“…Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put (her) away? He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so.” (Matt. 19:7-8, Emph. MD).
Divorce, putting away, to cut apart, expel, or dissolve are all words affiliated with the sin that has plagued man for thousands of centuries. As the wisdom of King Solomon put it, “There is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Since the dawning of time man has sought to do that which is right in his own eyes (Jud. 17:6; 21:25), and dissolving God’s institution of marriage is no different.
When God proclaimed it was not good for man to be alone, thereby determining to create for Adam a “helpmeet” (Gen. 2:18), this completed His creative work through the introduction of both male and female (Gen. 1:27). As an intellectual and spiritual being, man would not have been suitable, by himself to carry out God’s eternal purpose. Like the animal kingdom, there had to be a way for mankind to multiply in order to bring our Savior into the world. Woman, as man’s help meet—meaning she would be the exact counterpart of man, brought with it man’s social condition, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Mankind, created with emotions, desires, a will, and ability to choose which path he will take, has been authorized by God to fill his sexual desires only through the institution of marriage. As Paul points out, “…to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). Fornication, the only authorized reason for a spouse to put away, dissolve, cut apart one’s marriage (Matt. 19:9).
Marriage, as Paul stated, is for those who cannot contain themselves, to prevent fornication (1 Cor. 7:9). However, it is also for those who have matured enough to be responsible adults. Those who will not run home to momma every time things do not go their way (Matt. 19:5). It is for men and women determinedly work out their problems together, for it was their love of inseparableness that sent them to the altar of matrimony in the first place. They vowed before witnesses and God that they would love and cherish one another until death. That sickness, health, poverty, and wealth couldn’t dissolve their love for one another but would carry them through until death released them from the law of the husband and wife (Rom. 7:1-3):
Know ye not, brethren, how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
As it was under the law of Moses, divorce was never commanded, but allowed, tolerated; and it is under the law of Christ, finding no command to divorce one’s spouse, but should there be no way to reconcile the unfaithfulness, God allows the faithful spouse to put away their mate. God, who is longsuffering towards us (2 Pet. 3:9), allowed the Israelites to play the unfaithful spouse for decades, and despite His warnings for them to repent and be faithful once again, their heart was so hardened that the time came for God to divorce them (Ezek. 16:1-63). This is many times the cause of divorces in any generation, one spouse loves the other so much they can’t bear to cut ties with them, but the time comes when the one playing the harlot has such a seared conscience that nothing can be done to motivate them to repent and turn. We are of course speaking of a Scriptural divorce, and not a divorce for any reason other than fornication. While there is no requirement by God to encourage repentance by the unfaithful party, love for the soul of that party should cause a pause in running to the courthouse for an immediate dissolution of the marriage. Yes, our feelings have been hurt, we may find it very difficult to even forgive the individual for what they have done, but the Christian must firstly consider the person whose soul is in jeopardy and work diligently to do what is possible to save them.
The Hebrew husband as the head of the family and as such the head of his wife, made it next to impossible for the wife to divorce her husband even on Scriptural grounds. Though she was his most prized possession, she was subordinate to her husband. The law concerning divorce as recorded in Deut. 24:1-4 allowed the husband to “write a bill of divorcement”:
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness [unseemly thing] 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 too 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 shall not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
The common term was “ishshah,” meaning, the sending away of the wife” (Deut. 22:19-20). The purpose of such a bill, laid out the reasons for the divorce in order to make it harder, and to regulate an evil that the husband could not extirpate. The Law was meant to protect the wife against unceremonious and capricious expulsion from house and children. The grounds for divorce are difficult to determine from the Hebrew words that are rendered “some uncleanness” (KJV). Common sense tells us that it does not have to do with fornication or adultery, as such crimes were under penalty of death (Deut. 22:20ff).
There were two schools of thought among the Jews concerning the grounds for divorce. One group averred that unchastity or adultery justified a husband to put away his wife, while the other group was more open. The Jewish Mishna is full of reasons, such as finding another woman the man liked better…because she didn’t keep her vows…conversed with men in the street…found out on the street with her hair loose…fed her husband food that had not been tithed…spoke so loud that her neighbors could hear her…burning the food or not seasoning it correctly. As for adultery, this only applied to the wife, for the husband was never guilty of adultery by having intercourse with one of his several wives, concubines, slave, or bondwoman while married. He would only be guilty of adultery when he dishonored his “free wife” (Lev. 20:10ff). That is, a wife free from suspicion as she had devoted herself to prayer by avoiding any activity outside the house that could compel her to adultery.
