the wrath of God.

The issue in Ezra is introduced to us in chapter 9:

Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

God’s people had intermarried with the heathen, “doing according to their abominations.” Clearly, this was in violation of God’s law. Throughout the Pentateuch, the people were warned of the consequences if they should join the heathen in their abominations. In Leviticus 18:24-30, God said that those who committed these abominations were to be cut off (see esp. v. 29). In Deuteronomy 12:29-31, God warned against inquiring curiously after the wicked practices of these heathen. In Deuteronomy 18:9-12, we are told that God drove the heathen from the Promised Land because of their abominable practices (see also 2 Chronicles 33:2). In Deuteronomy 20:17-18, the people were commanded to cut off these heathen, “that they teach you not to do after all their abominations.” A brief glance at these passages will reveal what some of these abominable practices were, including sodomy, bestiality, witchcraft, infanticide, and various other immoral acts along the same vile vein.

In response to the princes’ revelation, Ezra went to God and confessed the sin (Ezra 9-10), specifically acknowledging that they had violated Deuteronomy 18:9-12. After all the mercies of God (v. 13), they still “joined in affinity with the people of these abominations” (v. 14). Their sin was more complex than simply intermarrying with the heathen. The passage stresses that these heathen wives continued in their abominable practices, and that was the true cause of the wrath of God. Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, one Shechaniah came forward with a plan for the people to put away this sin. In Ezra 10:3, the congregation of Israel made a covenant to put away these wives along with any that were born of them, and to do so in accordance with the Law of Moses. The congregation further declared that any who would not put away these wives were to be put away from the congregation (v. 8 ). The choice was simple: divorce your heathen wives, or divorce yourself from the congregation. Then, from verse 18 through the end of the chapter, Ezra goes to the trouble of naming all those who put away their wives. This was serious business.Â


As it pertains to divorce (and, of course, it does), this passage is instructional. That is not to say that the passage presents a new or separate law, only that this passage gives some guidance and instruction in handling unique cases. As New Testament Christians, Ezra must be interpreted in light of the instruction in 1 Corinthians 7. 1 Corinthians 7 presented three basic scenarios, which were discussed in Part 2 of this topic. In the first scenario, the unbelieving spouse of a convert willingly lives within the covenant of marriage, and the believer is told to stay. In the second instance, the unbelieving spouse wishes to leave the marriage, in which case the believer allows the divorce without contest, and the believer is then free. In the third case, if the believer puts the unbeliever away, then the believer should not re-marry.
1 Corinthians does not deal with cases where the unconverted spouse does not seek divorce, and yet lives in open fornication or some other open sin over which the church would discipline, such as abuse, neglect, public crimes, etc. In these cases, Ezra 9-10 helps us to determine what will please God. As has been noted already, we see in Ezra an instance when divorce pleased God, appeasing His wrath. Though it has been argued that when God hates something, universally there is never an instance when God is pleased with it, we might note at least one instance when that argument can be disproven. God hates lying, yet when the Shiprah and Puah lied to Pharaoh in order to protect the Hebrew babies, God was pleased (consider that these midwives “saved the men children alive,” but told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women delivered their own babies – see Exodus 1:15-20). And because of this lie, God dealt well with the midwives. So, there are exceptions. If we believe the Bible to always be true, then we have no need to explain away what happened here. We simply accept the story as told.

The same would be true for the instance in Ezra 9-10. The same God who hates putting away (Malachi 2:15-17) was appeased when these Israelite men put away their heathen wives. The Israelite men put away these wives because of their abominations. Note that the passage does not say that they put away the heathen wives because they were heathen. There are plenty of Old Testament examples of Hebrews who married heathen wives. They put these wives away because of their abominations. The wives were obviously unrepentant. The abominations that these heathen wives committed carried the death penalty. These wives should have been executed. So essentially, the requirement that they be put away was a mercy. Since they were being released rather than executed, their husbands could put them away without sin. The heathen wives should have been executed, and their husbands were permitted to treat them as if they were in fact dead. These heathen wives joined their husbands in the congregation of Israel, and simultaneously continued in their abominations. Therefore, Ezra demanded that they put these wives away.

