At this time in His ministry, Jesus went south to the region of Judea. In Mark’s writing of the ministry of Jesus, this was the only journey to Judea of the three possible journeys that Jesus made during His ministry to this area that was recorded by Mark.
Mark records the final journey. From this chapter onward, Jesus focused on the cross. He prepared His disciples for His final confrontation with the religious leaders and His subsequent victory on the cross.
The topic of marriage, divorce and remarriage is probably the most debated topic there is within the religious world. There are many sermons, lessons and books written on the topic, some of which are very useful, and others just make the topic even more confusing to understand.
Surprisingly, the Bible really doesn’t have much to say about divorce and remarriage, there aren’t a lot of references on the subject. You would think by all the books that have been produced and all the uproar that has been made over it, that the Bible says a whole lot about it, but the Bible says very little.
I think it would be useful if we look at a few passages from the Old Testament where we can highlight some important points. We’ll look at these passages again in the wider context later to make further points but for now, I want to focus on some words in the immediate context. For the purpose of this study, I will be using the N.R.S.V. unless otherwise stated.
You might be wondering if I’m advocating divorce, no I’m not. I believe that marriage is for life and shouldn’t be entered lightly but at the same time, I realise that sin can enter a marriage relationship like every other part of our lives, which may end up leading to a divorce. I’m simply trying to show that some of the doctrines being put forward on this subject are not as straightforward as we think.
Here we see that God through Moses was protecting the rights of women and if one thing is clear, it’s simply this, divorce, and remarrying were happening back in Moses’ day.
Moses gives an example of a woman who is married but her husband isn’t happy about something, we’ll look at what the word, ‘objectionable’ means later, so he divorces her. She then marries again and sadly the same thing happens.
Notice there are two separate actions required here, ‘write her a certificate of divorce’ and ‘send her out’.
Notice again two separate actions are happening here, ‘sent her away’ and ‘a decree of divorce’.
The Hebrew word for ‘put away’ is ‘shalach’ which means to send away, or out. And the Hebrew word for ‘certificate or bill or decree of divorce’ is ‘kriythuwth’ which means a cutting, of the matrimonial bond, i.e. divorce.
Clearly, there are two separate words used to describe two separate actions. Just as there is a legal way to get married, there is also a legal way to get a divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 / Jeremiah 3:8.
Any man who wants a divorce must give the woman ‘a certificate of divorce’ and then ‘send her away’, otherwise legally they are still married. They are still married because they haven’t got the legal paperwork, i.e.., the divorce papers to prove they’re legally divorced.
The word, ‘shalach’ ‘send away’ is used 790 times in the Old Testament. There are too many to quote but below are a few examples, please take the time to read each passage because it will help clarify the point. The English equivalent word is written in blue.
The Hebrew word used in Malachi isn’t the word ‘divorce’ as the N.R.S.V. translates it, it should be the word ‘shalach’, which means to ‘send away’ or ‘put away’, the K.J.V. renders it this correctly.
The word, ‘shalach’ ‘send away’ has a different meaning from the word, ‘kriythuwth’ ‘bill of divorcement.’ They don’t mean the same thing and both words certainly don’t mean divorce. I simply want us to see that there are two separate words which imply two different actions.
We’ll come back to the Deuteronomy, Jeremiah and Malachi passages later and look at them in more depth. I believe this is important to understand and make the distinction between the two words used as we go on to the New Testament passages which deal with this topic.
We will look at these verses in more depth later but for now, I want to focus on two words again to show that we’re dealing with two separate actions. We saw earlier that the Hebrew word for ‘bill of divorcement’ is ‘kriythuwth’ which means a cutting of the matrimonial bond, i.e. divorce.
Here in the New Testament passages, we have the Greek word equivalent. The Greek word for ‘writing of divorcement’ is ‘apostasion’ and it means something separative, especially divorce.
The Hebrew word for ‘put away’ is ‘shalach’ which means to send away, or out. Here in the New Testament passages, we have the Greek word equivalent.
The Greek word used for ‘put her away’ is ‘apoluo’ which means to free fully, that is, literally relieve, release, dismiss, reflexively depart, or figuratively, let die, pardon, or specifically, divorce:- (let) depart, dismiss, divorce, forgive, let go, loose, put (send) away, release, set at liberty.
I included the entire entry from Strong’s definition of the word but remember that anything after the :- isn’t a part of the definition but is merely a listing of ways the word was translated in the KJV. Also remember that Strong stated that the first word is the most reliable, in this case, ‘free fully’, while the most radical understanding is the last word, in this case ‘specifically divorce’.
Notice again the Greek word used for ‘writing of divorcement’ is ‘apostasion’ and it means something separative, (especially) divorce. The Greek word used for ‘put her away’ is ‘apoluo’ which means to free fully. The K.J.V. again makes this clearer.
Notice again the Greek word used for ‘a bill of divorcement’ is ‘apostasion’ and it means something separative, especially divorce. The Greek word used for ‘put her away’ is ‘apoluo’ which means to free fully.
Note again that even in the New Testament there are two separate words used to describe two separate actions. The K.J.V. makes this clearer.
I think some sincere people may have kind of joined the two words together to make them mean the same thing. This is possibly because of some bad translations, as we shall see later, many times the word ‘divorce’ has been translated in the Scripture when the word should be ‘put away’, you see this, especially in the N.I.V. which we’ll look at later too.
The Greek word, ‘apoluo’ ‘put away’ cannot mean the same as ‘apostasion’ ‘bill of divorcement’. It cannot mean ‘divorce’ and here are a few examples of why it can’t.
Here is a list of passages which use the word ‘apoluo’. Please take the time to read through them, as it will drive the point I’m trying to make across.
As you have just read the word ‘apoluo’ appears quite a lot in the New Testament and hopefully, you noted that only one time in all of these verses was the word ‘apoluo’ translated ‘divorce’. Let’s take a closer look at the text in question.
