AUTHOR: Unknown
PUBLISHED ON: May 12, 2003
PUBLISHED IN: Bible Studies
TAGS: divorce

                            Chapter 3

                    GOD’S MARRIAGE TO ISRAEL

    Patiently we are carefully searching the Bible to find what it has to say
about the institution of marriage.  We are particularly seeking to know if
under any circumstances a divorce may occur.

    So far  we have examined two  sets of laws found  in the Bible that relate 
directly to the questions we  are studying.  And thus far, we  have found  no
statement  that condones  divorce for  any reason whatsoever.

    But now we shall look  at a third ceremonial law  that relates to marriage
and divorce.  It was introduced into the Bible because there existed a second
spiritual marriage, entirely different from the  marriage of  the law  of God 
to the  human race.  It was the marriage wherein God took  as His wife a
nation,  ancient national Israel.    Israel,  as  a  corporate,  external 
body,  was  the representation  of  the  kingdom  of  God  on  earth  during 
the historical period from Abraham to Jesus.

    This  marriage  relationship  was  established  by God because national
Israel as a whole typified and foreshadowed the spiritual Israel of God which
was to become the eternal bride of Christ.

    We  know  this  spiritual  marriage  between  God and national Israel
existed  because of  God’s complaint  recorded in  Jeremiah 3:14 concerning
the spiritual fornication practiced by His wife:

    Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married
    unto you:…

    He was not married to them as individuals; as individuals they were 
spiritually  married  to  the  law  of  God.  Rather, He was married to them
as a corporate entity.

    But God faced a real problem.  At no time in national Israel’s history
were  they faithful.  Repeatedly they  lusted after other gods.  What was God
to do with His fornicating wife?

    According  to  God’s  eternal  law,  death is required for the adulterous 
wife.  But God  could not utterly  destroy Israel as a nation, for it was out
of national Israel that Christ was to come.  Moreover,  national Israel  was
to  be the  seedbed from which the whole New Testament church would spring

    Furthermore,  God’s  plan  was  to  use  national Israel as an example of
His  patience and mercy.  Remember, in the  parable of Luke 13 the fig tree
that repeatedly had not borne fruit was to be cut down.  But then it was to
be  given one more opportunity.  If there still was no fruit, it was to be cut

    So today we see national Israel as a viable nation amongst the nations of
the world.  Only  if it ceases to bear  spiritual fruit will it be destroyed.

    For all  of these reasons, and possibly  others, God chose not to have his 
spiritual wife, national Israel, killed.  And yet it was  God’s  plan  to 
break  His  spiritual marriage with national Israel.  Once  Christ  went  to 
the  cross,  God had purposed to forever end any spiritual relationship He had
ever had with Israel as a nation.

    To  accomplish this goal, God  introduced another law into the body of 
ceremonial laws.  In  order to divorce  Israel God had to introduce a law that
would permit divorce.  God, as  the giver and maker of the law, may  introduce
any law He disires.  But whatever law  He  sets  forth,  God  in His perfect
righteousness obligates Himself to obey.

    And so in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 God placed into the Word of God a law that
permitted divorce for fornication.  There we read:

    When a man hath  taken a wife, and married her, and it come to
    pass  that she  find no  favour in  his eyes,  because he hath
    found some uncleanness in her:  then let  him write her a bill
    of  divorcement, and give it in her  hand, and send her out of
    his house.

    And when she is  departed out of his house, she  may go and be
    another man’s wife.

    And if the  latter husband hate her,  and write her a  bill of
    divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of
    his house; or if the latter husband die, which  took her to be
    his wife;

    Her former  husband, which  sent her  away, may  not take  her
    again  to be his wife,  after that she is defiled; for that is
    abomination before  the Lord:  and thou  shalt not  cause the
    land  to  sin,  which  the  Lord  thy  God  giveth thee for an

    This law permitted  a husband to  divorce his wife  in whom he had  found
some  matter of  uncleanness.  (Later  we will  go into detail to show that 
this related to fornication.)  The inclusion of this law permitted God to
divorce national Israel.  We are told this in Isaiah 50:1.

    Thus  saith  the  Lord,  Where  is  the bill of your mother’s
    divorcement, whom I have put away?  or which of  my  creditors
    is it  to whom I have  sold you?  Behold, for your iniquities
    have ye sold  yourselves, and for your  transgressions is your
    mother put away.

    Likewise, in Jeremiah 3:8 we read:

    And I saw, when for all  the causes whereby backsliding Israel
    committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of
    divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went
    and played the harlot also.

    Further on, in verse 20 of Jeremiah 3, God continues revealing the sinful
nature of the wife He had married.

    Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from  her husband, so
    have ye dealt treacherously with  me, O house of Israel, saith
    the Lord.

    So we have seen that within the ceremonial  law God introduced two 
dominant laws  concerning adultery  within a marriage.  These two laws  were
quite  different from  each other.  In the case of Deuteronomy 22:22 both  a
man and a  woman engaging in the  act of adultery were  to be  put to  death. 
In  the case  of Deuteronomy 24:1-4,  only  the  wife  could  be  divorced for
fornication.  No language is  employed here or anywhere else in the Bible that
even suggests that a wife could ever divorce an adulterous husband.

    Because these  laws were  a part  of the  ceremonial laws, the citizens of
the nation of  Israel were to obey them.  If a husband found his  wife in  an
open  act of  adultery, he  was to have her stoned  to death along with the
man  with whom she was caught.  If there were some act of  obvious
fornication, but the wife  was not actually caught in the act of adultery, the
husband  still had the right to divorce her.

    This  ceremonial  law  of  Deuteronomy  24:1-4 had an earthly, physical
application and a spiritual, or heavenly application.  As we  have seen,  the
earthly  application permitted  the husband to divorce  his wife if  it
appeared she  had engaged in fornication.  The heavenly application was
intended  to make it possible for God to divorce  national Israel  because of 
its continuing  spiritual fornication.