The demand was that these wives be put away from the congregation. Should the Israelite husband choose, he could put himself away from the congregation with her, rather than putting her away (see Ezra 10:8). So, there was no absolute requirement that the marriage be ended. Rather, there was a requirement that the abominable women be put away. The husband could put her away, or he could join her in being put away from the congregation.

Based on this passage then, divorce can be rightly sought when Biblical laws that carry the death penalty are violated. In this nation, we always delay and often refuse to execute murderers. But that does not require the murderer’s wife to remain married to the murderer. He should be dead, and she is allowed to recognize that by seeking legal release. If America were a Christian nation, then witchcraft and adultery would be punished by execution. The fact that we no longer recognize the authority of Scripture on a civil level should not stop us from recognizing the authority of Scripture on an ecclesiastic level. When the death penalty should have been executed, the believer is free to view their spouse as dead.

If death releases a spouse from marital obligation, then so does any crime that carries the death penalty. In light of this, and when we consider that God’s wrath was appeased and his favor restored by the putting away of these wives, we can also make the case that there are times when it would be wrong to refuse to put away a spouse. But we must proceed with caution in this. For instance, we must remember that the Corinthian believers were married to idolators. Yet Paul tells them to stay married as long as the unbeliever stays faithful to the marriage vows.

The best advice that we can give in all these cases is that we should never be looking for a reason to divorce. We should hate it, always.

  1. May 22, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    I’m only going to put a brief comment, and as I do, first mention a few things: first, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but will, because, second, I’m as busy as I can get due to things I won’t rehearse to you but mention it’s the last week of school, I teach two classes and we have two graduations. I want to read the whole thing slowly. However, I did read the first two paragraphs, and I am going to assume that Pastor Mallinak, who is one of my best friends so that all of you will know, did not mean to misrepresent what I said, and clearly so, about the Ezra text.

    He was accurate in saying that I said that the “putting away” was a different word. He left out, and importantly so, that it is also a different word for their relationship, not the usual word for marriage. I’ll get into that more in detail, but read in the threads of comments to these posts that I dealt a lot with Ezra already and made that clear. I said the reason they weren’t married is because they weren’t married by the government of the theocratic nation, and a legal aspect is part of marriage. Taking a woman isn’t marriage, so the putting away is different too, which it is here. At least as big a beef, if not bigger, is that I very plainly said that the problem was not with marrying foreigners, even as we have Ruth and Rahab. I dealt with that explicitly and then he treated that like I had said nothing to it, which means he either ignored what I said or just didn’t read it. I said that they got rid of these women because of their pagan false religion and practice, not because they were foreigners. That’s what I’m saying for now, but I think these are pretty big.

  2. Thomas Ross
    May 22, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Even apart from the consideration of the Hebrew words involved, I don’t see why, if, in Ezra’s day, when the OT theocracy was in force, but putting the unrepentent idolatrous wives to death was not possible because of the domination of the heathen, this has any relevance to the NT dispensation. Please note that in Deuteronomy 13, slaying the wives was not an option, but a command:

    6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
    7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
    8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
    9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
    10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
    11 And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

    There was no option; they were to “surely” kill them. This could not be done in Ezra’s day because of the heathen domination. Unless one is willing to say that, in the NT, we should slay idolatrous wives, this text proves zero in favor of divorce. If one wanted to be consistent with it, it would not just allow, but absolutely require, that every Christian who had a spouse that was, say, a Roman Catholic and thus worshipped bread, should have her divorced, while a political group should be formed to lobby for legislation requiring all involved in false worship who are unwilling to repent should be put to death. The alleged parallel, “Ezra required unrepentant idolatrous women (BTW, the word “ishah” is often “wife,” but it is also simply the common, standard Hebrew word for “woman”) to be sent away in the Jewish theocracy, so NT Christians are not required, but can if they wish, divorce their wives for anything that brought the death penalty in Israel–or at least for things like adultery, etc–they actually don’t have the ability to do it for certain forms of idolatry, like CCM, or images of Christ, or for the fact that every unsaved person is an idolator, or for failing to have circumcision done on the right day (Gen 17:14), etc.; and, by the way, women can divorce their husbands too, although this is not mentioned in Ezra” seems to me like quite a leap, one that also goes explicitly against assertions such as those of the Lord Jesus in Mark’s gospel.

