(In the Bible)
Michael S. Sayen
(Formerly “The Cure for Divorce: In the Kingdom of God”)
Copyright ©2016 by Michael S. Sayen
This book was designed to tell the truth about divorce from the Bible in order to help combat the ever-growing divorce rate among Christians.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Published in St. Paul, MN
Printed in the U.S.A.
I am dedicating this book to my beautiful wife Linde and my incredible daughter Padah. What a gift they both are, AMEN! Thank you; God, Jesus and Your Holy Spirit who only gives Wisdom from above.
Moses gave the Law of divorce. Jesus defined the Law. Paul reiterated Jesus’ commands regarding the Law with particular emphases. So, there were no “new instructions” given to us other than the “case” where Paul told the believers that they are not in bondage (neither by law nor by his command) to stay married if the unbeliever was unwilling to remain with them. This book explains Moses’, Jesus’ and Paul’s simple commands about divorce and how they all work together.
This book brings the reader to the foundational understanding of marriage, divorce and remarriage. Not the understanding of the early church believers but much earlier. This understanding comes from the foundation of the Jewish people.
God made a unilateral covenant with Abraham when only God passed between the slain animals. God promised and Abraham accepted. But, God made a bilateral covenant with Israel in the wilderness which they promised to obey. Jesus paid the bridal-price and made a unilateral covenant with one-sided promises to the Church. Therefore, we are not like Israel’s covenant of blessings and cursing but in the direct image of the blessings of Abraham’s covenant. Jesus promises us eternal life and by accepting it we are able to enter into His covenant.
The Jewish people practice the unilateral marriage covenant called the ketubah. It’s traditionally agreed upon by the groom and the bride’s father then signed by two witnesses. It establishes the marriage promises of the husband to his now betrothed wife.
Some of the Jewish people, as well as other cultures, believed that acquiring a wife by means of a bridal-price (mohar) limited her ability from divorcing him. Although payment was traditionally given to the father the principle of giving something of value for a bridal-price can still be seen in jewels, engagement ring, property, money etc…
The Scripture says a woman is under the “rule” of her husband (Gen. 3:16). This rule limits her freedoms and sets man as authority over her. Because the woman is under the rule of her husband she was not able to set herself free (if a slave wife, or captured by war) or put her husband away (Deut. 24:1).
The Jewish religious leaders believed that Deut. 24:1-4 were gender specific laws. Therefore; they believed that only man could initiate the divorce. His wife could not. The Church also teaches gender specific laws regarding headship and submission that can be seen both in the home and in the church (1 Cor. 11:2-16, 1 Tim. 2:11-15).
Just because Gentiles came from a liberal culture allowing both sexes to marry and divorce this does not mean that they can continue in their freedoms. Paul now informs those Gentiles coming to Christ that a wife is not to separate from her husband and if she is separated she cannot remarry another man (1 Cor. 7:10-11a). And a man is not to put away his wife (1 Cor. 7:11b).
Chapter 1: A marriage covenant was designed to be for “life!” It’s a covenant, not a contract.
Chapter 2: We know originally neither man nor woman was allowed to divorce their spouse “in the beginning” Matt. 19:8.
Chapter 3: Because of man’s heart growing hard against his unfaithful wife Moses gave him “permission” for a Writ of Divorcement (Deuteronomy 24:1).
Chapter 4: Jesus made it clear that a marriage covenant is not abolished until it is done according to God’s guidelines in Scripture; otherwise, it says if you marry again you will be committing adultery “against” your former spouse Mark 10:11.
Chapter 5: Defining what Paul meant by the “law of the husband” and what it means to the married woman.
Chapter 6: Paul made it clear that a Christian man/woman is charged (commanded) by our Lord Jesus not to separate or leave the marriage 1 Cor. 7:10-11. Paul said that man should not even “seek” it (1 Cor. 7:27).
Chapter 7: To strive to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, to love your neighbor as yourself, and return back to God’s design of marriage as in the beginning.
In Law and Religion in a Multicultural Context, Soler (n.d.) suggests that divorce in the Church today is quite common. While the Church is varied in its views of divorce, Soler notes, “However, the first 400 years of the Early Church, the church maintained a rather unanimous voice on divorce.”
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Covenants
Chapter 2 – Adam and Eve
Chapter 3 – The Law
Chapter 4 – The Gospels
Chapter 5 – Romans
Chapter 6 – Corinthians
Chapter 7 – The Truth
This chapter is to help people understand the biblical definition of a covenant. Most of the people that I had interviewed really did not understand the weight of the marriage covenant they have made. This being the case, it is understandable that it is often broken. If we simply look at marriage as a “promise” then when times get tough people will break this commitment as quickly as they had other promises in their life. If they look at marriage as a “contract” then they tend to feel that they have every right to end the marriage if the other party does not fulfil their part of the agreement. But let’s look at what God said about covenants and His relationship with his Bride Israel.
Man and woman become married when they enter into a covenant with one another (betrothed) but became “one flesh” by sexual union (1 Cor. 6:16). The Lord is a witness between you and the wife of your youth and tells the husband not to deal treacherously with her (Mal. 2:14-16, 1 Peter 3:7). Instead it says, “Let her breasts satisfy you at all times” (Proverbs 5:19). God said that you belong to The Lord both in “body and spirit,” for He is seeking “godly offspring.”
There are many different forms and types of covenants in the Bible. Some covenants had conditions such as “blessings and cursing” while others are said to be unconditional such as a “covenant of salt,” or an “everlasting covenant.” Job was said to have made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a young woman (Job 31:1). God gave the world the Rainbow as a sign of His covenant not to destroy it again with a flood (Gen. 9:13).
A marriage “covenant” is a confirmation of oaths (Ezek. 16:8) confirmed by having witnesses present. The authors Paul & Williamson of Sealed with an Oath (2007) said the word covenant is: “…a solemn covenant guaranteeing promises or obligations undertaken by one or both parties, sealed with an oath.” The Bible says God is a “witness” (Mal. 2:14) with His people: “covenant of the Lord” (1 Sam. 20:8) and the adulterous woman forgets the “covenant of her God” (Proverbs 2:17). God was the One who made the two people into one (Matt. 19:6).
In the book Reversing the Marriage Implosion by Bob Reccord, under “It’s a Covenant, Not a Contract,” Bob gives further explanation of this idea:
Having had the joy of speaking in marriage conferences, I often start with the differences between a “contract” and a covenant. Tying it back into the covenant dealings of God with His people, I remind them that the Hebrew word so often used for covenant is “beriyth” meaning “a solemn agreement cut between parties with binding force.”
She walks down an aisle (and they will exit by it) representing the “walk of death,” where those entering Biblical covenants walked between the halves of a slain animal, as if to say, “may what happened to this animal happen to me if I break this covenant.” (n.d., para 2)
In the book Christ of the Covenants Robertson writes that a covenant is a: “life-and-death bond” (1980). As the Pastor says to each spouse at the end of the marriage ceremony, “till death do you part” or “as long as you both shall live.”
Both of the covenants issued through Abraham and Moses were marriage covenants for Israel and the Church. God first made a covenant with Abraham and his “Seed” (Christ) Gen. 15:10. He told Abraham to take the animals and “cut them in two,” and went between them (the smoking furnace and burning lamp) confirming His covenantal promises:
13 “^For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself…^16 _][_For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 17 _][_Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 _][_that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” Heb. 6
God also made a covenant with Moses and the children of Israel according to the flesh. It says, God was “betrothed” to Israel in the “wilderness” (Jer. 2:1-2) by entering into the covenant of Moses in the giving of the Law (covenant of blood Ex. 24:7). It later states, God became their “Husband” (Ezek. 16:1-8).
“So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has said we will do.’” …And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Moses took the book of the covenant and read it, and they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words” (Ex 24:1-8).
The Jewish people associate themselves with the “promise” as “seeds of Abraham,” saying “Abraham is our Father.” However, God was referring to a spiritual Israel that is not born by flesh and blood but by the will of God (John 1:13).
Abraham had two sons. One was by the slave and the other one by the free woman, “The women represents two covenants” Gal. 4:24. One covenant does not nullify another.
15 “^Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. ^16 _][_Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 _][_And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.” Gal. 3
The Church was shown in Scripture as “betrothed” through the purchase price of the blood of Jesus to Himself as our Husband (2 Cor. 11:3). We are waiting to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb. Thus, we will become “spiritual Israel” and the children of the promise (Gal. 4:31).
Although God married the land of Israel the land was split in two by sin. This looks at their accounts. The land of Israel was treacherously split in two: the Northern tribe of Israel and the Southern tribe of Judah. These are the two sisters referred to in Jer. 3:1-14 (Israel and Judah).
God divorced Northern Israel in 2 King 17:6 and the result was the Assyrians took them captive and occupied their part of the land. God remained faithful to Southern Judah because of His promise to King David so that his descendants will always have someone sitting on the thrown (1 King 9:5). The desolation of Israel was due to the “blessings and cursing.”
18 “^And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it— ^19 _][_the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf— 20 _][_I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. Their dead bodies shall be for meat for the birds of the heaven and the beasts of the earth.” Jer. 34
Moses said if your reject the coming Prophet that God would reject you (Acts 3:22-23). This is what was spoken about in Hebrews 8:8-13 and Jer. 31:31 that Israel according to the flesh was cut off. The covenant of the Law through Moses was now “vanishing away” (Heb. 8:13) for the first fruits of the children of the covenant in the Seed of Jesus to be issued in. This transitional period lasted 40 years, and then destruction.
God has saved a “remnant” of Israel (Messianic Jews) till the fullness of the Gentiles then it says, “All Israel will be saved, as it is written” (Rom 11:1-26). Israel will see Him coming (on a cloud) and morn for Him as a Son whom they had pierced (Rev. 1:7). God will focus His attention back to the original branch and in the last days bring salvation to His people!
A covenant is an oath to the highest order and different from: “striking of hands” (shaking hands); giving of something (like your cloak) in a pledge (Proverbs); or even giving your sandal as an attestation of confirmation (Ruth 4:7). A marriage covenant was considered to be “[W]alking on Holy ground” (Blog Talk Radio-Host, 2011).
This chapter is about God’s design of marriage in the making of Adam and Eve. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone so He made woman in man’s likeness. God brought the woman to the man. Woman was created for the man to fulfill his loneliness and to be a help mate. However, the fall caused life to include sin and the punishments made life much harder. Let’s look at God’s intent from “The beginning”…
This is a story of Adam and Eve. When God made Adam and Eve He made “man” without sin. This was the perfect world. But that world did not last. Sin entered the world through the same Adam and Eve that God created. Freewill gave man the choice; the choice to choose “good or evil.” Eventually, man chose evil!
When the Pharisees and Scribes came to trap Jesus in His words (Matt. 19:2-10) Jesus did not focus on the jot and tittle of the Law but on what God purposed and designed. That is, a perfect world apart from sin untainted by man’s rebellion.
When Jesus started speaking about divorce said, “He who made them at the beginning made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4). Jesus’ focus in speaking about divorce was God’s intent “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1-26).
Jay Adams concludes in his book Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible that in the beginning: “divorce was not provided for as an option” (Adams, 1986). God created all things “in the beginning” and He looked at all that He created and said, “It is good.”
