Part One


                               Keith Hunt

There are nearly as many DIVORCES in one year today as there are MARRIAGES.


Some say once a marriage is bound by God there can NEVER be a DIVORCE under ANY circumstances. 


Others say God does allow divorce and remarriage in ANY



The ANSWERS to the question of DIVORCE and REMARRIAGE can be found in the BIBLE. 

Let us prayerfully SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES and find those answers.


So God created man in his own image... MALE and FEMALE he created them  (Gen. 1:27).


The Eternal made woman from man's RIB and brought her unto the man (Gen. 2:21,22).

Therefore [because woman was created FOR man and FROM man] shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall CLEAVE unto his WIFE; and they shall be ONE FLESH (Gen. 2:24).


Marriage was instituted when the first MAN and WOMAN were created.


Now TWO questions will immediately arise : 1) Did God originally purpose and intend that marriage between TWO people be for LIFE, till death do them part? 2)Does the LAW of marriage apply to ALL peoples of all societies?



                        THE ANSWER TO QUESTION ONE

The account in Genesis does not give us a "Thus says the LORD" answer to our first question, but when Jesus was asked questions on marriage and divorce by the Pharisees, He took them back to the account in Genesis that we just read and told them that DIVORCE was PERMITTED under Moses' economy because of the HARDNESS of the people's hearts, "....BUT FROM THE BEGINNING IT WAS NOT SO" (Mat. 19:8).

God never INTENDED originally for there to be DIVORCES. He did intend for a couple to come together as husband and wife until DEATH. That is the ideal -  marriage for life.

Paul, using God's original, basic intent of the marriage law to illustrate another point to his readers, said this, "Know you not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), how that

the law has dominion over a man AS LONG AS HE LIVES? For the woman which has a husband is bound by the law to her husband so LONG AS HE LIVES; 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 the law, so that she is NO ADULTERESS, though she be married to another man" (Rom.7:1-3).

Paul understood God's original, overall intent and wish for

man and woman coming together as one flesh. God does not think lightly of DIVORCE! He says "....Therefore TAKE HEED to your spirit, and let none deal TREACHEROUSLY [UNFAITHFULLY] against the wife of his youth. FOR the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He HATES PUTTING AWAY ..." (Mal. 2:15,16).

We will look at THIS PASSAGE in some detail later.

Under God's perfect government (as it was with ADAM and EVE before SIN entered) there would be no divorce. Why?  Because His Spirit would be upon everyone. Mothers and fathers would raise their children in the way of the Lord  - they would teach them the purpose of life, how to date and find the right mate and enter a marriage that would be a lifelong joy. Under God's government there would be NO NEED and NO DESIRE for DIVORCE.

   But the world is NOT under the government of God - that

government was taken away when SATAN enticed mankind to sin. The world for the present is under the influence and sway of the Satanic forces (see Mat. 4:1-2, 8-9; Eph. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:4). There is coming a RESTITUTION of ALL THINGS (Acts 3: 19-21), an AGE to COME (Heb. 2:5) when MARRIAGE will be RESTORED to God's original intent. (If you would like to know more about the prophesied NEW WORLD to come, see my study lesson called, "ARMAGEDDON and the NEW AGE").

Jesus knew the Fathers's intention for marriage.

He knew that from the BEGINNING the Father did not want and did not intend for there to be DIVORCE, when He said, "....from the BEGINNING it was not so." But Jesus also realized this present world was not the Father's world, so He went on to say, "....Whosoever shall put away his wife, EXCEPT it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery, and whoever marries her which is put away does commit adultery" (Mat.19:9).

   Jesus did allow - in this present age - DIVORCE and REMARRIAGE for either partner (God is no respecter of persons) if either was guilty of FORNICATION. The question of what is meant by fornication we shall look at in detail later.

   Jesus did give an EXCEPTION. We shall see later that there are other exceptions also.

