The Question of Divorce – What Does Jesus Say?

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Matthew 5:31-32

These two verses have caused more confusion and grief in the church than few others. So much misunderstanding exists because we have not looked at them through Hebrew eyes. 

While Paul wrote more on this subject, I found counsel and commentary very confusing. It was difficult to put black and white points of solid understanding and ground rules to the text. Therefore, for this blog, we will focus on the word of Jesus only. 

In Paul’s writings, he is addressing a different group with different issues in every letter. When you try to put all of it together on a page, it doesn’t jell. It is very confusing and there’s been confusion for centuries among the most learned scholars. So, we are not going to get into Paul. We are only talking about what Jesus spoke. 

When He said, ‘it has been said,’ He was referring to what the rabbis taught and the Pharisees said. The people did not have a personal copy of God’s word. 

Now what Jesus was addressing here is the scripture Deuteronomy 24:1

“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.

‘Finding no favor in his eyes is a wide open door for personal interpretation. Then the word ‘uncleanness’ has to do with indecency or improper behavior. Again, it was left up to the man’s interpretation as to what that meant. When you go to the Hebrew meaning of the word it also means naked, exposed, cohabitation, which deals more with adultery.

Rabbi Hillel, one of the prominent rabbis at the time said, ‘men may put away their wives for any cause.’ The Jewish culture was and is still is a male-dominated society. Men could divorce their wives but wives could not divorce their husbands.

Evidence of adultery by the wife was punishable by death. But, if a man found something he didn’t like about his wife, short of adultery, that was repulsive to him, he could divorce his wife. But this was not done verbally, in a hurry, or in anger. Instead, they engaged in lengthy discussion and a ‘bill of divorcement’ – a ‘get’, was legally drawn up and witnessed making the divorce a solemn and final one.

If the husband was guilty of immorality, the wife could bring it to the notice of the judge, and relief was given to her. The guilty husband suffered the death penalty. 

Today, in the Orthodox Jewish culture, a bill of divorce is a certificate that completely severs the original marriage. It frees the woman to marry another Jewish man of her choosing. Yet, the divorced couple cannot remarry each other. Without a ‘get’ the couple is still considered married, even if they get a secular divorce in court. 

Jesus here is stating a general rule that was well known at the time. Then He adds an exception to the rule. If a divorce has taken place because of adultery, the innocent party can remarry without negative repercussions. But adultery is the only exception for divorce. One can get a divorce for many reasons, but permission to remarry is only in cases of adultery. 

Verbal abuse and physical abuse are not mentioned. I am only presenting what Jesus said. Adultery was the only exception against remarriage stated. There are still many views on divorce today. But this is what the Word says. 

To limit the possibility of divorce, consider marriage prayerfully. Do not jump into marriage with your emotions only. Look to Holy Spirit to lead you. Look to Him to give you wisdom in your choice and in the timing. Too many marriages end in divorce because lust and emotions led them rather than God. 

James 1:4-5 says, But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

We have the Creator of the Universe at our disposal. The wisdom of the ages Who knows every one of us better than we know ourselves is available for counsel.

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10

Spend time with Abba when you consider marriage. Spend time with Abba when you are married. Spend time with Abba and follow what He tells you to do. Your chances of a happy marriage are so much greater.

Shalom ♥

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