Jesus’ point was that since divorce was not in God’s original design but due to the bitterness of the heart, it’s “not good.” And since it’s “not good” we can further deduct that divorce in itself was in no-way natural. Therefore, since divorce was not natural to mankind it causes feelings that are also unnatural; that is, brokenness, confusion, pain, anger and unrestful despair for both the innocent spouse and the children.
“Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13). God saw that it was not good for man to be alone so He made him a “help meet.” Paul said man was not made for woman but woman for man by pointing out she was made “from” man (1 Cor. 11:8-9). Since she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh Adam called her “wo-man” (Gen 2).
When speaking about the fall Paul said, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14). Eve failed in her primary role as a help-meet. Paul’s point in this scripture is to say the “woman” should not have leadership over the man because they are more easily deceived. In the same way, God punished Eve because she was deceived and made her role fully submissive to man by giving him complete “rule” over her (Gen. 3:16).
When God’s punishments of Adam and Eve came it made life more difficult for both man and woman which are still applicable today. The woman still has pain in childbearing and the man still works hard to provide a living for his family. In the same light, the man’s rule over his wife limits the woman from freely doing what she wishes. This rule of man can be seen throughout all of history.
When speaking to the Corinthians about the overall submission of the women in Church, Paul used the reasoning “…as the Law also says” (1 Cor. 14:34). Paul was asking them to keep silent in Church and to ask their husband any questions that they had (verse 35) at home (married women). Paul used the authority of the Old Testament (Gen. 3:16) to back up what he was teaching in regards to this sensitive issue.
The Scripture says, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Since the woman did not separate from her father the man had to pay the “bridal price” to her father as a sign of authority that was passed on. Ex. 22:16-17 says the bridal price was to be given to the father (Deut. 22:21, Num. 30:5-6, 16) while in her youth living under her father’s roof (Deut. 22:21b).
God’s design had always been that the man led his wife to foreshadow what is in heaven, “The husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (Eph. 5:23, 1 Cor. 11:3). But, when the punishment came for the husband to “rule over” his wife it changed the perfect design of a voluntary help-meet to the wife being under the “law of her husband.”
This is a large Chapter. Although the law concerning divorce was rather short, this is the law that Jesus refers to when answering the Pharisees concerning divorce and remarriage. Time went on and Gentiles started to become saved in Jesus’ name. This brought a lot of questions about being married to the “unclean” unbelievers. Some thought to use the law of Ezra as a foundation to divorce their spouse. Since this is the presumed case, I thought to speak about the law of Ezra and other marriage laws that are later seen in the New Testament.
1^“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, ^2 _][_when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 _][_if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, 4 _][_then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.” Deut. 24:1-4
When a man hath taken a wife and married her…That is, when a man has made choice of a woman for his wife, and has obtained her consent, and the consent of her parents; and has not only betrothed her, but taken her home, and consummated the marriage. (Gill, 1999. Verse 1 section, para 1)
Moses spoke few words about divorce in this passage. Jesus and Paul also spoke only a few words about this subject. This simple teaching was expected to be understood by both the Jews as well as the Church (not a mystery, nor many words). Similar to a jacket size, “One size fits all, except for someone with extra large shoulders.”
When Moses gave the Law man’s heart grew extremely cold and full of sin due to a rebellion in the heart (Rom. 7:7-12). Moses saw man’s heart and realized his weakness in following God’s perfect will because of “hardheartedness” towards his wife.
The intent of the Certificate of Divorce was to release the wife from the marriage covenant, “for she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband” (Hos 2:2). Below are three different views of divorce from the Jewish perspective that demonstrate only the men were to initiate the divorce according to the Law:
Jews currently teach that only the man is to initiate divorce according to Deut. 24:1. The “writ” of divorce is referred to by Jewish law as the git, “The laws of gittin only provide for a divorce initiated by the husband…” (Wikipedia: Refusal to provide a get, 2015, para. 1).
“A woman,” according to rabbinic law, “may be divorced with or without her will: but a man only with his will…” (Barclay Web site, 2015, para. 1).
Also speaking about divorce, “Under Old Testament law (Deut. 24:1), the man is required to initiate any divorce proceeding. This practice continued into the New Testament and is still common among Orthodox Jewish groups today” (Edwards Web site, 1997, para. 1).
The Jews understood that if a person committed adultery they were to be condemned to death according to the Law (John 8:1-16, Lev. 20:10). That being the case, the Jews also understood that Moses saying the Hebrew word “uncleanness” in Deut. 24:1 could not mean strictly “adultery.” The common person understood if Moses meant to say adultery he would had used the proper Hebrew word but he chose to use a broader term.
The literal translation of “uncleanness” in Deut. 24:1 suggests Matthew Poole (1685) was to be a thing or word of “nakedness”:
Uncleanness; Heb. nakedness, or shamefulness, or filthiness of a thing, i.e. some filthy or hateful thing, some loathsome distemper of body or quality of mind, not observed before marriage; or some light and unchaste carriage, as this or the like phrase commonly signifies, but not amounting to adultery, which was not punished with divorce, but with death. (Poole, Matthew, “Commentary on Deuteronomy 24:1”, para 3)
The story that comes to mind is that of David and Bathsheba. Of course, we know that it all started when she bathed on top of her roof in mid-day and David gazed upon her. Not suggesting that it was an act worthy of a divorce but we all know where it led.
There are two other stories also worth mentioning in regards to nakedness and shame: Noah, in Gen. 9:22-25 and uncovering your relatives’ naked bodies in Lev. 18, 20. Lev. Chapter 18 and 20 are in regards to further physical involvement; however, it is important to note that the word “nakedness” is still used to bring a moral “visual” exposing point across.
[35 _][“‘Now then, O harlot, hear the word of the_] Lord! 36 _][_Thus says the Lord God: “Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them, 37 _][_surely, therefore, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved, and all those you hated; I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 _][_And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy.” Ezek. 16
In conclusion: regarding the Hebrew word “uncleanness” it is difficult to put a finite meaning to what Moses meant because it is ultimately subject to the situation but there are a few factors to consider. Was there sexual activity/purpose, two people (two becoming one flesh 1 Cor. 6:16) and/or exposed nakedness (shamefully with another).
The Nations before them that occupied the Land known as Israel were filled with “abominations” that caused them to be judged (Deut. 7:1-2) like abominable marriages (Lev. 18:1-24) and gross sexual sins in marriage (Lev. 20:23) which the Lord God “cast out” of the Land.
Moses uses a story to explain that even if the woman in Deut. 24:2 was released (either by divorce or death of the second husband) it is an abomination for him to take her back. Deut. 24:3 said that the second husband divorced the woman because he “detests” her; and not for the clear biblical doctrine of “uncleanness” mentioned earlier (Deut. 24:1). Therefore, you can tell Moses is not giving instructions about divorce to the second husband, but he is simply stating she married another man to illustrate a point of returning to the first.
“That” Deut. 24:4 could also be translated “who” or “which” (she has been) “defiled.” By this we can see that the phrase “after she was defiled” to be a thing of “sexual immorality” of the woman’s body for her first husband if he wished to take her back. Her body in general is defiled by some sexual, unlawful, or indecent act for her husband to return to her.
A woman becomes “defiled” by polluting her body by another man’s “seed” becoming improperly “one flesh” with another: “Then the Babylonians come to her, into the bed of love, and ‘defile’ her with their fornications” (Ezek. 23:17). The Bible uses the word for fornication to illustrate a sexual sin either inside or outside the marriage.
Isaiah illustrates the great sin of unfaithful Israel (Isaiah 50:1) saying Israel, “…and made a covenant with them (the other Nations), you have loved their bed, where you saw their nudity” (Isaiah 57:8). It is also told to the Priests “has married the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11b). It said, Israel was said to be loved by many lovers (Jer. 3:1).
God uses Deut. 24:1-4 law to show Israel’s great defilement…though He will take her back. When relating the story of Deut. 24:1-4; Jer. 3:1 says, “They say,” “If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man’s may he return to her again? Would not that land be greatly polluted?” This is true. It would “defile” this Land of Israel (abomination-gross sexual sin). So, this illustration reveals that great is the sin of Israel in playing a harlot after “many lovers.” However, the Lord is still willing to take her back.
Israel clearly not wanting to return to her Husband was considered more “righteous” then her sister Judah who returned only in “false hood” for the blessings.
It is said that Israel transgressed The Law of Moses by mingling their “holy” seed with the seven abominable Nations they were commanded not to in Moses’ Law:
In Ezra chap. 9-10 (possibly in Neh. 10:28 wives and children 13:3, 28-30 cleansed) the Jews are told to divorce only those to whom the Lord previously spoke to them about separating from in the Land of Israel when the Jews finally took it over by war. God tells them not to marry those so they will not worship their gods (Neh. 13:23-27, 1 Kings 11:2 and Deut. 7:1-4) in the lands that they went to possess (The Promised Land: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and the Jebusites—which are of the same of Ezra 9:1). In regards to the other lands [not given of the Promised Land] they were allowed to inter-marry (Joshua 1:2-5).
In the other Laws the Jews were allowed to marry Gentiles (apart from the groups previously spoken about [Ezra 9:1] like those women taken in war in other territories [Deut. 21:10-13]). They are allowed to marry them and keep the people alive (Deut. 21:11) if they took the peace offering. It said, not all men (and the woman who knew a man) that were of the “cities which are very far from you” were to die (verse 15). Instead, only the foreign people who were living in the Promised Land were all to die—both men and women (verse 16). For some of those who may not have known a man intimately (Numbers 31:17-18) of these were Midianite virgins (Moses marrying a Midianite -Exodus 2:16-21 thought the women of Midianite caused God’s wrath on Israel Num. 31:16 from the story of Num. 25:5-6). These were not the same people as Ezra 9:1 (the people of those lands Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites) it was better to marry one of their own people (Lev. 21:13 and Judges 14:3). In Gen. 34:14 it suggested that the Jewish women were not to marry uncircumcised men. Jacob’s sons said on this condition, “If you become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised.”
Ezra tells them to both “put away” the wife and their “children” born to them and “separate” (Ezra 10:3, 11). Even King Solomon fell in this sin and it caused his heart to turn away from the one and true living God (Neh. 13:26). Ezra said since this marriage was against the “Law” spoken of in Moses, the marriage is unlawful and needs immediate divorce as an abominable marriage causing unclean children to be born to them (1 Cor. 7:14).
These are the “laws” regarding the Men of Israel “putting away” a wife other than requiring the men to “set free” any additional wife brought as a slave for a son (if her food, clothing, or marriage rites were neglected) or if captured in war and did not please her husband. Since the woman is not allowed to divorce her husband, examples show us that she would simply “leave” the marriage in rebellion to him (Jer. 3:9 and Judges 19:2).
A priest is told in Lev. 21:7 not to marry a “harlot, polluted, divorced, or widow” but a virgin only. Later on, as is said in Ezek. 44:22 he was allowed to marry either a virgin “or a widow of a priest.” Therefore, this validates that it was improper for a Priest to marry a divorced woman (under the purity or morality guidelines).