  3. May 23, 2007 at 5:29 am

    While it is fascinating and thought-provoking to argue over “wife” or “woman”, the fact is that the translators of the KJV thought the context meant “wives” when they translated it. I will trust their expertise on this issue, and more importantly the context of the Scripture.

    The real problem was mentioned by Brother Mallinak. Who decides what is a “legitimate” or “illegitimate” marriage? If my daughter marries a lost man, is that marriage “illegitimate”? Of course, it isn’t. I would be greatly displeased and would tell her she is in open rebellion to God, but the marriage stands.

    I really believe that you have to “parse” the Scriptures to make the Ezra 9 passage anything but divorce. We must play the “dispensation” card very carefully in passages like this. Actually, I believe that card should be played very sparingly anyway.

    Still, all in all, the discussions have been interesting. But, no one has convinced me that 1 Cor. 7 does not teach an “allowable” divorce in the prescribed circumstances.

  4. May 23, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    If I misrepresented Pastor Brandenburg, it was unintentional. I answered what I understood him to be arguing. I missed the argument that the word for “take a wife” was different, however, I also pointed out three passages that use this same phrase (from the Hebrew) and clearly are referring to marriage.

    Whether the Hebrew word for “putting away” in this passage is the same as that in other passages on divorce or not, these men had “taken wives.” And that phrase is used other times in the Bible to refer to legitimate marriages (Jeremiah 29:6; Deut 22:13; Deut 25:5, 7).

    As Art said, and more importantly, my struggle in this is with the idea that we call any marriage illegitimate that doesn’t fit in our model. Pastor B (and Thomas too) can whip me any day when it comes to Hebrew. But I’m looking at what the passage says in the one language I can read. The passage calls them wives, and says they put them away. Should the KJV read differently?

    And also, Pastor B said, “I said that they got rid of these women because of their pagan false religion and practice, not because they were foreigners.”

    I am arguing that it was more than that. When you read what I wrote, will note that I said they put these wives away “because of their abominations,” named at least once in Deut. 18:9-12. They were not put away simply because they were idolotrous.

    But we can be technical all day. If the marriages were illegitimate, then why did it take 3 months to put them away?

  5. May 24, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    I’m going to answer this little by little. I will make his post in bold and mine NOT BOLD to differentiate from his post.  What you will see is that Pastor Mallinak skipped looking up words (did not do the leg work), and so left himself with some big problems for his post and position.  Everything crumbles in the first two paragraphs of his post—read and find out.  This very likely means that everything after the first two paragraphs is a moot point and mainly disintegrates.

    Ezra 9-10 is a dilemma for those who argue that divorce is never allowed in Scripture. If the marriages were illegitimate in the first place, then why did it take four men from January to April to complete the “putting away” (Ezra 10:15, 16-17)? Go ahead and read Ezra 10:15-17. What did the men do out of disobedience?  It says they “had taken strange wives.” First, “had taken” (yashab) is not usually marriage. Pastor Mallinak says that it can refer to marriage, and gives three examples (I’ll show you later that none of his three examples are actually using the word yashab, the Hebrew word used in Ezra 9 and 10). The verb is used 1077 times in the OT in 972 verses, so it is a common word. It is found first in Genesis 4:20, translated “dwell,” as in “the father of such that dwell in tents.” Are all people who dwell together with others in tents married to the other people in the same tent? No. Interestingly enough, the first time in the book (Ezra 4:6) that yashab occurs, it isn’t marriage, and the first time in Ezra 9, verse 3, it isn’t marriage. There it is translated, “sat down,” as in Ezra “sat down astonied.” Did that mean that Ezra was married in that text? No. It is used in Ezra 4:6, 8:32, 9:3, and 9:4, and it is not ever marriage. Then it occurs next in Ezra 10:2 and Pastor Mallinak would say it is obviously marriage there. The word translated “wives” (‘ishshah) is the same word translated “women” all throughout the Old Testament. It is found in Job 42:15, “And in all the land were no women (‘ishshah) found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.” So these don’t have to be wives and can be just women.  The word “strange” (nokriy) happens to be the same lemma found in the verse, Proverbs 5:20, “And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?” Do you think that the “strange woman” in Proverbs 5:20, 6:24, and 7:5 is married to the man embracing her or admiring her? I didn’t think so.

