Marriage Divorce remarriage: What do the scriptures say?
In the gospels Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and religious renown that knew and understood the law of marriage and divorce in Deut. 24, but were not keeping it, while looking for easy loopholes to divorce their wives. Therefore, Jesus addresses them from the premise of their knowledge according to such. That's why He reiterated Gods' word to them. So, the fact that the perceived "exception clause" in Mark 10:1-12 and Luke 16-18 discourse, but present in Matthew 5-30,31 and Matthew 19-9 do not cast a shadow on the original teachings of Moses. Notice the Pharisees said “commanded”, Matt.9-7,and Jesus corrected them by saying “permitted.” Permission was not granted in the beginning, Gen. 2, but it was (and is) granted because God is dealing with humans who do not repent (i.e. hardness of their hearts). God makes exceptions for the hard hearts of those who are unwilling to forgive. They did indeed confound the words of Moses to make themselves feel righteous (without sin) for divorcing their wives for any reason whatsoever. This particular discourse has nothing to do with Exodus. 21, of which I will discuss shortly in this article, but divorce should never even be considered by two true Christians walking in the faith.
But even in cases of infidelity God would have preferred them to seek reconciliation in the matter through forgiveness and mercy if at all possible, thus making divorce the last option available if all else fails.. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy, Matthew 5-7, this is how God chooses to have mercy on those that he will have mercy upon. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, Romans 9-15. God gives His mercy to those who bestow mercy upon others, (the parable of the king and the debtor).
What God saw unlawful then He sees unlawful now, because the eyes of the Lord go throughout the world the Spirit of truth sees the heart of every man/woman, therefore God knows all. God knows when man divorces for the wrong (selfish) reasons and God knows when man divorces for acceptable or (peace is impossible) reasons after exhausting all other avenues of reconciliation..
“Forgiveness” are the very keys to the kingdom that loosen the power of the Holy Ghost upon others. Unforgiveness, (resentment) is Satan’s strongest of strongholds, and his chief device of which he can take advantage of us through dividing and conquering, 2 Cor. 2:7-11.
I can recall the Pharisees in John 8 seeking to tempt Christ. They said; Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? I have often wondered why the counterpart, (the fornicating man) was not also presented along with the woman. This begs the question; did the Pharisees actually have a real legal case under the law of Moses? And were they deliberately accusing the woman while overlooking and excusing the man? I don’t know. Just something I have pondered about. It appears to me the man would have to be accused as well for a lawful proceeding to take place. JMO….. And of course, Jesus said He came to condemn no one whilst the Pharisees were tempting Him into condemning the woman. And of course Jesus is our example, in that we are to likewise condemn no one. We can judge fruit and make righteous judgements, but we are never to condemn anyone.
If we examine each discourse in which the subject of divorce is brought up by the Pharisees/Sadducees it was an attempt to debate among themselves the rendering of uncleanliness (all forms of sexual lewdness) in 24-1, sometimes called the Shammai /Hillel controversy. But it is not necessary to go into that debate and assumptions because Jesus is clear in His teaching. Hence, some argued for other causes so they could justify an unlawful divorce. The real reason was in each case to determine what were lawful grounds for a divorce and remarriage, because they were divorcing for any frivolous reasons for the purpose of remarrying again by twisting what Moses had said in Deut. 24. John the baptizer rebuked Herod for unlawfully remarrying because only by adultery (uncleanliness) could he do so, therefore Lev. 21 was not an issue concerning Herod’s circumstances..
When queried by the Pharisees, Jesus comes down clearly on the side of "uncleanliness" concerning the debate among them in Matthew 5. Had these men asked Jesus if they could lawfully divorce their wives who were beating them, while withholding basic provisions needed for daily living, causing anguish, both mental and physical, I suppose that Jesus would have told them it was indeed lawful. But the only grounds for divorce in that passage is adultery, because the “any excuse” standard was being flaunted and abused by men who wished to divorce their wives for frivolous reasons. And Jesus rebuked them also in Luke 16-15 15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. Today the same thing is being done under the false and obscured rendering of grace. And to add further, the Law of Moses forbad a man to go back to his first wife, 24-4. Are all to return to their original spouses that never abided in Gods' law to begin with? I might add also, Deut. 24-4 confirms that God cannot return to His wife (Old Testament Israel) because He gave her a bill of divorcement, Jeremiah 3:1-8. Therefore, the bride of Christ is NT Israel, prophesied in Jeremiah 18:1-7. That being the church, the congregation of believers by faith. Those that walk after the Spirit, (spiritual Israel), the Israel of God, Galatians 6-16.