However, it does say that if a divorced woman returns to her father’s house as in her youth (Lev. 21:13) she was to be given provisions by her father (if she was a priest’s daughter and as long as she does not have any children born to her by her husband).
In the New Testament (1 Tim. 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6) it tells us that the overseer and deacons of the Church are required to be the “husband of one wife.” It is clearly speaking about the important morality guidelines of marriage for the religious leaders (Mal. 2:14-16). A Pastor was to be “above reproach” concerning the issues of marriage (polygamy). Even if it is not a fault of their own, they are still to exude Hosea’s endurance in the marriage (Hos. 3:1).
Although, it is clear that the woman was only to be married once in her life-time (moral lifestyle) to receive the Widow’s fund by the Church 1 Tim. 5:8-9 – “has been the wife of one husband.” In contrast, she is not to be like the woman at the well who had been married “five” times (John 4). (These examples do not include those who marry after widowhood)
The permission of divorce started to get abused. God addresses this with the priests in Israel (Mal. 2:1). God said because of this He would no longer “regard the offering anymore nor receive it with goodwill from your hands” (Mal. 2:13). It said they had dealt treacherously with their “companion.” That is, their—“wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). God answers that, “He hates divorce for it covers one’s garment with violence” (Mal. 2:16).
This chapter is to clear up any misunderstandings about remarriage. Jesus’ main emphasis regarding remarriage and adultery was to show them how they were guilty of breaking these permissions of Moses (Deut. 24:1-4). Jesus was not there pointing fingers but to share with them God’s real judgments regarding divorce and remarriage in order to further show them that in the sight of God no man is justified by the Law.
[31 _][“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’] [_32 _][_But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” Matt. 5
[9 _][“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality,] [_and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”] Matt. 19
[10 _][“In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same_] matter. 11 _][_So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 _][_And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10
[18 _][“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from_] her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16
Matthew Chapter 5 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus corrects their teachers by claiming, “You have heard that it was said to those of old…” but in return says, “But I say to you…” Jesus did not argue with the religious leaders who tried to justify these sins; He went after the heart of the matter by explaining God’s true intent for each Law that they were breaking (in majority). Jesus said that unless the people’s, “righteousness surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
It starts off in Matt. 5:27-30 talking about the sin of “adultery” by looking at another woman in lust (speaking to the majority of men who were married) taken from the 10 Commandments—“Do not commit adultery.” Then it goes on in Matt. 5:31-32 speaking about “adultery” in the context of remarriage.
Jesus speaking to the multitude of believers in Matt. 5:31-32 explains the word “uncleanness” in Deut. 24:1 to be “sexual immorality.” “Sexual immorality” according to Greek could be any sexually indecent act that involves the body and not just the act of the heart (Matt. 5:28-30). For a more in depth study on sexual immorality/fornication please see notes.
Jesus said that the man who marries (the/a) divorced woman commits adultery (second part of each of Jesus teachings). Many argue over the identity of this woman and whether it includes all women or just this woman who was previously put-away. Some interpret this verse; “marries a woman who is put away commits adultery,” while others say it should be, “marries the woman who was put away commits adultery.”
Robertson (n.d.) notes in Divorce and Remarriage Text that an absent article (the/a) is not necessarily defining to the sentence:
The word may be either definite or indefinite when the article is absent. The context and history of the phrase in question must decide. The translation of the expression into English or German is not determined by mere absence of the Greek article. If the word is indefinite, as in Jn. 4:27, 6:68, no article, of course, occurs. But the article is absent in a good many definite phrases also. (Robertson, n.d., Chapter III “Divorce and Remarriage Texts in Jesus section,” para. unknown)
To understand this question it is important to note that it was either obvious to those there who were listening or they knew that it held no bearing on what Jesus was trying to convey.
When we look at Luke 16:18b we can see the second part was written independently of the first part—“… and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” So, with this example we can see that the people at that time probably understood that Jesus was not merely speaking about the woman who was just divorced in the previous verse but all divorced women.
The context of the Gospels supposes that the fair majority of husbands were divorcing their wives apart from “sexual immorality” (Matt. 5:32, 19:9b). You can see this in the question of the Pharisees in Matt 19:3, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” This is probably why the Gospel of Luke 16:18 and Mark 10:11 indicate “everyone” who put away his wife and married another committed adultery.
The exception clause “if not for” (Matt. 19:9) was a rare exception to this rule and probably not the case. So, we can suppose that the majority of women were not put away for sexual immorality at this time. Therefore, we can be certain that the far majority of any divorced women marrying at that time would commit adultery (context). After all, the Jews would have understood that when a marriage covenant was abolished according to the Law that either party had the freedom to marry again.
In conclusion: it seems to equate that Jesus was teaching that any divorced woman who fits the presumed unlawful qualification (breaking the Law) would be guilty of adultery in remarriage as well. For His teaching was to testify against the majority who were guilty of breaking the Law of Moses. Jesus was certainly not saying that a woman who was guilty of committing adultery in her first marriage would be committing adultery in her second marriage. But, that “IF” the original divorce was not due to sexual immorality (implied “if not for” was the extended case here) then the remarriage would most defiantly result in adultery for all involved: the former wife, the former husband and any person who would have married them.
When it said the man “causes” the woman to commit adultery (Matt. 5:32a) this does not mean she is “allowed” to marry another. It simply means he is in charge and responsible for putting her in a position of temptation. The woman’s desires are spoken about in other scriptures: her desire shall be for her husband (she has a desire to have a husband)—Gen. 3:16a; an empty womb cries out (she desires to have more children)—Prov. 30:16, and when the woman who’s natural passion grows against Christ “they desire to marry” (she desires to be married)—1 Tim. 5:11.
The Book of Mark is an account of the acts of Jesus written specifically to the Gentiles living in Rome. Mark 10:1-12 speaks of the same account of Matt. 19:1-10. Though Mark said a woman divorced her husband in Mark 10:12 it was written to the Gentiles as what Jesus said in “private” and not to the Scribes or Pharisees. So this “private” account was written for the sole purpose of the Gentile readers. Women divorces were probably prevalent in that culture for we see the ease of Gentile divorces and marriages such as Harold (occupied by the Romans) married his brother’s wife and the Samaritan woman at the well having been married five times.
Jesus never changed or softened the Law of Moses regarding divorce. Jesus was there to show them that according to the law they were guilty of breaking the law. Jesus never intended to win an argument by the letter of the law, but to change hearts through true acknowledgement of their sins, repentance and to seek forgiveness. He brought darkness into the light and exposed their deeds (which along their hearts) which were truly evil (evil and perverse generation).
This chapter is here not really to show any “new” information regarding divorce and remarriage, but more to clear up any misunderstanding regarding the “law of the husband” and where it originated from.
He begins by telling the Jews, “Indeed you are called a Jew and rest on the law, and make your boast in God…you who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” (Abbreviated form of Rom. 2:17-24) He then speaks to them again on the issues of the Law of Moses:
7 ^“Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? ^2 _][_For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 _][_So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
4 _][_Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 _][_For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 _][_But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” Rom. 7
These Jews were committing spiritual “adultery.” Paul uses a physical truth – “For…” in Rom. 7:2, to bring a physical conclusion – “So then…” in Rom 7:3, to explain the ending spiritual truth – “Therefore…” in Rom. 7:4. That is those of whom it was said to be old wine skins filled with new wine.
In Rom. 7:2 the sentence in Greek says, “The for (for the) under-man (husband under) woman to the living man (husband), having been (has been) bound (of or by) law.” Similar as one might see written in an Interlinear Bible.
The law (Gen. 3:16) is why Paul said a wife is under the “law” of her husband. When Paul said “law of her husband” he is referring to one of the rules of marriage that the woman now falls under. This is a general concept that sets scriptural limits to the wife falling under her husband. So, the law of the husband could have several applications but here we only see one.
Paul addressing the submission of the woman in the church goes back to the law again – “as the Law also says” (1 Cor. 7:34-36). What the law does in a way is lock her under her husband’s authority being unable to be freed from this “rule.”
Paul also uses the words “law of…” to explain a general idea and complete bondage of something by a firm set of rules or principles (known as truth) such as when we talk about the “law of Nature,” the “law of Gravity,” or the “law of Physics.”
Paul goes on to state some simple truths that have dominion over another in Romans Chapter 7: “another law” vs. 23, “law of husband” vs. 2-3, “law of sin” vs. 7:23, 25 “law of God,” “I find a law that evil is present with me” vs. 21, “law of my mind” vs. 23, “law of Spirit” 8:2, “law of sin and death” vs.3 and briefly spoken of earlier the “law of faith” 3:26. Paul said a law is something that “lords-over” you (Rom. 7:1).
Paul studied under the strictest of the Law would had been very familiar with the different Laws in the Old Testament (the Ancestral Law). Many of the Old Testament Laws were broken down by Moses and after giving the parameters said “This is the law of the…” Such as “the law of jealousy” Num. 5:29, “law of burnt offering” Lev. 6:9, “law of grain offering” 6:14, “law of sin offering” 6:25, “law of the sacrifice of peace offerings” 7:11, “law of the burnt offering” 7:37, “law of leprous plague” 13:59, “law of the one who had a leprous sore” 14:32, “law of leprosy” 14:57, and “law of one who has a discharge” 15:32 (Hodge & McGrath & Packer, 1993, p. 197).
So, the “law of her husband” is a set of principles set by scripture which governs a wife as long as she is married (Gen 3:16 and all that it entails). Since man is not “under” his wife he was not under the “law of his wife.”
There is a story about a woman being married to two husbands at the same time. David fled Saul and left his wife behind. Saul gives her to another man in marriage. David, knowing that that marriage was illegal (adulterous) had Abner take her back, and Abner sends the other husband home in tears (not a divorce) 2 Sam. 3:16.
The law of the husband is primarily written for the Jews to fully understand the Law of Moses and their relationship to it. It is true, as long as a woman has a husband she is bound as long as he is living and cannot set herself free of her own accord. In the same way the Jews cannot be set free but by death alone. However, since Paul mentions, “a wife is bound by law…” in 1 Cor. 7:39 there also seems to be a real application for this to the widows.
This is the Granddaddy. The majority of this book is dedicated to 1 Corinthians 7:1-40. It seems to me that most of the Christians have an understanding of the Law of Moses down pretty well but when it comes to the freedoms us believers share concerning divorce and remarriage the water becomes a little murky.
Paul is going to quickly answer some questions the Church had about singleness, marriage, divorce, virgins and widows (1 Cor. 7:1 “Now concerning the things of which you wrote me…”). From the beginning of Chapter 7 through to Chapter 16 is the list of many “concerns” about which the Corinthian Church questioned Paul (7:1, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1, 12).
There were sexual problems in the Church 1 Cor. 5:1-3, 6:14-19, 10:8 as well as lack of order in the church service (1 Cor. 14:34-37). Paul suggests they were carnally minded (babes needing the spiritual food again). There were divisions (1 Cor. 11:17-19) and contentions. 1 Cor. 7:10-16 was probably one of the teachings that started to permeate the church according to the command in Ezra. Some believers (both men and women) thought the scripture was teaching them to put away their unclean unbelieving spouses (from Ezra 10:3 “all these wives and those who have been born to them”).
