Summary: This is a study of what the Scriptures teach on the subject of divorce and remarriage. The Church has failed to up-hold God’s design for marriage and has misled many by teaching the permission of divorce and remarriage under the New Covenant.
It is reported that one in two marriages end in divorce. What begins at a wedding ceremony usually with a minister, parents and friends increasingly ends in a courtroom with a judge, lawyers and strangers. The average marriage now lasts seven years.
Fifty-five percent of all Americans say a divorce is acceptable if the marriage isn’t working out. As the number of divorced persons in our society increases, the probability increases that a person’s friends, parents, siblings or children will be divorced. The more divorced people an individual knows, the more ’normal’ divorce will seem to that individual. The less aberrant or deviant the person perceives divorce to be, the greater the probability that that person will divorce if his or her marriage becomes strained.
Forty percent of all marriages each year are remarriages. Eighty percent of all divorced persons eventually remarry... about three years after the previous relationship is terminated.
The saddest fact about divorce and remarriage is that Scripture plainly teaches that God does not approve of either one. Many who profess to be God’s people are ignorant of or ignoring the Lord’s instructions regarding divorce and remarriage.
Let us examine these issues in light of God’s revealed Will given to us in the Holy Scriptures.
Many believe that the Lord Jesus Christ condones divorce and remarriage. To support their conviction, they usually cite MATTHEW 19:9 which 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. "
For us to fully understand Christ’s statement in MATTHEW 19:9, we must consider the full context in which we find it.
In VERSE THREE, we have the Pharisees coming to Jesus with the intent of ’testing’ Him. The Pharisees wanted to involve Jesus in a religious discussion in which Jesus might provide them with ammunition needed to repudiate Him as a false teacher or blasphemer. On this occasion, they question Him on the controversial subject of divorce and remarriage.
Note very carefully the question they pose to our Lord: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" or, in other words, ’Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?’
First, the Pharisees ask Jesus to give His interpretation of what is "lawful". The "law" that governed God’s people, at this time, was the Law of Moses. So, the Pharisees are asking Jesus, ’Does the Law of Moses permit a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?’
It is crucial to understand that, at that juncture in time, there were two schools of thought concerning the topic of divorce - that of the rabbi Hillel and that of the rabbi Shammai. These two rabbis differed in their interpreting the meaning of "uncleanness" in DEUTERONOMY 24:1.
Hillel taught that the term "uncleanness" meant anything displeasing to the man; that is, it could be his wife’s displeasing appearance, displeasing cooking or house cleaning, displeasing temperament, or even snoring. Basically, Hillel took the position that the man could lawfully divorce his wife for any cause he wanted to.
Shammai, on the other hand, stated that "uncleanness" in DEUTERONOMY 24:1 referred specifically to the wife’s having had premarital sex with another man. He stated that DEUTERONOMY 24:1 referred to the same situation presented in DEUTERONOMY 22:13-14. Thus, the Mosaic Law permitted divorce and remarriage only in the case where the husband learns, on wedding night, that his wife is not a virgin.
Returning to MATTHEW 19, we now understand the Pharisees’ question much better. They were wanting Jesus to take sides on this controversial subject. Will He side with Hillel or Shammai?
Instead of answering their question directly, Jesus explains to the Pharisees that God’s original design for marriage never included divorce... let alone remarriage. In MATTHEW 19:4-6, Jesus states that divorce was never part of God’s will for men and women who enter into a marriage covenant and become "one flesh".
Indeed, in MALACHI 2:16, God says He hates divorce. And, so, in conformity with God’s original will, Jesus commands: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." THAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR THOSE WHO MARRY.
In VERSE 8, Jesus rebukes them by stating that the only reason why God made a provision for divorce at all was the "hardness" (perversity and carnality) of their hearts... NOT because God thinks it to be good or virtuous.
In VERSE 9, Jesus answers their original question regarding what is the lawful "cause" or "reason" given by Moses that permits a Jewish man to divorce his wife. Jesus states that it is not lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any other reason than "fornication". Here. Jesus states that the correct interpretation of "uncleanness" in DEUTERONOMY 24:1 is premarital sex.