Divorce and Remarriage

Minor updates: Friday, April 12, 2019

Overview of Torah, Paul, and Y'shua (Jesus) teachings on Divorce and Remarriage. Digging a little deeper gives more clarity to discover God's Standards.

Divorce and Remarriage is topic which many have spoken on and the views have a wide range.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive study, just a brief and I hope to the point one.

It is obvious that many have an idealistic and often dogmatic view of marriage and divorce that is more cultural instead of Biblically-based.  While I appreciate people’s effort in attempting to maintain the holiness of marriage, we should yield our own personal opinions and biases and attempt to understand that it is God’s standards alone that define the rules for marriage and divorce.

One over-looked fact:  God is a divorcer.  God divorced the House of Israel (Northern 10 Tribes) for their adultery (see Jeremiah 3:8).  So the act of divorce, in and of itself, is not evil.  It is the act of Adultery that is evil.  God hates divorce, but God hates repeated adultery more.  After giving the House of Israel more than enough opportunities to repent and return to be restored to his marriage with them, God then did divorce her.

Stages in the Death of a Marriage

STAGES IN THE DEATH OF A MARRIAGE

There are two stages of the marital disconnecting:
1) The death, cutting, or severing of the Marriage is called Divorce.  This requires a written Certificate or Bill of Divorce to be given. This is basically a letter outlining the "biblical" reasons for divorce.
2) The "putting away" or sending the other out of the House.  A wife that is sent away, without a Bill of Divorce is still married, not divorced and the marriage remains intact.  Anyone who marries the un-divorced (separated) wife would be committing adultery.

Jesus (Y'shua) clarifies in the Gospels that regardless of the "causes" or reasons one gives for a divorce, a divorce is only legal in God's eyes mainly in the case of physical adultery.  Scripture reveals other reasons like abandonment and severe physical abuse.  Abandonment is basic: you cannot have a marriage with only one person.  Abuse falls under the rules of treatment of slaves/servants in Exodus 21.  If you ever treat your spouse (which one should never) with severe physical harm, the Torah requires the master set the slave/servant free.

It is a myth that one must divorce due to physical adultery or abuse. Forgiveness and restoration is an option. The example of the Prophet Hosea (see Book of Hosea), while he always the "right" of to divorce his wife in the case of physical adultery, it is never something that was commanded.  Quite the opposite.  God always promotes "restoration" instead of divorce as one's primary goal in marital troubles.  In other words, the husband may take back the adulterous wife and restore her.  This is also an example given in the relationship with God and adulterous House of Israel and House of Judah.  Both were adulterous many, many times, but God only divorced the House of Israel and kept Judah as his wife.  The main difference between the two was the House of Israel went away, establishing their own country, temple, and priests while the House of Judah did not. God's plan is to always primarily promote "restoration." If that were not so, we would not be here being in a "restored (new) covenant" marriage relationship with God.

Jesus (Y'shua) and Torah state that if a wife who has been legally divorced "marries" another man, then and only then, can she not return to the first husband to re-marry.  This does not mean that an adulterous wife cannot be restored or taken back before then - as it is easy to get the two situations confused.

[ see also:  What is Adultery? Adultery is Rebellion. ]

One of the most mis-understood verses that causes much confusion is in Matthew chapter 5, which I want to address first.

Matthew 5:31 (KJV):  "It has been said, Whosoever shall put away[G630] his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement[G647]

The words to pay attention to here are put away[G630] and divorcement[G647]  Reading verse 31, you can see they are two different things.  Divorcement [Greek: apostasion] (one who has been divorced) and put away [Greek: apoluō: ] (one who is still married but has been sent away out of the house - separated).

Matthew 5:32  (KJV):  "But I (Jesus) say unto you, That whosoever shall put away[G630] (separate from) his wife, saving (except) for the cause of fornication[G4202], causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is {divorced}[G630] (sent away, separated)  commits adultery."

