Is Getting a Divorce Biblical?

As a child of divorced parents and someone who is divorced from my children’s other parent, I can say, no one likes divorce or wants divorce. But getting a divorce  is discussed in the bible and what can we learn from those comments.

One day I decided I would try to determine where the pastors and others get their wording when they are performing a wedding ceremony.  To my surprise, none of the wording is together in the bible in a place to read or quote the Bible, Jesus or any of the writers of the various books.

So things like, “for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part.” those phases are long in tradition, but not any where in specific biblically.

Parents arranged marriages for their children within tribes and the groom would live above the bride and her parents preparing the “apartment” or Mansion for the bride.  There were trumpets involved and other ceremonial events.  But words and phrases associated with current marriage ceremonies were not the same.

Let’s start from the beginning. Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord G-d said, “it is not good for man to be alone.  I will make him a helper, suitable for him.”  Later, 2:22 “and the Lord fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man.”  2:23 And the Man Said, “‘this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.’” And then the payoff verse, 2:24, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and they shall become one flesh.”

The ‘one flesh’ obviously cannot be separated. The marriage of Jesus (BrideGroom) and the Church(Bride) is a contract that cannot be broken.

Lets look at a few examples of where the Bible discusses “a wife” and “sending her away.” in some aspect.

Moses explained to the Israelites some condition of Domestic relations. Deuteronomy 21:10-15 “when you go into battle against your enemies. and the Lord your G-d delivers them into your hands, and you take them away captive. and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for your self, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. she shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house and morn her father and mother a full month and after that you may have relations with her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. and it shall be if you are not pleased with her then you shall let her go wherever she wishes, but you shall not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her because you have humbled her.”

Then in 15 it says, “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved and both have borne him sons…..

Where did this ‘Wives’ thing come about? What happened to “one flesh?”

Abraham had Sarah. then messed up and had Hagar and Sarah.

Isaac was told to go and pick the girl whom said a certain phrase. “Drink my lord and let me get some water for your camels also.”

We see that Jacob, the son of Isaac had 4 wives.  or at least had children with four and the 12 children become the tribes of Israel.  Judah, from which is the tribe of David, Solomon and Jesus was born of Jacob’s first wife of which he didn’t want. Leah.  Jacob wanted Rachel but Leah was given to him first.  Then Rachel, as well as their two maids. Zilpah and Bilhah.

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And his wives turned his heart away from the Lord to other gods.

David had similar issues.

Lets go back to Deuteronomy and look at chapter 22 this time. Chapter 22 is the one that no one talks about. This on along with Chapter 24 encompass many of the divorce comments and instructions.  Ezra talks further about the ‘tribe’ divorce and we will cover all of these here.

Chapter 22:1, From Moses: “if any man takes a wife and has relations with her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her and says ‘I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,’ then the girls father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. and the girl’s farther shall say to the elders, ‘ I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her.  and behold he has charged her with shameful deeds saying, “I did not find your daughter a virgin.” But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.” and they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.  So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him and the shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the  girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel, and she shall remain his wife, he cannot divorce her all his days.

20, But if this charge is true, that the girls was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her fathers house thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

So, here is an instance where a marriage was arranged within the tribe and the bride was thought to be wholesome and to have never been with a man before. If it turns out she was never with someone else then the man CANNOT DIVORCE HER ALL HIS DAYS. But if she had, not only is there a divorce, but the woman would be stoned to death and purged from among them. Wow.

There are a few more interesting comments and instructions in Chapter 22 of Deuteronomy concerning divorce and not divorce but they are concerning rape and incest.  So lets move on to Chapter 24.

24:1-4. 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 indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leave his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and put it in her hand and sends her out of his house or if the latter husband dies who took her to be  his wife, then the former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since 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 G-d gives you as an inheritance.

Here we have an instance where a man does not find favor in his wife, and is able to divorce his wife. There are some other good comments and instructions concerning relations in Numbers Chapter 5 and Also Leviticus Chapter 18.