[10 _][“Now to the married I command,] _yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 _][_But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” 1 Cor. 7
The reason Paul said, “I command…” 1 Cor. 7:10 is because he had to make a distinction from his previous statement, “I say … not as a commandment” vs. 6. The reason Paul said, “Not I, but The Lord” is he wanted them to be clear that he was not saying this; rather, Who said it because this was going to be a very important message for the Corinthian Church to accept. This is Paul’s response to their question about divorce.
I think Paul had three reasons for starting with this. First, to tell both the man and the woman that it’s the Lord’s will for them not to divorce. Secondly, to set up Paul’s next statement to those who were married to unbelievers. Thirdly, to give instructions to the women in the Church who were already or would be separated from their husband by Roman law, in regards to their questions about remarriage (the “how to”).
1 Cor. 7:10-11 seems to have both new and old information to the Corinthian Church by the way the command is presented (specific details with regards to remarriage). Paul said the “command” is in the present-tense (present active indicative) and not something that was clearly “commanded,” or “received” in the past (Aorist) as he later suggests in 1 Cor. 11:23: “I received from the Lord …”
Paul paraphrases the Lords commands, “Let the wife not depart from her husband and the husband is not to put away his wife.” But when Paul interjected, “But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband,” this was Paul’s specific message to this Church. For the believing Gentile women now had the capability of divorcing their husbands unlike the Jewish women before them.
Let’s venture to look at 1 Cor. 7:10-11 this way. Paul spoke a similar way to the Christian widows (vs. 39). First, he gives the woman instruction in a perfect-world scenario but afterwards gives a set of instructions to the one who no longer fits those circumstances because of a change in her life. Paul opposes that instruction with the word “but…”
[10 _][“…A wife is not to depart from_] her husband. 11 _][_But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband…”
[39 _][“A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”_]
Paul addresses all the women individually in this chapter in their right or freedom to remarry: the widows, the virgins and the divorced women. Note: Paul does not speak about the men who were widowers or those who were divorced other than when he said if they are loosed then they can marry again. This simply did not seem to be a concern or a question to the Church leaders theologically.
Paul was giving instruction by “wisdom,” “visions” and “revelation” from the Lord (Eph. 3:3, 2 Peter 3:15, 2 Cor. 12:1). Galatians 1:11-12, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul said that he was also given an abundance of revelations from the Lord (2 Cor. 12:7) and speaks later about another “gospel” message: “received from the Lord …” (1 Cor. 11:23 and 1 Cor. 15:3).
The Disciples gave instructions as they formerly witnessed for The Lord himself, “For you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:2). Paul was not a witness of the Lord’s commands while He was in His earthly ministry, but he said he saw The Lord “as by one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8).
In this culture for someone to witness or testify of Jesus they had to had “seen and heard” with their own eyes and ears (1 John 1:1-3 concerning the Word of life). The replacement disciple was chosen by understanding the importance of being a true “witness.” One of the requirements was he had to had been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry until He was taken up (Acts 1:21-22). When the disciples were questioned by the religious leaders they replied that they could only speak and testify to what they had “seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
We must be open to the simplicity or obvious perspective of the message to the reader. We can be certain of one thing, that the command of 1 Cor. 7:11a “remain unmarried or to be reconciled” was not something Paul gave as his personal opinion or judgment or else he would have said so.
When Paul said 1 Cor. 7:10-11 it must had been his interpretation of The Lord’s former commands given to him by revelation and now he is applying it to the Church living in this culture and under Roman rule. Paul would not had made an outlandish claim to remain “unmarried” or “reconcile” unless he had (obvious and known to all) further scriptural support as seen in the law and stated by Jesus (remarriage of this woman would have been clearly considered adultery Matt. 19:9).
Let’s agree that 1 Cor. 7:10-11 is the Lord’s command and not his. Let us also agree that we take this message at face value and try not to read too much into it. When all is said and done I think you’re going to find 1 Cor. 7:10-11 mirrors the messages of the Gospel accounts anyways.
Saying this was from Mark 10:11-12 (without the exception clause) would be a tremendous stretch since Matt. 19:9 and Luke 16:18 are the same recorded event but from different perspectives. Because Paul mentions the woman and the man were divorcing here does not mean this was solely from Mark either—that would be an improper deduction of scripture.
Chances are this was possibly referring to the first three years of Paul’s conversion when the Lord taught him the Gospel message by revelation (Gal. 1:17-18). If Paul was quoting the other Gospel messages about divorce he would probably have used the Greek word “put-away” just as the Lord.
In vs. 11a, as is Paul’s usual practice, he goes into a subcategory (specifics) about a woman who might divorce (or we could conclude in all cases where she initiates the divorce) from her husband (1 Cor. 7:11a).
Now, many Greek scholars and Christian commentaries would agree the proper interpretation of 1 Cor 7:11a should be, “But even if she is departed” meaning that the separation could have already taken place. Few may suggest that if that was the case than it would be unclear who the innocent party was. This would widen the scope of the divorced woman being commanded to remain unmarried or reconcile to all divorced women (excluding those who were divorced for sexual immorality). Paul is presuming that the Christian woman would be refraining from sexual sins that would cause a divorce.
The word should be (departed or separated) and not (depart or separate) in 1 Cor. 7:11a as many Bible Translations articulate according to the commentary sources on the Studylight.org website (2001-2005):
Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible: But and if she depart—or “be separated.” If the sin of separation has been committed, that of a new marriage is not to be added. (Matthew 5:32) (Jamieson, R., D.D. Fausset, A. R. Brown, D. (1871-8)
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary: 11.] ἐάν to καταλλαγήτω is parenthetical. It supposes a case of actual separation, contrary of course to Christ’s command: if such have really taken place ( καί, veritably: see note on 2 Corinthians 5:3, and Hartung, Partikell. i. 132), the additional sin of a new marriage (Matthew 5:32) must not be committed, but the breach healed as soon as possible. (Alford, H. (1863-1878)
Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 7:11. From ἐάν to καταλλ. is a parenthesis pure and simple, disjoined from the rest of the sentence which continues with καὶ ἄνδρα. But in case she should perhaps ( ἐὰν δέ) even ( καί, i.e. in fact, actually; see Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 132 f.) be separated (have separated herself); in this Paul is not granting something in the way of exception, as though the preceding injunction were not to be taken too strictly (which is set aside at once by οὐκ ἐγὼ, ἀλλʼ ὁ κύρ., 1 Corinthians 7:10), but he supposes a future case, which will possibly arise notwithstanding the commandment of the Lord’s just adduced. The ἐὰν καί therefore, with the δέ of antithesis, introduces, as in 1 Corinthians 7:28, an occurrence which will possibly be realized in the experience of the future (Hermann, a (1105) Viger. p. 834; Winer, p. 275 [E. T. 367]). This is in opposition to Rückert who maintains that the words refer to that specific case (see on 1 Corinthians 7:10), and mean: if, however, she should perhaps have already separated herself before receiving this decision; and likewise to Hofmann, who renders: if such a separation has actually already taken place within the church, thereby presupposing that such a thing will henceforth never take place there again. (Meyer, H. (1832)
Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 7:11. ἐὰν, if) This word also at the end of this verse, is to be understood of the husband—καὶ χωρισθῇ, she can even be separated [be put away: not ‘depart,’ as if of herself, Engl. Vers.]) contrary to the commandment. (Bengel, J. A. (1897)
Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible: How our translators came to translate cwrisyh, which is manifestly a verb passive, if she depart, I cannot tell. It signifieth, if she be departed, and so is as well significative of a being parted from her husband by a judicial act of divorce, as of a voluntary departing. (Poole, M. (1685)
Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible: If—A provision both for cases of separation already existing, and for separations from unavoidable causes. The party must then remain single, or if a resumption of the connexion be practicable, it must be made. (Whedon, D. (n.d.)
Mark Dunagan’s Commentary on Selected Books: 1 Corinthians 7:11 (but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband); and that the husband leave not his wife. “but should she depart”-“describes an exception whether past, present or future.” (Willis p. 221) “but if she be already parted” (Con); “if she has done so” (TCNT). (Dunagan, M. (n.d.)
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: (11) But and if she depart.—Better, but if she have actually separated. (Ellicott, C. J. (1905) (para. 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 21)
As you can see, there are quite a number of these that agree the word should be used in the past tense (-ed) and not supposed only to be a future scenario. 1 Cor. 7:10 also uses in the aorist (infinitive) “departed or separated.” Paul is not saying the wife is simply not to leave the home, but she is not to completely end the marriage.
“Why did Paul not speak about the “exception clause” in 1 Cor. 7:11 for the men?” I believe it was clearly implied by the Greek word Paul choses to use in 1 Cor. 7:11b. Note: the man is not given the same set of restrictions after a divorce (1 Cor. 7:11b).
Paul uses the Greek words in 1 Cor. 7:10-15 to indicate specific meanings— (depart/separate) Strong’s 5563; the NKJV uses (depart), and the NIV says (separate). Both use the word divorce for Strong’s 863.
1 Corinthians 7:10-16
10[_ “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to (depart/separate) from her husband.] 11[ But even if she does (depart), let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to_] divorce his wife.
12[_ But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not_] divorce her. 13[_ And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not_] divorce him…^15^[_ But if the unbeliever (depart/separate), let him (depart); a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.”_] 1 Cor. 7 (emphasis added)
The (depart/separate) word in 1 Cor. 7:10, 11a, 15 in Greek is similarly used by Jesus when He said “man should not separate what God joined together” (Matt. 19:6). We also know this word (depart/separate) is referring to a complete divorce because verse 11 says she was to remain “unmarried;” meaning a divorce had occurred.
Matt 19:6 shows that the Jews were separating marriages not necessarily according to the Law of Moses. So, this word could be used universally. It basically (generally) means what happens when people divorce. One thing is very clear, there is no real intent suggested by Paul for the (depart/separate); thus Paul was not stating this was a divorce approved by the Law of Moses nor is he stating against it.
I believe the Greek word divorce in 1 Cor. 7:11b, 12, and 13 is used to mean that the believer may believe have a proper reason, accusation (an underlining biblical theme) or grounds for the legitimate divorce (thus suggesting separate/depart was not legitimate by Jewish Law in contrast).
Divorce (Strong’s 863) in Greek gives more of a traditional or legal feel (specific intent is implied). This word closely relates to the “put away” sought by a husband from the Mosaic Law. Since this is a rare form of this word it provides an idea of the type of divorce sought. The words Paul uses here are to be understood that he is answering the people in their language/culture from their former proposed question.