    Jesus  made  several  references  to  this  law  in  the  New Testament. 
He did so to show that this law was rescinded with His coming as the Christ, 
as well as to show that  Israel had grossly misappled this law.  Remarkably,
it is still grossly misapplied by the church  as a  biblical basis  for
divorce.  We will look into this as we continue our study.

Israel’s Misuse Of Deuteronomy 24

    The language of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was sufficiently unclear so that the
men of national Israel  used it as a basis for  divorcing their wives for any
reason whatsoever.  Let us see why this is so, because this  will help us 
understand Matthew 5:32,  a verse some people use to justify divorce for

    The key words of Deuteronomy 24:1 are “some uncleanness.”  For “some
uncleanness” found  in a wife the husband had biblical cause for divorce. 
What exactly was this sin?

    The Hebrew word “dabar,” which  is translated as “some” in the phrase
“some uncleanness,” normally means “word” or “matter.”  Out of about 2400 
usages in the  Bible, it is  translated in a  least 1000  verses  “speak”  or 
“talk”  or something similar.  In other verses it is translated  “word” at
least 770 times.  Thus, “word” or “talk” are the dominant meanings of the
word “dabar.”

    Less  often,  but  with  considerable  frequency,  “dabar”  is translated
as  “act” (52 times),  “matter” (63 times)  and “thing” (215  times).  Thus, 
we can  safely say  that in Deuteronomy 24:1 “dabar”  should  be  translated 
as  “act,”  “matter,” “thing,” or “word.”

    The Hebrew word which  is translated as “uncleanness”  in this same 
phrase “ervah.”  It is a word  that is found 54 times in the King  James 
Bible.  In  more  than  50  of  these  places  it is translated “nakedness.” 
When  we examine the  places where it  is translated  “nakedness” we find 
that it usually  relates to gross sexual impurity.  For example, in 
Leviticus 18 and  Leviticus 20 where  God  is  setting  forth  commands 
prohibiting  incest, God employs the word “nakedness” (“ervah”) at least 30

    Thus, the  word “ervah”  takes on  the meaning  “fornication.”  Fact is,
in  Leviticus 18:8 God  warns, “The nakedness  (ervah) of thy  father’s wife
shalt thou not  uncover.”  A commentary on this warning is found in I
Corinthians 5:1 where we read:

    It  is reported commonly that  there is fornication among you,
    and such  fornication as  is not  so much  as named  among the
    Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

    In this  verse God uses  the word “fornication”  in connection with sexual
impurity between a man and his father’s wife.  But in Leviticus  18:8  God 
speaks  of  this  kind of sexual impurity as uncovering the nakedness. 
Therefore, we can see that  “nakedness” or “uncleanness” is synonymous with

    Binging these facts together,  we can know that in Deuteronomy 24:1 God is
teaching that if a man found a “word” or a “matter” of fornication in his
wife, he  could write a bill of divorcement and divorce her.

    True, certain  acts of  fornication were  punishable by death.  But if the 
particular act or word of  fornication did not require the  death of the 
fornicating wife, the  husband had the right to divorce her.

    But there was  another understanding of the meaning of “ervah” that was
possible.  And it was this  understanding that opened the door for  the
Israelite husband  to divorce his  wife under almost any circunstance.

Divorce For Any Cause

    In  Deuteronomy 23:12-14 God used the identical phrase, “ervah dabar,” 
which  is  used  as  the  key phrase of Deuteronomy 24:1.  “Ervah dabar” did
not refer to fornication; rather, it referred to ceremonial uncleanness. 
Verses 12-14 inform us:

    Thou shalt have  a place also  without the camp,  whither thou
    shalt go forth abroad:

    And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be,
    when  thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith,
    and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:

    For  the Lord  thy God  walketh in  the midst  of thy camp, to
    deliver  thee,  and  to  give  up  thine  enemies before thee;
    therefore  shall thy  camp be  holy:  that  he see  no unclean
    thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

    The phrase “unclean thing” near  the end of this quotation  is “ervah 
dabar.”  But  what  was  this  “unclean  thing”?  In this context it  was
nothing  more than  the discharge  from a person’s body when he or she felt
the “call of nature.”  When a person felt the urge, he was to go outside the
camp, dig a hole to receive his body’s discharge, and then he was to cover it
so that  the surface of the ground would be clean.

    Actually,  any discharge from the  body made a person unclean.  According 
to  the  ceremonial  laws  of Leviticus 15, any running issue, any kind of
discharge from the body, made a person unclean.  A  woman menstruating was 
unclean.  Someone experiencing diarrhea that spotted his garments was unclean.

    Therefore, the use  of “ervah dabar” in Deuteronomy 23:14 gave the men of
Israel tremendous leverage in their marriages.  All one had to  do was to spot
menstrual blood  on his wife’s garments; or any other discharge that touched 
her or her garments would  serve the hardhearted  husband’s purpose.  In the 
intimacy of marriage the  opportunities to  see “some  uncleanness” in  one’s
wife were numerous.

    Thus the men could divorce their wives quite easily.  The wife had no
security whatsoever.  Even  though she may have never  been guilty  of 
fornication,  the  husband  could still find plenty of “biblical” reason to
divorce her if this was his desire.

Jesus Sets The Matter Straight

    Significantly, Jesus took serious issue with this understanding of
Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus clarified the law by showing  that these verses of
Deuteronomy 24 had in view only fornication as a  ground for divorce. We see
this when we read Matthew 5:31-32. These verses declare:

    It  hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him
    give her a writing of divorcement:

    But I  say unto you,  That whosoever shall  put away his wife,
    saving for  the cause  of fornication,  causeth her  to commit
    adultery:  and  whosoever  shall  marry  her that is divorced
    committeth adultery.

