Reading: Matthew 19:3-9
I grew up reading the Bible, and because back then I was too young to understand everything (especially the OT—until now!), I thought there must have been some passages I’ve missed or forgotten that said something about actions that warrant divorce. Actually, my premise was the same as the Pharisees’ (although mine was honest and theirs was malicious in questioning the Lord)—why then is there a procedure to follow?
Now, with online Bibles and search fields for keywords at our fingertips, the Word of God is even more accessible for us to study! So, listed below are the verses that contain the word “divorce” in the Bible (from the NIV translation):
Priests not to marry divorced women (Leviticus 21:7)
The high priest not to marry a divorced woman (Leviticus 21:14)
Entitlements (with regard to partaking of food, i.e., sacred contributions) of a priest’s daughter who is divorced (Leviticus 22:13)
A divorced woman’s vow being binding on her (Numbers 30:9)
A man not having the right to divorce his wife after slandering her of being defiled prior to marriage (Deuteronomy 22:19)
A man who defiles a virgin not pledged to be married must marry her and never divorce her (Deuteronomy 22:29)
A woman who has been divorced twice should not be married again to her first husband (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)
An account of sons being born to Shaharaim after he divorced his wives Hushim and Baara (I Chronicles 8:8)
A reference to Israel being sent away by the Lord because of her transgressions (Isaiah 50:1)
With reference to Deut.24:1-4, and the Lord’s relationship to Israel (Jeremiah 3:1)
Judah following in the steps of Israel’s unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3:8)
Again, priests on not to marry divorced women (Ezekiel 44:22)
Hating and divorcing one’s wife equal to doing violence to the one he should protect (Malachi 2:16)
On Joseph thinking of divorcing Mary quietly (Matthew 1:19)
Anyone divorcing his wife (except for sexual immorality) makes her a victim of adultery, and marrying a divorced woman is committing adultery (Matthew 5:31-32)
Jesus making the emphasis on what “God has joined together, let no man separate”; He also reiterates Matthew 5:31-32 (Matthew 19:3-9)
Here, Jesus mentions that if a woman divorces her husband and marries another man, she also commits adultery (Mark 10:2-12)
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman–whether she’s divorced or not–commits adultery (Luke 16:18)
In cases wherein a wife separates from her husband, she must either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband; a husband should also not divorce his wife (I Corinthians 7:10-11)
For a Christian man not to divorce his wife who is not a believer, and vice versa (I Corinthians 7:12-13)
From those verses above, what I can conclude is this: In extreme cases wherein separation has already happened, divorce is not the way to go forward (it may be permissible if there has been infidelity, but marrying another person after is still not an option). And the possibility for reconciliation should remain open.
So, going back to the Pharisees’ question: “Why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus made it clear that it was never that way from the beginning, but people’s hearts are hard. A certificate would just then be a tangible evidence of what has transpired—just as we have certificates for marriage, birth, citizenship, death, etc. Perhaps, as in Leviticus 22:13, it helps a priest’s daughter who is divorced to give proof of her entitlements in her father’s household.
To the people who love the Lord and strive to please Him but have committed divorce in the past and married again, I have nothing to say to you apart from the verses I have quoted above.
And that the Lord forgives.
6 “… Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. 8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. 9 Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. 10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord.
11 The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. 12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north:
“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
‘I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
under every spreading tree,
and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord.
14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion.