If We Treated Divorce Like Killing

If we treated divorce like we do killing there would be far less occurrences of it.  But on the other hand, if we treated divorce like we do killing we would be far more understanding of legitimate reasons when it is justified.

The Left and Right Ditches on the Issue of Divorce

Often times on moral issues the truth of God’s Word lies in the middle of two extreme camps and there is certainly no exception to this principle on the morality of divorce.  On the left side we have Christians who teach and believe that a Christian couple may divorce for any reason.  If they have simply “fallen out love” or don’t have anything in common anymore they are told they can divorce.  But on the right side we have those Christians who condemn all cases of divorce as a sin against God no matter how grave the circumstances may be.

But if both sides of this debate were to treat divorce as they do killing I believe they would both realize the truth of what the Bible says about divorce falls in the middle of these two extremes.  Both sides are wrong.

Three Things That Divorce and Killing Have in Common

The first thing that divorce and killing have in common is that they both end something. Killing ends a human life and divorce ends the one flesh relationship that is marriage between a man and a woman.

The second thing divorce and killing both have in common is that God allows both under certain circumstances because of the entrance of sin into his creation.  In this way we can rightly say that there is such a thing as justified killing and justified divorce.

Biblical allowances for divorce simultaneously allow for divorce while placing restrictions on when it may occur.

Interestingly those who fall into the left and right ditches on the issue of divorce both have a common fatal flaw in their positions in that they BOTH ignore the Biblical allowances for divorce.  On the left side of the ditch we Christians saying the allowances in the Bible for divorce are not restrictive but simply examples of reasons.  On the right side of the ditch we have Christians feverishly trying to explain away any allowances for divorce so as to condemn all cases of divorce.

The third thing that divorce and killing have in common is that in the Bible both are spoken of using general statements with no exceptions and then exceptions are given in other passages.

General Statements on Divorce and Killing

The Bible makes both absolute and general statements about various moral issues.

An example of an absolute moral statement is found here:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”

1 Timothy 2:5 (KJV)

There is no exception to the fact that there is one God and one mediator between God and man – the man Christ Jesus. Muhammad was not another mediator between God and man and neither was Buddha – only Christ is.

But then we have general statements of moral truth in regard to killing and divorce.

A lot of people think that the 6th commandment “Thou shalt not kill” in Exodus 20:13 is a general or absolute condemnation of all killing.  Christian pacifists have generally viewed it as an absolute command while most other Christians have seen it as a general condemnation of killing.

But actually again on this passage both sides are wrong and unfortunately this is one of the few places where the KJV actually gets this translation wrong as well.  The Hebrew word in Exodus 20:13 that is translated as “kill” is the word “Ratsach”.  “Ratsach” specifically refers to a wrongful killing.  In most cases it refers to murders, but in some cases it refers to man slayers. In either case though – the death was not justified whether it was intentional or un-intentional.

So the newer translations today like the NASB and others are correct in translating the 6th commandment as “You shall not murder.”

But the Bible uses another word for that is for killing in general and this encompasses all killing whether justified or unjustified this is the word “Nakah”.  Below is a general statement condemning “Nakah”:

“And he that killeth[Nakah] any man shall surely be put to death.”

Leviticus 24:17 (KJV)

So while it is absolutely true that the 6th commandment only condemns wrongfully killing someone, God’s command Leviticus 24:17 is a more general condemnation of killing and does not place any qualifications on the type of killing it is condemning.

This then brings us to a critical point that many Christian scholars and teachers and even laypersons have made on the moral issue of divorce.  There have been over the centuries and there still are many Christians today who say that Christ’s statement on divorce below was absolute statement regarding divorce and not a general statement:

“Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

Luke 16:18 (KJV)

John Piper is an example of a popular evangelical teacher who teaches that Luke 16:18 was an absolute statement by Christ on divorce rather than a general statement condemning divorce. In his article entitled “Divorce & Remarriage: A Position Paper” Piper writes:

“All of my adult life, until I was faced with the necessity of dealing with divorce and remarriage in the pastoral context, I held the prevailing Protestant view that remarriage after divorce was Biblically sanctioned in cases where divorce had resulted from desertion or persistent adultery. Only when I was compelled, some years ago, in teaching through the gospel of Luke, to deal with Jesus’ absolute statement in Luke 16:18 did I begin to question that inherited position…

Luke 16:18 calls all remarriage after divorce adultery… This verse shows that Jesus does not recognize divorce as terminating a marriage in God’s sight.”

But Piper and all other Christians who regard Luke 16:18 as an absolute condemnation of divorce and/or remarriage are inconsistent when we know in 95% percent of cases they would regard Leviticus 24:17 as only a general condemnation of killing even though it lacks any qualifiers.

In other words – if you are going to say the based on Luke 16:18 that Christ is condemning all instances of divorce and remarriage then you must rightly say Leviticus 24:17 is condemning all instances of killing. The fact is it just as absurd to say that all instance of divorce and remarriage are condemned by God as it is to say that all instances of killing are condemned by God.  The Bible clearly shows allowances for both divorce and remarriage as well as killing.

First let us quickly look at God’s allowance justified killing:

“2 If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten[Nakah] that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. 3 If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”

Exodus 22:2-3 (KJV)

In the passage above we see that a man rightly justified in defending himself and his family.  This passage has been almost universally recognized by Jewish and Christian scholars as a Biblical right to self-defense even to the point of killing another person.

“Now go and smite[Nakah] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”

1 Samuel 15:3 (KJV)

The passage above was God’s command to King Saul through the Prophet Samuel. This is a very difficult passage that many Christian Pastors and teachers run from today because it offends our modern western sense of morality – specifically the killing of women and children.  It is absolutely clear that God order the genocide of the Amalekite people.

But these were evil and wicked nations and God wanted the evil wiped from land.  That is why he commanded even the animals to be killed. He wanted nothing left of the Amalekites.

There was another reason that God ordered genocide in many cases. The reason is rebellion.  If the Israelites were to leave alive even children of the Amalekites they may one day grow up to find out that their parents and people were the original owners of that land and they may form new Amalekite ethnic groups that would one day rebel against Israel from within their own borders.

So while it might seem like the nice thing to do to allow an Amalekite child to live, it would not seem so nice when that child became a man and had a knife to your throat.