                       THE ANSWER TO QUESTION TWO

Are the marriages of UNCONVERTED, UNCHRISTIAN and UNCHURCHED peoples - COMMON LAW or whatever other name is given to those outside the "Christian church marriages"  RECOGNIZED by God? Is it just as much a SIN for them to commit adultery as it is for the Christian? Does the Seventh Commandment apply to them, or is it only for those who follow the Bible?

   Down through history people have said that the SABBATH (the Fourth Commandment) is for the JEW or Israelite only, and the rest of mankind does not have to observe that day. Jesus Christ must have anticipated this deceitful thought of man, because He said, "The sabbath was made for MAN, and not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28). No, the Sabbath was not made for the JEW - it was not made for the "church in the wilderness" ONLY (Acts 7:38) or just the New Testament Church of God, but for ALL MANKIND. The Sabbath was instituted by God at the creation of man, for all mankind, before there ever was ONE converted human being (Gen. 2:1-3). When a person repents and is baptized, he repents of having broken God's laws - because those laws are in full force and effect on his life and it is sin not to obey them (I Jn. 3:4; Rom. 7:7).

In becoming a true Christian, one has to repent of SIN - which includes the breaking of the Sabbath, stealing and lying - whether one knew those laws existed or not. If they were broken, SIN was committed. As the saying goes, "ignorance of the law is no excuse."

The marriage law is as old as the Sabbath.

Marriage was also created at the time when man was (Gen. 2:18, 24 and Mark 10:6-9). It was instituted BEFORE there was a church, BEFORE there was one converted person, BEFORE there was any Israelite. As with the Sabbath, marriage was also made for ALL mankind. As the Scripture says, "Therefore shall a MAN (any man, not just the converted) leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his WIFE; and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Furthermore, "WHOSOEVER shall put away his wife, except

it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery" (Mat. 19:9). If a person has violated God's marriage laws before conversion, he must repent of those sins as much as any other sin he has committed by breaking any of the other nine Commandments.

ABIMELECH the king of Gerar KNEW it was SIN to take another man's wife. "But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, you are but a DEAD man for the woman which you have taken; for she is married to a husband(margin). But Abimelech had not come near her (in sexual contact) .... And God said unto him in a dream, Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; for I also withheld you from SINNING against me; therefore I suffered you not to touch her" (Gen. 20:1-6). Even in ignorance, Abimelech would have sinned if he had taken her in sexual union.

When Isaac dwelt in Gerar, he also proclaimed that Rebekah was only his sister and not his wife. The king Abimelech found out Rebekah was Isaac's wife and said to him, "....What is this that you have done unto US? ONE OF THE PEOPLE (any one) might lightly have lain with your wife, and you would have brought GUILTINESS upon us" (Gen. 26: 6-10).

The laws of God were known before the FLOOD and after the Flood by the nations of the world. The law of marriage was binding on all peoples and it was SIN to have sexual relations with anyone other than your own husband or wife. 

 Even when God specifically chose a people, Israel, to do His

will and revealed His laws to them, there was still to be "ONE

LAW ... to him that is homeborn, and unto the STRANGER that sojourneth among you" (Ex. 12:49).

There are PHYSICAL LAWS that the Eternal God has set in motion. The law of "gravity" effects ALL people on earth, whether they know it exists or not, whether they believe in God or not, whether they are a Christian or none Christian, black or brown or white - English, French, Italian or German etc. all come under the penalty if they break the law of gravity.

God's Ten Commandments are a SPIRITUAL law (Rom. 7:14). Spirit is eternal - it is in full force at all times and affects ALL people just as do the physical laws. The marriage law is one of those spiritual laws - it does not matter what your race, nationality, or ideological viewpoint, break that law and you have sinned.

It is interesting to note in passing, that history tells us that for many centuries in the Roman Empire, it was not only impossible to get a DIVORCE but was also looked upon as a SHAME!

By the time of the apostles and after, DIVORCE in the that Empire had become just as prevalent as it is with our Western nations of today.

God's laws are made not for the righteous, but  "..... for the

lawless and disobedient" (I Tim. 1:9-10).  They are made not only to protect us from evil but to show EVERYONE where he/she has SINNED and broken those laws (Rom.7:7), and that includes the law of two persons coming together and being bound as husband and wife in ONE flesh. 