    The language  of verse 31 relates  back to Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  This is
the  only passage of the  Old Testament that relates  in a clear way to the
statement of Jesus found in Matthew 5:31.

    But  Jesus  pointed  out  that  ancient Israel had widened the application
of cause for  divorce far beyond the scope intended by Deuteronomy  24:1 where 
the cause  had to  be a  specific word or matter  of  fornication.  Most 
likely,  by applying the words of Deuteronomy  23:12-14, they  had decided 
that they  could divorce their wives for any reason.  That  is why Matthew
5:31 states that all that was required for divorce at  that time was the
writing of divorcement.  Jesus,  therefore,  made  a  point  of  restating
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 in verse 32.

    We will  see that Jesus is accomplishing  three things by this
restatement.  First of  all, He  is underscoring  the Jews’ total disregard
for the  sanctity of marriage.  He is getting  ready to show that  the cause
for divorce was  to have been something quite adulterous.

    Secondly, He is revealing  the awful sinfulness of  divorce in that it 
causes the divorced  wife to commit  adultery even though she, by her own
action, might be innocent of adultery.

    Thirdly,  He restates  the language  of Deuteronomy  24:2-4 to show that
the wife who was divorced should not remarry.

    Let us look at  Matthew 5:32 very carefully to  discover these three
things that Christ is emphasizing.

Deuteronomy 24 Allows Divorce Only For Fornication

    The first  phrase we must  understand in verse  32 is, “saving for the
cause  of fornication.”  Let  us examine that  phrase.  We will see that it
relates very closely to Deuteronomy 24:1.

    The word “saving” is the Greek word “parektos.”  It is used in only  two 
other  places  in  the  Bible.  In  Acts  26:29  it is translated “except”:

    And  Paul said, I would  to God, that not  only thou, but also
    all  that hear me  this day, were  both almost, and altogether
    such as I am, except these bonds.

    In    this    verse    “parektos”    carries    the    meaning “without”–
“without these bonds.”

    The other place this word  is found is in II Corinthians 11:28 where
“parektos” is translated “without.”

    Beside those  things that are without,  that which cometh upon
    me daily, the care of all the churches.

    Here  we  see  that  the  biblical  meaning  of  “parektos” is “without.”

    Returning to Matthew 5:32, we discover that the English phrase “for  the 
cause”  is  the  Greek  word  “logos.”  But “logos’ is normally  translated
“word.”  It is translated as “word” more than 200 times  in the Bible.  It is
also translated in a few instances as “matter” or  “thing.”  Thus “logos”  can
mean either  “word” or “matter” or “thing.”  And so we find that it actually
is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “dabar” used in Deuteronomy 24:1.

    The word  “fornication” used in Matthew 5:32 is the Greek word “porneias” 
which is always  translated “fornication.”  Therefore, we learn that the
phrase “saving for the cause of fornication” can be  accurately  translated 
“without  a  word  or  matter  of fornication.”  This is surprisingly close
to the literal rendering of the  Hebrew “ervah dabar”  of Deuteronomy 24:1. 
Remember, the usual translation of “dabar” was “word” or “talk” or “matter;”
and the usual translation of “ervah” was “nakedness” in the context of

    Thus, we evidence  that Jesus was  focusing in on  Deuteronomy 24:1 by 
the specific  language He  used in  Matthew 5:32.  He was teaching that the
“uncleanness” of Deuteronomy 24:1 was  not meant to be understood as some
ceremonial uncleanness such as  menstrual blood  or a diarrhea  discharge. 
Rather, it  was meant to present fornication as  the only cause  for which a 
man could divorce his wife.  Deuteronomy 24:1-4  was never  intended to  give
a  man an excuse to divorce his wife for any cause.

Divorce Causes An Innocent Spouse To Be Adulterous

    As we  continue to examine  verse 32, we  discover that Christ has
introduced an  additional principle to be kept  in mind in the matter of
marriage and divorce.

    The  next  phrase  in  verse  32  is:  “causeth her to commit adultery.” 
How are we to understand this?

    Let’s begin by reading verse 32 without the phrase “saving for the cause
of fornication.”  It now reads “whosoever shall put away his wife…causeth
her to commit adultery.  Does this merely mean that the divorced wife becomes 
prone to adultery because, if  she should marry  someone else, that  marriage
would be  adulterous as Romans 7:2-3 teaches?

    No.  There is no evidence that Jesus  is teaching this.  He is simply
saying that if  a man divorces his wife,  regardless of how holy  or pure  she
might  be in  herself, she  has been  forced by divorce  itself to commit
adultery.  That  is, the very act of the divorce  caused  her  marriage  to 
become adulterated and in that sense  she  has  been  caused  to  commit 
adultery.  Jesus  is underscoring  how terrible the  sin of divorce  is.  Not
only does the husband  who desires the  divorce sin, but  he also causes his
wife to sin, even though she does not want the divorce.

    This becomes  understandable when  we remember  that those who have 
married have  become fused  by God  into one flesh, a divine union which no
man  can break apart.  Remember, we  saw earlier in Romans 7:1-4 that the wife
is bound  to her husband as long as she lives.  Therefore, if a man breaks
apart that which God has joined together, the union  has been adulterated. 
Even though the  wife may be perfectly  innocent in the divorce, she  has been
forced to commit  adultery  because  the  union  with  her  husband has been
adulterated.  This  is  one  of  the  important teachings of this verse. 
Jesus is emphasizing  the fact that  divorcing a wife for any reason was a
dreadful sin.

    However,  if  the  wife  had  committed fornication before the divorce, 
then  she  herself  committed  adultery.  Based  on Deuteronomy 24:1, the
man had a right to divorce his wife  in such a case.  So, since she was
adulterous before she was divorced, the husband’s  act of  divorcing her  was
not  the cause of her sinful state of adultery.