It is interesting to note that because King Saul allowed some of the Amalekites to live one of their descendants, a man named Haman in the book of Esther, would later plot the genocide of the Jewish people through tricking King Xerxes into ordering their death.

But the topic of justified genocide (and there is such a topic) is a larger and more complicated one that we will leave for another article. Even if most people have a problem with justified genocide, most Christians do not have a problem with justified self-defense either of an individual or of a nation.  In other words Christians recognize that Leviticus 24:17 was only a general condemnation of killing and not an absolute condemnation of killing.

So for the same reasons that we as Christians recognize killing is only generally condemned in the Scriptures and not absolutely condemned in the Scriptures  we must also recognize that divorce and remarriage are only generally condemned in the Scriptures and not absolutely condemned.

In other words there is such a thing as just and righteous killing and there is such a thing as just and righteous divorce and remarriage.

Did Christ Reject Moses’s Commands on Divorce?

The foundational flaw of those who believe there is no allowance for divorce or remarriage is that they take Christ’s words on divorce and then utterly throw out Moses words on divorce and then they explain away Paul’s words on the subject after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension.

In other words they see what looks to be allowances for divorce in Moses’s law and also in the writings of the Apostle Paul but since they have decided that Christ wiped out all allowances for divorce they must set out to cancel out these “supposed allowances”.

In the following two statements from John Piper he actually contends that Jesus Christ nullified the moral law of God given through Moses on divorce.

In his article “Tragically Widening the Grounds of Legitimate Divorce” Piper writes:

“…Jesus did in fact reject, for his disciples, what Moses commanded (Mark 10:5) or permitted (Matthew 19:8) in Deuteronomy 24:1.”

And again in his article “Divorce & Remarriage: A Position Paper” Piper writes:

“In both Matthew and Mark the Pharisees come to Jesus and test him by asking him whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. They evidently have in mind the passage in Deuteronomy 24:1 which simply describes divorce as a fact rather than giving any legislation in favor of it. They wonder how Jesus will take a position with regard to this passage.”

Jesus rejected what Moses commanded? Such an assertion is an affront to the entire concept of Biblical inerrancy which I know Piper states he believes in on multiple occasions.  The Bible tells us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This means the commands Moses wrote were given to him directly by God – by Jesus Christ himself.

Christ could no more reject Moses moral law than he could reject his own teachings.

It is true that God can change his laws and set aside certain laws as he did in the New Testament era.  We know that God set aside the ceremonial and civil laws he gave to Israel as a theocracy because he had divorced Israel and put an end to the theocracy of Israel (Hebrews 7:12, Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 9:1-15).  But God’s moral law given to Moses is upheld for the Church and parts of it are restated several times in the New Testament.

Christ gave a warning that should send chills up the spine of Christian teachers like John Piper who say Jesus rejected Moses moral law on divorce:

“17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:17-19 (KJV)

What “law” was Jesus speaking to? He was speaking to the moral laws found in the Old Testament (including but not limited to Moses’s moral laws).

And notice something else that John Piper snuck in when he said “Deuteronomy 24:1 which simply describes divorce as a fact rather than giving any legislation in favor of it”. No Pastor Piper, Deuteronomy 24:1 is not simply a recognition of the reality of divorce occurring, but it is in fact commands from God regulating the process of divorce.  Jesus himself called Moses words on divorce a “command” and “precept” (law).

So modern translations that attempt to translate Deuteronomy 24:1 as simply a recognition of the fact of divorce rather than commands on divorce have utterly ignored Christ’s divine commentary on Deuteronomy 24:1 which unequivocally calls it a command regarding divorce.

My point in this section of “How to find out for what reasons God allows divorce” is that in looking at the subject of divorce we cannot throw out the Old Testament and only look at the New.  To do so is to be in direct violation of Christ’s warning in Matthew 5:17-19 against setting aside the moral laws of the Old Testament.

With this principle in mind, we will look at what the entire Bible has to say on the subject of divorce. We will look at what Christ said through his prophets before his incarnation, what he said during his earthly time here, and what Christ said through his Apostles after his ascension.

The Progressive Revelation of God on the Subject of Divorce

When we talk about the “progressive revelation” of the Scriptures we mean that God slowly over many centuries revealed his truths and his plans for mankind. In modern times we are privileged to have the final and complete revelation of God as found in the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament.

There are many subjects in the Bible where God progressively revealed his truths.  Often times when we think of progressive revelation we think of prophesies concerning the coming of the Messiah or the sacrifices which pictured Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to pay for the sins of mankind.

But another area of progressive revelation in the Scriptures that I often talk about on this blog is in the doctrine of Biblical gender roles.  In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we see parts of the reasons that God created male and female human beings but later through the Old Testament and especially into the New Testament we see the full purposes for which God designed man, woman and marriage.

I have written on divorce several times before and at the end of this article I will supply references to my earlier writings on the topic.  In this article I want take a different approach.  I am going to approach this using a “commentary” method where I will simply list the Biblical reference and then comment on the key teachings about divorce that are found in it.

However, for those who have already read my other articles on divorce there will be some new material here that I have not previously talked about in other divorce articles I have written.

So with that being said below is a table with Biblical references in the order in which they are given in the Bible.  Alongside each reference I note key teachings on divorce as it progressively unfolds in the Bible.

Scripture Passage Progressive Truth of God that is Taught Regarding Divorce
Exodus 21:10-11 The first allowance for divorce in the Bible.

It is specifically given to women.  A man could take a second wife but he still had to provide his first wife with food, clothing and sex.  If he failed to provide these three things she was allowed to be divorced from him (freed from him).

Leviticus 21:10-13 High Priests are forbidden from marrying divorced women.
Leviticus 22:13 Divorced women are allowed back into their father’s house and to be provided for by their father.
Numbers 30:9 The vows of divorced women our binding on them.  No man can cancel them out (as is the case with young women still living with their fathers or women who had husbands).
Deuteronomy 22:13-19 First mention of a prohibition of divorce in the Bible.

A man who falsely accuses his new wife of not having been a virgin on their wedding day is forbidden from ever divorcing her.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 Second prohibition of divorce in the Bible.