As I have said, ignorance is NO excuse!

Paul was a BENJAMITE and a Pharisee - as pertaining to JUDAISM, blameless (Phil 3:5,6). He was, as we would say today, a good "minister of the cloth." He THOUGHT he knew the law of God and was living it. It was not until Jesus struck him down on the road to Damascus - revealed Himself to Paul, and gave him His Spirit - that he began to UNDERSTAND the deep spirituality of the law. Up to that time in his life, he was DECEIVED and IGNORANT about SIN and death. I will PARAPHRASE what Paul said in Romans 7:8-11. 

"Sin, taking the opportunity by the vehicle of the commandments, had performed all kinds of evil in my life. For not really understanding the depth of the law, I thought sin did not exist in my life. I believed, in that condition of ignorance, that I was spiritually alive and okay. But when the full knowledge of the law came to me, then I knew sin was alive in my life and I was sentenced to die. And the commandments, which were given to produce a good life for people, I found were condemning me to death. For sin had, as it were, taken the commandments and DECEIVED me, kept me in ignorance as to truth, and thereby put me on death row."

Does God join together men and women who are not a part of the body of Christ? Let Proverbs 2:16,17 answer. "Saving you also from the loose woman, the harlot with her words so smooth, who leaves her own husband, forgetting her married troth before God" (Moffatt translation).

                         A PROPHECY FOR TODAY

The book of Hosea contains a prophecy for the peoples of the

British Commonwealth and the USA. For the identity of  Britain and the United States in Bible prophecy you need to have the book entitled JUDAH S SCEPTRE  AND JOSEPH'S  BIRTHRIGHT by Allen, published by Destiny Publishers, Merrimac, Mass.). 

It is a prophecy for the "latter days" (Hos. 3:5). One of the pivotal texts of the entire Bible is Hosea 4: 6, in which God shows that HIS VERY PEOPLE "are destroyed for lack of knowledge." It wasn't that they didn't HAVE the knowledge of God at one time. They did! But they REJECTED and FORGOT God's law. Besides other things, they are guilty of committing adultery and have the "spirit of whoredoms" (Hos. 4:2. 12 and 5:4).

 In Hosea 8:12, God says, ".....I have written to him the great

things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing"

[KJV]. Or as the LIVING BIBLE states: "Even if I gave her ten thousand laws, she'd say they weren't for her - that they APPLIED to SOMEONE FAR AWAY." Notice! In the last days some will say that God's law or certain points of His law apply to others or no longer apply to them! Yet God says His laws are for all who have human nature and who sin (I Tim. 1: 9,10). And all mankind are sinners (Rom. 3:10, 19, 23).

God's law of marriage - the Seventh Commandment - applies to ALL people at all times.

                       WHAT CONSTITUTES MARRIAGE?

This is a question that is often asked early in a study on marriage and divorce. It needs to be answered. It is not the purpose of this book to relate all the practices and customs of marriage ceremonies as they developed in the history of man and the pages of the Bible. For information and answers to those questions, the readers are asked to consult BIBLE DICTIONARIES and ENCYCLOPEDIAS.

What does constitute a marriage in the eyes of God? There are THREE BASIC ELEMENTS of the marriage law revealed in Genesis 2:24.

   (1) Marriage involves the INTENT of leaving the parent's home and authority to establish a new family. It is the beginning of a new husband and wife relationship. Thus the statement, "Therefore shall a man LEAVE his father and his mother."

   (2) Next, the man "shall CLEAVE unto his wife." They are to be joined together in a covenant relationship with each other. With forethought and consent, they desire to live together and establish a home together.

   (3) The last major element of the marriage law is that "they

shall be one flesh." This includes sexual intercourse, which in

marriage is honorable (Heb. 13:4) and commanded (Gen. 1:28; I Cor. 7:3-5). It is holy and sacred to God when rightly used in marriage, but an abomination to Him when perverted or used outside marriage. Sex in marriage cements a couple together more firmly as the years go by. It is that very personal and intimate physical part of marriage between two persons of the opposite sex.