Please note that the Matthew 5:32 passage is the only occurrence of the word ‘divorce’ in this list and should have been rendered ‘put away’. Other translations such as the N.I.V. use the word ‘divorce’ and the words, ‘send away’ which may be the cause of much of the confusion on the subject.
If ‘divorce’ is the only possible translation of ‘apoluo’ in Matthew 5, then it must be asked, why would it not be the only legitimate translation in all other uses of the word?
Though context might often affect the appropriate translation of a particular word, it does not necessarily preclude other possible translations.
The word ‘divorce’ is a legal term. So, if it’s valid to translate ‘apoluo’ only as such, then we must admit that in Acts 19:41, for example, the entire assembly were married to the town clerk of Ephesus and then divorced by him.
It seems to me that many who support the idea that Matthew 5 is addressing the matter of divorce are perhaps not making a distinction between being separated, without being divorced, and actually being divorced. The problem Jesus was speaking about isn’t primarily focused on ‘divorce’ but on the ‘sending away’.
Men were ‘sending their wives away’ without giving them the ‘certificate of divorce’ which had devastating results for the women of the time.
They couldn’t marry anyone else without this certificate and if she did, she would end up committing adultery, hence causing the man who ‘sent her away’ to make her an adulteress. Why? Because legally she was still married, Matthew 5:31-32.
Jesus is dealing with the real problem, the problem of HOW they were ‘sending their wives away’. I believe it all had to do with the dowry. Let’s look at these passages which speak about the dowry.
In eastern countries, the bridegroom was required to pay the father of his betrothed a stipulated portion, in money or other valuables, proportioned to the rank and position of the family to which she belonged, this was the dowry. This is still practised in many countries even today.
Now also notice the following two verses.
There were two forms of payment made on the occasion of a wedding, first, there was the bride price and then there was the dowry. Both of which were designed to support a woman and her children, should she be left widowed or divorced.
The Bible constantly commands God’s people to look after the vulnerable in society, especially widows and orphans, Isaiah 1:17 / Psalm 68:5 / James 1:27.
The pride price was more than money, it was about protecting the woman. If a widow or a divorced woman wanted to be independent, she needed this money to help her in her current circumstance, women didn’t want to be at the mercy of a husband who might or might not provide for her and her children.
The prospective groom gave the bride’s father a present, either a sum of money or its equivalent in goods, cattle, land, woven goods, work, etc, we see this in Genesis 29:15-30, where Jacob paid for Rachel’s sister Leah with seven years’ work.
We see this with David in 1 Samuel 18:25-27, where David paid for Saul’s daughter Michal with the grisly gift of one hundred Philistine foreskins. We see this in Judges 1:11-15, where Othniel conquered a town as payment for Achsah.
The amount of this bride price was geared to the status and wealth of the girl’s family. It was seen as compensation to the family for the loss of the girl, as well as the means of providing her with certain necessities.
We don’t know what the Israelite custom was regarding the disposal of this money, but in Babylon, the goods belonged to the girl. The father was given the interest or other income on it for life, but he wasn’t allowed to touch the capital, Genesis 31:14-16.
The purpose of the bride price was to ensure the woman wasn’t being left unsupported if she was widowed. Without a dowry, they could end up destitute.
There are many passages in the Bible relating to dowries, but sadly, specific details are not given.
However, in Babylon, a bride’s parents had to make a settlement on her which remained her property even though the husband received the interest from the capital and was entitled to invest the money in business. If a woman was later widowed, or divorced through no fault of her own, the capital reverted to her.
Pharaoh gave his daughter the city of Gezer as a marriage settlement when she married King Solomon, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel were each given a handmaid as a wedding gift from their parents. The sum of money or goods was registered in the marriage contract.
If it was money that the husband wanted to invest, he contracted to repay his wife the full amount, plus one-third interest. If it was something that would depreciate, such as clothing or household goods, the husband only had to repay one-fifth of the original value.
For a more detailed account of the repayment of the dowry, click here.
Do you know why the Jews were ‘putting their wives away’ without giving them a ‘certificate of divorce’? They didn’t want to return the dowry; it was going to cost them, Exodus 21:10. It was much easier to just abandon them, to put them away and allow them to go back to their home or fend for themselves and ignore them.
If a man ever gave his wife the ‘bill of divorce’, then he had some obligations to their wife, he had to return the dowry, he had to provide for his wife if they ‘sent them away’.
This was the Jews’ loophole, they ‘put them away’ without the official ‘divorce’. If there is a ‘legal divorce’, then the husband would be required to return the dowry, the sad news is, he probably would have spent it.
Whatever price he received from the father for the girl that he married would have to be returned. Jesus is going to imply this later, He basically is going to say, ‘husbands have to honour and respect the rights of their wives’.
It shocked them in a society where women had no rights because they didn’t have to think about this. Hence why the disciples were shocked at Jesus’ teaching.
The ‘sending away’ without the ‘certificate of divorce’ was also liked by the wives because it didn’t require any court case, you didn’t need to prove negligence or any other embarrassing details in public and unless the wife had been unfaithful, she would get her marriage dowry back.
This was often enough to live on, or it would help her get a new husband. Remember Joseph didn’t want to go down the court road, to ‘divorce’ ‘apoluo’ ‘send away’, Mary ‘quietly’, i.e. without a public hearing.
What about the exception clause? Jesus said anybody who ‘apoluo’, ‘puts away’ his wife, commits adultery. Why? Because he entered into a relationship with someone else but doesn’t have the legal right to do this.
Now Jesus says that one can ‘put away’ his wife without the ‘apostasion’, without the ‘written certificate of divorce’, in the case of marital unfaithfulness.
Now, why would that be true? Why does ‘unchastity’, ‘sexual immorality’, N.I.V., ‘fornication’, K.J.V., become the ONLY reason that a man can ‘put away’ his wife without the legal, official written document of divorce? I believe that the answer to that is very simple.
But to understand it, there is something of vital importance that we must remember. What Jesus is saying is written to a society that was governed and controlled by the Law of Moses. What could be done and would be accepted practice in Jesus’ day could never be done in our own culture.