    The first time that any tense of the verb “married” is in the Bible, it is found in Genesis 19:14. It is the Hebrew word laqach.  Consider Moses himself in Numbers 12:1, “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” Both those words “married” are laqach. If it isn’t laqach, it is ba’al (Deut. 22:22). So laqach and ba’al are the words for marry or married, not yashab. What these men did was dwell with strange women.  They were shacking up.

    They “made an end” (kalah) of the men dwelling with strange women. The Hebrew word translated “made an end” is used in Ezra 1:1 and there translated, “might be fulfilled,” as in “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” In Ezra 9:1, it is translated “were done,” as in “Now when these things were done.” In Ezra 9:14, it is translated, “consumed,” as in “wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us.” The last time it occurs in Ezra is in 10:17 and there Pastor Mallinak says that “made an end” is the word for “divorce.” The two words used for divorce are garash (Lev. 21:7, 14) and shalach (Deut. 22:19, 29).  This is kalah.  It is not divorce.  It is not divorce because these women were not married to these men in the sight of God.  They ended (kalah) the cohabitation of these Israelites with these heathen women.

    Pastor Mallinak makes a fatal flaw above. He says that “take” is used for “take wives,” that is, “married wives.” Yes, the word laqach is used in Jeremiah 29:6, Deuteronomy 22:13, and Deuteronomy 25:7, 9 in the verses he references.  BUT “take” in Ezra 10:17 is not laqach but yashab.  You can’t use those references to support your take-equals-marriage view when it isn’t the word used when take-equals-marriage.  Interestingly enough, yashab is differentiated from laqach in one of the verses Pastor Mallinak references. Consider Deut. 25:5, “If brethren dwell together (yashab), and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take (laqach) her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.” Laqach is not found at all in Ezra 9 or 10—not at all, never.  This is seriously faulty exegesis. And I don’t say that to chide Pastor Mallinak, but to say that this proves our point and very greatly contradicts his.

    He asks why did it take three months?  Well, that really means nothing to the divorce and remarriage situation. It took three months because it was a nasty, big problem. Men don’t normally get involved in living with other women and then suddenly in that state agree to give them up and move out. Three months seems like a short solution really.

    And if the marriages were legitimate, then why was God pleased with Shechaniah’s solution? They weren’t legitimate.

    Whether anyone admits to the legitimacy of these marriages or not, Ezra required an official putting away. When Schechaniah gave his recommendation to Ezra (10:3), he said “let it be done according to the law.” This doesn’t mean that it was an “official putting away.” That is definitely reading into the text.  It meant that God’s law said that His people were not to be living with pagan, foreign women like they had been married when they weren’t.

    If the marriages were not legitimate, then the men would simply send these women packing. But Schechaniah called for these women to be put away in accordance with the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses said that these situations were to stop, yes.  And they did send them packing.  And Shechaniah was happy about it.

    They were simply living together like they were married since they could not be married in the sight of God.  That may be why the translators translated ishshah “wives” instead of “women.”  “Women” would also have been a fine translation.  They did not need to be careful not to use the word “married,” because yashab is not marriage.  They did not need to be careful not to use a word for “divorce,” since kalah is not about divorce.