Let me say, it is possible, for whatever reason [would be very odd but we'll say it is so] the couple cannot perform full sexual intercourse relations; they could still be husband and wife by the first two points above; God would recognize them as married, as the third point would be out of their control; marriage is more than just sexual intercourse. God looks at the heart..... and would honour the marriage.


                              CHAPTER TWO

                          DIVORCE UNDER MOSES

Most of what I have written in this chapter is taken from the

book "Divorce and Re-marriage" by Ralph Woodrow. Now moving on.....

Jesus said that under Moses' economy God did ALLOW divorce and remarriage. In fact it was allowed on a somewhat wide scale.

In Exodus, if a man took a slave girl he had purchased for a wife, and later decided to put her away, he was not to SELL her, "seeing he has dealt deceitfully with her." And "if HE TAKES ANOTHER WIFE, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. If he does not these three unto her, then she shall go out free" (Exodus 21:7-11). If he neglected her in any of these three areas, she could be free from that marriage, just as a released slave was free from slavery.

In Deuteronomy, a man who put away his wife was to "let her go whither she will" and he was not to "sell her at all for money" (Deut. 21:13,14). A divorced woman was free to "go and be another man's wife" (Deut. 24: 2). True, this was not the ideal - but as Jesus said, it was ALLOWED by God, because of the HARDNESS of man's heart (Mat. 19:8).

                              MALACHI 2:16

"For the Lord, the God of Israel, says that he hates putting

away," or, as it is commonly summarized, God hates divorce - ALL divorce, under any situation, shout some.

This verse is often quoted by those who suppose ALL    divorce is sinful, regardless of circumstances, but they fail to show from the CONTEXT just WHAT KIND of divorce was meant.

To say that God NEVER approves of divorce, that He hates ALL divorce - and they quote this verse as a proof text. But we shall now proceed to show this  is unscholarly!

It can easily be seen within the Bible that God not only permitted divorce under the Old Covenant (and Malachi was written when still under the old dispensation) but in some situations He actually COMMANDED IT! 

DOES THAT SHOCK YOU?  Well those who do not read ALL the Bible but pick and choose what they want to establish their teaching, are going to be in for a surprise!

At one time "many" of the Jews  including priests, religious singers, and others, had married foreign wives. Children had been born as a result of those marriages. Yet in a time of repentance - with prayer,  weeping, and trembling, they were told to do God's pleasure and put away those wives! It is all recorded in detail in Ezra 10. YES THERE IT IS! READ IT, MARK IT!

If the meaning in Malachi 2:16 is that ALL cases of divorce were "hated" by God, how can we explain that divorce was His "PLEASURE" in Ezra 10:11?


Obviously, each passage must be understood WITHIN ITS CONTEXT!

In the book of Ezra, Jewish men had married foreign wives, contrary to the law that said:

"Neither shall you make marriages with them (foreigners who

worshipped other gods): your daughter you shall not give unto

his son, nor his daughter shall you take for your son. FOR they will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve OTHER GODS" (Deut. 7:3-4). This issue was NOT racial as it was RELIGIOUS, or PAGAN, or ATHEIST!

In Malachi's day, a similar situation existed in that Jewish men had contracted marriages with foreign women, and had FORSAKEN THEIR WIVES FOR THE PURPOSE OF DOING THIS! The women these men were marrying were DAUGHTERS OF A STRANGE GOD! Notice verse 11.

"Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel ... for Judah ... has married the daughter of a strange god."  I recommend you  read verses 11-17 in such translations as the AMPLIFIED BIBLE, MODERN LANGUAGE, LIVING BIBLE, and REVISED STANDARD VERSION. 

Men were forsaking their wives for young, foreign women who worshipped other gods! It was THIS KIND of divorce that God hated. Taking verse 16 in context clarifies the entire passage. We must not take this text out of its context and conclude that ALL divorce is sinful, for (as we have seen) divorce was permitted under the Old Covenant, and in some circumstances it was commanded!

                           A VARIANT READING

There is another aspect of Malachi 2:16 that has commonly been overlooked. This verse happens to have a variant reading in the oldest manuscripts. Where the text says, "For the Lord, the God of Israel, says that He hates putting away" the KJV margin (which gives the variant reading) says, "For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, if he hate her, PUT HER AWAY"

Needless to say, this puts a different slant on the whole


Under the Old Covenant, if a man came to "hate" his wife, he

was to give her a "bill of divorcement" and then she could be another man's wife (Deut. 24:1-4). According to Josephus, under Jewish law a woman "could not of herself be married to another, unless her husband put her away." Apparently what had become a common practice at the time of Malachi was that a man would merely CAST ASIDE his wife - cast her out without granting a bill of divorce, for she was still referred to as his "companion, and the wife of thy covenant" (verse 14). This verse could have meant that if a man hated his wife, he should at least put her away LEGALLY as prescribed by Moses. She could then go and become another man's wife.

                      A NOTE ON STUDYING THE BIBLE

As we endeavor to apply the words of any verse within the context, there will be those who feel we are trying to "explain away the Bible." They may claim that THEY take the Bible "just as it is written"! But in taking the Bible just as it is written, one must bear in mind that one verse can make a GENERAL statement, and another verse may clarify or explain EXCEPTIONS to that general statement. A few examples will make this plain to see.

A person could read Luke 1:37, "With God nothing shall be IMPOSSIBLE," and consider it an absolute. But another verse say it is "IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie" (Heb. 6:18). Each statement is true, of course, but each must be understood WITHIN ITS PROPER SETTING.

According to Matthew 17:1, it was "six days" after Jesus taught certain things that he took Peter, James, and John up to the Mount of Transfiguration. Luke's account says it was "about an EIGHT days after these sayings" that this occurred (Luke 9:28). Was it six days or eight days? Taking only Matthew's verse, a person might insist it was after SIX days. A person reading the verse in Luke might dogmatically say it was EIGHT days. Each would claim to be taking the Bible "just as it is written," of course. Both these verses are correct - Matthew records that it was AFTER six days, and Luke says "about" eight days. This illustration is given to show that CONCLUSIONS should not be based on PARTIAL evidence.

   True doctrines must be based on "every word of God" (Mat. 4:4) - not on isolated verses, but on ALL verses relating to that subject. Take, for example, the time the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign. According to Mark's gospel, Jesus said, "There shall NO sign be given unto this generation" (Mark 8:12). Taking this verse ALONE, it would be easy to conclude that NO SIGN WHATSOEVER was given. But turning to Matthew's account, it is clear that the statement was indeed GENERAL. "There shall no sign be given to it [this generation], BUT the sign of the prophet Jonas" - the sign of three days and three nights (Mat. 12: 39, 40).

All scriptures must be found that pertain to a particular topic before the TRUTH can be ascertained.

                    CAN ONLY DEATH SEVER A MARRIAGE?

Those who would have people believe the Bible absolutely forbids divorce and remarriage, rush to Romans 7:1-3 to reinforce their claim that only DEATH can sever the marriage bond. "Know you not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law) how that the LAW has dominion over a man as long as he lives. For the woman which has a husband is bound by the law to her husband SO LONG AS HE LIVES; but if the husband be DEAD, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, 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."

   Bear in mind that Paul's illustration here was FROM THE LAW. Paul is referring to the LAW. That this statement was only GENERAL in nature is evident, for under the LAW (first five books of Moses) a woman was NOT bound to her husband IF HE DIVORCED HER! In that case, she COULD remarry and was NOT called an "adulteress" while her former husband lived. She COULD "go and be another man s wife" - a WIFE, not an adulteress (Deut. 24:1-4).