A man who rapes a woman is required to pay her father the bride price for her and marry her and he may not divorce her for the remainder of her days. When we understand this passage in light of Exodus 22:17 we can see that the father has the right to take the bride price and yet utterly refuse to give his daughter to the man that wrongfully takes her.

While it may seem cruel to our modern sensibilities to even entertain the idea that a woman could be forced to marry her rapist if her father consents the fact is she would be ruined for all other men.  She would never have children unless she married this man and for most women that thought alone would be worse than marrying their rapist.

Deuteronomy 24:1 The first allowance and regulation regarding men divorcing their wives.

This passage first alludes to the fact of a husband taking and marrying a woman.  The word for “married” in the Hebrew literally means “to own” so he becomes her owner by marrying her. It says that if he as her owner finds some uncleanliness (literally indecent behavior) in her he may write her a letter of divorce and send her out of his house.

Deuteronomy 24:2 This verse allows for a divorced woman sent out of her husband’s house to go and be another man’s wife. Some of have tried to say this is just a statement of fact and not an allowance for a divorced woman to remarry.  But the fact is neither in this passage nor in any part of the Law of Moses do we find a prohibition toward men marrying divorced woman(except for the High Priest) so Moses’s mentioning of it without a hint of condemnation is an allowance for the remarriage of women sent away by their former husbands in divorce.
Deuteronomy 24:3-4 Once his divorced wife has remarried another man – the former husband may never again take his divorced wife to be his wife again.  It is interesting to note that in the Hebrew it is literally rendered as “her first owner” or “her former owner”. This means he was no longer her owner.  This also confirms that when a man divorces his wife he relinquishes all ownership over her thus terminating their marriage in the eyes of God.

Some have tried to take the word “defiled” to mean that the divorced woman did something wrong in remarrying.  But the word “defiled” in this context simply means once she remarries she is “off limits” to her former husband.  Again there is absolutely no indication here from Moses’s words that either the divorced woman sinned or the man that married her sinned by their marriage to one another.

Isaiah 50:1 The Prophet Isaiah says that God divorced Israel for her “transgressions” against him.
Jeremiah 3:8 The Prophet Jeremiah says God divorced Israel for her adultery against their marriage thus specifying the “transgressions” formerly alluded to by Isaiah.
Jeremiah 3:20 The first condemnation of wrongful separation of a wife from her husband.

Under Biblical law and by Jewish custom women could not initiate divorce with their husbands. While in Exodus 21:10-11 God allowed women to be free from husbands who failed to provide them with food, clothing and sex some women even though they could not have lawful divorce would leave their husbands for reasons other than what God allows.

Hosea 2:2 Through the Prophet Hosea, God again references the adultery that Israel had committed against him for which he divorced her but here he says after his divorce of Israel that he is no longer her husband nor is she is wife. This passage deals a fatal blow to the false teaching that if a man divorces his wife she is still married to him in the eyes of God.
Hosea 2:19-20 God will betroth Israel again one day and that marriage will be an everlasting one that will never end. Again this indicates that when a husband sends his wife away in divorce the marriage is in fact terminated in the eyes of God.  The only way it can be restored is for the husband to once against enter into a new covenant of marriage with his wife whom he formerly divorced.
Malachi 2:11-16 The first condemnation of husbands divorcing their wives in the Bible.

God says he hates divorce. But if you look in the verses before he says he hates divorce he speaks to what kind of divorce he hates. He describes Israelite men who so desired to marry pagan women that they “treacherously” divorced their first Jewish wives in order to take their new pagan wives.

Since we know that previously in Exodus 21:10-11 as well other Old Testament passages that God allowed men to take more than one wife we know that these men did not have to divorce their first wives to take a second wife.  They could have taken a second Jewish wife while still providing for their first wife and there would have been no sin.  Their sins were twofold.  Number one they were taking pagan wives which was forbidden.  Secondly they were compounding their sin of taking pagan wives by divorcing their Jewish wives to make their pagan wives happy.

Matthew 5:31-32 First mention of divorce in the New Testament.

Christ applies the designation of adultery to situations that it had never previously been applied to.  In the Old Testament adultery had only been spoken of in one of two ways.  The first and most literal sense of adultery in the Old Testament referred to married women having sex with men not their husbands. Ezekiel 16:38 uses the most literal translation of the Hebrew word for adultery with the phrase “women that break wedlock”.  Ezekiel 16:38 is also a good example of the second use of adultery in the Old Testament referring to Israel’s spiritual adultery against God by worshiping false gods.

How does a man cause his wife to commit adultery by wrongly divorcing her?

he causeth her to commit adultery – Christ is building on Malachi chapter 2’s discussion of men treacherously divorcing their wives.  He is saying when a man wrongly divorces his wife in order to make a second wife happy he causes his first to break her wedlock with him when she should not have had to.  She has not sinned – he is the one that send her away but regardless her wedlock with him is now broken.

How does a man commit adultery by marrying a divorced woman?

whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery – Christ builds on Jeremiah 3:20.  The divorced woman here is not the same woman that has been wrongly divorced by her husband in the first part of verse 32. Under Roman law and custom women could divorce their husbands so Christ expands Jeremiah’s condemnation of treacherous separation by a woman from her husband to treacherous divorce by a woman from her husband.

We know that a wife who departs from (or divorces her husband) is called unmarried later in I Corinthians 7:10-11.  So the man who marries the woman who has wrongly divorced her husband is not committing adultery with her because she is still married to her first husband but rather he is committing adultery with her because God has placed her off limits to all men but her former husband.

So at this point in the Scriptures we see adultery used to describe several situations:

1. Ezekiel 16:32 – When a woman takes strangers instead of her husband this is a form of adultery and it is the most literal and original meaning of the word.

2. Ezekiel 16:32 – Also applies adultery to Israel in the spiritual sense of her idolatry.  So adultery is given an even wider definition of unfaithfulness.

3. Mathew 5:32a – Applies adultery to a situation where a husband wrongly divorces his wife forcing his innocent wife to break wedlock with him.

4. Mathew 5:32b – Applies adultery to a situation where a man marries a woman that has treacherously(Jeremiah 3:20) divorced her husband.  While she is no longer married to her first husband, she is declared off limits to all other men but him because she wrongly left him.

In a way this putting a wife who has divorced her husband wrongly off limits to all men but him is similar to the concept of Deuteronomy 24:2-4 placing a wife sent away in divorce off limits to her first husband if she remarries.

These two situations are the only two types of remarriage forbidden in the Bible.

What does the the exception clause mean?

The exception clause refers to this phrase “saving for the cause of fornication”. Fornication refers to all forms of sexual immorality including premarital sex, prostitution and adultery and sexual defrauding of one’s spouse.  So God was saying if a man’s wife committed a sexual sin against him most likely in the form of adultery or sexual defraudment he could justly divorce her.  This is a gender specific command as most commands in marriage are and it only applies to men.  He was not allowing women to divorce their husbands for fornication.

In conclusion Christ is simply amplifying the teachings of Jeremiah and Malachi on the topic of treacherous divorce. Nowhere in his wording does he set aside the law he gave through Moses allowing divorce by both men and women for certain reasons.

Matthew 19:3-9 The largest discussion of divorce by Christ.

The key to understanding the enter passage is found in question by the Pharisees that started it – Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

Here Christ is being asked to answer the question of what is uncleanliness from Deuteronomy 24:1. Some Jews thought it meant “for every cause” while others thought it was only for serious sexually related sins.  Christ settles the argument in verse 9 where he says “except it be for fornication”.  So Christ was opposing “every cause” divorce for men.  He was saying a wife had to commit some type of sexual immorality for her husband to lawfully divorce her.

Again nowhere in this passage does Christ set aside or nullify the commands he gave Moses regarding divorce but rather he clarifies why God allowed divorce through Moses and that was because of the sinful hardness of hearts that are in both men and women.

An interesting difference between this passage and Christ’s previous statement on divorce from Matthew 5:31-32 is that this time he says the man commits adultery by divorcing his wife and marrying another woman.

In my note on Matthew 5:31-32 I described 4 different scenarios that are described as adultery.  Matthew 19:9’s declaration that the husband who wrongly divorces his wife is committing adultery is the 5th definition of adultery.

As we previously explained this was not an absolute condemnation of all divorce and remarriage by men toward their wives but was simply addressing the Malachi 2 scenario of men treacherously divorcing their wives. When a man does this he commits the new form of adultery Christ first mention in Matthew 5 and which is to wrongly break wedlock.

Again we see the reference to the man marrying the divorced woman committing adultery.  See my discussion of what that is referring to back in my notes on Matthew 5:31-32.

Mark 10:2-12 Pretty much a smaller rehash of Matthew 19:3-9.

It leaves out details that Matthew gives for the most part but adds a few he does not.  Matthew calls Moses’s law on divorce an allowance while Mark calls it a “command” and “precept”.  None of these are contradictory because Moses’s words on divorce are in fact all these things – a command, a precept (law) and an allowance by God.

Another interesting part is it refers directly to a woman divorcing her husband.  Again this is not a condemnation of all divorce for women because Exodus 21:10-11 clearly allows women to be divorced from husbands who fail to provide them food, clothing and sex.  Instead it is pointing back to Jeremiah 3:20’s condemnation of women who treacherously depart from their husbands. It is talking about wrongful divorce and remarriage for women – not all divorce and remarriage for women.

Luke 16:18 The shortest statement by Christ in all the Gospels on the subject of divorce.

Surprisingly this shortest statement is the one that John Piper and many Christian teachers have built their entire theology of divorce on.  Then they have to cram in or explain away the rest of the Bible that does not fit with their beliefs based on this passage.

Luke 16:18 is no more an absolute statement on divorce than Leviticus 24:17 is an absolute statement on killing.

Instead based on the entirety of the Scriptures, we understand Luke 16:18 is a general statement on divorce and remarriage in the same way that Leviticus 24:17 is a general statement on the subject of killing.  We know from looking at the entirety of the Bible that not all killing is sinful and in the same way we know from looking at the entirety of the Bible that not all divorce and remarriage is sinful either.

Romans 7:2-3 A general statement of truth regarding the fact that under normal circumstances a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives and she can only marry another man after he dies. If she treacherously departs from him (Jeremiah 3:20) and marries another man she is rightly called an adulteress.

But some wrongly take this statement to cancel out Exodus 21:10-11 which frees a woman from a man who fails to provide for her. They also ignore the fact that passages like Deuteronomy 24:2-4, Hosea 2:2 and I Corinthians 7:10-11 show that divorce does in fact terminate a marriage in God’s eyes whether it was done for lawful or unlawful reasons.

This means in the case of divorce a woman is no longer consider in the eyes of God to be her former husbands wife.  Remarriage for her is only considered adultery if she treacherously(unlawfully) departed from her first husband.

I Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul begins by building on what Christ said in the Gospels on divorce but he states it in a slight different way adding some detail that Christ did not. Contrary to what many have thought of this passage it is NOT speaking of separation.  It is speaking of divorce.

The way we know this is by Paul’s use of the word “unmarried” in referring to the woman who departs from her husband.  This literally is the same word used for single women and it literally means “unmarried” in the original language of the New Testament.

The term “unmarried” here is also another fatal blow to those who hold the position that wrongly divorced persons are still married to their previous spouses.  The Biblical witness directly contradicts this false teaching.

We know from Exodus 21:10-11 that this is not an absolute restriction on wives’ divorcing their husbands but only a general statement.   Only if a wife treacherously divorces her husband for reasons God does not all then  she must remain unmarried and she is off limits to every other man except her former husband and she may reconcile to him if he will have her back.

I Corinthians 7:12-15 This section starts off with a very important statement that has been twisted and maligned by some and totally misunderstood by others.  Paul says But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.  Was he saying everything that came after this was his opinion? Of course not. His only opinion in this entire chapter was his opinion that celibacy was better than marriage if one had the gift of celibacy.  Nothing else in this chapter was his opinion but it was in fact the divine word of God. But even his opinion on celibacy was allowed and authorized by God to be in the Bible.

What is also important about Paul’s introductory statement in verse 12 is that he entering into progressive revelation.  He is revealing more truths from God on marriage and divorce that neither the prophets nor Christ before him spoke on.

