Marriage - Other OT Passages

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Part Seven – Other OT Passages on Divorce

 

The last six studies have been centered on our Lord’s answer to the question of divorce and remarriage as found in Matthew 19:3-12. This passage was chosen as a starting point for two reasons. First our Lord’s response gives the Christian the correct approach in answering this difficult question. He showed that to answer the question one must understand God’s original design for marriage and God’s laws on marriage as given to Israel in the Mosaic Law. Any attempt to answer this question without considering this information is doomed to draw the wrong conclusions. Secondly, this passage was chosen because it is the “key text” by most pastors and teachers.

To review, it was shown that our Lord indicated that in God’s scheme of things, once the vows are given by a married couple, there are no grounds for a divorce that frees the individual for remarriage.

The exception that the Pharisees raise refers to Deut. 24:1-4 and Jesus shows that they had incorrectly interpreted the intent and application of this law. This law was given to Old Testament Israel and had to do with sexual immorality which takes place prior to the wedding vows. This law was not intended for the Church age nor can it be applied to modern day marriage as it reflects Jewish marriage customs that are radically different current practices.

Now it is time to move on to other passages that relate to divorce and remarriage. Let us begin first with the Old Testament. 

1) Ezra 9. In this passage, the Israelites who had returned from the Babylonian captivity fell into sin. They had begun to take wives from among the pagan Gentiles and were giving their children as well to these unholy unions. When Ezra discovers this he is so distressed that he tears his clothes out, pulls out some of his hair, and sits down astonished. He could not believe the people do such a thing. Ezra meets with the people and confronts them with their sin and they seek God’s forgiveness and direction in this matter. God orders them to divorce their Gentile wives and to abandon their children born of these interracial marriages. This seems like a harsh measure but God knew the outcome of such unholy unions was too grave to risk to perfect plans.

Some have argued that this verse is an indication that God does permitted divorce and remarriage in the Old Testament. The command to divorce in this passage has nothing to do with immorality or other serious sin one might associate with divorce yet God commanded the couples to separate. A closer look at this passage indicates that this can not be used to support the premise that God condones some cases of divorce a part from the sin of immorality. There are several important points that should be noted.

a. This commandment was temporary. This is a direct command of God given to a select group of people, living is a specific location at a particular point in time. God never gave this command to all of Israel nor was it ever mentioned in the Mosaic Law. Its intent was to correct a sinful practice of those who had returned from the Babylonian captivity to re-establish Jerusalem and the temple worship. In light of this, once the command was carried out and the sinful practice was ended, it was no longer needed or in effect.

b. This command centered on a Jewish sin. The sin committed was a sin that could only be committed by Jewish individuals. It therefore never had any application to those who were Gentiles. In the In the Scriptures, God recognizes only two races. There is the Gentile race and there is the Jewish Race (Rom. 1:6; 2:9-10; 3:29-30; 9:24; 10:12-15; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). The sin that was committed here was the interracial marriage of Jews to their pagan Gentile neighbors. God had forbidden the Jews to intermarry with pagan Gentiles because it would lead them to worshipping idols (Neh. 13:23-25; Deut. 7:1-6; Josh. 22:12). This idolatry over a period of time would threaten the promises made by God of a Messiah Savior coming into the world through the Jewish people. If any of God’s promises could not be fulfilled than Satan would have be successful at defeating God.

For this reason, discovering this practice going on, Ezra tore his clothes and began to mourn for the sins of the people. When the people learned of Ezra’s actions, they sought God to forgive them of their sin and to provide a way to correct this problem. God’s solution was for them to divorce their Gentile wives and husbands and send them away along with children that might have been conceived of that relationship. 

c. This commandment can not be applied to the Church Age. To do so the only parallel in the church age that might fit such a command would be the marriage of a believer to an unbeliever. God clearly forbids such a marriage, however God still recognizes this union as legitimate and calls for Christians to try to make this union work. This is demonstrated in the following passages.

1 Co 7:12-16, “If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 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. . . . 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 Pet. 3:1-2, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”

Therefore if this be applied to the church age, it would not only grant the divorce of a believer and unbeliever but it would take it a step further by commanding or ordering a believer to leave his/her unbelieving wife.

d. This command as an important application. Since God only makes a racial distinction between Jews and Gentile, one must conclude that he views all people who are not Jewish to be one race even as the Jews are one race. Thus God sees no distinction in the racial heritage of any Gentile race over another. In God’s eyes those who white, black, red, yellow or any color of skin are all equal and a part of the same race. With this said, since we are all viewed as one race, then there are no prohibitions against interracial marriage among Gentiles. As God views it that since the black and white are the same race there is no reason to forbid blacks from marry whites or whites from marrying Hispanics or any other Gentile combination. If there is any problems surrounding such a marriage it is not of God but rather of the racial prejudice found in the heart of man. 

2) Malachi 2:13-16. In the last book of the Old Testament, God speaks to the issue of marriage and the responsibilities associated with it. In verse 13 God indicates that they make an offering to the Lord and cry and weep seeking His attention, but God does not listen to them. They ask God why He will not heed their offerings and worship (14) and He tells them why. He has been a witness to how they have treated their wives and He knows that they have dealt treacherously with their companions, the ones they made a covenant with (1 Pet. 3:7). God reminds them that He made them one (15) for the purpose of producing godly offspring, but instead they have dealt treacherously with their wives.

What is this treacherous thing they have done to their wives? God tells us in verse 16. They have divorced their wives in order to marry another. God makes this very clear by giving His opinion on divorce with the freedom to remarry. Note what God says

a. God hates divorce. The Hebrew word for hate here “expresses an emotional attitude toward persons and things which are opposed, detested, despised and with which one wishes to have no contact or relationship.” God detests divorce. He hates it so much that He wants to have no relationship with it all because it so violates what He established in the beginning.

b. God considers it a violent act. The Hebrew word for “garment” represents the wife. God in essence is saying that by separating or divorcing one’s wife is like committing a violent act against her and against the institution of marriage which God ordained.

c. God demands that it stop. He says to take heed that it stops. He is calling upon the husband to love the wife he has married and not look for other possibilities.

It is therefore clear from this statement that God detests divorce and domestic abuse so much He does not want to deal with it in any form. In essence God is saying He is opposed to divorce and even more remarriage after divorce.

Once again we see God’s view on divorce and remarriage in the OT is that if a divorce and separation takes place, it should happen only under the most extreme conditions and the couple who separate or divorce are not to remarry. This is why it is so important that every couple considering marriage or who are presently married seek to follow the biblical advice found in the Scriptures on how to make their marriage strong and enduring. For the alternative in God’s eyes is undesirable for most.