Divorce: What Does God Really Say?

Question: God hates divorce and would never tell a spouse to leave, regardless of circumstances. Right?

Answer: Why did you divorce your first husband M.?  Her response, “He was jealous”.  “Jealous” was deduced to mean aggressive towards her.  She went on to later marry the love of her life.  Symbolically and loyally wearing her wedding band until she departed this side of eternity at the Blessed age of 99 (some 40 years plus after his passing).  So, what does God really say about the subject (#divorce) in those challenging situations like abandonment, adultery, and domestic violence? Surely God does not condone violence againstin order to keep the appearance of great marriage.

“And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.  Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Ezra 10:2,3

When the people of Israel sought God’s heart during a time of repentance and prayer God directed them to put away their “strange” wives and the children they had with these women.
What made these women “strange?” It was certainly not the fact that they were foreign. God had put a process in place whereby a foreigner could become an Israelite. The problem was the fact that these women worshipped false gods.

“Put away” in this text is not a Hebrew word for divorce, but these men were not rightly married to these women in Israelite culture. They may have married them in some recognized civil fashion, and thereby been legally married, but there could not have married them in a legitimate Jewish marriage without the wives going through the process to convert to Judaism. So using one of the Hebrew words for divorce would technically be an inaccuracy.  But God made it completely clear, that even this marriage was intolerable to Him. Though these men had taken these women as wives and borne children by them, God expected them to put these wives away entirely.

There is an interesting principle here. In the New Testament, God makes it very clear why believers are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. It is because of the issue of idolatry. We become one flesh and one spirit with a sexual partner, and simultaneously we are one spirit with God (I Cor. 6:15-20). How can we do that when we are under the authority of God and they are under the authority of Belial? (II Cor. 6:14-18)

The Word also makes it clear that a man who does not provide for his family (which would include material provision, protection, etc.) isworse than an unbeliever (I Tim. 5:8 ). It also says that a man who is an idolater, drunkard/addict, verbal abuser, etc. is to be considered an unbeliever and we are to separate from them in every way (I Cor. 5:9-13). This is a very clear statement, and also a clear corollary to the Old Testament reason God mandated divorce for these men with idolatrous wives.
I believe the Word is very clear that a spouse who willfully, wantonly, persistently and deliberately chooses to deny God in these very clearly stated ways is a spiritual danger. In the Old Testament God told these men to put away their idolatrous wives. In the New Testament, God makes equally clear provision for the same, which we will talk about in more detail when I get to these New Testament passages.”

“The words used in the Old Testament for divorce are garash and kariythuwth.Garash is used seven times while kariythuwth is used four times. Both are always used to identify legal divorce; the legal termination of a marriage. If God meant divorce in this verse, He would have used the word garash or kariythuwth, not shalach. 

The word translated divorce in some English translations in Mal. 2:16 is correctly translated “put away, send away, cast out, cast away, or push away.” Shalach is used 790 times in the Old Testament and is used generically almost all the time, in a context having nothing to do with marriage. For instance, shalach was used when God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden, when Noah sent a dove out of the ark, when angels were sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, when Abraham sent Hagar away, etc. So, let’s take another look at Mal. 2 where God says He hates “divorce” and find out what He means.

Mal. 2:13-16: And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

God says here, while the men are in “church” crying out to God with tears because He is not responding, He will not receive anything from them because of the way they are treating their wives. These men are completely oblivious to their error. There are some interesting things to notice in this passage. First, these people are not legally divorced. God speaks of how these men are treating the wives they currently have, not women they have divorced. Within this context is the statement that has been erroneously translated “God hates divorce.” What God says is He hates “putting away.”

According to this passage, what God hates is “putting away, pushing away” within marriage. He calls this treachery. This word “treachery” is the Hebrew word bagad and means “to cover (with a garment); figuratively, to act covertly; by implication, to pillage:–deal deceitfully (treacherously, unfaithfully), offend, transgress” according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

Notice something else God does not say. He doesn’t say anything here about sexual adultery. He’s not talking about extramarital sex. He’s talking about systematic internal rejection of the spouse; pushing the spouse away. At its most basic, God is talking about violating the oneness relationship that is supposed to characterize human marriage.

There is a reason why this matters. Human marriage is a picture of the relationship between God and His people. It is fundamentally rooted and based in oneness. Oneness is the very essence of the relationship. When oneness is violated in a human marriage it is an assault on the picture of relationship with God. All assaults on oneness in marriage are equal because they all violate this principle. Sexual adultery is just one violation of oneness.

And using the word assault is not an overstatement. This passage says this treachery is violence. When someone (man or woman) persistently violates the oneness of their marital relationship through any form of rejection, they are also assaulting their own spirit and cutting off their own relationship with God. This is what God hates – violation of marital oneness. It is not about a legal document that publically acknowledges what has already happened in the relationship. God is always looking at the heart of the matter. It is the heart God is addressing here, not legal dissolution of marriage.” – Excerpts from Danni Moss

References: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/02/20/signs-of-emotional-abuse/

https://dannimoss.wordpress.com/domestic-violence-links/what-the-bible-says-about-divorce/what-the-bible-says-about-divorce-part-iv/

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