Although David Instone-Brewer and I would disagree what constitutes divorce and remarriage, we would both agree there was important significance by Paul put on these two words as seen in Graeco-Roman Marriage and Divorce Papyri (2001):
Some commentators have tried to give a reason why 1 Corinthians 7 contains both the common verb χωρίζω (1 Cor. 7:10, 11, 15) and the less common verb ἀφίημι (1 Cor. 7:11, 12, 13)…
“But some time afterward, when Salome happened to quarrel with Costobarus, she sent him a document (γραμμάτιον) and dissolved her marriage (ἀπολυομένη τὸν γάμον) with him, though this was not according to the Jewish laws; for with us it is lawful for a husband to do so; but a wife, if she departs from (διαχωρισθείσῃ) her husband, cannot of herself be married to another, unless her former husband put her away (ἐφιέντος).” (Josephus Ant. 15.7.10, 259)
Josephus is making a distinction between the Graeco-Roman divorce by-separation, for which he uses διαχωρίζω, and the further step in Jewish divorce of releasing the woman to remarry by giving her a divorce certificate, for which he uses ἀφίημι. These are very similar to the Pauline uses of χωρίζω and ἀφίημι, though only in emphasis. (Graeco-Roman Marriage and Divorce Papyri, para. 9)
For the general public the Jewish woman was not allowed by Jewish law to “put away” her husband. Josephus seems to make a similar distinction in the Greek words as Paul (1 Cor. 7:10-15). Josephus also states this was against accepted culture. So, from this we can tell how the common Jew would have sought to divorce in their culture under Roman divorce law.
A lot about this Church was out of control and some of the women needed to be taught issues regarding gender differences (1 Cor. 11:1-15), which caused some contention in the early church (1 Cor. 11:16) and a stirring up in the Church service. Hence, Paul had to tell them to keep silent (1 Cor. 14:34-38).
Jesus never hinted that it was permitted for the woman to “put away” her husband for sexual immorality according to the law. So, can a Christian woman divorce her husband for sexual immorality and marry another man? The answer Paul shows here from Jesus’ commands in 1 Cor. 7:10-11 is “no!”
God hates divorce and Jesus commands Christians to resist it by all means possible; because, as Jesus suggests in Matt 19 that it is due to the “hardness of man’s heart.” Jesus said if you commit adultery it is “against” (Mark 10:11-12) your former spouse by improperly remarrying someone else. Never do two wrongs make a right, but marriage and divorce must be tested by Scripture (permission/concession).
Conclusion: Paul did not command the woman who left the innocent spouse to “remain unmarried” before he told her to “reconcile” because he gave all women license to remain unmarried; for Matt. 5:32 mandates this spouse first reconciles in order not to “cause” adultery. This gives further validity that the woman in 1 Cor. 7:11a is referring to all divorced women regardless of the situation in which the divorce occurred.
Paul uses the explicit word “rest” (other or remaining) in 1 Cor. 7:12. This Greek word is used to address the remaining individuals who were not previously spoken of (1 Cor. 7:10-11). Paul was continuing his teaching to those in the Church (vs. 1-9). Paul then reiterates to them about remaining married again in vs. 12-13 so they do not abuse his later permissions. The reason Paul does this is because he was giving his personal set of instruction next and wanted it to be crystal clear who he was speaking about. Jesus commands were for all people regarding the Law of Moses, but Paul understood the Church needed additional instruction having Gentiles under Gentile laws.
Later in this letter, Paul anticipates the contentions from some of his teachings in 1 Cor. 14:37 and said if anyone is spiritual or a prophet, let them acknowledge that the things he said, “…are the commandments of the Lord.” Paul’s point is that he learned many of the teachings in this letter directly from the Lord, Himself. Please understand that the questions in the Church’s former letter were not, “Paul, what do you think about this?” But their questions were, “What did Jesus teach about this or that?” For, it looks like Paul felt a need to defend his own opinions in his letter to the Church as itself valuable and weighty (1 Cor. 7:25b, 40b).
Since Paul said “rest” in 1 Cor. 7:12 it is extremely important to note that he is not superseding the Lord’s commands in any way. This makes us question, “Why would the Lord not comment on the married persons being married to unbelievers?” So we can deduct that Paul’s decision about the “rest” was probably some period of time after the Lord’s original commands were given to him.
By Paul using the Greek word “rest” he was indicating that this next group of people was excluded from the Lord’s previous commands because of a new or different set of circumstances that were not previously addressed by Jesus (the clean marrying the unclean).
The former Gospel messages concerning divorce and remarriage were according to the Law of Moses in which the whole world was to be judged:
[14 _][“(…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,] [_15 _][_who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves] their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 _][_in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” Rom 2
Paul was answering the Church by letter primarily speaking of the Lord’s commands; next his own set of commands (as having the Holy Spirit); and lastly giving some concessions from his own opinion that were not commands (1 Cor. 7:6, 35). Paul distinguished very clearly between what The Lord had commanded and his own instruction to the Church.
For Paul to address divorcing the unbelieving spouses he wanted to first speak about divorce taught by Jesus to remind them of this great command and Whom it came from in order to make his next point. Paul is addressing the part a Christian plays or partakes in the divorce (initiator or receiver).
Paul said the women are more emotionally driven (Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression) and are weaker vessels (regarding abuses 1 Peter 3:7 and Mal 2:16 cover violence with his garment). Since these women had a chance to divorce their husband (evident in Mark 10:11-12) they might be more prone to separate from him. But more than likely, Paul could have been answering a question or concern (1 Cor. 5 “It is actually reported…) about these women in the church who are divorced or might be divorced (in a former letter) if they could marry again. This is similar to those who might have asked Paul in the previous letter if “widows” could or should remarry (1 Cor. 7:39-40).
Paul said about younger widows and the weakness of their flesh, “But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith” (1 Tim. 5:11-12). A younger divorced woman would struggle with these same types of temptations.
[12 _][“But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.] [_13 _][_And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.] 14 _][_For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” 1 Cor. 7
After Paul teaches about the “basics” and unarguable teachings of the Lord (as also seen in Matt. 5:31-32, and Matt. 19:9) he is able to, with reason, teach (from his own judgments as having the Spirit of God in him verse 26 and 40) that a believer should never divorce an unbeliever “as long as they are willing” to remain in the marriage.
Paul does not tell the woman to remain with her unbelieving husband in verse 13 because Jesus made all the gender roles equal in regards to divorce and remarriage, but only to set up his next point in verse 15. That way Paul makes it very clear to both the men and women in verse 15 that they are not to abuse this commendation.
[15 _][“But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such_] cases. But God has called us to peace. 16 _][_For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” 1 Cor. 7
1 Cor. 7:15 Paul gives permission for the believer (man or woman) to let the marriage be divorced. Permission would be an improper word to use. The proper word would be a command. The Greek word Paul uses for the believer is in the Greek imperative mood. That means that this is not a “permission” to divorce your spouse due to abandonment as supposed by some.
The Jews in Matt. 19:9 did not question the law of Ezra nor did this seem like a big enough problem (Sermon on the Mount Matt. 5:28-32) for Jesus to address to the majority. But, now believers being married to unbelievers seem to have a similar problem in marriage as they had before. Unbelievers are called uncircumcised in heart and unclean to touch (2 Cor. 6:17). We are called not to be unequally yoked to them but to come out from them and be “ye” separate.
This is simply a “hypothetical situation” that Paul is addressing. Paul is saying, “If the unbeliever wishes to stay (live with you) then stay married to them. If, on the other hand, the unbeliever wishes to leave the marriage then let them leave.” He is only addressing this question in an either-or scenario.
Paul stating the (separate/depart) in the present tense does not describe the reason for the divorce or when the divorce will be final, but simply the desire and initial response of the unbeliever to end the marriage. Paul is telling them not to try and prevent it.
We get the same feel in 1 Cor. 7:9 and 36 “let them marry.” Not that they need permission to marry legally, but do not prevent them from their freedoms. When Paul said, “let them separate” he is saying don’t try to prevent, stop or make it difficult for the unbeliever to take advantage of their legal rights. It’s commonly accepted that divorces were allowed legally by the drop of a hat during the first century under Rome reign.
By Paul commanding the believer to “separate” he did not want the believer to force, fight, cling, or refuse the wanted divorce by the unbeliever. Not only are they told not to resist the divorce, they are also instructed to separate themselves physically and, if need be, be in agreement within any legal proceedings (as seen below).
David Instone-Brewer continues later on in the same document (parentheses are added where David indicates abbreviations) and exhibits a “Divorce Deed” of 13 BC in Eqypt, Graeco-Roman Marriage and Divorce Papyri (2001):
“To the Protarchus, from (wife) with her guardian (wife’s brother) and from (husband). (Wife) and (husband) agree that they have separated from each other (κεχωρίσ[θ]αι ἀπ ̓ ἀλλήλων), severing their union which they had formed on the basis of an agreement made at [time and place]. (Wife) acknowledges that she has received from (husband) by hand from his house the material which he received for dowry and [list of parapherna]. The agreement of marriage shall henceforth be null (ἄκυρον)…” Divorce Deed, 13 BC, Alexandria, Egypt (GD-13 = BGU.1103). Translation based on Hunt, Select Papyri I, pp. 22-25. (Graeco-Roman Marriage and Divorce Papyri, para. 23 aprox.)
Paul said the Law of Ezra 10:3 had been satisfied (1 Cor. 7:14) by the Spirit sanctifying the unbelieving spouse in marriage; hence they are no longer required to put away their once thought “unclean” spouse. Since this law has been satisfied, Paul understands that they could have felt a responsibility to only allow a divorce according to the Law of Moses. For, they understood by Jesus’ teachings that a divorce apart from this law in God’s commandments is not a real divorce at all!
Jesus said, according to the law, if you divorce your spouse without the case of sexual immorality in the marriage, you cause your spouse to commit adultery, and if you are ever to marry again, you would be committing adultery (Matt. 5:31-32). So, you can see how the believer might have felt trapped and confused about the marriage; and if they continued on with Paul’s logic from verse 14 for they would have thought they were bound to remain in it.
Paul did not want them to consider themselves in “bondage” to the marriage in order to satisfy the strictness of the letter of the law or in obedience to Paul’s command’s here. Paul wanted them to focus on mercy, grace and love. For Jesus said if you love your neighbor you fulfill the law.
The “Law” is described many times in Scripture as those “weak and beggarly elements”; and we are told not to become under “bondage” to it again. Paul typically refers to the law as bondage or slavery (Gal. 4:24-25). Paul said that there were those in the Church who would misuse the Law of Moses, like circumcision also seen in this chapter and try to bring others in the Church into bondage again (Gal 5:1, 2 Cor. 11:20). They would command obedience while not walking in the Spirit of love. They would twist scripture and deceive others leading them astray.
When 1 Cor. 7:15 said the believer is not under “bondage” this is not the same Greek word used in 1 Cor. 7:27 “bound.” The bondage word could be defined as “enslaved.” The picture we get of this word is the same picture Paul uses later to speak to the unmarried person after instructing them personally to rather remain single, “not that I may put a leash on you” (1 Cor. 7:35). Since 1 Cor. 7:15 says “bondage” we get a stronger feel than the word “leash.” Both of these words were referring back to Paul’s previous instructions to the Church.
The word “leash” also has a negative connotation as does “bondage.” And since this is the case, we can suppose Paul is referring back to a strong sense/command felt from Paul’s previous command; so strong in fact that they may have felt that they had no choice but to keep it.
Now if the verse just said, “Not in bondage to the brother or sister but God called us to peace” then that would have us wonder what they felt in bondage to. But since it says, “in such case” it leads us to consider the obligations previously mentioned.
(For a cross reference of the word “bondage” we can look at 2 Peter 2:19 “by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage [enslaved].”)
Paul tells them they are no longer in bondage using this reasoning, “For God has called us to peace.” Only by understanding his contrary point to the fact, “…but God has called us to peace” can we back track and start to comprehend the “bondage” that Paul was referring to.
To better understand the “called” us to peace that Paul is talking about we can use the continued context of the word used in the next few verses. Paul goes on to tell us to remain in the calling which “God called him” vs. 17. “Was a man already circumcised when he was called?” vs. 18. Each man should “remain in the situation which he was in when God called him” vs. 20. “Were you a slave when you were called?” vs. 21. Finally, “Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called” vs. 24.
When Paul tells us “God called us to peace” he is referring to the situation and circumstances in life that they were originally saved in (in the marriage with the unbeliever). We are told to try and live peacefully with all men if at all possible (Rom 12:18). Paul now tells the believers to separate from their unbelieving spouses if it is needed for peace sake.
1 Cor. 7:16 “For how do you know, Oh (wife/husband) if you will save (your spouse)…” Paul is releasing them from any guilt (by reasoning) because of their sincere desire, feelings of responsibility, and thwarted ability from no longer being able to bring their unbelieving spouses to the saving knowledge of Jesus (to possibly win them over through words or witnessing by observing their changed character – 1 Peter 3:1).
But not only guilt, for remember since kids were probably involved (vs. 14) and still having a true love for their spouse (newly saved themselves) they could have been possibly trying to save their marriage by thinking that their spouse might someday be saved or tried to stay married until such time.
It was the inner worry that Paul was concerned about, “…if you will save…” that would have caused an outer struggle and confusion with the believer. It is possible that by Paul mentioning 1 Cor. 7:16 that this might have been a concern brought to his attention by the former letter. Paul is not at all talking about the freedom to remarry at this point; he is only addressing the freedom to divorce the unbeliever “in such case” as this.
Paul is not saying you can remarry and he is not saying you cannot remarry. Scripture should always dictate when a man or woman is “loosed” from their marriage covenant and no longer “bound” to a wife/husband (1 Cor. 7:26-27). But now we have a different question. After a divorce allowed by Paul but contrary to the Law of Moses, can the believer remarry?
Paul then seems to almost leave the remarriage question unanswered. However, since he is very thorough in his teaching concerning every remarriage question one would suppose that would simply not be the case (as opposed to 1 Cor. 7:9, 11a, 28, 36, 39).
Some people believe the Greek word “not under bondage” is Paul releasing them from the bondage of marriage. This isn’t the case because he is only answering the question if the divorce should even be allowed by the believer; besides, we don’t consider marriage “slavery.”
Paul’s main purpose for quoting Jesus in 1 Cor. 7:10-11 is to remind the Church that Jesus did not condone divorce. [When Jesus spoke about Moses’ law in the Gospel accounts He focused mainly on remarriage, but when Paul spoke about Jesus commands he focused primarily on divorce.]
I believe the answer is in its simplicity. Paul does not seem to give an obvious blanket statement about remarriage either way here because he already gave it. Paul told the “separated” woman to “remain unmarried or be reconciled” and later gives instruction to the “loosed” man vs. 27-28. Paul was now leaving it up for them to judge each believer’s situation according to their complete understanding of the O.T. Law by Jesus teachings (1 Cor. 7:10-11). For their question was not, “Can we remarry after we divorce an unbeliever?” But rather, “Should we divorce them?” It shows they must have had thorough understanding of the Law in all other regards.
One thing I find strange is Paul’s use of “slavery” terms throughout this chapter in regards to them: single (yoke around you), marriage (bound, in vs. 26, 39) and divorce (not bondage, free, loosed). Afterwards, Paul even talked about actually being a “slave” in the middle of this marriage teaching. I can imagine that these terms are used in legal marriage language (loosely spoken) as we do today—“the marriage bond.”
“Bondage” in vs. 15 is a term used to describe forced obligations in obedience to something or someone outside of your control. Paul would have used the Greek word “loosed” to show them that they were free to marry again and not the words “Not under bondage.”
An example: If someone writes, “The boy’s shoelace is ‘not tied’” this does not clearly suggest that the shoelace was ever tied in the first place; however, if a person wrote, “The boy’s shoelace is ‘untied’ (loosed)” then that would suggest that it was more-than-likely tied at one point then later untied. So, in this case the word “loosed” would have been a more descriptive word (as used in verse 26-27) if Paul was primarily trying to tell the believer that they are free to remarry now.
The unbeliever seems to be only “sanctified” as long as they remain married to the believer. Paul reasons with them that if the unbeliever was not sanctified than their children would also be unclean. Therefore, to further reason, if you thought you were commanded to put away your unclean spouse you would therefore be required (without saying) by the same Law to put away your children (Ezra 10:3). They knew that this simply could not be the case.
[17 _][“But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches.”_] 1 Cor. 7
I believe the paragraph brake should end here and a new one should start in verse 18 as in some translations of the Bible. Paul, in essence, is encouraging the believer to continue in this new way of life in which they have found themselves. Paul said God called you here and He knows where you are at. Not only that, but Paul said God appointed you to this life. While on this subject he addresses those who were uncircumcised and slaves to also be content in their present circumstances.
There are two distinctive things in 1 Cor. 7:15 compared with the rest of the verses concerning divorce. First, it looks like divorce is fairly easy; and second, it looks like the unbeliever wants the divorce. Nowhere does 1 Cor. 7:15 suggest the unbeliever wishes to someday divorce; it simply states that he or she initiated the divorce already.
So, when Paul tells the believer to “let him depart” he is giving the opposing message in verses 12-13 “let not divorce.” When Paul tells the believers to “let him depart” in 1 Cor. 7:15, he is giving them direction using the present tense. Paul ends saying as Jesus similarly said, “Let the dead bury the dead” and “come follow me.” Paul now says in 1 Cor. 7:17-24 “so let him walk…”
(Jer. 3:1-14, 2 Kings 17:6, Jer. 31:31, Heb. 8:8-13)
When God referenced “breaking the covenant” He was going back to the Law of Moses in Deut. 24:1 (spiritual adultery). He does it because she “leaves” the marriage (similar as the unbelieving spouse left 1 Cor. 7:15) living in adultery, but stays married to unfaithful Judah because she was still “willing” (as the unbelievers in 1 Cor. 7:12-13) to return to the marriage.
But some may say, “Well, what do we do if our wife calls herself a believer but is living in adultery?” The Church has a clear command shown in 1 Cor. 5:1-5 that such a believer should be expelled from the Church, if no repentance is shown, then you can follow the Lord’s lead as Jer. 3:8-9.
What does the Bible say about “domestic violence?” Paul does not address this. Jesus does not speak about this. To separate would go against scripture if the other spouse is not in full support of it – 1 Cor. 7:3-9. There is a case for defending the helpless, but long term or permanent separation would be very dangerous (to be tempted by Satan) and spoken directly against in Scripture.
Concerning continued abuse: Church discipline should be applied as any other habitual or practiced sin that crept into the Church infecting the majority (a little bit of yeast leavens the whole lump).
[25 _][“Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy.] [_26 _][_I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that] it is good for a man to remain as he is: 27 _][_Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 _][_But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.” 1 Cor. 7
It is also important to comprehend this passage when it comes to remarriage. Paul as usual speaks to the “men” as leaders of the Church. This is not one of Jesus’ commands but Paul is going to give judgment as whom the Lord finds faithful.
Paul is not giving a new teaching about divorce or remarriage here! He is addressing the question the church had about “virgins” and if they should marry knowing the days were short (Jesus coming) and life was difficult. It says in 1 Tim 4:3 that some will, in the latter days; refuse people from marrying (1 Cor. 7:1 told not to “touch” a woman).
This teaching was to answer their questions about marriage since these virgins were considered pure, undefiled and not burning with passion or lacking in self-control. Paul previously suggested that Christians who were “unmarried” but struggling and falling to those sexual sins (1 Cor. 7:2, 8-9) should marry. In 1 Cor. 7:8 the “unmarried” and “widows” were the same group of people Paul is now addressing again in 1 Cor. 7:25-40. Of course the “virgins” are a thin category of the “unmarried.”
It is important to note that the reason Paul is addressing the men who were “loosed” because they also possessed a freedom to get married (all biblically unmarried men). Paul thought to group them all together for it would be expedient to answer any lingering questions about marriage/remarriage for any person who was biblically able to marry again, since they now fell under the same category of not “sinning” to marry.
This word could be translated “virginity” and not solely regarding a virgin woman; although, the word in Greek is in the feminine. Rev. 14:4 suggests that men were also called virgins (Greek it was stated in the masculine). Many commentaries and bible translations suggest that these “virgins” spoken here were both men and women in the Church. This would seem to make since for the individual person is instructed in 1 Cor. 7:9 to assess their own desires concerning marriage. The Church was given direction to let them (that group of people) to get married if they so desired (“let them marry” vs. 9 and vs. 36).
The reason Paul calls the women in 1 Cor. 7:34 either a “virgin” or a “wife” is that he wanted to be very clear here that divorced Christian women were not allowed to remarry. The reason being, a Christian woman would never commit adultery. So any divorced Christian woman would be commanded to “remain unmarried or be reconciled with her husband” (vs. 11). Men were not called “virgins” in 1 Cor. 7:32 because Paul did include some divorced men as marriageable “unmarried” men.
1 Cor. 7:36, “But if anyone think that he behaves unseemly to his virginity, if he be beyond the flower of his age, and so it must be, let him do what he will, he does not sin: let them marry. 37 But he who stands firm in his heart, having no need, but has authority over his own will, and has judged this in his heart to keep his own virginity, he does well.” Darby Translation (also seen in The Emphasized Bible by J.B. Rotherham in 1902)
[39 _][“A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.] [_40 _][_But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment—and I think I also have the Spirit of God.”] 1 Cor. 7
In 1 Cor. 7:39 the last group of people that he has yet to be fully address (the topic has not yet been explained) are the “widows.” Some were confused whether a woman could or should marry again if her former husband “slept.” This was probably due to the understanding that he lives forever and is only “sleeping.” Possibly due to the thinking that the women will join their husband in heaven someday or still somehow bound to their sleeping spouse (guilt or duty).
Paul than said that you are free to remarry if your husband sleeps (or dies) but only marry in the Lord. The logic Paul uses is because she is no longer bound to the “law of her husband” set by God (Gen. 3:16 and Rom. 7:1-2). Paul suggests later in 1 Tim 5 that the “younger widows” remarry rather than burn with passion; but said the older widows should be content in their present circumstances being helped by their family and if not than the Church should help (through the Widows’ fund).
Reader: “So, let me see if I got this right. You’re saying only the Christian man can divorce his wife for adultery?”
Author: “No!!!” Jesus never said the Christian man is permitted to put away his wife for adultery (which was Moses concession) but to the contrary, clearly stating that all believers should not separate what God joined together (Matt. 19:6, 1 Cor. 7:10-11).
1 Cor. 7:15 was not written for the instruction about a fellow believer who leaves the marriage due to a fight or an argument (flight syndrome). Rather, it was written for the sole purpose of an unbeliever (sanctified only vs. 14) who wants out of the marriage due to your religious faith (not born again).