Now under the Law of Moses, we see from the above passages that the penalty for adultery, for marital unfaithfulness, was death. Now quite obviously, if a man ‘puts away’ his wife because of marital unfaithfulness, legally, technically, she is to die. Therefore, you DO NOT NEED an ‘apostasion’, ‘certificate of divorce’.
You DO NOT NEED to divorce if your wife is stoned to death, just like if your wife were to die naturally, you would be free, 1 Corinthians 7:39. So, whether that death comes by natural causes or whether that death comes by a violation of the Law of Moses and the penalty is death, the man is free and wouldn’t need the ‘apostasion’.
But Jesus says, ‘I tell you if anyone puts away his wife, commits adultery,’ Matthew 5:32 / Matthew 19:9, he puts her away without the ‘apostasion’, except for marital unfaithfulness of course. Because then the woman comes under the penalty of death.
Now God’s original law was that a man marries a woman and if that woman committed adultery, then that woman would be stoned to death and the man would be free to marry again.
Now, by the time Jesus comes on the scene they weren’t practising the stoning to death of people who committed ‘porneia’ or ‘marital unfaithfulness’, or ‘fornication’ and it appears they only wanted to stone someone when it suited their own evil purposes, John 8:11 / John 8:48-49.
The Romans had come in and taken over that facet of the law in the first century in Palestine and had taken away from them the right to the death penalty. That’s why the Jews had to take Jesus to Pilate to get Him officially condemned and executed, John 18:28-38.
Now, of course, there were some riot acts in the New Testament. Stephen was stoned to death, but that was the result of a riot, Acts 7:54-58, but it wasn’t a legal action.
Paul was arrested in the temple and they were going to kill him, Acts 21:27-40. but again, that was a riot, that wasn’t formal legal action. The Romans had taken away from the Jews the right of formal, legal execution for any crime.
Jesus is talking about the Law of Moses. The Pharisees said, what about Moses? Moses commanded it.
Jesus is saying if they’re going to enter into a relationship with somebody other than the person that God intended for them to marry. They already have a relationship with a person that God expects them to honour.
If their mate is unfaithful to them, if they break this vow, the intimacy of this covenant, then as far as the Law of Moses is concerned, technically they are dead. Therefore, they don’t need an ‘apostasion’ because they have dissolved the relationship by virtue of their action, they have violated the covenant.
If you think about it, dead people can’t marry, dead people don’t marry and here the guilty party, in the sight of God, is technically dead. That’s why God doesn’t give them the freedom to re-marry, it’s a part of their penalty for having transgressed the marital covenant.
In that culture, in that day, Jesus says to a man, ‘if their wife is unfaithful to them, technically, she is dead and you can re-marry in that case’. But, if she isn’t unfaithful to them, then they have no right to ‘put her away’. They’ve entered into a covenant with her, they’ve entered into a contract with her and they are to honour that.
If they ‘put her away’ without officially dissolving it, without going through legal channels, just like there must be legal channels to have a marriage, there must be legal channels to dissolve that marriage.
If they don’t go through the legal channels, if they don’t protect the rights of a woman, if they don’t see that her needs are met and give the legal document, ‘a certificate of divorce’, that proclaims to others that she is free of this marriage bond and is free to marry someone else if they just ‘put her away’, they’re committing adultery, that’s what He says in Matthew 19.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said when the man who marries the woman who was ‘put away’ and the woman who is ‘put away’ remarries, they commit adultery because they aren’t in a legal, official situation where they are free to contract new relationships.
They thought they could just go ahead and ‘put away’ their wives for any old reason, but Jesus says, if they’re going to ‘put away’ their wives, they better make it legal. They better give her a ‘certificate of divorce’.
Otherwise, whenever any of them marry again, they will be committing adultery and they know what the penalty is for that, stoning to death, Leviticus 20:10 / Deuteronomy 22:22-25.
No one would ever argue when Jesus said, ‘you must believe AND be baptised to be saved,’ Mark 16:16 that Jesus meant the same thing and the same word was used for both. They are two different words which imply two different actions.
When we understand that there are two different words used, ‘certificate of divorce’ ‘apostasion’ and ‘putting away’ ‘apoluo’ which imply two different actions, I believe we can see that the issue Jesus was addressing wasn’t about divorce but about how they were sending their wives away.
They were sending their wives away without the certificate of divorce, this meant the divorce wasn’t legal, they were still legally married. Notice this again in these passages.
This is what Jesus emphasised when He said, ‘It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE.’ Matthew 5:31.
If the ‘sending away’ and ‘divorce’ were two separate words used in the Old Testament, what makes the same Greek equivalent words in the New Testament ‘sending away’ and ‘divorce’ mean the same? They don’t mean the same because they are two separate words with two separate actions implied.
The point is that the Jews had to do both, they had to give their wives the divorce certificate and then send them away. That’s what Moses said in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and that’s what God did with Israel, Jeremiah 3:8.
In other words, just as there was a legal way to get married, there was also a legal way to get divorced. They were just sending their wives away without making it legal and this is what Jesus was emphasising. Jesus was doing what Moses was doing, protecting the right of vulnerable women.
Let’s go ahead and have a deeper look at all these passages mentioned above to emphasise the point further and try and answer some questions. Let’s turn to Matthew 19, that’s where we want to start and begin to set the stage.
1. Let’s look at the attack.
There’s an attack made here on the Lord Jesus. Look in verse 3, ‘Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him.’ They didn’t come because they were looking for honest answers, they didn’t come because they had some serious questions about marriage, divorce and remarriage.
They came because they wanted to test Jesus, they wanted to attack what He was teaching and they had two underlying motives in doing that.
One of them was to ‘discredit’ Jesus so that He would lose popularity, they see Jesus as a threat. Here is a rabbi who has no official training, He hasn’t been to any seminars, and He doesn’t have a certificate. He’s not a qualified, certified rabbi and yet He has a tremendous following.
That concerns the establishment, so, they are seeking to discredit Jesus, to try to get him to say something that would cause Him to lose favour with the populace so they would stop following Him. So, they are seeking to discredit Him.
2. They are seeking to ‘destroy’ Jesus.
They are trying not only to get Him to lose favour with the people, but they are trying to get rid of Him.
So those are their underlying motivations, they aren’t honest in the pursuit of the question that they raised. We have to remember that as we listen to what Jesus has to say to these men.
Now the Pharisees did have a particular view of divorce, a divorce was a volatile issue in the first century even as it is today. That was very common, very widespread, even among the Jewish people, but there was a lot of dispute over divorce and what would be satisfactory and what wouldn’t be satisfactory to God.
Now just before Jesus was born, two rabbis were living who became the most influential rabbis of the day, their names were Shammai and Hillel.
Pretty much in the first century, in the time of Jesus, people lined up behind Shammai or Hillel on any given issue. It’s kind of like in some churches today, you are either conservative or liberal.
You’re either with Hillel or Shammai, one or the other. Who do you stand behind? Fundamentally, what these Pharisees are asking Jesus is, ‘Okay, buddy, who do you line up behind?’ We can see how they put the people behind them because some will be with Shammai and some will be with Hillel?
Now Shammai was the conservative one. Let’s read a section from the Mishnah, the Mishnah is the collection of the oral traditions of the Jews, the oral law that you hear so much about.
A couple of hundred years after the time of Jesus, one of the rabbis realised that they were forgetting all this accumulation of oral knowledge, all the oral laws that the people were expected to keep. Because Jerusalem had been destroyed, in 70 A.D. and the centre of Judaism had been destroyed, so they began to write it down.
‘The School of Shammai says a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, for it is written because he has found in her indecency in anything.’ Giteen, chapter 9, section 10
And the School of Hillel says, ‘He may divorce her even if she spoils a dish for him for it is written that he has found indecency in anything’. Rabbi Akebah says, ‘even if he found another fairer than she, for it is written if she has found no favour in his eyes.’
That is a discussion these rabbis had based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4, and we will get to that later, but the point is that Hillel and Shammai had two opposing points of view. They also mentioned Rabbi Akebah, Akebah doesn’t live until after 100 A.D. so what he said doesn’t bear on the discussion here.
Rabbi Shammai says, ‘The only reason for divorce is if you find unchastity if there is marital unfaithfulness on behalf of your partner. If you find sexual infidelity on behalf of your marriage partner, then you may divorce.’
Hillel, on the other hand, said, ‘No, it says in Deuteronomy 24, if you find indecency in her in anything.’ You notice the text said, ‘she had prepared a dish that he didn’t like. Oh, dear, you scrambled these eggs, I wanted them fried, divorce her!
In other places, it’s said that Hillel said, ‘if she talked to a man in the street, that was a legitimate reason for divorcing her’. ‘If she turned around too quickly so that her legs became exposed, that was a reason for divorcing her’. ‘If you didn’t like your in-laws, good enough reason, divorce her’.
Hillel has a much more generous interpretation of what the Old Testament said about the basis for divorce. So, people of the first century were lining up behind one or the other and the Pharisees came to test Jesus, to find out who will he stand with, Shammai or Hillel, and in so doing they could turn the people against him.
After all, the majority of the people followed Hillel who had the liberal interpretation that any old reason you could think up was an adequate reason for divorce.
Now they have already heard Jesus address the subject of divorce and remarriage before, in Matthew 5:31-32 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made a statement about it.
They have already heard about this, that’s why they can come up with this test question because they know Jesus has taken a conservative approach and they can turn the majority of the population against Him, remember, that is their motivation.
We need to see what it was that Jesus said back in the Sermon on the Mount that became the basis of what the Pharisees are going to use against Him or try to use against Him.
Which of those two rabbis does that sound like? Sounds like Shammai, doesn’t it?
I think it is important to understand the distinction that I believe existed in the first century. The N.I.V. follows many other translations in using the word ‘divorce’ which I believe is a mistranslation and leads to an erroneous conclusion. Remember what we learned earlier, there are two distinct words used in the Bible that we need to be familiar with.
In the Old Testament, there is the word ‘shalach’ and it means, ‘to send away, to drive away, to drive out’. We saw that its corresponding word in the New Testament would be the word ‘apoluo’ which means to let loose, to set free, to send away, to drive out.
The other word we looked at earlier in the Old Testament is the word ‘keriythuwth’ which means, ‘a divorcement’. We saw that its corresponding word in the New Testament will be ‘apostasion’.
Now, here we have ‘send away’ or ‘put away’ for the first word I mentioned ‘shalach’ or ‘apoluo’. The second one ‘apostasion’ means ‘divorcement’. What happens is that these two words, both Old and New Testament words become sort of blended and we accept them as meaning one and the same thing.
Part of the problem comes is if we were to read all of the passages in the New Testament that deal with divorce and remarriage, and we found the parallel passages, the ones that read the same, as just one test, we would find that Jesus uses the word ‘apoluo’ ten or eleven times.
The King James Version will translate it every time when it is ‘apoluo’ as ‘put away’ with the exception of one time. Here in Matthew 5:32, the word occurs twice and the second time they translate it as ‘divorce’.
Every time the word ‘apostasion’ occurs in the New Testament, it will be rendered ‘divorce’. Now there is a difference, they aren’t the same.
In the Bible, both Old and New Testament, there is only one divorce recorded. Did you know that? For all we have talked about it, for all the instruction in the Bible, in the word of God, there is only ONE divorce recorded. Do you know who it is?
In Jeremiah 3:8, God says, ‘I have divorced Israel,’ that is the only time. You have information about divorcing and remarrying, but that is the only time that we know of in Scripture when somebody divorced somebody, when God says, ‘I divorced Israel.’ In Jeremiah 3:8 it’s the word ‘keriythuwth’, the word that in the New Testament is rendered ‘apostasion’.
But we know from reading the Old Testament, for example, that men put away their wives. Men had more than one wife, and David had several wives.
Abraham is another example, he was married to Hagar as well as Sarah, Genesis 16:3. Now look at what he did, ‘he sent her away’, Genesis 21:14. She was still married to him, technically, but he didn’t fulfil any husbandly responsibilities to her.
What we have in effect then is that our word ‘apoluo’ which means ‘to send away’ or ‘put away’ becomes ‘practical divorce.’ But, ‘apostasion’ which literally means ‘a bill of divorcement’ becomes ‘legal divorce’, and this is an important distinction.
We need to see this in Scripture, some men were putting away their wives and marrying somebody else, but they never gave their wives a legal divorce, therefore, they had no legal right to marry again.
In each instance, with one exception, the word is ‘apoluo’ or ‘to put away’ or maybe we would say ‘abandon’ on some occasions. A man abandons his wife and then goes out and marries somebody else. What would we call that? Bigamy, right? He technically, legally has two wives.
Jesus says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ Now, see what we are saying? Here were men who were putting away their wives, not legally, they weren’t finalising it. They didn’t go to court; they didn’t give her the written certificate that legally sets her free.
Jesus says, ‘Anyone who puts away his wife must finalise that process. He must give her a certificate of ‘apostasion’ a certificate of divorcement. I tell you, anyone who puts away his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery.’
Why? Because it hasn’t been legalised, the man put her away, he sent her out. He didn’t want anything else to do with her. Why didn’t he want to legalise it?
Like we looked at earlier, he might have to pay dowry. It’s just easier to put her on the back shelf and not have anything to do with her and marry someone else he liked more. Polygamy in the Old Testament is a big problem, even in the first century, there is evidence of polygamy.
Jesus understood that there were practising practical divorce, but if they are going to practically divorce somebody, they better legally divorce their wives. Because, if they marry somebody who has been practically divorced, but not legally divorced, they are committing adultery.
It’s not just a matter of divorce, it’s a matter of whether this thing has been made official or not. I believe that this is an important distinction to make between these two words.
They were proclaiming that they don’t commit adultery, but Jesus tells them that are propagating adultery all over the land. Do you know how you do it? They put away their wives without giving her a bill of divorcement, they put her away without making it official and then they go out and marry someone else.
They needed to know, that when they marry someone else without officially having separated from their first wife, they commit adultery and anybody that marries her, that has been put away without having been officially separated with a bill of divorcement, commits adultery. Because they would now have two legally binding marriages for one person and that’s wrong. That’s what He is talking about, Jesus uses a different word.
Is divorce sinful? Or is it the sending away without the divorce papers? If a couple divorce for adultery reasons and the ‘guilty’ party then remarries, do they have to leave their new wife and return to their former wife?
A simple diagram may help us out here.
Here we have a man, let’s call him Mark and a woman, let’s call her Sue. Right here in this chapter, Jesus says if this woman, Sue is sent away and she marries another man, let’s call him Ben, the result is adultery. Why? Because she was abandoned or sent away and she wasn’t given a bill of divorcement. It’s not legal.
Another diagram may be useful.
Now, we would assume also that if Mark, then, marries a woman who we will call Beth, the same thing would be true, but that’s an assumption that would be adultery, based on this verse because Jesus doesn’t say that in Matthew 5. We’ll get to that later, but here in Matthew 5, He doesn’t say that Mark and Sue is a case of adultery.
This position that we just looked at here in Matthew 5 is a teaching that Jesus made, you can’t put your wife away unless it was for marital unfaithfulness.
That sounds a whole lot like what Shammai said, it’s very unpopular and that spread like wildfire. The Pharisees heard that back in Matthew 5, and they come to Jesus in Matthew 19, knowing they can use this teaching to turn the people against Him.
One time John the Baptist had something to say about divorce and remarriage and it cost him his head.
It’s here we see the Pharisees thinking, they thought they could probably do the same thing with Jesus. They thought they could get people turned against Him if they can just test Him and expose Him and get Him to make a commitment on this thing.
They have come with the question, ‘is it lawful for a man to put away his wife ‘apoluo’ for any old reason?’ Can he send her away? Matthew 19:3.
Jesus, in making His defence, goes back beyond Himself, He goes back beyond Hillel and Shammai, He goes back beyond Moses, He goes back to the creation. And He’s going to make four points of defence as to why you shouldn’t put away your wife.
All they bothered about was, divorce, divorce, divorce, they always were talking about divorce. Why and how can they get a divorce? Jesus tells them that God didn’t even think about divorce when He made man and woman.
And we can imagine Him thinking to Himself, why don’t they talk about permanency, why don’t they talk about what can they do to keep this thing together? Why are they always talking about why and how we can put her away?
These are the four reasons that Jesus gives why they shouldn’t even be concerned about this issue.
1. Because in the Genesis account, there was one man for one woman.
Jesus was very clear. In the Garden in Eden, God didn’t create Adam and Eve and Ethel. He didn’t say, try it with Eve and if that doesn’t work, try it with Ethel.
If Adam had put away Eve for any old reason if he had said, ‘you ate from the tree, I’m going to put you away’, the Bible would have ended on page two, that would be the end of it. One man created for one woman, that was God’s original design.
2. He says that there is a strong bond made.
He says ‘a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,’ Genesis 2:24 / Matthew 19:5. A strong bond, the word for ‘united’ means to be stuck fast, to be glued to, it’s a bond that is being made.
The Jews were always talking about ways to break the bond. They should have been talking about how strong the bond is to stay together.
Here again, we are talking about the ideal. We talked about the permitted, we’ll talk about the exceptions later, but right now Jesus is calling these Jews back to a discussion of the ideal. There will be a uniting of husband and wife, a strong bond.
3. He said, ‘They will become one flesh’, Matthew 19:5 / Genesis 2:24.
In the sight of God, there formerly were two personalities, but Jesus says in marriage, those two become one. One is the indivisible number, if you divide it, you get a half and that’s not a number. One is a whole number, it’s the first whole number, you can’t get any less than that.
Jesus says that when God made Adam and Eve, He made them to be one. For that reason, you shouldn’t try and break that bond because you end up with something less than a whole person in the sight of God, that’s the way God meant it.
