Divorce According To The Lord

Divorce According To The Lord

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32, NKJV)

In Jesus’ day, many people interpreted the Mosaic permission for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) as granting virtually any reason as grounds for divorce. Some rabbis taught this even extended to allowing a man to divorce his wife if she burnt his breakfast.

“Moses insisted upon ‘awriting of divorcement,’ that angry passions might have time to cool and that the separation if it must come, might be performed with deliberation and legal formality. The requirement of a writing was to a certain degree a check upon an evil habit, which was so ingrained in the people that to refuse it altogether would have been useless, and would only have created another crime.”  – Charles Spurgeon

In that time, the permissible grounds for divorce were debated:

  • School of Shammai: “Restricted the ‘some indecency’ of Deuteronomy 24:1 to refer only to a sexual misdemeanor authenticated by witnesses.”
  • School of Hillel: “Reputedly took it of any cause of complaint, even including burning the dinner.”

The issue of divorce revolved around a strict or loose interpretation of the word uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1. Those who wanted to make divorce easy had a loose interpretation. Jesus makes it plain that the idea of uncleanness is sexual immorality, not anything the wife might do to displease the husband.

The teaching of Jesus on marriage and divorce is further explained in Matthew 19, but here we see the intent of Jesus: getting back to the intent of the law, instead of allowing it to be used as easy permission for divorce.

An illegitimate divorce gives place to adultery because God doesn’t recognize the divorce, and sees a new relationship as bigamous. It is possible for a person to have a divorce that is recognized by the state but not by God. If that person goes on to marry someone else, God considers that relationship adultery because He sees them as still married.


Father, You said, “the two shall become one flesh.” That is Your standard. Thank You the You are a forgiving God, who understands our weaknesses. We have all failed to obey You. Help all of us to walk in Your truth this day. In Jesus name, amen.

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