  6. Chris Stieg
    May 24, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    That is very interesting, Pastor Brandenburg, something I never knew before. BTW, I agree with the no-divorce position. But it is interesting and helpful to watch the exchange.

    Ezra 9-10 gave me problems before; but I think what should be obvious is this: Even if Ezra 9-10 is a situation in which God approved (even commanded) divorce, it does not give any permission for divorce today.

    In Ezra, the women were not put away because of their nationality or ethnicity; but because of their false religion. Even granting for sake of argument, that God commanded them to divorce because they married idolaters; this is not true in the N.T. 1 Corinthians 7 deals with that passage, and specifically precludes that. It says not to divorce an unbelieving spouse.

    Thank you to both pastors for the study you have put into this issue, and were willing to share.

  7. May 25, 2007 at 5:55 am

    As Chris mentioned, what happened in Ezra does not necessarily give us “permission” to divorce today.

    I also agree that 1 Corinthians 7 specifically precludes a saved person seeking or obtaining the divorce in the instances mentioned there. However, I believe it does teach that if the unbelieving depart and divorce the believer, then the believer is no longer “under bondage” and may re-marry.

    The Hebrew argument in Ezra is starting to make my head hurt, but the passage in 1 Corinthians 7 is still the sticking point for me to share Brother Brandenburg’s position.

  8. Anvil
    May 25, 2007 at 6:45 am

    Those of us who have been bringing up Ezra have not done so in order to say that such circumstances can or should be used today for divorce. It’s only interesting in that *if* it speaks to divorce (and not to just leaving a “shacking up” relationship), it has a direct bearing on God being against ALL divorce at ALL times. The fact that the KJV translates ishshah as wives and not as women is certainly interesting, given what most KJV proponents argue about their scholarship and translation abilities compared to us today.

    As Art has brought up, the I Cor. 7 passage seems very clear on allowing remarriage after an unbelieving spouse divorces, even though there would be very good arguments for not simply remarrying but allowing for a possible reconciliation if the unbeliever eventually receives Christ and has not remarried in the interim. Of course, those verses seem to be speaking more to what is allowable for the believer after a divorce that is initiated by the unbeliever, rather than saying that divorce is OK in these circumstances — it is a recognition of the reality of the already broken marriage rather than an endorsement of the divorce.

    The sticking point on “no divorce” for me is more the exception clause that Christ himself gave, and although I don’t claim to understand the implications of the Greek as these men do, the explanation given on this site seems a bit forced and, as Pastor Mallinak noted, seems to cause some interesting bits of illogic.

  9. May 25, 2007 at 8:19 am

    I’m off quickly to my commute through the 5th busiest traffic in America, but I will say that, Anvil, I expected the KJV thing coming, which is why I gave a paragraph at the end. I take my interp from the Hebrew text, and I don’t believe they mistranslated ishshah. I don’t believe the people hearing it in that day understood them as “wives.” And if they did, they were only wives as far as they were concerned, but not God, hence the language that I mentioned.

    The Hebrew, Art, is clear, if you read it slow. We do study the words when we preach and get interp. The “difficult explanation” excuse doesn’t fly with me though for anyone else who might bring it up.

  10. May 25, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Brother Kent,

    I was being a little facetious about my head hurting. A little…:-)

    I agree with you on the “difficult explanation” excuse being silly. Just because something is difficult to understand makes it neither right or wrong.

  11. May 25, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    I’m back. OK, Anvil, you said,

    “The fact that the KJV translates ishshah as wives and not as women is certainly interesting, given what most KJV proponents argue about their scholarship and translation abilities compared to us today.”