New Spirit: Jesus does not give “permission” for a man to divorce his wife for sexual immorality in Matt. 19:9, but only acknowledges that if a man does he would not be guilty of adultery if he married another. For what those under the Law of Moses are unable to do having a carnal mind Rom. 8:7; we are now able to accomplish the righteous requirements of the law (Romans 8:4) in the “Spirit.” Gal. 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”
New Heart: Jesus said, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives” Matt. 19:8. But scripture says we are given a “new heart” Ezek. 36:26 and no longer need to live in the hardheartedness or bitterness of heart to “put away” our wives. We are instead given the command to obey Christ in all righteousness, forgiveness, and mercy. For, when Christ appears we shall be like Him. Your heart should cry out to your unfaithful wife – Jer. 3:12 “‘return back sliding Israel…for I am merciful’ said the Lord.” The example we get in the Bible is to remain married to your wife as long as she might be willing to “return” to you.
Be Holy: We are commanded to be Holy as God is Holy. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. In Jer. 3:8-9 God gives us His example of staying married even though His wife Judah was unfaithful to Him (as 1 Cor. 7:12-13) and only divorces Israel because she was unfaithful and wouldn’t return. We are told not to obey the Law of Moses which gives us “permission” to put away our wives but Christ alone. It says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Gal. 3:10).
We are commanded to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the “letter” of the law which brings only “death.” Obey the true will of God from the heart and not as the world does, but do not separate what He had joined together Matt. 19:6.
Christ commands the man to love his wife as He did the Church and gave His life for it (Eph. 5:25). If a man loves his wife he will not hurt her in any way either “physiologically or physically” (Waltke, 2009, personal email correspondence).
Though we “are made dead to the law (Law of Moses)” and are “not under law” any longer; we are “not without law to God,” but “in-the-law of Christ.” That is the “law of liberty.” For living in the Spirit we fulfill the “righteousness of the law,” that is, the “law of God.” We do not destroy the law through our “faith,” but to “establish the Law” (Rom. 3:31).
Paul said such sexual immorality should not even be named among you (example 1 Cor. 5:1). Paul is not blind to the sexual immorality in the Church (1 Cor. 6:17 – Christian man with a harlot; and 1 Cor. 7:1-3 – because of “fornication”). But Paul expects every Christian to live a godly life with all purity and holiness (1 Thess. 4:3-8) and said whoever rejects this does not reject man “but God” who had given the Apostles His “Holy Spirit.”
God had given us strength to walk in the newness of life and not to put away our wives due to the hardness of our hearts, but to return back to the design of marriage as “in the beginning.” This is the heart of the Lord God and the true teachings of Jesus Matt. 19:2-8. For the measure we use against others is the same measure that shall be used against us on Judgment Day.
We are to “test” all things through the Doctrines the Apostles gave (Epistles) and the Scriptures given by holy men (Old Testament) and Jesus. If situations are not directly related to a specific doctrine given then I say go ahead to test it by the heart of these teachings; but Paul feels confident that the Corinthians had all they needed giving a detailed instruction by this letter to both the men and the women (1 Cor. chapter 7). We are to submit to one another in “love” and then we will fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law.
Solomon is born by King David with “Uriah’s wife” and Herodias is called the “wife of Philip” Mark 6:18. In the improper taking of a wife from another the bible still speaks of the first spouse as “the husband or wife of.” As David said, even in darkness “You” are there.
But…this book is not intended to end all divorces nor should it! There is a time for every season. God hates divorce for it separates what He joined together, which in the “beginning” was designed to be for life. But God, not being evil, put Israel away who broke the covenant, “Where is the certificate of your mother’s divorce?” If that branch was not broken off us Gentiles would not have been grafted in.
Divorces should not be taken lightly though. Judges 19 illustrates a story where a wife plays the harlot and flees to her father’s house. The husband waits four months and returns to her in “kindness” to respectfully ask her to return back to the marriage. If at that point she was still unwilling than I suppose he would have had a more righteous cause to divorce her as we could gather, for that would have been an alternative logical point of that story (long suffering and unwilling to return).
Conclusion: after hearing what God’s desire is for marriage and developing a full understanding of what Jesus said in Matt. 19:9 the proper response should be the same as His disciples, “If such is the case of the man and his wife, it is better not to marry.” He who is able to accept it, let him accept it—Jesus.
“And the good thing to get out of it over all, is I don’t ever EVER believe in divorce just like Christ did.” —Anonymous reader
Special Thanks: To Stratton Wells and Family. I had help from a word by a friend Adam. And a huge thank you to David I.B.!
Love you all brothers and sisters, Michael Sayen
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Reccord, B. (n.d.). Reversing the marriage implosion: It’s a covenant, not a contract! Retrieved September 1, 2010, http://www.sermoncentral.com/articleb.asp?article=Bob-Reccord-Reversing-Marriage-Implosion&ac=true
Robertson, A. T., MA., D.D., LL.D., Litt.D., (n.d.). Chapter III divorce and remarriage texts in Jesus’ Teaching. Tennessee Bible College, see A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Retrieved (no longer available on Web Site) 2010, from http://tn-biblecollege.edu/remarriage-ch3.shtml. (Can also be found: CHAPTER XVI, The Article (TO ;ARQRON): (d) Several attributives with Kai,., VIII: The Absence of the Article, para 1. Referenced from On Swth,r in ZNTW, v. 335 f. Retrieved April 30, 2015 from http://lareopage.free.fr/ggnt/robertson_16.htm#fnr116)
Robertson, P. O. (1980) The Christ of the covenants. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R.
Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:11. (2001-2005). Studylight Web site. Retrieved 2015 from http://www.studylight.org/commentary/1-corinthians/7-11.html
Waltke B. (2009, August 16). Professor of Old Testament. Referenced from a gracious personal email correspondence to me.
Here is the answer for the controversial exception clause, “if not for fornication” Matt. 19:9.
Many people are asking the meaning of this Greek word “porneia” that is translated in some Bibles as “fornication” but in others as “sexual immorality.”
What’s the big deal? Some people may not see a real important need for this but it has large theological implications!
1 Cor 6:16 tells the believer not to be involved with porneia with a harlot because God warns him, by reminding us, that the “two shall become one flesh.” For, a believer should not become one with a harlot! Theory asks if the wife by the “seed” of another man (Num. 5:13) becoming “one flesh”(Mal.2:15) that is reserved strictly for having “godly offspring” is what breaks the marriage covenant (Deut. 24:1).
The other side of the argument asks if the spouses “nakedness” (a possible translation of Deut. 24:1 “uncleanness”) which is reserved only for your spouse is what breaks the covenant with her husband (Deut. 24:1). Lev. 18:8 & 16 says if a wife exposes her nakedness she also exposes the nakedness of her husband. Although, this is in the context of fornication it still shows the shame of exposing one’s nakedness with another. Noah’s son, Ham also was severely chasten (cursed) for looking at the nakedness of his father (Gen. 9). As well as other Old Testament scriptures speak of the shame of one’s “nakedness.”
To find this answer there are five major factors to consider:
1) The great debate of Hillel and Shammai.
2) This word is rare in Classical Greek but used in the Septuagint.
3) The common understanding of that word in their culture.
4) Other contexts of the New Testament.
5) Matt. 5:31-32, 19:9 use of both “porneia” and “moichao” to portray two different meanings.
First (1) the people quoted Hillel but Jesus response was similar to Shammai but instead of Hebrew it’s in Greek. Shammai said in Gittin 9:10 and similar in Sifre Deut.269 , “unless he found in her unchasity.” The sentence structure is too similar to ignore. As David I.B. said in a personal email to me, “The Hebrew translated “unchastity” in your translation is devar ‘ervah – ie the Hebrew of Deut.24.1 (ervat davar) turned around so that it is “an indecent thing” rather than “a thing of indecency”.” This is Shammai’s attempt to derive an exact definition (adultery) in Hebrew to another Hebrew term. This is important to remember latter.
Hillel had interpreted Deut. 24:1 “ervat dava” as two entirely separate meanings. The first word as “indecency” and the second word “matter” as a separate clause to consider as seen in the book Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible (David I.B. 2002). Hillel’s school interpreted “matter” as “any matter” and “indecency” simmular to Shammia’s “adultery.” So, Hillel’s thought is that a man could divorce for adultery or any matter. Most simply took the “any matter” clause.
It’s important to realize both schools were looking for a “matter”. Shammia was looking for a “matter of adultery” and Hillel for “any matter”. This will be an important point to consider by the end of this paper when trying to decipher what Matt. 5:31-32, 19:3 & 9 meant to the first century Jewish man.
Dr. David Instone-Brewer in Jesus and Divorce (2006) said, “[Jesus’] Greek word porneia has the same vague meaning as the Hebrew ervah”.
Second (2) since Classical Greek had little use of the word “porneia” we can suppose its heavy influence was primarily the Septuagint that they used of the Old Testament that was translated into Greek about 3-2 BC. The Greek word “porneia” is used in the Septuagint for the Hebrew word “zanut”. Zanut is the very common word for “harlot” or “prostitute” or the verbs “to be or act” like one.
History: The Septuagint is the Latin word for seventy (6 scholars from each tribe) and signified by the Roman numerals LXX. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The reason for the translation was the Greek king of Egypt asked for the translation of the Torah to be included in the Library of Alexandria. The Septuagint is quoted in the New Testament and in Paul’s epistles (Septuagint 2015 Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia).
Third (3) you must take in effect how the word “porneia” may have lightly changed its meaning due to time and culture. I use this as three because this seems to have little claim to the word but it is a point that should not be completely ignored. Jesus is quoted twice in Mark as speaking Aramaic (Mark 5:41, Mark 15:34 (John 19:13, 17)). Aramaic was thought to be the common tongue of that time as the Jews were lead out of Babylon which used Palestinian language. So, more than likely Jesus was multi lingual and addressed the majority in the Sermon on the Mount according to the common tongue; although, there were also Jews (Matt. 19:1-2) that were from a Greek speaking area. Matthew was a tax collector for the Romans so he knew Greek quite well and could have transcribed Jesus speech himself if Jesus did speak either in Greek or Aramaic (or even Hebrew). For Jesus’ language that was used had recently been debated. Possibly Matthew had written the book in Aramaic and soon later (first century writings) it was transcribed into Greek (possible known debate). But either way we must suppose that the use or idea of porneia (in the first century Greek language and culture) was the idea Jesus was trying to portray to the multitude even if this was possible not the exact word that was said.
Four (4) context of the word used throughout the New Testament where sexual intercourse is primarily suggested, but possibly, not exclusive. This seems to be almost the exclusive word used for sexual sins of any kind throughout the New Testament (Acts 15:20, 29 and 1 Thess. 4:2-3).
Fifth (5) by using both moichao and porneia in the same sentence this would seem to create a different word picture in the Jewish mind (of course we know that both these words have to do with sex, sin and two people). This would seem to strongly suggest that porneia was a broader term that could include a variance of other sexual sins but more specifically referring to a promiscuous sin or lifestyle.