This is why our understanding of divorce will be incomplete if we think Christ had the final word on the subject when he walked this earth.  Christ did have the final word on the subject but through his servant Paul after his ascension.This passage tells us that if we become a Christian and our unbelieving spouse wants to stay then we should stay with them and not divorce them simply because they are not a believer.  We should try to win them to Christ if they want to stay.  But if they want to depart then let them depart and the Christian man or woman are not bound to their unbelieving spouse who has left them.  The marriage can justly be terminated under such circumstances.

It is interesting to note that the English word “depart” which occurs twice in I Corinthians 7:15 is a translation of the Greek word Chorizo which is the same word that Christ uses as a synonym for divorce when he says “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder[Chorizo]”(Matthew 19:6). This word in most cases does literally mean “to depart” and is used that way in other Biblical passages.  But it can be speaking to divorce as well.

Also there is no Biblical reason to believe this does not apply to all marriage situations where one spouse leaves the other even if both are professing Christians.

So in summary the Apostle Paul is saying under the divine inspiration of God that if your spouse abandons and or divorces you then you are not bound to them anymore.  Whether they have divorced you, or you divorce them for abandonment you are no longer bound to them in marriage.  And this is one area that equally applies to both men and women in marriage.

1 Timothy 3:2 Pastors must be the husband of one wife – this is a reference to divorce and not polygamy. It literally can be rendered “the husband of his first wife”.  See note on I Timothy 5:9 that proves this.
1 Timothy 3:12 Deacons must also not be divorced (see note on I Timothy 3:2 and I Timothy 5:9).
1 Timothy 5:9 In the same way that Pastor was to be “the husband of one wife” in I Timothy 3:2, as widows who is comes into the service and provision of the church must have been “the wife of one man”.
Titus 1:6 A restatement of I Timothy 3:2 on Pastors not being divorced.

 

Summary of Biblical Reasons for Divorce

Based on all the passages Scripture passages listed above we can see that God does not allow divorce form just any reason and that he places specific restrictions on divorce.  These restrictions are in fact gender specific – something that is often overlooked.  Below are the specific reasons that a man and then a woman can get divorced under God’s law.

God allows a man to divorce his wife for these reasons

If she claims to be a virgin before marriage and he finds out she has in fact had sex with other men before marriage (she has engaged in pre-marital sex with other men).

If she has sex with other men after they are married (adultery)

If she refuses to have regular sexual relations with her husband (sexual defraudment).

If she abandons him.

God allows a woman to divorce her husband for these reasons

If he fails to provide her with food and clothing (shelter is implied with clothing).

If he refuses to have regular sexual relations with her (sexual defraudment).

If he abandons her.

Are All Remarriages Forbidden According to the Bible?

God gives us this very important command:

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

Deuteronomy 4:2 (KJV)

Those on the far left side of the divorce issue are diminishing or taking away the restrictions God places on divorce in teaching they can divorce “for every cause” as some of the Jewish leaders taught.  But those on the far right side of divorce either add to God’s word by saying all remarriage is forbidden or some restrict all remarriage only for women.

Contrary to the teachings of John Piper and others Biblical divorce is not just a permanent form of separation where the couple remain married in God’s eyes for the remainder of their lives and they are forbidden from remarriage.

Exodus 21:10-11 simultaneously proves two important points.  First it proves that the concept of “remarriage” does not apply to men (except in one instance) because men are allowed to marry additional wives.

Remarriage primarily applies to women because as Deuteronomy 24:1 states when a man takes a woman and marries her he owns her.  Marriage in the Hebrew was a man taking ownership of a woman as his wife.  So whether her husband divorces her or he dies the next marriage she enters into is a “remarriage” because she was formerly owned by another man.

Deuteronomy 24:2 says of a divorced woman that “she may go and be another man’s wife”.  Moses could have taken this opportunity to condemn this action but he did not. Instead he gave regulations working with this situation if the divorced woman did indeed choose to be another man’s wife.

But even without Deuteronomy 24:2, the burden is not on us to prove that God allows remarriage.  The burden is to prove that God does NOT allow remarriage.

The Bible is clear from Deuteronomy 24:4, Hosea 2:2 and I Corinthians 7:10-11 that divorce does in fact terminate a marriage in God’s eyes whether it was done for lawful or unlawful reasons.

There are only two types of “remarriage” that are forbidden in the Bible.  The first is found in Deuteronomy 24:3-4 where God forbids men from remarrying their wives whom they have divorced if they marry another man. The second type of remarriage that is forbidden is if a woman treacherously departs from her husband (leaves or divorces him for reasons other than Exodus 21:10-11 allows) she is forbidden from remarriage to any other man except her former husband whom she wrongly left.

She is off limits to all other men even though she is unmarried and if another man marries this unmarried woman who wrongly left her first husband then he is guilty of another form of adultery Christ describes in the Gospels.

The False “Innocent Spouse” Doctrine of Divorce

The entire teaching of an “innocent spouse” being confined to a life of celibacy because of the sin of their former spouse finds no basis whatsoever in the teachings of the Bible.

This false teaching is based on a failure to understand that the Bible teaches divorce DOES in fact terminate marriage in God’s eyes (whether it is for just reasons or sinful reasons) and it is also a failure to understand that Christ gave us another definition of adultery when it is used in the context of divorce and remarriage which is the wrongful breaking of wedlock either by a husband or a wife.  He equated adultery to the treacherous act of a man divorcing his wife for unjust reasons to marry another wife and a wife divorcing her husband for unjust reasons to marry another man.

Confining a person who has justly divorced their spouse or who has been wrongly divorced by their spouse to a life a celibacy is like throwing someone in prison because they killed someone in self-defense.

What About Divorce for Physical Abuse?

While the Bible does not speak specifically to the issue of divorce for physical abuse I cannot imagine that God views a woman who has had her jaw broken and teeth knocked out by her husband and divorces him as a wife who “treacherously departeth from her husband”(Jeremiah 3:20).

But the truth is the Bible does not speak specifically to every issue of life – sometimes we must look to broader principles of the Scriptures when the Bible is silent on a specific case.  I believe this passage below gives us such a principle that could relate to physical abuse in marriage:

“26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. 27 And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.”

Exodus 21:26-27 (KJV)

If a man was required to free his slave or indentured servant if he caused serious physical harm by knocking out their tooth how can we think that a wife had less rights than a slave or indentured servant? The fact is in the Scriptures basic human rights are demonstrated in the rights of slaves and indentured servants.  All of these rights bubble up to those who had more rights like wives and free men.