    I believe God perfectly preserved His Words. I believe they are found in the Hebrew and Greek behind the KJV. I believe that English of the KJV is accurate.  That’s why I am unabashedly KJVO.  I think we have one Bible.  I don’t know why they translated it “wives,” but it wasn’t a decision based upon Hebrew scholarship. They were scholars adn the translation was scholarly, but that decision didn’t relate to Hebrew, but upon context. I can’t, at this point, explain why they translated it “wives.”  They surely had their reason and I can’t get into their heads.  At our church, I don’t ordinarily even try to explain what I think is why they translated something a certain way. I just preach the text. I gave a good explanation, I think, why these “wives” from their perspective were not “wives” from God’s perspective, and just women, judging based upon the use of the words “take” and then “make an end.” I really think that the mention of the KJV issue now is just a deflection. I’ve never taken a position here or anywhere else that I don’t think that words could have been translated differently. I use the word accurate because I think it is accurate. However, I think we should understand that it does mean “women,” and that it is not always married women.

    And thanks Art. I understand that men out there will think that when the Hebrew is referenced, not necessarily you, that one is attempting to put his own twist on a text. In other words, if someone doesn’t like what the English says, then he can just go to the Hebrew to make it into something more comfortable. I’m writing to the person that wants to use that against what I have explained. I don’t think anyone should. That’s why I somewhat pounced on that, Art, but thanks for explaining.  By the way, Art, I read some things that you said over at Sharper Iron in the last few days and thought they were very good.

  12. Thomas Ross
    May 25, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    One can verify that the word “wives” is “women” without knowing a lick of Hebrew with Bible software and Strong’s numbers; download the Online Bible software and one can do it. Please also consider (I haven’t had time to look all these up; this was a very cursory analysis; I have been very busy) that in Genesis 24:40 in the KJV English “thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father’s house” calls the woman a “wife” before they are actually married; Matthew 1:20 is a classic illustration where Mary was called Joseph’s “wife” in the KJV English before they were actually married; adn someone who looked all the verses up would be very likely to find others. So even a Ruckmanite (and I am not calling any contributor to this thread one) would not be able to get much mileage out of the “KJV says wife, not woman” argument–even without considering that the word in the original language is absolutely identical.

  13. May 27, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Bro. Ken makes some good points about not being married to these “wives.” It would be like people today referring to their common-law partners as their wives. Five of the nine times the word “wives” is used is from quotations by those involved (ie. they referred to them as wives), and the other four were just part of the narrated text:

    Ezra 10:17-19 And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month. And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah. And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.

    Ezra 10:44 All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.

    In situations like this, I like to see how God uses a term and to see whether the term in question was part of a statement made by someone, or something that was related by the person writing that book. Ie. if it was the inspired Biblical writer making a statement, then I know that was God’s conclusion about it, but if it was something quoted by an enemy (for example), then I know it just reflected their opinion or position (therefore it was not God stating the controversial statement or term, but giving it to us as the account of what happened).

    In this case, it makes it harder (for me) to determine exactly whether it is God referring to these women as wives or just the people involved doing so. If it was just the people (but those other four verses seem to indicate otherwise), then it would be easy to conclude that these were wives only in their eyes, but not God’s – just like a fornicator referring to his lover as his “wife” today. They aren’t married in the eyes of God so it certainly isn’t his wife.

    Hope that made sense. You have given me food for thought anyways.

  14. Anvil
    May 27, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    I didn’t really intend the KJV argument simply as deflection. I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar. I certainly can look up the words in a lexicon using Strong’s, Online Bible, MacSword, etc., and I do so. However, there are often several possible meanings for any one word — knowing which is the right one can depend on context, and can even sometimes depend on knowing intent. Scholarship and study can help with this. I certainly did read your arguments from the Hebrew, and they seem like good arguments, at least in pointing out that words used are different, and what that could possibly mean. However, other scholars (namely the KJV translators) chose to translate that word differently than you did.

    As you said, we cannot know exactly why they did so, but it certainly wasn’t just at a whim. Therefore, knowing they did so is very interesting (at least to me), and an important part of the argument. We can certainly talk about whether their translation was a good one or not, whether that translation is misleading to 20th century English readers, and whether or not yours was better, but as someone who cannot really take part in that discussion without a lot of knowledge in Hebrew I don’t have, I have to weigh various interpretations/translations by what I can study on my own, as well as by what other men say on the subject. The stature of the KJV men speaks for itself.