Therefore, I propose that instead of trying to define the word “porneia” (the level or depth of sexuality does not seem to be its primary intent) I suggest we go back to its Hebrew root word zanut (since that’s its original intended use) and define the word as an idea (harlot, prostitute, whore) and the actions typically associated with them. If porneia meant strictly intercourse then my presumption is Mathew would have used the Greek word moichao instead of porneia. And imagine telling Jews, according to the Law of Moses, that Moses meant “adultery” for Deut. 24:1 when they knew quite well that the Law said adultery requires stoning (John 8:1-12). But, the most important factor was God divorced Israel for also playing the “harlot” (zanah) as Judah in Jer. 3:8. Jesus cleverly answers the concession for divorce was to be the same standard God used. Therefore, Jesus seems to not be trying to give a definition but a mere classification of sin.
P.S. For those who believe that Jesus quoted Shammia then they would have to believe in his lineal interpretation. I told you I would get to this later. Shammai believed Deut. 24:1 was speaking about adultery. And if that were the case then why did Jesus say the Greek words moichao and porneia in both Matt. 5:31-32 and 19:9. These are the two major concerns about Deut. 24:1. Since the Hebrew equivalent for zanut is porneia in the Septuagint I am not sure if Shammia’s devar ‘ervah is translated porneia as well, but it is possible. But even so, since this exception clause is also used in Matt. 5:32 without Hillel’s comments or philosophy then it would have me question a direct correlation between the two (Jesus siding with Hillel or Shammia). But I do want to note that all of Jesus responses in the Sermon on the Mount, “But, I say to you…” are all “shockers” that even in our views today seem quite extreme. Furthermore, with the Disciples response in Matt. 19:10 (is it better not to marry?) being that they were in “shock” would reinforce the high requirement of “porneia” in order to put away a wife to the Jewish mind. Since there was open dialog with the Disciples in Matt. 19:10 it looks like there was no question as far as what porneia meant to them. Also, Matt. 5:32 looks like Jesus expected the multitude to understand what this word meant (not arguing about its definition as we do today).
In the Old Testament, daughters had a bridal price that was usually associated with their virginity (Deut. 22:13-21, Exodus 22:16-17). And if a girl was found to not be a virgin on her wedding day she was considered a “zanah” or whore if she still lived under her father’s roof (Deut. 22:21). There really was no other name used for a sexually sinful woman. So, it was proper to use the Greek word “porneia” for a prostitute or harlot but since sexuality ran rapid they also commonly used porneia as a reference for all fornication and sexual sins in the NT. It was pretty much a “catch-all” phrase with a large variant of usages. Somewhat similar to the way we use the English words “porn” today but because of its history and the Greek language the word porneia is primarily interpreted by its context. If context in no way suggests the use of the word then fornication is the first assumption.
Conclusion: Porneia was used for a harlot, whore, prostitute, in inappropriate nakedness exposed with another, sexual activity, fornication and adultery. It was used as a noun and a verb. Porneia was a sexual sin that used the body (1 Cor. 6 “sin against the body”) in a way that did not bring glory to God but in perversion. Porneia was used way too many times and different contexts in the New Testament for me to fully believe that it was referring to intercourse only. Although, I do agree it was always referred to both the physical body with or towards another and the actions associated with a harlot or prostitute. I.e. Bathsheba bathing naked on the rooftop may not be an action called porneia but a girl posing naked for a magazine sure would be. Porneia- is the use of, or using the body for sexual pleasure/reasons (and not just bathing the body).
Romans 1:24 “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
It’s not a perfect translation, but since porneia came into use for the Jews from the Hebrew word “zanut” in the Septuagint, I like to say, “Whoever puts away a wife, if not for zanut, commits adultery.” It gives me a clearer picture of what Jesus might have been really saying since He was speaking to the Jews about the Old Testament Law.
My last words… I believe the answer to this riddle is really spelled out in Matt. 5:31-32. Every one of Jesus’ statements, “It has been said…but I say to you…” Is a very escalated, but real, judgment of Jesus over the current abuses of Moses’ Law. They said that Jesus spoke with Authority and not as the Scribes and Pharisees. Matt. 5:31-32 is no different. Jesus is on the Judgment seat and will be administering His judgments according to Moses, “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.” The difference between Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9 is that the Sermon on the Mount does not point out the sin of the man who put away his wife and remarries. “Simply hand her a certificate of divorce and send that woman on her way,” was all he was previously expected to do to obey Moses permission at that time (as shown evident in Matt. 19:3 “any cause”). But the Sermon on the Mount’s point in Matt. 5:32 takes the sin of adultery a step farther (vs. 27 “Do not commit adultery”). Jesus said the man would be causing his wife to “commit adultery” in remarriage, and the man who marries any divorced woman who didn’t commit porneia in her first marriage would also be “committing adultery”. In Matt. 5:32 spells out the severity of sexual sin that was needed for a man to put away his wife in order to stop this downward trend. Jesus focus was not on the word porneia but on the bogus divorce certificate. Otherwise, they could have concluded porneia was an escalated judgment by Jesus of Deut. 24:1 “uncleanness” and not a literal interpretation. This extreme judgment of “adultery” for the second and third party, at that time, would have never have truly been considered since the Writ of Divorce that the husband gave to his wife had written permissions for the divorcee to marry again and accepted by both Hillel and Shammia’s courts (David Instone-Brewer, 2002) Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible.
One may ask, “But what about the original husband?” Would he be committing adultery too? Is “porneia” Jesus answered about Deut. 24:1 controversy “uncleanness”? Is he siding with Shammia’s conclusions? These would be obscure conclusions those at the Sermon on the Mount would have surely been asking about although it was indirectly understood.
Matt. 5:31-32 teaching (surely) eventually became known to the Pharisees and Scribes since it was such a hot topic for them (this is why they immediately came to Jesus with Hillel’s conclusions in Matt. 19:3). They were ready for a linguistic/logical battle! Since Jesus did not spell out about the sin of the original husband who put away his wife, it lead the “testing” of Jesus about man’s permission in Matt. 19:2-8. I mean, why would the religious leaders have tested Jesus in Matt. 19:2-8 if Jesus already gave His answer to it in Matt. 5:32? They were looking for new answers that have not been given in order to trap Jesus in His, so called, foolishness. Matt. 19:9 therefore is not Jesus answering the Jewish leaders according to Shammai but probably a continuation of thought and teaching from Matt. 5:32 to His Disciples that was spoken privately (Mark 10:10) in the “house” and evident by the disciples private response in Matt. 19:10.
I would agree, porneia looks to be supporting the idea that “fornication” had been committed but since the word cannot be shown exclusively to be interpreted as intercourse the word “sexual sin” or “sexual immorality” may be a safer translation until proven otherwise. I would hate for someone to know their wife was involved in some type of sexual lifestyle but feel trapped to see if intercourse was committed, similar to President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. He claimed that although there was sexual immorality they didn’t have sex (equating sex as adultery). Was there intercourse? Possibly. Did they commit adultery? Debatable. Was their porneia? Absolutely!
Opinion: As time goes on realizing that the word porneia was really resurrected by the Jews into mainstream by the Septuagint, I have come to grips that when a prostitute or whore is mentioned that intercourse is a presumed action. But, I also believe due to its general meaning that the word had morphed into defining various types (all types) of sexual immorality with fornication as its main theme. I believe that Jesus stating, “…if not for porneia” was a continuation of thought from Matt. 5:32a “except for porneia” and His response to the Jews question in Matt. 19:3 “for any cause?” I do not believe this was Jesus siding with Hillel or Shammai directly (one or the other). The schools of Hillel and Shammia were both looking for a “matter” (“reason” or a “cause”) that needed to be addressed in a court. But in Matt. 5:32 Jesus said “logos” (“knowledge” or “word”) of porneia (more of a personal conviction).
But, the real crook of the argument is if porneia means “adultery” then what about the Law which “requires” stoning for adultery? Would the Jewish man be allowed to choose to divorce his wife instead of the death penalty? David I.B. told me that divorce was for those who knew their wife committed adultery but were unable to provide the witnesses required for stoning (personal email). Deut. 22:25 allows a woman that was raped in the country to live because; although, she shouted out there was no one to hear her. Mary the mother of Jesus was such a woman. When she found she was with child she left for the country to live with Elizabeth for three months. During this time could have been the time she would have been accused of porneia or being raped. This is important because Joseph being a just man could have given her the benefit of a doubt. So, although Joseph was not able to provide witnesses for Mary’s unplanned pregnancy he was also able to choose this obscure law that would have allowed her to live because she did not do a sin worthy of death (Deut. 22:26).
My conclusions are based on its contexts of zanut, classical and biblical references. (Notes were left in their original form)
Thanks, love you guys
Instone-Brewer, Dr. David (2002) Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, The Social and Literary context. (Ppg. 100-108 pre pub version)
Instone-Brewer, Dr. David (2006) Jesus and Divorce. Retrieved on November 17, 2015 from: http://www.instonebrewer.com/visualsermons/Jesus-Divorce/_Sermon.htm
And personal correspondences via email from Dr. David Instone-Brewer
Septuagint. (2015, October 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:40, October 31, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Septuagint&oldid=686575166
Further references gleaned:
^ Nicole, Roger – New Testament Use of the Old Testament Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl. F.H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958), pp. 137-151. The frequent use of the LXX, it must also be noted, did not impose upon the New Testament authors the obligation to quote always in accordance with this version.
^ “The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint; and even where the citation is indirect the influence of this version is clearly seen.”“Bible Translations – The Septuagint”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
^ a b “His quotations from Scripture, which are all taken, directly or from memory, from the Greek version, betray no familiarity with the original Hebrew text (…) Nor is there any indication in Paul’s writings or arguments that he had received the rabbinical training ascribed to him by Christian writers (…)”“Paul, the Apostle of the Heathen”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
The book "Divorce: In the Bible" and "Remarriage: In the Bible" comes from a Jewish perspective. There are many ethics and doctrines that we obtain from scripture and incorporate it into the Church and into Gentile’s lives that are turning to Jesus. Marriage, divorce and remarriage are one of those doctrines. God made a unilateral covenant with Abraham and his Seed by symbolically going between the slain animals. Jesus paid the bridal-price by being broken Himself and made a unilateral covenant with the Church. The Jewish people practice this unilateral marriage covenant called the ketubah. It establishes the marriage promises of the husband to his now betrothed wife. Some of the Jewish people believed since the marriage covenant was unilateral it allowed the man to unilaterally divorce his wife. While others (including various cultures) believed that acquiring a wife by means of a bridal-price (mohar) allowed the unilateral divorce. Although payment was traditionally given to the father the Orthodox Jews except a gold wedding ring as a form of payment under the law similar to our engagement ring. But ultimately - all Jewish people and religious leaders agree that since the Torah said a woman is under the “rule” of her husband (Gen. 3:16) the laws of Deut. 24:1 were gender specific. Therefore; they believed only man could initiate the divorce and his wife could not. Paul now informs the Gentiles coming to Christ that a wife is not to divorce her husband (1 Cor. 7:10). But if she did divorce a husband, being that it was not lawful for her to do so, she cannot remarry another man (1 Cor. 7:11a). And Jesus commanded a man not to use the law as a vice to divorce his wife unwillingly as the Jews did before them (1 Cor. 7:11b, Matt. 19:9). This book portrays these old, forgotten fundamental truths.