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Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/12/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                            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 forth.

    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 down.

    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     inheritance.

    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 fornication.

    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 times.

    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 "fornication."

    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 fornication.

    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 divorce.

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     inheritance.

    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 t

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