    Like Art, I’m not just throwing up my hands because of difficulty, but I can’t easily know if your view of this passage from the Hebrew is any more correct than viewing those women as actual wives.

  15. May 28, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Gary, my conscience is clear on this issue. I’m not suffering from a guilty conscience over it, though that is an easy (and convenient) way to dismiss my position. I’m not the one who needs to change word meanings in order to make my case. I’m not the one who needs to re-define fornication in order to get to my position. I’m not the one who came up with my position and then forced it on all the pertinent passages. I studied the pertinent passages, formed my position, and then dealt with divorce and re-marriage from there.

    And Gary, you might be interested to know that I held the “no divorce” position (as I was taught growing up) until I studied it out. I point that out since changing one’s mind seems to be so persuasive here. I guess we only have integrity if we changed our minds to get it.

    That being said, it is absolutely essential to Kent’s case that the marriages in Ezra 9 & 10 be “illegitimate” (i.e. not marriages). And rightfully so. If Kent takes up a different position, say Thomas’, then his whole case falls apart. If you say “no divorce ever” then you can’t very well say, “well, except for this one time, even though it doesn’t justify us in the New Testament.” Rightfully so, Kent understands that if God has never allowed divorce, then we can’t say that he allowed it once.

    So, the question of legitimacy for these marriages is the key question. In fact, it is the only defensible position to take, so Kent is right to take up his stand on that ground. Now, I’m trying to summarize Kent’s position as best I can, though I do realize that it is rhetorically advantageous to Kent if he can say I misrepresented his position. I’m sure that one gnat will get through my strainer in the course of this answer, and no doubt when that happens, Kent will blow his whistle and call his own foul. But, if it helps, I am trying to represent his position fairly.

    From what I read, Kent says that the marriages were illegitimate because of the theocratic government of the time, because the Hebrew for taking a wife is not used for marriage in any other place, and because the Hebrew for putting away is not used for divorce in any other place. Now, I have already answered the “theocratic government” argument (whether effectively or not I do not know – Kent will tell me), but as a brief reminder, there are plenty of examples of legitimate marriages with heathen women that were recognized during the theocratic years. In addition, Deut 21:10-14 is relevant to the issue of whether marriages to heathen wives were recognized under the theocratic government.

    As to the Hebrew, as I’ve said before, Kent reads these passages in Hebrew, and my ability to read Hebrew is a bit, shall we say, tedious. He can read the verse in Hebrew as I would read it in English. But I read it in Hebrew the way he would read it in Chinese… I have to look up one word at a time, look up the lemmings, etc. (you get the picture). That is not to excuse my “lack of leg work” as Kent called it. Rather, it is to point out that Kent can kick my tail any day when it comes to Hebrew. I’ll not try to compete with Kent in that area. I trust him, so no doubt he is right.

    But whether my Hebrew skills are up to snuff or not, I do not understand how it can be argued that yashab never means “marriage” anywhere else, and therefore does not mean “marriage” here. I do not understand how one can argue that yatsa never means “divorce” anywhere else, and therefore does not mean “divorce” here. Maybe Kent could explain the rule to us. Maybe he could explain how “not p in any other place” means “therefore not p in this place either.” Since I’ve not even had one semester of Hebrew, it could be that this is an early lesson I missed.

    I’ll also admit that I did not look at each of the 980 places we find yashab in the OT, or at each of the 992 places we find yatsa in the OT. I’ll take your word for it that yashab is never “marriage” and yatsa is never “divorce” in any other of those places. But I would point out that there is at least a possiblity that yashab means marriage in one place… Ezra 9 and 10. I say that on the simple ground that somebody else besides me called them wives. Now, if Kent thinks it should be women and not wives, I’ll not quibble with him. But since “wives” is the reading that stood for nearly 400 years, then I think we can at least say that there is the possibility that it could be “wives” there. Somehow our King James guys got that impression.