God’s immutability is proof that we can depend upon His promises, as well as His word to never change.
“For I, Jehovah, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” (Jas. 1:17)
Therefore, the principles taught in the Old Testament, are just as binding today as they were in the days of Adam, Abraham, and even the Israelites. Jesus proves this to be the case when He stated:
…have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:4-6).
Since the beginning it has been God’s will that there be only one man and one woman married for life, with fornication as the only cause for putting away a spouse. It is due to the hardness of the Israelites hearts that He allowed divorce for any reason, but that allowance has been replaced with a New Covenant (Heb. 8:6-13; Col. 2:14). For God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), always has and always will, because of the numerous sins it causes—(1) the breaking of vows [Matt. 5:3-37] (2) the breaking of the golden rule [Matt. 7:12] (3) the breaking of the law [Gal. 5:14] (4) it demonstrates love of the world, rather than God [1 John 2:15], just to name a few.
A recent study by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University discovered that less than one-third of Americans believe the Bible should serve as their ultimate standard of right and wrong; while 42% of those surveyed believe “what you feel in your heart” should be the only standard for determining moral values. Sixty-three percent believe the Bible is not God’s true and accurate words. This coming from men and women who claim to be Christian. Is it any wonder why the world and our country are falling apart at the seams? It is this attitude toward God’s Word that brought sin into the world in the first place.
Divorce has become so commonplace that it’s hard to know when, or if, it was ever unheard of. The earliest recorded divorce in the United States was in Massachusetts Bay in 1629 when the Legislative body granted divorces on the basis of adultery, desertion, bigamy and in more cases than not, impotence. By 1776 divorce law became less restrictive and the legislatures turned the work over to the judiciary, as it is today. By the end of the 18th century states such as Utah, Indiana and the Dakota Territory became known as “divorce colonies” (mills), as later Mexico, Reno and Las Vegas would become. The husband and wife would be required to move to the colony and live there for a minimum of three months after which they could get their divorce and leave. In the 1920s some States began allowing “trial marriages” that allowed couples to try out marriage for a limited time, thus hopefully preventing the rise in divorces. By the 1930s Reno and Las Vegas were offering quicky three-day divorces, which Clark Gable and his second wife were one of the first to take advantage.
In 1953, the State of Oklahoma was the first to introduce “no-fault-divorce” where a spouse could end a marriage without having to prove a fault with their partner. By 1969, California followed suit with their “Family Law Act,” and most States have since adopted the same, with only a few that do not recognize such a divorce. There are a number of reasons that couples divorce, but when boiled down the common denominator is a lack of communication. Following is a list of reasons in within the United States today:
Abuse (physical, psychological, verbal)
Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.)
Lack of commitment
Conflict, arguing, breakdown in relationship
Lack of intimacy
Marrying too young
Lack of shared interests
One partner not carrying their weight
Health problems (spouse or children)
Lack of communication
Fifty-eight percent of couples 50-70 yrs divorce due to a cheating spouse, while 85% in the same age group divorce due to a lack of commitment, and 61% divorce due to conflict. Fifty-five percent of couples 20-40 yrs divorce because of a lack of intimacy and communication, and 34% of them divorce due to domestic violence. Thirty-three percent blame their ex-spouse. Forty-50% of marriages end up in divorce, with the percentage increasing with every subsequent marriage. The majority of marriages end after the first 7 years of marriage, with 80% of the time women initiating the divorce. However, there is a good sign that we pray will continue, since COVID, divorce rates have dropped from 8.2 per 1,000 people, to 5.1. This may be good, and it may not, as more men, and women view marriage as an outdated institution and are choosing to shack-up rather than formalizing their relationship, so it’s really hard to tell how accurate the statistics are.
Man has been given the ability to choose on his own whether to obey or reject God’s will, and that is certainly evident with the excuses used to justify doing something that God hates. Divorce for any reason is the devil’s tool, and the religious world has been sucked into the vacuum of his devices by not preaching against divorce, but instead ignoring it just to keep the pews filled. Yes, at one time God allowed divorce for any reason, but it was at a time of man’s ignorance (Acts 17:30). When God hoped His law would reveal its purpose to bring the carnal man to a spiritual understanding of His will (1 Cor. 3:1). It should be unnerving to hear fellow Christians tell their children, “well, if it doesn’t work out, you can always get a divorce.” Such spiritual immaturity is becoming more common than not, and elders and preachers need to teach against such nonsense. There has always been only one reason for putting away, dissolving, and expelling, and that is fornication. May we ever turn to God’s word as our standard of right and wrong, and stop with Pentecostalism—if it feels right, do it.