A close study of Deuteronomy 24 and Matthew 5 would reveal the truth through leadership of the Spirit. And what about the rest of Matthew 5.?whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Are the Pundits writing books and preaching about that as well? and if thy right eye offend thee etc. It appears that ungodly principles of "just wars" and the banking cabal of usury is very much valid among the collective consciences of Christianity. Yet, oddly enough, we have no Pundits addressing these matters. It's ironic that the "putting away" interrogation came just following "if thy right eye offend thee". Jesus intended for His audience (the disciples) to take His sermon on the mount and take it to heart that day? He didn’t expect them to wait for months before they put it to practice? After the Temple was destroyed, the moral law didn’t end, but the obvious rules and regulations that applied to the nation of Israel along with her ceremonial law can’t and does not apply to us today, hence the moral law can and does apply always.
It has usually been assumed that Jesus named the single exception for divorce because this was the only grounds for divorce that He verbally recognized. However, there are also 3 factors that suggest that Jesus recognized Exodus 21:10-11 as additional grounds for divorce. Exodus 21:10- If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. 11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money. The first factor that indicates that Jesus accepted the grounds for divorce in Exodus 21:10-11 is the almost perfect parallel between the wordings of Jesus’ clause in the divorce debate. A man should not divorce his wife except he has found in her uncleanliness. Therefore knowing their hearts, He knew that Lev.21 was not the issue at hand. So, He meant that Deuteronomy 24:1 "permits" no type of divorce except that for fornication concerning the matters debated in Matt. 5-32 &.19-9 were permissible. This did not mean that scripture allowed no divorce except for that of fornication, because they did allow other divorces on the grounds of abuse in Exodus 21. God’s principles change not. Abuse and neglect are still moral issues today, just as it was in the days of Moses, and just as it was in the days Christ walked the earth.
Therefore, we must understand that when Jesus or the gospel writers use the same phrase as their contemporaries, in the same context, they mean the same thing. Jesus taught, it was not that way from the beginning and it was not what God had intended, (and still does intend) marriage to be for a lifetime. However, as we see in Exodus 21, God made provisions for a slave wife who was not given at least the basic necessities of food, clothing, and conjugal rights.
God’s character doesn’t change. Our Lord’s compassion expressed in Exodus 21 remains the same for those who are neglected and abused. When the Pharisees, who sided with the liberal sway, that “you can divorce your wife for any lame excuse or frivolous reasons”), they questioned Jesus to see who He sided with. Their intentions were selfish. This entire line of questioning in Matt.19 had nothing to do with the mistreatment of wives as found in Exodus. 21. So, Jesus knowing there thoughts was pointing them back to what Moses had said in Deut. 24, because in this case Exodus 21 was not the issue at hand. Because Exodus 21 was about ungodly neglect, mistreatment, and lack of provision predominantly because of the abusive men. It was in order to protect the wife who was perceived to have had no rights.
Which brings me to a thought of how much things had changed since the time of Naomi and Ruth. There was a lack of godly men liken to Boaz in Jesus’s day. So by the time Christ arrived, some 1200 years later, the widow with 2 mites was the Naomi of her day, minus any men of Boaz's character and compassion. (The neglect of the suffering widows ruled in Jerusalem)
Once the marriage covenant is broken through a continuum of neglect or abuse, (a hardening of the heart) it is not necessary that the abused partner having made all attempts to reconcile the matter stay in the marriage waiting for the abuser to change. The abuser's recovery is a separate issue and his change is his own responsibility, not his wife's.
God’s compassion changes not. His provision for seriously neglected and mistreated spouses remains the same today as it was back then. In those cases listed in Exodus. 21, God felt it appropriate to liberate the slave wife from such a marital situation in order to protect the weaker partner. He did not require her to live the rest of her days without a spouse because the first chose to sin against her without repentance. Also Moses "permitted" divorce and remarriage equally to both men and women, although unwritten in the law concerning women. However, to avoid the hardship and abuse women would have to endure in intolerable circumstances divorce was also permitted by Moses..
The second issue is that Jesus did not say anything about these grounds during this debate concerning divorce although they were central to the subject. Notwithstanding, He spoke about other peripheral matters not central to the debate concerning divorce. This is often times overlooked, but very important. Even though Jesus was asked about divorce, He first spoke about monogamy and gave two passages in support of this. A great number of Jews in that day perceived that polygamy was allowed by God, and so Jesus provided scripture to confirm that it was not in God’s original plan by referencing Gen. 2.
