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What Does the Bible Say About Divorce and Remarriage?

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    The subject of divorce and/or divorce and remarriage is a complicated

and controversial one and so I think the best approach

is to simply go through all the Scriptures I think have a bearing on the topic

 and look at them one at a time. 


Genesis 2:18 says, "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone." 

That is a Scripture we should not forget.

    Genesis 2:24 says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother

 and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

 Notice, this precedes the birth of the first children. 

From Jesus commentary on this passage it is evident that the ideal

is for one man to be married to one woman for life. 

Anything else, one man married to two women, divorce, etc.

 is definitely not the best possible situation.


    Exodus 21:10&11 deals with a woman purchased as a slave. 

Once she has sex with the man she was purchased

 for she was no longer a slave, she was his wife.

 Verses 10&11 say "If he marries another woman,

he must not deprive the first one of her food, her clothing and marital rights. 

If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free,

without any payment of money." 

At least in the case of a female slave, this seems to give a woman treated unfairly

the right to leave her husband.

    Deuteronomy 21:10-14 deals with a man marrying a woman taken captive in war.

  Verse 14 says, "If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. 

You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her."

 Both Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 21 seem to be saying that a woman

who had no choice in becoming a man's wife was free

 to leave him if she was not treated fairly.


    Exodus 22:16-17 says, "If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged

to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price,

and she shall be his wife. 

If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him,

he must still pay the bride-price for virgins."

    Deuteronomy 22:13-21 teaches that if a man accused his wife

of not being a virgin when he married her and the charge was proved true,

 she was to be stoned to death.  If the charge was found to be false, verse 18&19 say,

 "the elders shall take the man and punish him.

  They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl's father,

because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. 

She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives."


    According to Deuteronomy 22:22 a man found sleeping

with another man's wife was to be put to death, and the woman was to be put to death also.

  But a man who raped a virgin had a different punishment. 

Deuteronomy 22:28&29 says, "If a man happens to meet a virgin

who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered,

he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. 

He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. 

He can never divorce her as long as he lives."


    Deuteronomy 24:1-4a says, "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing

 to him because he finds something indecent about her,

and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her

 and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house

she becomes the wife of another man, and the second husband dislikes her

 and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,

 or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry

her again after she has been defiled. 

That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD." 

This passage is probably the basis for the Pharisees asking Jesus

if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all.

 
   Taking all three Deuteronomy passages together,

it seems that a man could divorce his wife for cause,

although what causes justified divorce were debated. 

The restriction on a man divorcing his wife if he slept with her before they were married

 or if he defamed her makes no sense if it was always

considered wrong for a man to divorce his wife.

    In Ezra 9:1&2 Ezra finds out that many of the Jews

who had returned from Babylon had married pagan women. 

The rest of chapter 9 records his grief over the situation and his prayer to God.

 In chapter 10:11 Ezra says, "Now make confession to the LORD,

the God of your fathers, and do his will.  Separate yourselves from the peoples

 around and from your foreign wives."

The chapter concludes with a listing of the men who had married foreign women.

 In Nehemiah 13:23 Nehemiah encounters the same situation all over again,

and he reacts even more forcibly than Ezra.


    Malachi chapter 2:10-16 has a lot to say about marriage and divorce,

but it is extremely important that it be read in context. 

Malachi prophesied either during or shortly after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. 

That means that what he said about marriage must be understood

 in the light of what God told the people to do through Ezra and Nehemiah,

divorce their pagan wives.  Let's take this passage one verse at a time.


    Malachi 2:10 "Have we not all one Father?  Did not one God create us? 

Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?" 

From the way verses 15&16 use the term "break faith" it is obvious that Malachi

is talking about men divorcing their Jewish wives.


    Malachi 2:11 "Judah has broken faith. 

A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and Jerusalem:

Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves,

by marrying the daughter of a foreign god."

This apparently means that Jewish

 men were divorcing their Jewish wives in order to marry pagan

wives and continuing to go to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship.  See verse 13.


    Malachi 2:12  "As for the man who does this, whoever he may be,

may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob –

 even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty."

 Nehemiah 13:28&29 says, "One of the sons of Joida son of Eliashib

 the high priest was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. 