The Torah's Rules about Divorce

The Torah's Rules about Divorce

Jesus (Y’shua) in Matthew 5 is referring to Deuteronomy chapter 24, verses 1-4:

(1) "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency[H6172]in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house  (2) and if she goes and becomes another man's wife,  (3) and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife  (4) then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance."

It is clear in verse #2 that she has Torah legally remarried because she has been divorced (given a certificate of divorce) by her first husband.  I mention this because it is my conclusion that regardless of the reason why you were divorced by your spouse the Bible allows you re-marry and in doing so YOU are not committing adultery, nor is the one who marries you committing adultery.  Even if you were the one who committed adultery to break up the first mentioned marriage, you are not committing adultery again by re-marrying after you have been given a divorce by that spouse.  One exception is that the path to repentance cannot include remaining with the person that adultery was committed with.

The Messiah's Other Teachings on Divorce

JESUS (Y’SHUA) OTHER TEACHINGS ON DIVORCE

In Torah:  Deuteronomy 24:1-4 discusses the "Certificate of Divorce."  It appears Israeli men of Jesus's time were choosing to easily divorce their wives.  The Messiah's teachings in the Gospels appear to be referring specifically to Deuteronomy 23 and addressing this issue.

Matthew 5:32 for some reason, in most English translations, was out-of-sync and confusing.  When you dig into the Greek you discover the real meaning.  In addition, if you read other verses in the Gospels, you can more easily see the Messiah’s teaching on divorce and all becomes more clear.

THE QUESTION PUT TO THE MESSIAH

Matthew 19:3 (KJV):  "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, 'Is it lawful for a man to put away[G630] his wife for every cause?'"

Matthew 19:9 (KJV):  "And I (Jesus) say unto you, Whosoever shall put away[G630] his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and who marries her which is put away[G630] does commit adultery." 

Mark 10:11-12 (KJV):  "And he (Jesus) said unto them, 'Whosoever shall put away[G630]his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her.  And if a woman shall put away[G630]her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery.'"

The person committing the adultery is the spouse who divorces the other on improper, non-Biblical grounds, not the one that was divorced.  I do not believe this, in any way, makes the target of the divorce an adulterer, but a victim of adultery.  In no way is the victim of divorce barred from remarriage, nor does it make the one who marries them an adulterer.  This is the confusion English translations make it appear to say in Matthew 5:32.

Paul and Divorce

PAUL AND DIVORCE

Paul clearly states that if you separate from your spouse you should remain unmarried or reconcile to them.  The verse below is from the Aramaic English New Testament.  The New Testament was originally written in Aramaic not Greek.

1 Corinthians 7:10-15 (KJV):  "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart[G5563] from her husband: (11) But and if she depart[G5563], let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. (12) But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother has a wife that believes not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. (13) And the woman which has an husband that believes not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. (14) For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. (15) But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace."

God's Plan for Restoration and
Understanding Grounds for a Divorce

PHYSICAL ADULTERY is the one line that all agree is the line that is crossed that gives clear grounds for divorce.... BUT interesting enough, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DIVORCE YOUR SPOUSE FOR ADULTERY or ABUSE. The act of physical adultery and severe abuse by your spouse only gives you "the right" to divorce which you do not have to exercise.  Forgiveness and Restoration IS AN OPTION. Physical adultery is sexual intercourse done outside of the marriage covenant, generally referred to as fornication.
God's Plan of Restoration for a Marriage

GOD'S PLAN OF RESTORATION FOR A MARRIAGE

The majority of the Old Testament books are written about God's Marriage relationship with the nation of Israel.