   Another exception under the law was that a woman was not bound to her husband IF, because or polygamy, he neglected her. She was allowed to go free (Ex. 21:11). Paul knew these things, and so did those to whom he wrote "who knew the law." But in making his BASIC point, he simply did NOT  GO INTO DETAILS WITH THE EXCEPTIONS, AS THEY WERE NOT RELEVANT TO HIS POINT [mentioning "Polygamy" - there is a full in-depth study on the subject on this website - Keith Hunt].


Paul's GENERAL thought that he wanted to convey to his readers in Romans 7:1-4 was that we were once bound to the law - bound to die because the law had condemned us. But we died when Christ took our death upon himself, and since the law only has dominion over a person as long as he lives, we are now free to "be married to another.....unto God" (verse 4).

 To illustrate this point Paul used the GENERAL analogy of a woman being bound to her husband until death. Paul cited a general principle of the law to explain his teaching. To have included wording about possible EXCEPTIONS would have detracted from the point he was making.

                          GENERAL STATEMENTS

Language permits the use of GENERAL STATEMENTS such as Paul made without branching out to all explanations or exceptions that might be possible. Many examples could be given, but the following should suffice.

In contrast to the REPEATED sacrifices of the Old Testament,

the apostle says Christ  "ONCE appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed unto men ONCE to die.....So Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb.9:26-28). The emphasis is on the word "ONCE" in this familiar passage. Christ appeared ONCE to put away sin. To illustrate this point the apostle likens it to the fact that it is appointed unto men ONCE to die. In using this example, he does not digress from his OVERALL POINT by explaining EXCEPTIONS. But there were exceptions! ALL men did not die only once, for people in the Bible who were raised from the dead and later died,  TWICE! And, according to Paul, there will be others who will not die even ONE time, if they are alive at the coming of Christ! (I Cor. 15:51; I Thes. 4:16,17.) But to have included all of this information in Hebrews 9:27 would only have clouded the general point that was being made.

This same principle applies to Paul's statement to the Corinthians: "The wife is bound by THE LAW as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord" (I Cor. 7:39). Paul was giving a general statement only, as "the LAW"  did allow her to marry again if divorced, as we have seen. But Paul was not dealing with this side of the topic.

The Corinthians, in questions they had written to Paul, had asked if it was better for a person to be single, if a believer should leave an unbeliever, and if a virgin should marry.

Apparently, they were even questioning whether a woman whose husband was DEAD should remarry. Adam Clarke says that Paul's statement "seems to be spoken in answer to some question of the Corinthians to this effect: 'May a woman remarry whose husband is dead?'......To which he replies, in general, that.....if the husband die, she is free to remarry, but only in the Lord." (Clarke s Commentary, vol. 6, p.228).

The understanding of the use of "general statements" in the

Bible is one of the keys to correctly dividing the word of truth, so we can be as Paul said, "a workman that needs not be ashamed" studying to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Tim.2:15). 

Another example of "general statements" is found in Ecc.11:5.

"As you knowest not what is the way of the spirit (breath, wind,air) nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so you knowest not the works of God who makes all."

That this is a general statement is seen from what we read in Deut.29:29, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the works of this law."

Solomon in Ecclesiastes was merely pointing out that generally speaking there are MANY things not revealed to us about the way and workings of the Lord. As Paul put it, "we look through a glass darkly" on many things about the Lord. But what God wants us to know at this time is given to us, and revealed to us. But generally speaking many things of the Lord we know not.

The book of Proverbs in LOADED with "general statements." 

Take for example the verse that has given many a parent and many a minister much trouble in trying to explain it, when it does not seem to work in this life time: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." I've heard this bent into all kinds of ways to try and uphold that it always works. The truth is that many children, after being taught the ways of God or how they should live as respectful people, do not follow those ways, and DIE the physical death in this life-time before they ever follow the way they were taught.

   The problem is solved when you understand the key of "general statements" as used in the Bible. GENERALLY speaking, in MANY (but certainly not all) cases, a child will be a respectful person, living as a respectful member of society, when he/she grows up, if the parents have taught them correctly from a child.    

