Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Divorce

Albert Mohler takes an excellent look at the evangelical church's view of divorce as it compares to other political-cultural issues such as abortion, homosexuality, etc. Mohler asks some good questions that should cause us to think.


Eric said...

Since I can't comment at Mohler's...

"Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, but it is sin, and it is a sin that is condemned in no uncertain terms."

If it is sin, why did God make it part of the law? Did God sin by divorcing Israel? Jer. 3:8

It seems to me that God hates stoning, just like he hates divorce, because they both mean someone has sinned for those consequences to be applied under the law.

(full disclosure: I am happily married and have not been divorced)

Eric said...


You asked, "If it is sin, why did God make it a part of the law?" I'm not sure what you mean by this. Could you please clarify? Thanks.

We know God cannot sin. So what does Jer. 3:8 mean? I believe it refers to the coming exile in Babylon. However, God then showed His faithfulness by bringing the exiles back to the Promised Land 70 years later. So whatever "divorce" means in Jer. 3:8, it doesn't refer to a permanent condition.

As for stoning, there do seem to be some aspects of the law that applied to the nation of Israel that do not apply in the same way on this side of the cross.

Regarding marriage, I believe the key verse is Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." When the religious leaders asked Jesus about divorce in Matthew 19, He quoted this verse.

So, is divorce a sin? I believe yes.

Is it forgivable? Certainly.

Eric said...

In the Old Testament there are two phrases used (in the KJV), “put away” and “bill of divorcement”. I think these are two separate things, but related. IOW, every wife that has been given a bill of divorcement has also been put away, but not every wife that has been put away has necessarily been given a bill of divorcement. Both of these are used in the Jer. 3:8 reference as God describes the idolatry(adultery) of Israel. “Put away” is described in two ways – one dealing with wives (which appears may not be permanent, i.e., the husband could choose to forgive) and then with sin or sinful objects (which does appear permanent – destruction of the objects or death of the persons).

Lev. 21:7 is a requirement for the descendants of Aaron that they may not marry a woman who has been “put away” from her husband. They were only to marry virgins; not widows, divorced, profane or harlots (v.14). So I think “put away” and “divorced” are again shown as two things.

Deut. 22:13-19 instructs what happens when a man falsely accuses his wife of not being a virgin when they married. He is not permitted to “put her away” for the rest of his life. If what he accused is true, she is killed (v. 21).

Deut. 24:1 instructs that a husband who finds “uncleanness” in his wife to give her a bill of divorcement and send her out of his house. I believe this “uncleanness” is adultery. See Numbers 5:19 and Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:31-32 and Matt. 19:1-12.

Deut. 24:2-4 instructs what may then happen with this woman. She can marry a second man, but if he also gives her a bill of divorcement (or dies), she may not return to the first husband.

Numbers 5:11-31 speaks of a husband who suspects his wife of adultery and the “law of jealousies”. Here “gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of her husband” is used (v. 19). So adultery is one type of “uncleanness”.

I believe the Pharisees were “putting away” their wives for “any cause” (much like we are doing today). Jesus corrected them and reminded them of the law – that a man should only put his wife away for the cause of fornication. If he put her away without her committing adultery and he marries another, then he has committed adultery. If a man marries a divorced woman (who has rightfully been put away for fornication) then he commits adultery. If a man put away his wife for any cause other than fornication he causes her to commit adultery.

I don’t think divorce is sin. It is a consequence of adultery. Divorce for any other reason is sin – and we have plenty of that. I don’t know why Jesus didn’t plainly say that divorce or putting away wasn’t permitted if it is sin.

(the other) Eric