Divorce

Divorce

While divorce was originally instituted “to protect the sanctity of wedlock by outlawing the offender and his moral offense,” and was granted only in case of adultery (Matthew 5:32), it is most ludicrous to see how quickly people can be divorced today for trifling reasons. One has read of a marriage being dissolved because the husband snored too much. The free extension of divorce to include any marital infelicity, in which Hollywood leads the way, is to be deplored. The alarming increase of the divorce rate is having a most disastrous effect upon the characters of the children of broken homes. What presently concerns us, however, is the Biblical aspect of divorce in relation to women.

The public dissolution of the marriage contract was, in some cases, allowed by the Law of Moses. But such an allowance was much abused by the licentious, who sought to put away a wife for the most trivial cause (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). To some degree a woman was the property of her husband and he could repudiate her if he found “indecency in her” (24:1). Divorce was not pronounced by any court of law. A public announcement by the husband was made and a bill of divorcement given to the wife stating the repudiation and freedom of the wife. “She is not my wife, neither am I her husband” (Hosea 2:2). The divorced woman usually returned to her parents' home, and was free to marry again. No priest was allowed to marry such a repudiated woman (Deuteronomy 24:1; Isaiah 50:1; 54:6; Jeremiah 3:8; Leviticus 21:14). The Mosaic Law refused the right of divorce to a man forced to marry a girl whom he had humbled or to a husband who wrongfully accused his wife of misconduct before marriage (Deuteronomy 22:19, 29).

Jesus taught the indissolubility of the marriage union, and affirmed that such was symbolic of the indissoluble union between Himself and His Church, just as the prophets spoke of monogamy as being symbolic of the union of God with Israel (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14; 31:32; Hosea 2:19; Matthew 9:15). While Jesus recognized the Mosaic bill of divorcement which declared adultery to be the sole reason of separation, He did not make divorce mandatory. Behind His teaching on this subject (Matthew 5:31, 32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18) there would seem to be the underlying principle that if a marriage is destroyed by unfaithfulness, it could not be further destroyed by divorce.

The teaching of Paul on the same problem has given rise to much controversy with some affirming that the Apostle allows for the remarriage of the so-called innocent party (1 Corinthians 7:12-16, see Romans 7:2). Paul, who is the only other one in the New Testament besides Christ to speak of divorce, in no way modifies what Christ taught. The Apostle does not discuss the causes responsible for the disruption of marriage, but only the question of manners and morals in the relation. He nowhere teaches that a Christian partner deserted by an ungodly partner is free to marry someone else. If the husband or wife deserts, the remaining party should remain as he or she is. The Bible nowhere offers an easy road out of marriage such as is provided today. “Nothing could be more beautiful in the morals of the marriage relation than the direction given by Paul for the conduct of all parties in marriage in all trials.” It is still widely held in the Christian Church that while severe marital difficulties may warrant a separation, there should never be divorce for any cause whatever.