So I don’t think it is a stretch or adding to the Scriptures to say a woman could divorce her husband for causing her great physical bodily harm.

Conclusion

Generally speaking most occurrences of divorce and killing are done for sinful reasons that God does not allow and these are the divorces and killings that God hates.  But we can see when we examine the Scriptures as a whole understanding the principle of progressive revelation that God no more condemns all divorce than he condemns all killing.

God does not hate it when a man justly divorces his wife for adultery any more than he hates it when a man kills to defend his family.  He hates that they were put in those positions to have to do those things – but he holds no ill will against the victims in these cases.

God only condemns two types of remarriage – the first is that a man may not remarry his wife whom he divorced if she marries another man.  The second is a woman who unjustly divorces her husband for reasons God does not allow is forbidden from remarriage to any other man but the husband she wrongly left.

Finally, the teaching that those who have been the innocent victims of wrongful divorce by their spouse or have been forced to divorce their spouse for just cause are relegated to a life of celibacy by God finds no basis in the Word of God.

Below are previous articles I wrote on divorce.

Why Does God Allow Divorce?
Does God Allow Divorce for Adultery?
Does God Allow a Woman to Divorce Her Husband for Failure to Provide?
Does God Allow Divorce for Abuse?
Does God allow divorce for spousal abandonment?
Martin Luther on Divorce for Sexual Denial
8 steps to confront your wife’s sexual refusal
4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal

A Rebuttal to Dr. Stephen Kim’s “Divorce and Remarriage”

While many Christian’s believe that adultery is the only reason that God allows for divorce few Christians take the position that Dr. Stephen Kim does in advocating for people to divorce their second spouse and either attempt to reconcile with their first spouse or remain celibate while their first spouse still lives.

Dr. Kim runs the NYPastor blog and his views on divorce and second marriages have caused a lot of confusion amongest believers.  I have had several friends contact me and ask me to review Dr. Kim’s teachings on this subject of divorce and remarriage.

In this post I will specifically be responding to Dr. Kim’s post “Divorce and Remarriage” which can be found here: https://nycpastor.com/2015/01/26/divorce-remarriage/

Dr. Kim is wrong in using Matthew 19:8-9 to cancel out all other Biblical teachings on divorce

Dr. Kim’s statement:

“The topic of divorce is, in my opinion, one of the clearest teachings of Christ in the entire New Testament.  Read the Scripture text above and you can quite easily see why I say that.  The text is very straightforward.  There’s not much ambiguity there.  There’s really not much to explain.  It is all quite self-evident.  For the sake of pedagogical efficiency , let’s just focus on Matthew 19’s teaching on this topic (other texts containing the same teaching include Luke 16:18, Matt 5:32, and Mark 10:12):

He said to them, “Moses, confronting the callousness of your heart, let you divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” But I say to you, “Whoever divorces his wife apart from adultery and will take another, commits adultery, and whoever will take her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9)

Dr. Kim’s entire doctrine of divorce is wrong because he sees all statements on divorce through the lenses of Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:8-9.

The Gospel accounts of Christ’s words on divorce (Matt 5:32, Matt 19:9, Mark 10:12 and Luke 16:18) have been sorely misinterpreted by many Christian teachers over the years. Remember that we must always interpret Scripture with Scripture and we must remember that this is not the only place the Bible speaks on divorce. It is wrong to take any one passage of Scripture and make that the lenses through which we must see all the Scriptures – instead we must take the revelation of God as a whole to truly understand God’s law allowing for divorce and what situations he allows it under.

Some wrongly taken Mark 10:11-12 and use this as the way they see divorce throughout the entire Bible. But these same people neglect the exception clause in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. Dr. Kim in other posts he writes confronts those who try and use Mark 10:11-12 as their complete basis for the teachings of divorce in the Bible.

But Dr. Kim makes the same mistake with using Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 when he neglects the abandonment exception by Paul that we will see later in I Corinthians 7:15 and he goes to great lengths to explain that passage away in another post.

In another statement we will look at how Dr. Kim completely abandons the teachings of Exodus 21:10-11 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and wrongly believes Christ was setting these teachings aside in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9.

Dr. Kim is wrong in making “void the law” of Moses

Dr. Kim’s statement:

“Divorce and remarriage were permitted by the Law of Moses in the Old Testament (Deut 24:1-4). Hence, although divorce was not God’s original design from the beginning (i.e., “What God has joined together, let not man separate”), divorce and remarriage were permissible during the time of the Old Testament (which is why Jesus informs the Samaritan woman at the well that she indeed did have 5 husbands in the past (John 4:18)). However, by the time we get to Matthew 19, Jesus lays down His standard for all future believers: Marriage is for life and divorce (except for sexual immorality) is never permissible. (A woman may keep her distance–for the sake of safety–from an abusive husband, but she must not divorce him.) The man who remarries after his first marriage ended due to “irreconcilable differences,” is an adulterer (and the same goes for a woman).”

Dr. Kim in rejecting Exodus 21:10-11 and Deuteronomy 24:1-2 as still being authoritative on Biblical divorce does so based on an incorrect interpretation of Christ’s words when he said “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”(Matthew 19:8).

The words Moses spoke on divorce were just as much the Word of God as Christ’s words on the subject in the Gospels.

God hates divorce. But he has regulated and allowed divorce because human beings are sinful. Sometimes a sin is so great that it allows for divorce. God tells us which sins allow for divorce. When Christ said “from the beginning it was not so” he meant divorce was never needed before sin entered the picture. If we were not fallen sinners no man would ever have to divorce his wife and no woman would ever have to be freed from or divorce her husband. But because we live in a world where men and women do gravely sin against their spouses we must allow for divorce and that is why God created a system for divorce.

Think about it – would we need a death penalty if there were not heinous crimes like murder? We would not. But God knew there would be murders and that is why he allowed for capital punishment for murder in his law and this is the same reason he allows for divorce in certain situations.

As New Testament believers we understand that God canceled out the civil laws, the ceremonial laws, sacrificial laws and cleanliness laws given to Israel as a theocracy.  But God did NOT cancel out his moral law.  Moses’s words on divorce are part of the moral law of God.