4. The last reason that Jesus gives is that this whole marriage business is the work of God.
Notice, He says, ‘therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ Matthew 19:5 / Genesis 2:24. It’s not just some registrar official, it’s not just something that a minister does, it’s not even a decision that you make.
In the final analysis, when a marriage takes place, that marriage is the work of God, in the mind of God, they are one. In the mind of God, that oneness should not be broken, God intends for that oneness to be formed and to stay oneness.
It is the work of God and to divorce is to wreck the work of God without His permission. He is the one that bound them together, if He wants to set them free, He sets the rules for setting them free. He does it.
The Jews want to talk about divorce, practical divorce but Jesus won’t let them get away with that, Jesus talks about marriage. He goes all the way back to the beginning to stress the permanency of this relationship.
All they talked about was reasons to divorce, instead of speaking about reasons to stay together. Jesus refuses to deal with the issue that they want to deal with.
I think it is important to ask the question when is a marriage a marriage because there seems to be a lot of confusion on this. What makes a marriage? How do I know that a marriage has taken place?
There is a point of view that says, ‘when a man and a woman have a sexual relationship, at that point, they are married’. Because people believe that, then they say that if a single man out there goes to bed with a single girl in the sight of God they are married because they had sex and sex makes a marriage.
If that were true, you couldn’t have ‘fornication’. You could have a marriage, but you couldn’t have ‘fornication’. The Bible does recognise fornication, it does recognise sexual activity outside the marriage relationship that God says is illegal.
If simply having sex made one married, God would talk about marriages but He wouldn’t talk about fornication so the Bible does recognise it.
More evidence comes from Exodus in the giving of the law Moses.
The text says if a man finds a woman who isn’t even engaged to be married and he sleeps with her, he has a moral obligation to go to her dad, pay the bride price and marry her.
If her father says, ‘no way! We don’t want to be hooked up with your family. You still have to pay the bride price because you’ve dishonoured her, but no wedding takes place.’
We must remember that it’s not just a daughter marrying a man, it was the union of two families back then. This man couldn’t turn him down if the marriage had already taken place automatically because of the sex act. That gives me evidence that marriage isn’t made by sexual activity.
Furthermore, adultery doesn’t dissolve a marriage. Some people think, that if they’re married and their husband or wife goes out and sleeps with someone else, that means the marriage has ended.
That’s not the case, it may give the innocent party freedom to divorce, but that doesn’t mandate it, nor does it automatically end a marriage. It’s important to recognise that.
In Malachi, we find the Israelite men had been adulterers, but they still had the wives of their youth. God calls on them to be faithful to the wives of their youth. If adultery destroyed marriage, they would not have the wives of their youth anymore. God says you need to be faithful to your wives.
In the Old Testament and the New Testament and even today marriage is constituted by the covenant. Marriage is the coming together of two people who pledge a lifelong commitment to each other.
God says, ‘remember the wife of your youth with whom you entered into a covenant.’ Malachi 2:14. It’s the entering into a covenant, it’s the intentional choice to blend your life with hers. Whatever that covenant is will vary from culture to culture, in some countries, there are different things that you do.
Maybe you take a pig and give it to the girl’s father so he’ll give you the girl and a written contract is made and it’s official. In other cultures, you can buy a wife, that’s a part of a covenant.
Whatever it is, when you meet those agreements, then in the sight of God and the sight of the law of the land, you are married, you have intentionally entered into that arrangement. Jesus says that marriage should be viewed as permanent, that’s the way God intended it, that’s the ideal.
What happens if we don’t measure up to the ideal? What happens when there is a failure? What does God say about that? What are we to do?
The Pharisees come to Jesus and they ask him, ‘is it lawful to ‘apoluo,’ is it lawful to put away your wife for any and every reason?’ Matthew 19:3. After all, that was the practice in their culture.
We know from the Talmud that polygamy was exceptionally widespread among the Jews in the first century, it was being practised. The Talmud is very clear that it was expected of a rabbi that he has only one wife.
The high priest, specifically stated in the Talmud, ‘a man could only have one wife, but the average person could have more than one’. So, polygamy was practised, a man would find something he didn’t like about a wife and become displeased with her, so he would simply send her back to her father. There would be no legal divorce and, in that culture, he could do that.
In our British culture, that can’t be done, there are specific legal specifications that must be met for a divorce to be recognised in this culture and for remarriage to take place without there being bigamy or polygamy. But, not so in Jesus’ time.
In Biblical days, a man could simply send his wife away, he could stop meeting her emotional needs, her sexual needs, her financial needs, he could send her back to her home and go out and contract a new marriage and it really didn’t matter.
So, ‘apoluo’ became ‘practical divorce’, while ‘apostasion’ was ‘legal, official divorce’. Jesus had commented on this back in Matthew 5. ‘It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce ‘apostasion’. Matthew 5:31.
Jesus was saying, ‘anyone who divorces his wife, ‘apoluo’ except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced ‘apoluo’ woman commits adultery.’ Matthew 5:32.
How does He do that? Because he hasn’t given her the ‘apostasion’, he hasn’t given her a ‘legal certificate of divorce’ and anybody who marries that woman who has been put away, who didn’t get the legal divorce, who didn’t have that ‘written bill of divorcement’ in her hand, anyone who would marry her also commits adultery because he’s forming a relationship with a woman who, in the eyes of God and, technically, in the laws of the land, is still married to someone else.
The Pharisees heard that Jesus took a very conservative point of view, so they come here in Matthew 19:3 on the attack. They are looking to discredit Jesus, they are looking perhaps to destroy Him, to turn the masses against Him and perhaps to use His teaching against Him as John the Baptist found his teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage in the situation with King Herod to work against him.
Jesus gives a reply, which we read in Matthew 19:4-6 where Jesus goes back beyond their culture, back beyond the Law of Moses, back to the creation. They were always looking for loopholes, they were always looking for ways to get around things.