God married the nation of Israel. They split into two groups: North (House of Israel) and the South (House of Judah). Both houses continued to commit adultery by serving other gods. Both even put pagan idols and worshiped them in their temples... it got that bad. Kinda like putting up photos of your adulterous lovers and having sex with them in your home. Can you imagine how righteously angry a husband would get. BUT God was patient and long-suffering with both groups. Most of the prophets in the old testament were sent to try to restore them, bring them back into right relationship with God by getting them to recognize their sin and to be the honest spouse again. The North (House of Israel) moved away, established their own temples, government, and obviously did things worst because God divorced them. The South (House of Judah) kept committing adultery, but God did not divorce them.
 
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Be patient. Be prayerful. Using God's example, and with his guidance, you should try to bring your spouse back into right relationship with you. You should forgive them if they ask and seek to repent. God's model of what to do when a spouse commits adultery will be the perfect example of what he requires us to do also. Make every effort to restore what is broken.
 
THE MAIN STORY OF THE BIBLE
  • God marries Israel at Mount Sinai, using the Torah as the Marriage Contract.
  • Israel rebels against God, disobey's the Torah, serves other gods (commits adultery).
  • God chastises Israel and attempts to get them to repent and return - thus restoring the marriage.
  • If they continue (the North did and moved away), God divorces them.
  • By their actions they were cursed and scattered to the ends of the earth and cursed in that they would not remember they were a part of Israel.
  • GOD HAD TO DIE TO RESTORE THEM TO THE MARRIAGE
    While we cannot do this, God sent himself in a physical body to die, satisfying the law (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) of not taking a wife who had been defiled/married to another after being divorce.  He did this to restore them that were lost to him in the New Covenant, which is the Renewed Marriage Covenant that restores the old(er) covenants.
Other Conditions for Divorce: Severe Abuse and Abandonment

OTHER CONDITIONS FOR DIVORCE

While some will disagree, I count this as a lack of understanding.
These additional causes are long established in Jewish and Hebraic judicial rulings (rulings of elders).
 
1) SEVERE ABUSE
Even in the Torah, if you treat a servant (slave, actually indentured servant), if a master abuses them in a manner that harms them significantly, he is required by God's Law to give them their freedom and let them go. The thinking here is a wife is not a slave and if you treat your wife worst than an abused slave then you must offer her freedom. I always recommend trying to reconcile, but not at a point of risk to one's safety and health. For example a one time occurrence of severe beating could justify divorce. While also a longer period of lighter abuse which reveals a clear hatred toward you would also justify divorce.
 
2) ABANDONMENT
Long-term physical absence from each other without prior mutual consent is considered abandonment.  Any long-term Departure from any combination of the following duties and responsibilities in a marriage can be considered abandonment.  Some of the requirements or duties of the husband is to provide his wife protection, sexual duties, shelter, food and clothing. This doesn't mean she doesn't work, but the idea is that he is responsible to see that she has a roof, tent, or cave over her head and also has a means (a way) of acquiring food. Likewise, the wife has duties and responsibilities to her husband, generally centered around obedience and living with him, but includes sexual duties, bearing children, being productive for the household and being a laborer or helper in her husband's endeavors.
 
If You Choose Divorce

IF YOU CHOOSE DIVORCE

 
The Bible Requires (YOU MUST) give your spouse a "Bill of Divorce" - a list of Biblical reasons for your divorce. Apart from this Biblical requirement, you may also have to get a "legal divorce" under your state laws. These are two separate things. If you do not give a "Bill of Divorce" with Biblical grounds then in God's eyes you are still married. If a woman does not have a Biblical Divorce Certificate and goes to marry another, she has committed adultery. If your "legal divorce" under state law contained elements of Biblical causes for divorce in it, like adultery, abandonment, severe abuse - then you have fulfilled the Torah requirements.  Both Biblical and State Legal "Bills of Divorce" must allow a time to be allowed to be tested or challenged by your spouse and potentially overthrown by a governing authority, for Biblical - a church counsel of elders, for State - a court of law.
 
PLEASE NOTE:  A Bill of Divorce given to your spouse without genuine Biblical grounds will never be considered acceptable by God and thus God will continue to view you as married.