    But  Jesus  is  not  calling  attention to Deuteronomy 24:1 in order  to 
indicate  that  this  command  is  to continue in force throughout  time. 
That is not the  purpose of Jesus’ reference to it.  He  is  simply  showing 
that  while Deuteronomy 24:1 was in force, a man  had to discover actual
fornication  in his wife.  To put her away for any lesser cause was a
violation of that command.  And the Jews  had grossly violated  that command
by  perverting it into a  command wherein  they could  divorce their  wives
for  any cause.

    But since that  command was repealed (as we  shall see when we study  Mark
10 and  Matthew 19), Jesus  definitely is not teaching that fornication is a
cause for divorce.  Therefore, this verse is not dealing with the question of
whether or not there is any cause for divorce.  That question  is not  at
issue.  Rather, Jesus is emphasizing the seriousness of the sin of divorce. 
Divorce causes even the  husband’s spouse  to commit  adultery because  the
union between  herself and  her husband  has become  adulterated by this

The Woman Who Is Divorced Becomes Defiled If She Marries Again

    The third point  that Jesus makes  involves a restatement  and
clarification of Deuteronomy 24:2-4 which reads:

    And when she  is departed out of his house,  she may go and be
    another man’s wife.

    And if  the latter husband hate  her, and write her  a bill of
    divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of
    his house; or if the latter husband die,  which took her to be
    his wife;

    Her  former husband,  which sent  her away,  may not  take her
    again to be his wife, after  that she is defiled; for that  is
    abomination  before the  Lord:  and thou shalt  not cause the
    land  to  sin,  which  the  Lord  thy  God  giveth thee for an

    In our  King James Bible  it appears (by  the use of  the word “may ” in 
the phrase “she  may go”) to  say that the  fornicating wife  who  was 
divorced  was  free  to  remarry.  However, in the original Hebrew the word
“may”  is not included.  So the  Bible is not teaching she may go and be
another’s.  This can be seen by the language found in verse 4 where God
indicates she will have become defiled if  she remarries.  Effectively,  God
is teaching  that if the divorced wife goes and becomes another man’s wife,
she will be defiled so that she can never return to her first husband.

    This  principle is reiterated and  expanded in the last phrase of Matthew
5:32  where Jesus declares  the “whosoever shall  marry her that is  divorced
committeth adultery.”  Because  the divorced wife who  has remarried  has
become  defiled as  a result  of this remarriage, it logically follows that
the man who married  her has entered into  an adulterous  marriage.  Jesus  is
emphasizing  the fact that such a man has indeed committed adultery.

    But in Matthew  5:32 Jesus is  further indicating that  anyone who marries
a divorced wife is committing adultery.  That is, if a wife is divorced  for
any reason, the man who marries  her commits adultery.  We see, therfore, that
even as Romans 7:2-3 taught that the  woman who remarried while her  first
husband was still living became as adulteress, so too, the man who married
such a woman has become an adulterer.

Deuteronomy 24:1 Allowed Only One Half Of Israel To Divorce

    Significantly, the  law that  permitted a  man to  divorce his wife for 
fornication only applied  to half of  Israel. Let us see why this was so.

    As  we  have  seen,  Deuteronomy  24:1  was  a  law  that only permitted 
the husband to divorce his  wife.  This was so because, in its ceremonial
nature, it was pointing to the coming divorce of national  Israel.  But no 
provision of any  kind was made for the wife to divorce the husband.  This was
because there was no aspect of God’s salvation plan or  of God’s dealing with
national  Israel that  included the  possibility of  national Israel divorcing
God.  Therefore, as  national Israel obeyed that law, a wife could never
divorce a fornicating husband.  In her relationship to her husband she  was 
under  the  universal  law  given  from the beginning of creation  that  there 
was  not  to  be  divorce  for  any  reason whatsoever.

    We  thus see that in the case  of the law of God (the husband) being
spiritually married to the individual (the wife) there never was a time  when
divorce for  fornication of for  any other reason was allowed.  Also we  have
seen that in the nation  of Israel the wife could  never divorce the  husband
for his  fornication.  Only the husband could  divorce the wife  for
fornication because  that was part of the ceremonial law pointing to God’s
coming divorce of corporate, national  Israel.  This was  to occur because  of
their many  spiritual  fornications.  It  would  come about when God no
longer planned for national Israel to serve as a type or figure of His
salvation program.

    In summary, we see the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 taught the following principles:

    l.  A husband  could divorce  his wife  only if she were found
    guilty of fornication.
    2. The wife,  who was guilty of fornication  and, as a result,
    was  divorced,  would  become  defiled  if she married someone
    else.  Thus she was to remain single.
    3.  No permission was given to the wife to divorce her husband
    for any reason whatsoever.

    In  Matthew  5:32  Jesus  reiterated  the  basic principles of Deuteronomy
24:1-4 and expanded them to teach:

    l. A  husband who divorced his wife  for any reason other than
    fornication caused her to commit adultery.
    2. Any man who married a divorced woman committed adultery.

    Now we must face the next question.

    When we looked  at Deuteronomy 7:2-4 and  Deuteronomy 22:22 we saw  that 
once  Christ  went  to  the cross the earthly, physical applications of the 
laws no longer were to be observed.  Only the spiritual or heavenly meanings
of these commands were to continue.