                             CHAPTER THREE


                        JESUS MAGNIFIED THE LAW

Jesus Christ came to magnify God's law (Isa. 42:21), to make it more binding by enlarging it from the physical letter to the spiritual principle. He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil"(Mat. 5:17). He came to perfectly fulfil and expand the meaning of God's law. He did not destroy, loosen or water down God's law. Christ is THE EXAMPLE. We are to live our lives the same way He lived His (I John 2:6).

The Sermon on the Mount summarizes the principles of Christian living. Jesus magnified God's law, making it more strict, more binding, and giving it a much broader application. For with God's Spirit, as promised under the New Covenant, His laws are to be kept IN THE SPIRIT, not just in the letter.

He said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Mat. 5: 27,28).

The Seventh Commandment was much more difficult to obey in the spirit. Not only the physical ACT of adultery but also the THOUGHT of adultery was forbidden. Instead of relaxing God's laws, Christ made them more comprehensive, more inclusive.

 In Matthew 5:31,32, Christ addresses the subject of divorce and remarriage. As He did with the other laws of God, He revealed that the marriage laws were more strict and more difficult to keep than under the Old Covenant of Moses' economy. "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That WHOSOEVER shall put away his wife, SAVING FOR THE CAUSE OF FORNICATION, causeth her to commit adultery: and WHOSOEVER shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."


In addition to His statement regarding divorce in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again explained the spiritual intent of God's marriage law in Matthew 19:3-12.

 We need to study this section of Scripture in some detail to understand the situation in Jesus' day and His answer to the Pharisees. I shall quote from various Bible Commentaries.

"THE PHARISEES ALSO COME UNTO HIM, TEMPTING HIM, AND SAYING UNTO HIM, IS IT LAWFUL FOR A MAN TO PUT AWAY HIS WIFE FOR EVERY CAUSE? What made our Lord's situation at present so critical in respect to this question was: At the time there were two famous divinity and philosophical SCHOOLS among the Jews, that of SHAMMAI, and that of HILLEL. On the question of DIVORCE, the school of SHAMMAI maintained that a man could not legally put away his wife, except for WHOREDOM. The school of HILLEL taught that a man might put away his wife for a multitude of other causes, and when she did not FIND GRACE IN HIS SIGHT; i.e. when he saw any other woman that pleased him better. See the case of

JOSEPHUS, mentioned in the note on chap. 5:30....." (Adam Clarke, emphasis his).

We shall for interest record here the case of JOSEPHUS (the Jewish historian of the first century A.D.) as given by Clarke.

"Josephus in HIS LIFE, tells us, with the utmost coolness and

indifference, 'About this time I put away my wife, WHO HAD BORNE ME THREE CHILDREN, not being pleased with her manners" (Emphasis is Adam Clarke's).

Rabbi Akiba said, "If any man saw a woman handsomer than his own wife, he might put his wife away; because it is said in

the law, IF SHE FIND NO FAVOR IN HIS EYES" (Deut. 24:1).

The controversy between the two theological schools was how to interpret Deuteronomy 24:1-2.

The most prevalent and popular interpretation was that of the school of HILLEL: DIVORCE can be given for every conceivable cause.

"Thus Jesus was being asked, 'Do you agree with the most prevalent interpretation (HILLEL'S)'?" (Wycliffe Bible Commentary.)

To give the reader an even better picture of the marital life of the Jews in Jesus' time, I will quote from the historian George F. Jowett:

"At the time of our Lord it is stated that marital conditions among the Jews were at their LOWEST ebb. Women were regarded as mere CHATTELS. Divorce was PREVALENT and declared at WILL without resort to LAW, with seldom any provision made for the divorced woman. It is recorded that it was common for a Jew to consort with SEVERAL WOMEN to the knowledge of his so-called LEGAL WIFE. It amused and angered the Romans to note the HYPOCRITICAL, puritanical attitude of the Jewish male toward adultery. A woman, be it one of his own CONSORTS or not, was apt to be stoned to death if found guilty of adultery (The Jews were not, however, enforcing the death penalty at this time in their history - Keith Hunt). The SUSPICION of it would cause her to be branded. The Jewish brand of adultery was to cause the woman to wear her hair in BRAIDS to be reviled and SHUNNED by both Jewish sexes. There was no FORGIVENESS in the Jewish male heart"

(Drama of the Lost Disciples, page 90, emphasis mine.)