    But Kent won’t even admit the possibility. Yashab is not “marriage” in any other place, therefore it can’t be marriage in this place either. Of course, if we apply that rule (which I hope someone can give a warrant for) to, say, Proverbs 18:24, then we have to say that the only way to have friends is to do evil, to compromise, to tolerate sin. The word ra’a (the Hebrew word for “friendly”) is never used in a positive way, except for in Proverbs 18:24. So, applying the “rule,” we must say that since it is not used in a positive way anywhere else, it cannot be positive here either. A man that hath friends must show himself bad. But enough of that.

    I still can’t rule out the possibility that these were real marriages. We know that they were ishsha, so the possibility exists that they were women who were also wives. We know that yashab is never marriage anywhere else, but what are we supposed to think when our KJV says that they yashab ishsha (took wives). There is only one way I know of to take a wife. But that is beside the point. We also know that yatsa is not “divorce” anywhere else (well, maybe in Deut. 24:2). But then again, in this passage, they were putting away wives. How does one go about doing this without a divorce? And although Kent answered this objection, his answer comes from the assumption that the marriages were illegitimate. But I still struggle with his answer. After all, Ezra names all the men who put away their wives, and all those names fit on a half of a page in my Bible. Yet, somehow, it took them three months to get it done. Maybe I’m missing something in the Hebrew…

    With apologies for the length of this comment (though I still can’t compete with Thomas), and in hopes that someone will set me straight, I am…

    Respectfully yours…

  16. May 28, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    I’m not the one who needs to change word meanings in order to make my case. I’m not the one who needs to re-define fornication in order to get to my position. I’m not the one who came up with my position and then forced it on all the pertinent passages. I studied the pertinent passages, formed my position, and then dealt with divorce and re-marriage from there.

    How do we determine word meanings? We start with how the word was used. You say I’m redefining “fornication.” When people read “fornication,” you think they see it as “adultery?” Fornication is well-known as pre-marital, and then we look at how it is used in the NT—only clearly pre-marital. We look at how it is used in Matthew and it is plainly differentiated from “adultery.” The word “take” in every single instance, when it is marriage, is laqach. Here in Ezra 10, it is yashab. It isn’t marriage. I’m not changing meanings. Yashab is not the word used for marriage in the Old Testament. You don’t think that is significant? Then in 1 Corinthians 7, we have two different words used—douleo and deo—they have two different meanings. Paul could have easily used one word so that we would know that he was saying the thing in both places. He didn’t. You don’t think that is signficant?

    Jesus interpreted (Mk. 10) one pertinent passage (Dt. 24) and Paul agreed with Jesus’ interpretation (1 Cor. 7). Jesus goes back to Genesis 1 and 2 for His interpretation of marriage and divorce. Of course, all of these fit with “God hates divorce” in Malachi. Doesn’t that seem like it deals with pertinent passages. You see an exception? Like all other passages where we have exceptions, we interpret them in the light of clear statements in Scripture. We can understand why Matthew, in light of his presentation of Joseph in Matthew 1, would include the exception clause. We know it is not post-marital because of the use of the word “fornication.”

    Regarding Dt. 21 and marrying foreigners, we can’t argue from silence.  God didn’t want them to marry pagan.  I can’t assume that the conquered women were not willing to submit to God’s will.

  17. Thomas Ross
    June 13, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    By the way: without knowing any Hebrew, one can read the KJV margin on Ezra 10:3, which says, commenting on “to put away,” “Heb. to bring forth.” On Ezra 10:10, the KJV margin reads, “have taken: Heb. have caused to dwell, or, have brought back.” So the KJV supports Pastor Brandenburg’s contention that these were not normal wives. Pastor Brandenburg’s view on this, then, has stood in the KJV for the last 400 years–not just in the Hebrew since Ezra wrote it. 🙂

  18. June 14, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Brother Ross, we’re hoping that your honeymoon never ends, and thanks for the research on the point made in Ezra, very helpful.

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