    But what about Deuteronomy 24:1-4?  What does the  Bible teach concerning 
the  continuation  of  this  law?  Insofar  as  the spiritual,  heavenly
meaning of these verses is concerned, we know that it  came to an  end when
Jesus  hung on the  cross.  When the veil of the temple was  rent asunder, it
signaled the  finality of God’s divorce from national Israel.  Never again
would He have any spiritual relationship with national Israel as a corporate

    Therefore,  in its spiritual dimension, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 has no
application after the  cross.  Because it was written  into Old Testament law
in order that God might divorce national Israel  for its spiritual
fornication, we have reason to suspect that it (like other  ceremonial  laws) 
ceased to  have any physical application after the  crucifixion.  It was  at
that time  that God officially ended His special spiritual relationship with
national Israel.

    The  Bible clearly  shows that  this law  was rescinded by the Lord Jesus
Christ in Mark 10:2-12.  Let us look at these verses.

    In Mark 10:2  we read of the Pharisees coming  to Jesus with a question 
concerning  divorce.  This  verse  informs  us:       

    And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for
    a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

    Their question must relate to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 for it is the only Old
Testament passage that speaks of the possibility of a man divorcing his wife. 
This can be seen in Jesus’ answer in verses 3 and 4:

    And he  answered and  said unto  them, What  did Moses command

    And  they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement,
    and to put her away.

    These verses plainly show that  Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is in view.  It is
clearly the passage that Jesus is addressing as He continues to teach.  In
verse  5 Jesus  explains why  this command had been inserted into Old
Testament law;

    And  Jesus answered  and said  unto them,  For the hardness of
    your heart he wrote you this precept.

    Here  He declares that  it was because  of the hardness of the hearts of
ancient  Israel that the law was  given to allow divorce for  fornication. 
Can  we  assume  by  this  that  God  saw  how adulterous  the wives  in the 
nation of  Israel would be?  Did He want to provide some relief to the
husbands by setting forth a law that  permitted them  to divorce  if their 
wives were involved in fornication?  Or did He give the law because the
husbands would be so  unforgiving of  their fornicating  wives that,  because
of the hardness of their hearts, these unforgiving husbands were  allowed to
divorce their wives?

    Neither of these possibilities make sense.  God lays down laws that help
us to live more  holy before Him rather than to allow us to live sinfully.

    It  is only when we  realize the truth as  to why God inserted this law
into the ceremonial laws of the Bible that this verse can be  understood.  The 
phrase “hardness  of heart”  relates to that which  is  rebellious.  And 
rebellion  against  God is spiritual fornication.  God gave  this law  so
that  He, as  the husband of national  Israel,  could  divorce  His 
fornicating  wife.  It was because  of  the  hardness  of  heart, or spiritual
fornication of national Israel  that his  law was  given.  And  so, once  God
had divorced national Israel, this law had no further purpose.

    Therefore, we  find in verses  6-9 of Mark  10 that Jesus very directly,
very plainly rescinds this command by stating:

    But from the  beginning of the creation God made them male and

    For this cause  shall a man  leave his father  and mother, and
    cleave to his wife;

    And they twain  shall be one flesh:  so then  they are no more
    twain, but one flesh.

    What  therefore  God  hath  joined  together,  let not man put

    In  this  answer  Jesus  indicates  that  it  was  never God’s intention
for divorce to be permitted.  True, temporarily, God did open  a  very  narrow 
window  permitting  a  man  to  divorce his fornicating wife.  But this  was
only  so that  God could divorce fornicating national Israel.

    In Jesus’ answer in Mark 10:9 He restates God’s intention  for marriage 
with  the  words:  “What  therefore  God  hath  joined together, let not man
put asunder.”  In other words, there is  not to be divorce for any reason
whatsoever.  Two people who have been joined together in marriage have been
fused by God into one flesh.  And that which has been bound together by God,
no man is to try to break apart.
    To underscore this truth Jesus added in Mark 10:11-12:

    And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and
    marry another, committeth adultery against her.

    And if  a woman shall put away her  husband, and be married to
    another, she committeth adultery.

    Deuteronomy  24:1-4  only  allowed  a  husband  to  divorce  a fornicating
wife.  A wife was given no right whatsoever to divorce a  fornicating 
husband.  But  now  that  Jesus has rescinded the husband’s right  to divorce
a fornicating  wife, He emphasizes the impossibility of biblical  divorce from
both directions  – that of the husband divorcing the wife, and that of the
wife divorcing the husband.

    We see,  therfore, that  Jesus has  clearly re-established the principle
laid down  from the beginning of time  that there is not to be  divorce.  He 
is emphasizing  what the  Bible continues  to declare in later verses.

    Moreover, in  Mark 10:11-12 God is  underscoring another vital principle. 
It is  the law  that a  divorced man  or woman cannot become remarried. 
According  to verse 11, if a  man remarries, he commites adultery against his
first wife.  Why is this so?

    Remember, we learned in Romans 7:1-4 that the wife is bound to her 
husband as long as they  both live.  Therefore, even though a divorce may have
seemingly  broken the marriage relationship, from God’s  vantage  point  the 
man  and  wife are still bound to each other.  Therefore, if the  man takes
another wife while  his first wife  is  still  living,  he  is  committing 
adultery.  He  is adulterating the lifelong union God has  made between this
man and his first wife.

    Likewise,  verse  12  emphasizes  that  the wife may not marry someone
else after divorce.  Even  though she is legally divorced, in  God’s  sight 
she  is  still  bound  to  her  first  husband.  Therefore,  she commits
adultery if  she marries another while her first husband is still living.

    Again, when we  looked at Romans 7:1-4 we  saw how God clearly teaches
that the wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives.  Remember, this 
statement was in  the context of  a wife living in constant fornication
against her husband.

    The principle of this binding relationship of  the wife to the husband is
repeated in I Corinthians 7:39.

    The wife  is bound by the  law as long as  her husband liveth;
    but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to
    whom she will; only in the Lord.

    Moreover, in  I Corinthians 7:10  we are instructed,  “Let not the wife
depart from (that is, divorce) her husband.”

