Divorce (2)

Young couple have problems in relationshipReasons for divorce

It seems that for Jesus

  • the only reason for divorce is sexual immorality,[1]
  • the marriage vows must never be broken (husband and wife have to stay in the marriage until one of them dies),[2] and
  • anyone that divorces his wife (or her husband) and marries another woman (or man) commits adultery.[3]

while the laws written by Moses allows also for other reasons for divorce and allow for remarrying as well.[4] Do the teachings of Jesus disagree with the laws written by Moses? Has Jesus nullified some of Mosaic laws. How to understand the topic of divorce?

God asked Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman of harlotry,[5] who bore him 3 children and later on committed adultery.[6] Then God asked Hosea to redeem Gomer and take her for his wife again.[7] If people who commit adultery must be put to death[8] then how could Hosea love Gomer again if the laws did not change? Obviously some laws were introduced to rescue people from death and give them another chance as in the case at hand. What are these laws?

Moses wrote many laws that formed the basis for the existence of the Jewish nation. What do these laws say about divorce and re-marrying?

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, • when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, • if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, • then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. Dt24:1–4nkjv

To be exact, what did Moses write and what he did not write in the passage above?

  1. The above law demonstrates that there are some other legitimate reason to divorce than adultery.
  2. A husband (one person) decided that there is something that he decides not like something about his wife (his judgement is not questioned or discussed by anybody)
  3. The husband proceeds and writes a certificate of divorce and hands it to his wife. The divorce becomes valid from the time the certificate is handed to the woman.
  4. The woman has a document to show that she is free to leave her house (and husband) and look for another husband.
  5. The law allows the woman and her future husband to legally re-marry.
  6. In case the second husband decides to divorce the woman, her previous husband is not allowed to take her for his wife again (he already humiliated her).

So, Moses allows people to divorce for other reasons than adultery (unfaithfulness), but this law is not enforced. To this day people commit adultery, and frequently marriages are not broken.

Jesus made some profound statements about divorce.

Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. Mk10:9nkjv

Does Jesus mean that every married couple is joined by God, therefore both spouses must remain as husband and wife until one of them dies? If yes, then it would mean that no matter how much people hate each other, or how much one spouse tortures another, at least one of them must suffer cruelty and pain. Is it what Jesus teaches?

Does Jesus teach that a husband and wife must never divorce even when one spouse or both commit adultery? If yes, He would contradict his own words that were not recorded by Mark (quoted above) but Matthew.[9] Disciples who heard Jesus speak on the topic of divorce in such absolute terms were appalled and commented that if the rules about the divorce are so harsh, then it is better to not marry at all,[10] than to take a great risk of torture forever. Jesus responded that only some people can cope with His statement. It would mean that some people can understand it. Let us try then.

Pharisees came to Jesus to not gain knowledge but test Him.[11] They asked if the laws allow to divorce a wife for just any reason.[12] Jesus presented to them the original standard of God for people[13] where the covenant of marriage was to represent God’s covenant with people (individually or as a congregation). When Pharisees pressed further and pointed out that Moses allowed to give a certificate of divorce and send his wife away.[14] Jesus responded that the certificate of divorce and the divorce itself were introduced some time later to rescue people who got themselves to terrible situation where breaking the marriage was better than forcing husband and wife to experience hell in the house.

Who can understand Jesus’s teaching on the topic of divorce? Those who can see that Jesus upholds the original law yet understands that additional laws are required because people were failing to hold on to God’s ideal standard. Those who fail are given different laws that are not as dignifying as the original one, but giving them a second chance instead of eternal condemnation.

…what God has joined together, let not man separate. Mt19:6

There is another concept lurking in the above law that many people fail to see and assume that all marriages are joined by God. But does God really join all people or approve of their marriage? I am not asking about people’s opinions, beliefs, legal status and so on. I am asking about God’s point of view regardless of what anybody thinks. Would anyone argue that a marriage between a 9-year-old girl and of a rich sadist from America has been approved by God? Or a marriage where someone planned to submit future spouse to home slavery or did it in order to get a large inheritance? What about a marriage where a woman were introduced to some unexpected rituals surrounding the wedding only to learn later on that she partook in the worship for the dead? I will not continue with more examples because they can be found all too often on the news and raise public anger. Would God approve such marriages? My answer is: definitely not. Some marriages may survive great tortures or humiliations, but it does not mean that everyone should do the same.

Jesus’s command “let not man separate” does not apply to all marriages and certainly not to those where people are severely trapped or humiliated. Therefore those who are trapped in marriages do not need to stay in bondage if they have troubles to cope with it. God does not expect anyone to force themselves to stay in the marriage which has never gotten His approval.

I often hear the statement that marriage vows are sacred and cannot be broken. However, i hear very rarely that someone is concerned about breaking the 10 commandments. If we were to be more concerned about the commandments, we should not focus so much on breaking the marriage vows but on the next statement made by Jesus — whoever divorces his wife … and marries another, commits adultery.[15] Why is it that we keep any law more important than the 10 commandments? In this context I would like to pose a question: is it a sin to divorce? Does anybody break any of the 10 commandment by divorcing a spouse?

God is a god of love. His laws are designed to serve people, not to cause harm. As the people are not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath is made for people,[16] so the people are not made for other laws (like the law of divorce) but other laws are made for people. They are to protect people from pain and suffering, but when they become the source of pain and suffering, they may need to be adjusted, because God loves people.

 

[1]      Mt19:9nkjv And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.

[2]      Mk10:9nkjv Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.

[3]      Mk10:11,12nkjv Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

[4]      Dt24:1–4nkjv When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, • when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, • if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, • then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

[5]      Ho1:2nkjv the LORD said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the LORD.

[6]      Ho3:1nkjv Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery,

[7]      Ho3:1nkjv Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”

[8]      Lv20:11nkjv The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. [this law applied to cases of adultery]
Jn8:4,5nkjv they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. • Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

[9]      Mt19:9nkjv And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.

[10]     Mt19:10nkjv His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

[11]     Mt19:3nkjv The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him,

[12]     Mt19:3nkjv “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

[13]     Mt19:4–6nkjv Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” • and said, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.

[14]     Mt19:7nkjv They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

[15]     Mt19:9nkjv And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.

[16]     Mk2:27nkjv And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

One Response to Divorce (2)

  1. yirmegail says:

    Another well written article on the topic and I truly stand with you when you say that these days the 10 commandments holds less importance in people’s lives than it should. Thank you Cezary and I look forward to part 3.

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