Biblical Teaching on Divorce, Part I

The most recent figures on marriage and divorce in the 1975 World Almanac show that for every two new marriages in the United States there is one divorce. It has been estimated that desertions—called “the poor man’s divorce”—equal the number of legal divorces, pushing the total of terminated marriages to almost two million a year. This means that divorces and desertions together almost equal the number of new marriages!

One of the familiar statements in the Bible on divorce is that of Jesus in Matthew 19:3–9. The Pharisees came to “tempt” Jesus. They wanted to find occasion to accurse or humiliate him. “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” they asked. In Jesus’ day there were two schools of thought on divorce: the liberal school of Hillel, which permitted divorce for any cause, and the conservative school of Shammai, which permitted divorce only for infidelity. The Pharisees were asking Jesus, “Whose side are you on, Shammai’s or Hillel’s?”

Jesus answered in a way they did not expect:

Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Instead of appealing to the current views of divorce, Jesus went back to the original institution of marriage and showed that God never intended that there be divorce for any cause.

The Pharisees thought that they had Jesus on the spot, that he had not taken into consideration the Law of Moses. So they asked “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, ...

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