    Likewise, in I Corinthians 7:11 God  adds, “…and let not the husband 
put away  his wife.”  All of  the Bible’s  teachings are consistent and in 
agreement.  There is not to  be divorce for any reason whatsoever.

    Significantly,  in  Luke  16:17  Jesus  made  reference to the eternal
nature of the law of God as He declared:

    And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle
    of the law to fail.

    Having indicated the perpetual nature of the law of God, Jesus immediately
addresses the  question of a  man divorcing his  wife.  He exhorts in Luke

    Whosoever  putteth  away  his  wife,  and  marrieth  another,
    committeth adultery:  and  whosoever marrieth her that  is put
    away from her husband committeth adultery.

    In this statement we find a repetition of the same exact truth we  have
already  learned from  Mark 10:2-12,  Romans 7:1-4, and I Corinthians 7. 
There is not to be divorce!  No exceptions are to be made!

    We also  find in Luke  16:18 the truth of Mark 10:11 repeated. God is again 
declaring a man is not to  marry another after being divorced.  Here in Luke 
we also find  the last phrase of Matthew 5:32 re-emphasized.  God is again
teaching that anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    At this point, it  is very clear that God does not countenance divorce for
any reason  whatsoever.  In order to  divorce national Israel (whom God had
corporately married),  He had temporarily put a law  on the  books allowing  a
husband  to divorce  his wife for fornication.  But  when  Jesus  came  on 
the  scene,  He  very deliberately and very clearly rescinded that special

    We  have further  learned that  there is  not to be remarriage while a 
former spouse still  lives.  This truth  also may be seen very clearly. 

    But you  may ask, doesn’t Matthew 19:9  teach that there still can be
divorce  for fornication?  To answer this fair question, we will examine that
verse in detail in the next chapter.

                            Chapter 4

                          MATTHEW 19:9

    As we get more deeply involved with the biblical teachings  on divorce, 
we want to look carefully at the one verse that has been abused most
consistently in man’s efforts to find a biblical basis for  divorce.  Because 
this  verse  intimately  relates  to this Deuteronomy  24:1-4,  which  we 
studied  at  length  in  our last chapter, we are now prepared to understand
Matthew 19:9.

    This  verse  has  the  appearance  of  allowing  divorce  for
fornication.  It reads:

    And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put  away his wife, except
    it be  for fornication,  and shall  marry another,  committeth
    adultery:  and  whoso  marrieth  her  which  is put away doth
    commit adultery.

    Many theologians read this verse and quickly conclude  that it is 
teaching there  can be  no divorce  except in  the one case of fornication. 
Surely this verse appears to teach that  fornication is cause for divorce.

    But  we  have  already  seen  in  our  study  that there is no biblical 
cause for  divorce.  Neither  fornication, nor any other sin on  the part of 
either the husband  or the wife  provides any reason whatsoever for divorce.

    Therefore, we  can be sure that this  one verse, Matthew 19:9, cannot
allow divorce for fornication, or for any other reason.  If we  concluded 
otherwise,  we  would  have  before  us  a  major contradiction.

    But the  Bible is  one harmonious  whole.  While  it may  have statements
within its  text that appear contradictory, we can know that these are not 
actual contradictions.  They only appear to be contradications  while  our 
understanding  of  the  questionable passages remains  incomplete.  But  when
we  have come  to correct understanding, we will no longer find
contradictions.  This is so because the Bible is one harmonious whole.

    But let us  assume for a  moment that we  must base our  whole
understanding of divorce and remarriage on this one verse, Matthew 19:9.  What
would we learn?

    Matthew 19:9  apparently teaches  that a  man may  divorce his wife  for
fornication.  But  notice:  there is  no suggestion that the wife  may divorce
the  husband for fornication.  There is not even  the slightest  implication
or  indication that  the wife can divorce  the husband.  In fact, nowhere  in
the Bible is there any statement that  teaches that the wife can  divorce the
husband for any reason.

    We also notice that the verse does not justify the husband for divorcing
his wife for  any reason except fornication.  According to  this verse,  as
it  stands alone,  the only possible cause for divorce is fornication.

    Additionally,  Matthew  19:8,  which  immediately precedes the verse we 
are studying, tells us that Moses allowed the husband to divorce his wife  for
the cause of fornication only because of the hardness of the husband’s heart. 
The verse declares:

    He saith  unto them,  Moses because  of the  hardness of  your
    hearts  suffered you  to put  away your  wives:  but  from the
    beginning it was not so.

    The term “hardness of heart” refers to someone who is unsaved, someone who
is in rebellion against God.

    Thus, if anyone insisted on understanding Matthew 19:9 without regard to
any other teachings of the Bible, the most that he could see in this one verse
would  be that a husband could only  divorce his  wife in the case of
fornication.  And such a divorce would be an  indication  of  the  husband’s 
unsaved,  rebellious spiritual condition.  Therefore, even on the basis of
Matthew 19:9,  no true child  of  God  would  ever  countenance  the  thought
of divorce.  Rather,  he would  realize that  he is  called upon  to
repeatedly forgive his wife  for the sin  of fornication just  like any other

    When we  consider what modern  day theologians have  done with this verse,
we should become very skeptical of their  conclusions, for when they have 
decided there can be divorce for  the cause of fornication,  they  immediately 
conclude  that,  not only can the husband  divorce  the  fornicating  wife, 
but  the  wife also can divorce  the fornicating husband.  Yet  neither this
verse nor any other in  the whole  Bible allows  a wife  to divorce her
husband.  Thus  when we  hear such  teachings, we  should suspect that gross
violation has been done to a true understanding of this verse.