Paul told us that we as Christians are to uphold the moral that Moses taught:

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” – Romans 3:31 (KJV)

The point is Christ did NOT cancel out Moses words on divorce.

To say that he did is to void the moral of God which we are not to do, rather we are to uphold the moral law.   Instead we understand that Christ CLARIFIED the commands that Moses received from God regarding divorce.

Moses was the first to give God’s law on Divorce.  Christ clarified Moses law on divorce. Later the Apostle Paul would further clarify Christ’s words on divorce. To have a proper understanding of God’s view of divorce we must look at Moses words, Christ’s words, Paul’s words and all the Scriptures on the subject.

Christ was not the first to teach that marriage was for life. Moses also taught that marriage was for life:

“Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.” – Leviticus 18:18 (KJV)

A man was forbidden from taking his wife’s sister as an additional wife (polygamy was permitted but did have some restrictions and this was one of them) during his wife’s “life time”.

Some Jews correctly understood Moses teachings that marriage was for life and only for the gravest of sins could a man divorce his wife. Other Jews believed they could divorce their wives for any reason (that marriage was not for life). The debate amongst these Jewish groups was over Moses words allowing for divorce “because he hath found some uncleanness in her” (Deuteronomy 24:1).

Some Jewish teachers taught this meant he could divorce his wife for any reason – even if it was just because she was a bad cook. This is why they asked Christ in Matthew 19:3 “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”

Christ was settling that argument. He was saying “No you cannot divorce your wives for just any reason you want. It must be for a very serious reason. He told men except your wife commits fornication against you cannot divorce her. But again let’s remember he is clarifying for MEN what Moses meant if they found something unclean in their wife. He was not canceling out the reasons a woman could be freed from (divorced) from her husband in Exodus 21:10-11.

Yes God hates divorce. And yes God does not want men divorcing their wives or wives divorcing their husbands. That is God’s general rule of divorce that he does not want it to happen. But God allows exceptions to his rule and he has created exceptions when he does allow for divorce.

Dr. Kim is completely wrong in making “void the law” of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and Exodus 21:10-11 where God speaks on divorce. Any discussion of God’s allowances for divorce must include these two pivotal passages.

Dr. Kim is wrong in his gender neutral application of the adultery exception

Dr. Kim’s statement:

“An exception is clearly given for the case of adultery. By saying “apart from adultery,” Jesus allows the victim of adultery to divorce and remarry. In that situation, the second marriage is not considered adultery, but rather, is a valid marriage. However, the spouse who committed adultery does not receive the right to remarry. He/she must repent and remain single for the rest of his/her life. Furthermore, although Jesus grants the victim the right to divorce and remarry, it is not mandatory. The victim could choose to forgive the sin and continue on in the marriage.”

Let’s get one thing out the way first. The correct word in the exception clause is “fornication”, not “adultery” as his translation reads. Fornication (from the Greek ‘porneia’) refers to all sin that violates God’s laws regarding sexuality which includes premarital sex, homosexuality, incest, origins, prostitution, rape, Beastiality and sexual defraudment.

Dr. Kim here actually takes the common gender neutral approach to divorce passages in Scripture. Any time the Bible speaks on marriage and divorce we must look for gender specifics in commands. There are places where God gives men and women equal ground as far as rules on divorce but in other places there are specific reasons men have for divorcing their wives and specific reasons women have for divorcing their husbands.

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” – I Corinthians 7:15 (KJV)

Notice how in the abandonment exception Paul says “a brother or sister” meaning this the abandonment clause applies equally to men and women.

But in other places like Exodus we see rights in divorce that a woman has that a man does not have:

“10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10-11 (KJV)

A woman could be justly freed (divorced) from her husband if he failed to provide her with food, clothing and sex. A man while having the right to divorce his wife for sexual defraudment, does not have the right to divorce his wife for her failing to provide for him because it is HIS job to provide for her.

So Dr. Kim’s unisex “he/she” approach to Christ’s words on divorce are wrong. We cannot ignore that Christ says “Whosoever shall put away HIS wife, except it be for fornication” – he means “his wife”, not “her husband”.

Also Dr. Kim is wrong in adding that the person (whom I would argue must be the woman) who has committed adultery must remain celibate for the rest of their life. If a woman is justly divorced from her husband even if for her own wrong behavior (such as adultery or sexual defraudment) nothing forbids her from remarrying.

In fact in Deuteronomy we are told:

“And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.” – Deuteronomy 24:2(KJV)

When a woman is divorced from her husband for reasons God allows (either because of his behavior or hers) she may go and be another man’s wife – remarriage is clearly allowed by God.

You see when we take the whole counsel of God (Exodus 21:10-11, Deuteronomy 24:1-2, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:3 and I Corinthians 7:15) you get a very different picture of divorce then if you simply take one set of Gospel passages from Matthew as Dr. Kim does.

Are second marriages only allowed when divorce occurs because of adultery?

Dr. Kim’s statement:

“Whoever divorces his wife apart from adultery and will take another, commits adultery.” It is clear that any second marriage (outside of the exception) is not a valid marriage in the eyes of God because Jesus calls it, “adultery.” In the eyes of God, the first marriage is still valid and in full effect. By the way, let’s get this clear: Adultery is always adultery–the passage of time does not change the nature of the sin. The apostle Paul confirms the on-going status of “adulteress” for the woman who persists to live in a second marriage by stating, “Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress” (Rom 7:3).”

Dr. Kim maintains that the only way remarriage is allowed is if your spouse commits adultery against you. Then you may divorce your spouse but only you may remarry and your ex-spouse must remain celibate for life and as I said before there is no scriptural basis for this narrow view of divorce and remarriage.

Five Biblical principles regarding “re-marriage”

First we must establish the fact that the entire concept of “re-marriage” in all cases but one applies to women and not to men. This is because God allows polygyny (a man to have more than one wife).

“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.” – Exodus 21:10 (KJV)

“And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.” – II Samuel 12:8 (KJV)

A man may take more than one wife but he must make sure that he continues to take care of the needs of his previous wives as well.  But there is one case of re-marriage with men.

God does NOT allow men to re-marry women they have divorced

“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 shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” – Deuteronomy 24:4 (KJV)

If a man divorces a woman he may not marry her if she ends up marrying another man.