And I drove him away from me.  Remember them, O my God,

 because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites."


    Malachi 2:13&14 "Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears.

 You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings

or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 

You ask, 'Why?'  It is because the LORD is acting as the witness

between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her,

though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant."

 I Peter 3:7 says, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives,

and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you

of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."


    The first part of verse 15 is difficult to translate and the translations of it vary.

 The NIV translation reads, "Has not the LORD made them one?

 In flesh and spirit they are his.  And why one? 

Because He was seeking godly offspring. 

So guard yourself in spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." 

What is obvious in every translation I have read is that one of the purposes

of marriage is producing godly children. 

That is what was so utterly wrong about Jewish men divorcing their Jewish wives

 and marrying pagan wives. 

Such a second marriage would not produce godly children.

 It is also obvious in every translation that God is telling the Jewish men

 not to divorce their Jewish wives so that they can marry pagan women.

    Malachi 2:16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel,

"and I hate a man's covering himself with violence

as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty.

 So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith."

 Again, we need to remember when we read this verse that in the Book of Ezra

 God commanded Jewish men who had married pagan women to divorce their pagan wives.


    We now come to the New Testament.

 I am going to make the assumption that everything Jesus and Paul said about divorce

 and remarriage does not contradict the Old Testament,

although it may enlarge upon it and make the requirements for divorce more strict.


    Matthew 5:31&32 "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'

 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife,

except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress,

and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."


    Luke 16:18 "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery,

and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."


    Matthew 19:3-9 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. 

They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator

 'made them male and female,' and said,

'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,

and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. 

Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." 

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife

 a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 

Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.

  But it was not this way from the beginning.

 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness,

and marries another woman commits adultery."


    Mark 10:2-9 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking,

"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" 

"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce

and send her away."

 "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied.

  "But from the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'

 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother

and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'

 So they are no longer two, but one.

 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

    Mark 10:10-12 When they were in the house again,

the disciples asked Jesus about this.

 He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman

 commits adultery against her. 


And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

    First, a couple of explanations. 

The Greek word translated "marital unfaithfulness" in the NIV

is best defined as any sexual act between two people other than

 between a man and a woman who are married to each other.

 It would also include bestiality. Second, since the sin that is specifically mentioned is adultery,

it would seem that Jesus is talking about someone divorcing their spouse

SO THAT they could marry someone else. 

Some of the Jewish rabbis taught that word translated "indecent"

in the NIV translation of Deuteronomy 24:1 meant sexual sin.

 Others taught that it could mean almost anything.

 Jesus seems to be saying that what Deuteronomy 24:1 is referring to is sexual sin.

 Jesus never said that divorce in and of itself was committing adultery.


    I Corinthians 7:1&2 "Now for the matters you wrote about:

It is good for a man not to marry.  But since there is so much immorality,

each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." 

This seems to run parallel with God's original comment,

"It is not good for the man to be alone."


    I Corinthians 7:7-9 "I wish that all men were as I am.

 But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

  Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.

 But if they cannot control themselves they should marry, for it is better

 to marry than to burn with passion." 

Singleness is fine if you have the spiritual gift for it,

but if you don't, it is better to be married.


    I Corinthians 7:10&11 "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):

A wife must not separate from her husband.

But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.

 And a husband must not divorce his wife." 

Marriage should be for life, but since Paul says he is quoting Jesus,

the sexual sin exception would apply.


    I Corinthians 7:12-16 "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord):

 If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him,

he must not divorce her. 

And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer

and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him…

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.

 A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances:

God has called us to live  in peace. 

How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?

  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?" 

The question the Corinthians were probably asking was:

 "If in the Old Testament a man who had married a pagan

 was commanded to divorce her, what about an unbeliever

who accepts Christ as his or her Savior and their spouse does not?

  Should the unbelieving spouse be divorced?" 

Paul says no.  But if they leave, let them go.


    I Corinthians 7:24 "Brothers, each man, as responsible to God,

should remain in the situation God called him to." 

Getting saved should not lead to an immediate change in marital status.

I Corinthians 7:27&28 (NKJV) "Are you bound to a wife?

  Do not seek to be loosed.  Are you loosed from a wife?  Do not seek a wife.

 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned.

 Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you." 

The only way I can put this together with Jesus' teaching on divorce

and remarriage and what Paul says in verses 10&11 of this chapter

is to believe that Jesus is talking about divorcing a spouse in order to get married

 and Paul is talking about someone who finds themselves divorced

and after a period of time becomes interested in someone who had nothing

 to do with their being divorced in the first place.


Are there other legitimate reasons for divorce other than sexual sin

and/or and unbelieving spouse leaving?

 In Mark 2:23&24 the Pharisees are upset because Jesus' disciples

are picking heads of grain and eating them, to the Pharisees way of thinking,

both harvesting and threshing grain on the Sabbath.

  Jesus' response is to remind them of David eating the consecrated bread

when he was fleeing for his life from Saul. 

There are no exceptions listed as to who could eat the consecrated bread,

and yet Jesus seems to be saying that what David did was right. 

Jesus also frequently asked the Pharisees when questioned about healing

 on the Sabbath about their watering their livestock or

pulling a child or an animal up out of a pit on the Sabbath. 

If violating the Sabbath or eating the consecrated bread was OK because life was in danger,

 I would think that leaving a spouse because life was in danger would not be wrong either.


What about conduct on the part of one spouse that would make raising godly children impossible. 

That was grounds for divorce to Ezra and Nehemiah

but it is not directly addressed in the New Testament.

What about a man addicted to pornography who is committing

 adultery in his heart on a regular basis.  (Matthew 5:28)

  The New Testament does not address that.

What about a man who refuses to have normal sexual relationships with his wife

or provide her with food and clothing. 

That is addressed in the case of slaves and captives in the Old Testament,

 but is not addressed in the New.


Here is what I am sure of:

One man married to one woman for life is the ideal.

It is not wrong to divorce a spouse for sexual sin, but a person is not commanded to do so.

 If reconciliation is possible, pursuing it is a good option.

Divorcing a spouse for any reason so that you can marry someone else almost certainly involves sin.

If an unbelieving spouse leaves,

you are under no obligation to try to save the marriage.

If staying in a marriage puts human life in danger,

either the spouse or the children,

a spouse is free to leave with the children.

If a spouse is being unfaithful, the chances of remaining married are better

 if the spouse being sinned against tells the sinning spouse they must choose

 either their spouse or the one they are having an affair

with rather than just putting up with it.
Refusing normal sexual relationships with your spouse is sin.  (I Corinthians 7:3-5)

  Whether it is grounds for divorce is unclear. 


A man involved in pornography will usually eventually get involved in actual sexual sin. 

Although I cannot prove it Scripturally,

experience has taught those who have dealt with this more than I that telling

 the husband he must choose between his wife or his pornography

is more likely to end up with a the marriage being healed than just ignoring

the pornography and hoping the husband will stop.


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Dear soul,

Do you have the assurance that if you were to die today,

you'll be in the presence of the Lord in Heaven?

Death for a believer is but a doorway that opens into eternal life.

 

Those who fall asleep in Jesus

shall be reunited with their loved ones in heaven.

Those you've laid in the grave in tears,

you shall meet them again with joy!

Oh, to see their smile and feel their touch...

never to part again!

 

Yet, if you don't believe in the Lord, you're going to hell.

There is no pleasant way to say it.

 

The Scripture says,

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

                  ~ Romans 3:23

 

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,

and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,

thou shalt be saved."

                  ~ Romans 10:9

 

Don't fall asleep without Jesus

until you are assured of a place in heaven.

 

Tonight, if you would like to receive the gift of eternal life

first you must believe in the Lord.

You have to ask for your sins to be forgiven

and put your trust in the Lord.

To be a believer in the Lord, ask for eternal life.

There's only one way to heaven and that's through the Lord Jesus.

That's God's wonderful plan of salvation.

 

You can begin a personal relationship with Him

by praying from your heart a prayer such as the following:

 

"Oh God, I'm a sinner.

I've been a sinner all of my life.

Forgive me, Lord.

I receive Jesus as my Savior.

I trust Him as my Lord.

Thank you for saving me.

In Jesus' name, Amen."


If you have never received the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior,

but have received Him today after reading this invitation, please let us know.

We would love to hear from you. Your first name is sufficient.

 

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