    To the question,  “Does the Bible teach that  fornication is a ground for
divorce?”  the answer is  emphatically “No!”  We  have just seen that in
Deuteronomy  24:1 God, as part of  the temporary ceremonial law, had made
fornication a cause for a man to put away his  wife.  Then  we saw,  as we 
looked at  Mark 10, that through Christ that command was rescinded.  Now we
shall see that right in the  context  of  Matthew  19:9,  as  Jesus  makes 
reference  to Deuteronomy 24:1, He is indicating the same teaching we
discovered in  Mark  10:2-12.  That  teaching  was that Deuteronomy 24:1 was

    Let us see how this develops in Matthew 19.  Again, we read in Matthew

    He saith  unto them,  Moses because  of the  hardness of  your
    hearts  suffered you  to put  away your  wives:  but  from the
    beginning it was not so.

    Here Jesus  is emphasizing two important  truths.  First, this command was
inserted into the law book primarily to give God a way to divorce national
Israel  because of their spiritual  rebellion, their hardness of heart. 
Secondly, He is indicating that this was not God’s eternal plan  for human
marriage — “from  the beginning it was not so.”  And as we discover from
other passages that God’s divorce of national Israel was finalized at the
cross, we  come to see that this law no  longer applies.  So by the language
of verse 8 we see that He was effectively rescinding this law.

    That  Jesus is bringing  to an end  the Deuteronomy 24:1 basis for 
divorce  for  fornication  is  in  total  agreement  with the statement of
Matthew  19:8.  It is  also in complete  harmony with the other  passages we
have looked  at which emphatically prohibit divorce for fornication or for any
other reason.

    Since Jesus has just emphasized in Matthew 19:8 that a man was no  longer
to put  away his wife  for fornication, it doesn’t make any sense  at all that
our Lord would reintroduce in the very next verse the command He has just

No Divorce For Any Reason Whatsoever

    We  know, therefore, that  we have to  re-read Matthew 19:9 to attempt to 
discover what Jesus was actually saying in this verse.  Certainly  He was  not
teaching  that fornication  was a cause for divorce.

    A correct understanding  of Matthew 19:9 is  forthcoming if we go back to
the opening sentence of the  paragraph in which Matthew 19:9 is found.  In
verse 3 of that chapter we read:

    The  Pharisees also  came unto  him, tempting  him, and saying
    unto him,  Is it  lawful for  a man  to put  away his wife for
    every cause?

    The question the Pharisees are asking is whether a man can put away his
wife for every  cause.  Jesus answered them in verses 4-6 by  indicating 
there  is  not  to  be  divorce  for  any  reason whatsoever:  “What
therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    Then in verse  7 the Pharisees  asked about Deuteronomy  24:1, which 
permitted  divorce  for  fornication.  Jesus answered their question  in 
verse  8,  indicating  that  Deuteronomy  24:1  was rescinded.  It could no
longer apply.

    In verse 9 Jesus returned to the Pharisees’ original question:  “Can  a
man put away his wife for every cause?”  In verse 8 He had indicated  that 
fornication  was  no  longer  to  be  a cause for divorce.  So in verse 9 He
covers every possible reason other than fornication, indicating that any other
reason was also  an invalid cause  for  divorce.  Effectively  He  is  saying 
in  verse  9, “whosoever puts away  his wife for any reason  `in addition to’
or `other than’ or `except’ for fornication (which we have  just seen in verse
8 to be an invalid cause for divorce) and marries another commits adultery.”

    In other words, the word “except” (the Greek “ei me”) takes on the sense
or  meaning of “in additon  to” or “other than”  in this context.  This
meaning of  “ei me” is fairly common  in the Bible.  For example, in Matthew
19:17  Jesus said: “…there is none  good but (ei  me) one,  that is, 
God:…”  This  verse could  be read:  “there is none good `in addition to’ 
or `other than’ one, that is God.”

    Likewise, in Mark 8:14 we read:

    Now  the disciples  had forgotten  to take  bread, neither had
    they in the ship with them more than one loaf.

    The phrase “more than”  is also “ei me.”  Here,  too, we could translate: 
“neither had they in  the ship with them `in  addition to’ or `other than’ one

    Many  other  examples  could  be  given,  but these two should suffice to
show  that Jesus, in  Matthew 19:9, is  simply covering all other  possible
causes for divorce  “except,” “other than,” or “in addition to” fornication. 
He has already eliminated the cause of fornication in verse 8.

    Jesus  has  thus  twice  answered  the  question  posed by the Pharisees 
in verse 3 concerning divorce  for every cause.  He has first  answered it in
verses 4-6 by  indicating there is not to be divorce for  any reason.  Then 
in verses 7  and 8 He specifically teaches that fornication  cannot be a 
cause for divorce.  And in verse 9 He applies this teaching to all other
causes  for divorce, except  the cause  of fornication,  which He  had just 
covered in verse 8.  Thus, the conclusion stands twice over.  There is not to
be divorce for any cause whatsoever!!

    The removal of fornication  as a cause for divorce  so shocked the
disciples that they said to Jesus in verse 10:

    His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man  be so with
    his wife, it is not good to marry.

    They  apparently  could  not  envision  a  marriage  wherein a husband had
lost all right to divorce his wife.  As we saw earlier in our study,
Deuteronomy 24:1 had become a very convenient escape route for a man who  no
longer cared for his wife.  Remember what this law  declared:  according  to
Israel’s  understanding of this command,  all the husband had to discover  was
a word or matter of uncleanness.  Any ceremonial uncleanness  was sufficient
to permit a husband to divorce his wife.

    Thus, the  disciples were  astounded and  dismayed that  there could  no 
longer  be  divorce.  Their reaction to the statements Jesus made in Matthew
19:4-9  underscores the fact that Jesus  had just rescinded the command of
Deuteronomy 24:1.