God allows women who are divorced by their husbands to remarry

“And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.” – Deuteronomy 24:2 (KJV)

If a woman is put away by her husband then no matter if he divorces her for right reasons or wrong reasons she is free to remarry another man.

God allows women to divorce their husbands and thus remarry for failure to provide and sexual defraudment

“10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10-11 (KJV)

If a woman seeks to be freed (divorced) from her husband then after she is freed she is free indeed to be remarried to another man.

God allows women to divorce and remarry if their husband abandons them

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” – I Corinthians 7:15 (KJV)

Once again as in Exodus 21:10-11 the woman is freed from her husband and free to marry another if he abandons her. Actually if he departs from her he would in fact be failing to provide her with food, clothing and sex which are violations of Exodus 21:10-11. The husband is free from his obligation of husbandly duties to her.

God allows women to divorce and remarry if their husbands abuse them

“And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.” – Exodus 21:27 (KJV)

While this is talking about a man’s slaves this principle would also apply to a man’s wife as she had more rights than a slave. If a woman’s husband physically abuses and causes her any serious bodily harm she has the right to be freed from him and she is thus free to marry another man.

Did the Bible teach the concept of second marriages being “adulterous affairs”?

Now we will examine some key verses and phrases on divorce as it relates to this concept of marriages being considered “adulterous affairs”.

“whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

“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.” – Matthew 5:32 (KJV)

The phrases “whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:32), “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9) and “whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” (Luke 16:18) should be understood by what Christ said in Mark 10:12 where he says “And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.”

Christ is referring to a woman that wrongly departs from (divorces) her husband and goes to marry another man. If a woman wrongly divorces her husband and marries another man then she commits adultery with another man (and he with her). This is the ONLY WAY that a second marriage can rightly be considered an “adulterous affair”.

Christ is not punishing the woman who has been wrongly divorced by her husband and relegating her to a life of celibacy.  He is saying her husband commits adultery against by unjustly divorcing her. The adultery a husband commits against his wife is NOT in him marrying another woman. He is allowed to marry a second wife, a third wife or a fourth wife by the decree of God. The adultery he commits against her is his act of unjustly divorcing her. This is a new type of adultery defined by Christ. Previous to this it was impossible for a man to commit adultery against his wife.

The phrase “causeth her to commit adultery” in Matthew 5:32 should be understood by what Christ said in Mark 10:11 that a husband who unjustly divorces his wife “committeth adultery against her”. This is not saying he causes her to commit adultery by her marrying another man. If she is divorced by her husband whether he does this for just or unjust reasons “she may go and be another man’s wife.” (Deuteronomy 24:2).

A wife who has been divorced by her husband whether for just or unjust reasons “may go and be another man’s wife.” (Deuteronomy 24:2). The sin is on his head in this situation, it is not on hers. She is no longer his wife and therefore cannot be called an “adulteress” because her husband “still lives” (Romans 7:3). The reason is that he is no longer her husband. Yes the man that was PREVIOUSLY her husband still lives, but he is no longer her husband. He has freed her even if he did it for wrong reasons. God will judge him for this – his wife is innocent in his sin of HIM wrongly divorcing her.

“marry another”

“And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.” – Mark 10:11

Does a husband commit adultery by marrying another woman? Some have tried to use this as a way to attack polygamy which is clearly allowed by God for men. But the situation Christ is describing is NOT that of a man marrying a second or third wife. This situation describes a man wrongly divorcing his first wife in order to please a potential second wife who wants to marry him but she wants him to get rid of his first wife.

This same situation was occurring in Israel when Malachi tells men they have “dealt treacherously” (Malachi 2:14-15) with the wife of their youth by putting her away without just cause.

“while her husband liveth”

“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.” – Romans 7:3 (KJV)

“39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” – I Corinthians 7:39 (KJV)

Romans 7:3 and I Corinthians 7:39 are passages that have been wrongly used by many to forbid ANY second marriages by women while their first husband still lives. This is a faulty interpretation because it ignores Deuteronomy 24:2 which clearly states that a woman whose husband puts her away in divorce “may go and be another man’s wife.” (Deuteronomy 24:2).

Again we must look at the entire witness of Scripture and interpret Scripture with Scripture. So when we understand Romans 7:3 and I Corinthians 7:39 in light of the entire witness of Scripture then we understand that a woman can only be considered an adulterous if she unjustly divorces her husband and then marries another man. This the only case in which she could rightly be called and adulterous and the man she is with would be considered an adulterer.

“let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband”

“10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” – I Corinthians 7:10-11 (KJV)

I Corinthians 7:10-11 refers to a situation where wife a divorces her husband for reasons that God does not allow. For instance when woman divorces her husband for “irreconcilable” differences she is NOT free to marry another man. She must remain celibate or be reconciled to her husband.

Conclusion

Biblically speaking when a man marries another woman this is NOT adultery. He is allowed by God to have more than one wife. The only way a man can commit adultery against his wife is by unjustly putting her away whether it is to marry another woman who wants to be his only wife or just to put her away so he can be on his own and have no obligations to provide for her and have sex with her.

The only way “re-marriage” applies to a man is when a man marries a woman he had previously divorced and she was married to another man and he tries to re-marry her. This is forbidden by God. All other marriages a man engages in cannot be considered remarriages – but simply additional marriages as he can have more than one wife.

Just because a man wrongly puts away(divorces) one his wives this does not preclude him from marrying other wives.  If a man can find a way to reconcile with this wrongly put away wife before she remarries(which she can do) he should try to do that.  But once she is remarried he CANNOT remarry her even if her second husband dies or divorces her.

The only marriage in Scripture that could be considered an ‘adulterous affair’ or ‘adulterous marriage’ is when a woman unjustly divorces her husband and then marries another man. In this case she would be considered an adulterous and the man who married her would be considered an adulterer.

The Bible also talks about incestuous marriages (where someone marries a relative or a relative’s wife). Only in the case of this one type of adulterous marriage or in the case of an incestuous marriage would God demand as John the Baptist did of Herod that the marriage be dissolved.

Again the reason that Dr. Kim has come to this flawed conclusion regarding divorce and adulterous marriages is because he has chosen to use two passages(Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9) to void or reinterpret all other passages on divorce in light of these two verses.

The only way we can truly understand God’s view of marriage and divorce is by examining his entire Word on the subject.