Ezra 9 and 10 are concerning intermarrying or mixed marriages between tribes and the fallacy of marrying outside your tribe and the trouble that leads to.

The men were allowed to leave the women with whom they had relations and separate from them.

Could G-d divorce his bride?  What about Jeremiah 3:8?

Start with verse 6, Then the Lord said to me in the  days of Josiah the king, “have you seen what faithless Israel did?”  She went up on every high hill and under every green tree and she was a harlot there.  “And I Thought, ‘After she has done all these things, she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. and 8: “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.”

In this instance, G-d declares that when Israel split from Judah, acted as a harlot and worshiped other gods on every high hill and every green tree and was a harlot there.  Then, to make things worse, Judah, the Chosen tribe, saw the harlotry and saw that Israel did not return and Judah did not fear and went and was a harlot also and polluted the land and committed adultery with the stones and trees.  And Judah did not return to G-d.  But G-d invited their repentance.  Eventually they were destroyed by the Assyrians and the Persians except for a remnant.  G-d divorced his chosen people, but gave them an opportunity to repent.

Then later on in Malachi 2:16 G-d says “for I hate Divorce,” says the Lord, The G-d of Israel.

The interesting thing is G-d says He hates divorce. Not, there is no reason for “Sending Away or Dismiss”  which is the actual meaning of the word divorce.

Now, lets get to the New Testament comments and instructions.

Matthew 5:31-37, “And it was said, “Whoever Divorces his wife, let him give her a Certificate of Dismissal’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife except for the Cause Of Unchastity, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

33, “again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make No oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of G-d, or by the earth, for it is a footstool of his feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. “But let your statements be, ‘Yes, Yes, or No, No; and anything beyond these is from the evil one.

Now look at what is stated here in red letters.  The implication here is that if there is adultery, that this is a reason to get a divorce. And if you divorce a woman because of something other than infidelity, then you make her commit adultery and if you were to marry a divorced woman then you are committing adultery.   Secondly, we are not to make any vows, but Yes and No.  What about the marriage vows.  Obviously, we should be asked if we take this person and the answer should be Yes, and that is it. Ceremony over!

Matthew 19:3-9.  And some of the Pharisees came to him to test him and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?”

and he answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning Made them Male and Female and for this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become on flesh. Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore G-d has joined together, let no man separate.”  Because of the hardness of your heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives: but from the beginning it was not this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Mark 10:3-12 and Luke 16:18 are similar in their report.

Finally, lets look at What Paul Says. 1 Corinthians 7.  1. Now Concerning the things about which you wrote. it is Good for a man Not to Touch a Woman.  But because of immoralities, let each man Have his OWN WIFE. and let each woman Have Her OWN HUSBAND. Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her OWN BODY, but the HUSBAND DOES. and likewise the husband does not have authority over HIS OWN BODY, but the WIFE DOES.

5. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self control. but this I say by way of concession, NOT OF COMMAND, yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from G-d, one in this manner and another after that. But I say to the UNmarried and to the widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.

10. But to the married I give instructions, Not I, But the Lord. That the wife SHOULD NOT leave her husband.  But if so, should remained unmarried or reconcile. and that the husband should not send his wife away.

He further talks about a believing husband and a non believing wife and a believing wife and a non believing husband and if they agree to stay that they should not be sent away. and that the non believer is sanctified thru the believing spouse.

In final analysis, there are three reasons for divorce or sending away in the Bible.

  1. That the woman was not a virgin after obvious warranties and representations were made. Moses allowed a writ of divorce to be issued.
  2. That there is IMMORALITY involved. Jesus notes this. Jeremiah regarding G-d.
  3. If a spouse is a non believer and pulling you away from G-d.  Paul, Ezra, Solomon.

However, If the woman is not a virgin and if there is immorality or if a spouse is a non believer but willing to stay, Divorce is not required.

These are the only Three!