Instead of referring to the opinions of either party, Jesus called their attention to the ORIGINAL design of marriage, to the authority of MOSES - an authority acknowledged by them BOTH.

The argument of Jesus here is, that since they are so intimately united as to be one, and since in the beginning God made but one woman for one man, it follows that they cannot be separated but by the AUTHORITY OF GOD. Man may NOT put away his wife for EVERY CAUSE.....In this decision He REALLY decided in favor of one of the parties; and it shows that when it was proper, Jesus answered questions, from whatever cause they might have been proposed, and however much difficulty it might involve Him in. Our Lord in this, also showed consummate WISDOM. He answered the question not from HILLEL or SHAMMAI, their teachers, but from MOSES; and thus defeated their malice" (Barnes'  Notes on the New Testament, emphasis his and mine.)

"WHY DID MOSES THEN COMMAND TO GIVE A WRITING OF DIVORCEMENT.....FROM THE BEGINNING IT WAS NOT SO. He urged Scriptural reason against divorce, they allege Scriptural authority for it" (Matthew Henry's Commentary).


"To this they objected that MOSES had allowed such divorces

(Deut. 24:1) and if HE had allowed them, they inferred that they could not be unlawful" (Barnes'  Notes on the New Testament, emphasis his).

"It is true, MOSES WAS FAITHFUL TO HIM THAT APPOINTED HIM, and commanded nothing but WHAT HE RECEIVED FROM THE LORD; but as to the thing itself, what they call a COMMAND was only an ALLOWANCE (Deut. 24:1) and designed rather to restrain the exorbitance of it than to give countenance to the thing itself.....He rectifies their mistake concerning the law of Moses; they called it a COMMAND, Christ calls it but a PERMISSION, A TOLERATION....Christ tells them there was a reason for this toleration, not at all for their credit; IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE HARDNESS OF YOUR HEARTS, that you were permitted to PUT AWAY YOUR WIVES. Moses complained of the people of Israel in his time, that THEIR HEARTS WERE HARDENED (Deut. 9:6; 31:27), hardened against God....which way soever they took, both in their appetites and in their passions; and therefore if they had not been allowed to put away their wives, when they had conceived a dislike of them, they would have used them cruelly, would have beaten and abused them, and perhaps have murdered them....The Jews it seems, were infamous for this, and therefore were allowed to put them away; better divorce them than do worse, than that the ALTAR OF THE LORD SHOULD BE COVERED WITH TEARS, Mal. 2:13....He reduces them to the original institution; BUT FROM THE BEGINNING IT WAS NOT SO. Note, corruptions that are crept into any ordinance of God, must be purged out by having recourse to the primitive institution. If the copy be vicious, it must be examined and corrected by the original...."  (Matthew Henry's Commentary, emphasis his).


"This, says our Savior, was a PERMISSION growing out of a particular state of things, and designed to remedy prevailing evil. But at first it was not so. God intended that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and they were only to be separated BY APPOINTMENT OF HIM WHO HAD FORMED THE UNION"

(Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, emphasis mine).

"AND I SAY UNTO YOU, WHOSOEVER SHALL PUT AWAY HIS WIFE, EXCEPT IT BE FOR FORNICATION, AND SHALL MARRY ANOTHER, COMMITS ADULTERY.....Emphasis should be laid here on the word 'I'. This was the opinion of Jesus this He proclaimed to be the law of His kingdom - this the command of God ever afterwards. Indulgence had been given by the laws of Moses; but that indulgence was to cease, and the marriage relation TO BE BROUGHT BACK TO ITS ORIGINAL INTENTION. Only ONE offence was to make divorce lawful ...." (Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, emphasis his).

End of part one


Written in 1984