Then he spoke about the lifelong nature of marriage. Most Jews felt that this principle was unimportant because God had given a permissible law of divorce in Deut. 24, and they felt that this gave them implicit permission to divorce. Jesus also addressed the issue of whether divorce was compulsory or optional when there had partaken in unfaithfulness. A growing number of Jews at the time felt that it was compulsory, and most felt that it was the morally correct thing to do, but Jesus said that Moses “permitted” divorce but did not “command” it. Jesus also indicated the circumstances in which divorce for unfaithfulness was appropriate, by saying that the law had been given to cope with cases of stubborn hardness of heart, where there was a refusal to repent and change. He also taught, though only to his disciples, that marriage and childbearing were optional.
One important implication of this was that childlessness could no longer be used as a ground for divorce. This was a contrast to most Jews, though there were many who were uneasy about divorce on the grounds of infertility. Jesus was not asked about any of these matters, but he was determined to speak about them, and to the apparent annoyance of the Pharisees who had to bring him back to the central point of the question. It would seem strange that Jesus would bring up all these issues, some of which were peripheral to the subject of divorce, and yet ignore an issue that was so central to the subject of the debate, thus He answers them with Deut. 24.. The third factor is that everyone would assume that Jesus recognized that there were other Old Testament grounds for divorce because this should have been a universally held view. But none one of the other areas that Jesus addressed in this discourse in Matthew 5 were universally held in first-century Judaism. Among the many and divided groups within Judaism one could find Jews who would agree with Jesus’ teachings on a singular one time marriage for life, optional divorce, forgiveness for unfaithfulness except in cases of stubbornness, optional marriage, the invalidity of divorce for infertility, and, of course, the invalidity of the “any excuse” for divorce. In contrast, there was no group in first-century Judaism that rejected the grounds for divorce written in Exodus 21:10-11.
It would be strange if Jesus spent time on these various doctrines that were not unique in Judaism and neglected to mention a doctrine that was totally unique. If Jesus had wanted to teach a rejection of the grounds for divorce in Exodus 21:10-11, he would have had to say so very clearly, and if he said nothing about them, it would have been assumed that, like all other Jews, he accepted them. Just as Jesus nowhere explicitly allowed or forbade remarriage after the death of a spouse, but we logically perceive that He did allow for this because all Jews, including Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, clearly allowed it. Another is; Jesus is never recorded as saying anything about the immorality of sexual acts before marriage, but no one assumes that he approved of them. This is universally understood. So, in all these matters it is easy for us to understand that Jesus agreed with the universally held position because we too agree with it. However, in the matter of divorce, on the grounds spoken of Exodus 21:10-11, the grounds for divorce are based on the 3 obligations of providing love, food, and clothing. They divided these into 2 groups: 1) emotional obligations (love), and 2) material obligations (food and clothing). Paul deals with the emotional obligations in 1 Corinthians 7. Talking heads find it harder to assume that Jesus accepted the universal position merely because they do not hold to it.
Concerning Paul and 1 Cor.7; Paul’s reply is based on the law of Exodus 21:10-11 concerning the rights of the slave wife. This passage said that even a salve wife had the right to expect love from her husband, and then so should a free wife and a husband also have the right to expect such. In verses 32-35, Paul then addresses the second matter, the matter of material obligations. Paul’s motive for discouraging marriage was to save people from the accompanying material obligations during the time of “present distress” tribulation, and persecutions that the believers at Corinthians were experiencing, which were probably the cause of illness and death within the congregation. He also described the material obligations, like the emotional obligations, in terms of equality for both men and women. Likewise was this true in the OT. Paul referred to the husband and wife who desire to please each other. He said nothing negative about these material concerns, even though these material things are “of the world”, because it was a logical and moral obligation within marriage that he recognized in the law. He did not address the purpose of these obligations with regards to divorce. In fact, he tried to discourage the Corinthians from divorcing their spouses. Therefore we would not expect him to add “By the way, you can feel free to apply these obligations as sufficient grounds for divorce if your spouse does not fulfill them.” Because this would imply the wrong emphasis of the message in which he was conveying to them. But rather, they should not separate from their spouse, and they should strive to oblige to fulfill their marriage obligations in that they do not allow for an occasion for divorce. So, both Jesus and Paul affirmed the OT grounds for divorce; and that the OT law allowed divorce for adultery and for neglect and abuse (Deut. 24 & Exodus 21).
Because divorce and the destruction of the family has become so rampant within the church in the last few decades that rhetorical talking heads have cast out sound biblical reasoning in favour of extreme legalism. This zealous elitism has been repetitive for centuries within professing Christianity. And unfortunately some teachers who are godly and teach soundly on many issues are still extremely confused concerning the matter of divorce and remarriage, thus placing an unnecessary yoke on the necks of true believers who by sincerity of heart want to do what is right in the fear of God..