    Thus, we  see that,  even as  the earthly  application of  the other
ceremonial laws came to an end when Jesus  came, so too, the application  of 
this  ceremomial  law  of  a  man  divorcing  his fornicating wife  also ended
with  His coming.  In  fact, not only did the physical  application of this 
law end, but  the spiritual application ended as well.

    The last  half of  Matthew 19:9  — “and  shall marry another, committeth 
adultery:  and  whoso marrieth  her which  is put away doth  commit adultery”
—  is almost an  exact duplication of Luke 16:18.  Remember, we saw that in
this verse of Luke 16, as well as in Matthew 5:32  and Mark 10:11-12,  God
indicated that  a man was not  to marry another  wife after divorce,  and
anyone who married the  divorced  wife  committed  adultery.  Clearly the law
stands today that as  long as the divorced spouse lives,  there is not to be
remarriage after divorce.

    Thus far,  we have examined three different sets of ceremonial laws 
dealing  with  marriage  and  divorce.  First  we looked at Deuteronomy 7:2-4
and Isaiah 52:11 and saw that God  prohibited an Israelite from  intermarrying
with people of  certain nations.  If they did so  in violation of God’s law,
they were to separate from that which  was unclean.  In the physical,  earthly
aspect of this command they  were to divorce  their wives if  they had married
in violation  of  God’s  original  command.  We saw in I Corinthians 7:12-13
and I Peter 3:1 that the physical, earthly aspect of  this command was 
rescinded when  Christ came.  However, the heavenly, spiritual  meaning of 
this command  continues throughout history.  We are  not to be unequally 
yoked with the world.  If we find we are effectively in the embrace  of the
world, we are to  turn away from it.  Spiritually, we are  to separate from
the world  so that we can serve God with our whole heart.

    The second command we looked at was given in Deuteronomy 22:22 where God
commands that a husband who finds his wife in the act of adultery  is to have 
her stoned to  death.  The husband could not divorce her.  He could only 
separate from his adulterous wife  by having her executed.

    We  saw that the  spiritual meaning of  this command points to the 
spiritual  marriage  described  in  Romans  7:1-4.  There God declares that
every  person is spiritually  married to the  law of God  which  is  the 
husband.  Because  of our constant spiritual adultery  against  the  law,  we 
are  to  be  executed.  And the execution God  has in view is eternal 
damnation.  In this context God taught that even as a human cannot be divorced
from the law of God  because  of  spiritual  adultery,  a human marriage
cannot be broken because of fornication.  It can be broken only by death.

    We  discovered  that  the  physical application of Deuteronomy 22:22, 
which called  for the  death of  the adulterous  wife, was rescinded.  But 
the  spiritual  application  continues  today.  Because  of our spiritual 
adultery, our husband,  the law of God, condemns us to eternal damnation.

    Thirdly,  we  looked  into  the  ceremonial law of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. 
This law decreed  that if a man found even  a word or act of fornication in
his wife, he could divorce her.  In the physical sense, as a man divorced his
fornicating  wife, he was being shown by God that likewise the  nation of
Israel, which corporately  was married  to  God,  would  be  divorced  by God
because of Israel’s constant spiritual fornication.

    Incidentally, we  might remember  that the  Bible records that when 
Joseph, the stepfather of  Jesus, thought Mary had committed fornication
because  she was  with child,  he, being  a just  man, sought  how to  put her 
away (Matthew  1:19).  The  fact that the Bible says  he was a “just” man
underscores  the fact that God was absolutely holy and  righteous when He
divorced national Israel as a corporate body.

    We might remember that God divorced them as a corporate  body,  not as 
individuals.  God  could not  divorce them  as individuals within  the  nation 
because  He  was  not married to them on that level.

    On the other  hand, the law of God as  the husband was married to them as
individuals and in that relationship there could  be no divorce.  No matter 
how adulterous  any man  became, he remained under the law of God, even  as
the wife remains under the dominion of her husband.

    Thus we see that  God used national Israel to  display various types  and 
figures  which  were  shadows of the spiritual reality which was to be
fulfilled in  Christ.  Their corporate marriage to God was to be a  picture of
the marriage of Christ  to the eternal church.  Even  as God  married Israel 
when it  was a nothing, the believer becomes the bride  of Christ when he is 
spiritually dead in his  sins.  Even as God lavished his love on his wife,
national Israel, by showering  them with physical and  spiritual blessings, so 
He showers spiritual  blessings on His eternal bride, the true believer in

    But,  as  it  was  with  all  of  the  ceremonial shadows, the typology of
God’s marriage to national Israel was quite imperfect.  The time would come
when national  Israel would no longer serve as a type — the marriage of God
to national Israel was to come to an end.

    That is  why God introduced  the command given  in Deuteronomy 24:1-2  as 
an  integral  part  of  the  ceremonial law.  This law anticipated  Israel’s
spiritual  fornication which  allowed God to divorce them.

    Once  Christ  went  to  the  cross,  national Israel’s role of serving as
a type  or figure of God’s salvation program came to an end.  All  ceremonial 
laws  were  completed in Christ, including Deuteronomy 24:1-2.

    Thus,  God’s  purpose  for  calling  attention  to Deuteronomy 24:1-2 in 
the New Testament  is to emphasize  that this temporary law no longer applies. 
Instead, the universal law given  from the very beginning is the only law that
stands:  under no circumstance is there to be divorce.

    It is such passages as Romans 7:1-4 and Mark 10:2-10 that  God shows  us
that  that universal  law still  stands.  Even while the ceremonial  law  was 
temporarily  allowing  a  man to divorce his fornicating wife, God strictly
limited  that law to the nation  of Israel.

    As we  go on in our study, we will  look at a couple of verses found in  I
Corinthians 7 which frequently are used  as a basis to justify divorce and
remarriage.  We will look at them in our next chapter.

Continued in JOINED3.TXT

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