But God has a design and that design is permanency in marriage. They were always looking for ways to break things. They always wanted to know how they could put their wives away for any and every cause but God said they should stick together with their wives, they ought to be united as one, be one flesh in the sight of God.
Then the Pharisees began to press Jesus and they come up with an argument. Their question here to Jesus is, ‘what does the Law of Moses say?’ Why did Moses command us to give our wives a certificate of ‘apostasion’ and then send her away?
Jesus had been teaching about permanency in marriage is the most important thing, they ask, why did Moses talk about divorce? Why did he talk about this certificate, this legal, official thing of divorce?
Jesus will have an answer for this argument in just a moment, but let’s think about what’s behind the words of the Pharisees.
The Pharisees didn’t practice divorce, rabbis were discouraged, as I mentioned earlier, but as a general rule people in the first century, including the Pharisees, did practice the putting away of their wives. Their rationale was based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
That is the only place in the Law of Moses that speaks of divorce, let’s go for a moment to Deuteronomy 24 and find out what Moses said.
There is a great misunderstanding, the Pharisees misunderstood it and that misunderstanding continues even today. If you have the King James translation of the Bible, you will find that it’s had a mistranslation. In fact, its mistranslation is so bad that it leads to a misunderstanding of the passage altogether.
Now the problem here comes in the fact that the word ‘then’ which occurs in Deuteronomy 24:1 in the King James translation doesn’t occur in the Hebrew text.
The word ‘then’ draws a conclusion and it makes it sound like Moses is saying, ‘If a man marries and finds something that he doesn’t like about his wife, THEN let him divorce her’. But a point of fact is, that isn’t what Moses said, the word ‘then’ doesn’t occur in the text until verse 4.
In the New International Version, the New American Standard Version and perhaps in others, it’s correctly translated in this passage. So, if you aren’t using the N.I.V. or the N.A.S.V. or a translation that has correctly translated this passage, read very carefully at these four verses together.
Moses is speaking to the people. In fact, this is the only place where he gives them insight regarding this situation of divorce and remarriage.
Now notice the King James Version has this saying, ‘If a man marries and if he becomes displeased with his wife, THEN let him give her a bill of divorcement’, but that’s not what Moses said. Deuteronomy 24:1-2 are written without any comment, without any editorialising, without any approval or disapproval.
Moses simply says, ‘If a man marries, if he becomes displeased with that wife, if he gives her a certificate of divorce (Moses didn’t say whether that was right or wrong, he simply said if he does that), if she goes out and marries husband number 2 and if husband number 2 divorces her or if husband number 2 dies, THEN, (here is the conclusion).
God said that woman cannot go back to her first husband, she cannot remarry to her original mate, it’s an impossibility. Moses goes on to say it is an abomination in the sight of God. So, Moses didn’t command a ‘bill of divorce’.
He simply assumed that a ‘bill of divorce’ was being given. If it was given, if the woman was legally divorced and she goes out and marries again, then she cannot under any circumstances ever go back to her first husband. God said that is morally objectionable to Him, it’s an abomination in His sight.
But what does ‘uncleanness’ mean as King James renders this? What does ‘indecency’ mean in verse 1 as the N.I.V. has it? It’s the Hebrew word, ‘ervah’ and that’s really where the Pharisees got hung up, they tried to figure out, what is this ‘indecency’ that allows him to give her a bill of divorce and send her away so he can marry someone else.
Again, the debate between Hillel and Shammai comes in here.
Shammai took a very conservative point of view, he believed it was fornication or adultery. Hillel, on the other hand, took a much more liberal view, if he finds any uncleanness in her, any indecency in her, then he may put her away.
Hillel said that indecency could be something like talking to men in public, spinning around so that her legs could be seen when she was out in public, or maybe cooking a meal that he didn’t like, maybe she scrambled his eggs when he wanted them fried, anything about her that she did, whether it was actions, appearance, attitude, if it displeased the husband, Hillel said that was enough justification to get rid of her. He said you can put her away, you can give her a bill of divorcement and send her out.
Well, what is this uncleanness? What did Moses have in mind? I’m not exactly sure, and to be honest, nobody knows, nobody is positive, the Pharisees debated it and we debate it today.
However, there is something very interesting back in Deuteronomy 23, just prior to what Moses said here in Deuteronomy 24, it’s interesting because we find this same Hebrew word used, ‘ervah’.
The word ‘indecent’ is the same word that is used in Deuteronomy 24:1. Deuteronomy 23 in context, it’s a reference to human excrement.
God says that He is going to come down and be walking in the camp of the Israelites and He doesn’t want to be stepping into that. When they go out, He wants them to dig a hole and relieve themselves and cover over it, He doesn’t want to see that indecency.
Moses says now says, ‘Now if a man marries a wife and he finds some indecency in her (something shameful, something vile, something corrupt, something that is a tremendous embarrassment to the husband) and he writes her a bill of divorcement and sends her away.’ Deuteronomy 24:1. N.I.V.
Even Moses doesn’t pretend that it’s a light-hearted matter, it’s something vilely immoral to the man, something terribly offensive. But may I say, with all confidence that it’s not adultery. Shammai contended that it was adultery. I don’t believe it is for the simple reason that in Deuteronomy 22, two chapters earlier, God said that the penalty for adultery is death, not divorce.
If a husband found some indecency in his wife and God meant by that, indecency in adultery the solution wouldn’t be divorce under the Law of Moses, it would be death.
This implies that indecency must be something short of adultery, something short of marital unfaithfulness. Whatever it is, it was something vile and terribly offensive to the husband.
Moses says if a man marries and his wife does something horrendously vile, offensive and embarrassing to him, and if he gives her a bill of divorce and sends her away and if she marries somebody else, then he never, never, never can remarry that woman again.
No matter if he comes to forgive her and love her and wants to return to her, God says that it would be an abomination in His sight. Now that’s what is behind what the Pharisees had to say when they start talking about Moses commanding them to write a certificate of divorce.
Remember we are talking about ‘apoluo’, putting away a wife without giving her an official, legal certificate of divorce. They want to know, can we put them away for any reason. The Pharisees are thinking if God is so interested in permanency in marriage, why did Moses command us to divorce our wives?
Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 19:8. Jesus is going to tell them that Moses ‘allowed’ it, Moses never ‘commanded’ it. You will not find anywhere, not even in Deuteronomy 24 nor anywhere in all the Law of Moses, where Moses commanded people to divorce. In Matthew 19:8 Jesus replied, ‘Moses ALLOWED you to divorce.’
In Deuteronomy 24:1-4 when Moses said, ‘If a man marries, if he forms a contract to enter into a marriage relationship and later finds something displeasing with her, and if he gives her a certificate of divorce’.
Moses assumes that was what was happening, that there already was a certificate of divorce, but Moses didn’t command it. Moses did recognise it, though, he did allow it.
Jesus said, ‘Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard’. Matthew 19:8. In other words, they wouldn’t consent to live with the same woman, they wouldn’t consent to honour God’s arrangement in the marital relationship. It’s the hardness of their heart that kept God from forcing the ideal on them, so there is the ideal of permanency but then, there is the divorce which is ‘allowed’.
God did tolerate them putting away their wives with a legal certificate of divorce and then marrying someone else.
But, Jesus said, ‘it was not this way from the beginning’. Matthew 19:8. God didn’t tell Adam if you don’t like Eve then give her a bill of divorcement.
From the beginning, God’s intent was for permanency, but as through sin men became corrupt, as men became hardened and rebellious, as they were determined not to honour the ways of God, God gave them the arrangement of divorce that is, He ‘allowed’ it, permitted it.
It wasn’t His pleasure and it didn’t please Him. It wasn’t what He really wanted, it wasn’t the ideal, but God did recognise divorce, He did allow it.
Notice carefully what Jesus says, ‘And I say to you, whoever divorces ‘apoluo’ his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’ Matthew 19:9.
Anyone who puts away his wife has committed adultery. Why is he putting her away? Possibly because he wants to marry someone else, yet he doesn’t have the right in the eyes of God to marry that other person because he hasn’t given his first wife the certificate of divorce, ‘apostasion’. He hasn’t taken care of her.
They didn’t want to return the dowry; the certificate of divorce was going to cost them. It was much easier to just abandon them, to put them away and allow them to go back to their home or fend for themselves and to ignore them.
If they ever gave them the certificate of divorce then they had some obligations, they had to provide for their wives and children’s needs if they sent them away, but this was their loophole, they put them away without the official divorce.
The very thought that what Jesus was saying brings the disciples to a very surprising conclusion, it shocks them. Is it possible that a person who has a ‘bill of divorcement’ is really free to marry again? Now traditionally, some have said, ‘No!’
The only reason you could divorce your wife or your husband was because of ‘marital unfaithfulness’. That doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is saying, Jesus, is saying if they ‘put them away’, they must make it an official divorce for them to be able to marry again.
It seems to me that if our traditional position is the correct one, then we have jeopardised the integrity of God because God is the only one in all of the Bible who is ever said to have divorced someone and given them a bill of divorcement.
Israel had chased after pagan gods, they had chased after false gods, and they had entered into a covenant with God. They said, you’ll be our God, we’ll be your people, but they opposed that, not just once, but many, many times.
They were unfaithful to God and so God said, ‘I gave them a certificate of divorce’. When he sent her away then, he had the freedom to marry another.
The bride of Christ today is the church, but if divorce is wrong, if giving a certificate of divorce and marrying someone else is wrong, then we have jeopardised God, it would appear to me because God Himself is the only illustration in Scripture of anybody who divorced.
He didn’t do it for just one adultery, He did it for many adulteries, many, many occasions. He held on as long as He could with the people, but they wouldn’t come around.
This again is about the hardness of the people’s hearts, their inability, and their lack of desire to be loyal and faithful to God. We saw earlier, Matthew 19:1-9 that Jesus uses two different words in the text, one word that could properly be translated as ‘putting away’ which is ‘apoluo’, it means ‘to send away’ or ‘to abandon’.
Then he uses the word ‘apostasion’ which is the legal document, certificate of divorce, granting a divorce. On the basis of the fact that there are two different words used to describe two different actions, the distinction should be maintained.
Jesus says, if they put their wives away if they don’t make it legal and they go out and marry somebody else, they commit adultery because they have married a second person when they are still married to the first person, therein lies the problem.
Back in Matthew 5:31-32, we saw the other side of the coin, if a man sends away his wife without granting divorce and she marries somebody else, then she commits adultery and the man who marries her commits adultery because legally, technically she is still married to her first husband.
All of this raises a question on the part of the disciples, they are in absolute shock in Matthew 19:10. The disciples said to Him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’
Now, what is it that shocks the disciples when Jesus says to them, ‘you can’t just send your wife away’? There has to be a legal procedure before you are free to marry someone else.
If there is a legal divorce, then the husband would be required to return the dowry. Whatever price he received from the father for the girl that he married would have to be returned.
Jesus is saying they have to honour and respect the rights of their wife. It shocked them in a society where women had no rights because they didn’t have to think of that.
They could just send their wives away for any old cause as far as they were concerned. Now Jesus says, no, they can’t do that, they have to respect their wives. They have taken her into their home, they have married her and they can’t just dismiss her.
If they’re not going to live with her, they must give her an official, legal divorce, whatever that might cost them, whatever they have to struggle with, whatever consequence that brings into their lives, they have to respect their wife as a woman and meet her needs and meet her rights and legally set her free so she can marry someone else without incurring the charge of adultery.
I think there is something else here that shocks the disciples. Jesus says, if they send away their wife without giving her a legal divorce and they marry somebody else, they commit adultery. What does the Law of Moses say about committing adultery?
The disciples realise what Jesus was saying, death is the penalty for adultery! They realise if that’s the situation between a husband and wife, it’s better not to marry.
Bear in mind that Jesus isn’t talking here about the person who has never been asked to be married. Nor is He talking about the person who asked someone to marry them but was turned down when He talks about singleness here. He’s talking about people who are single for three different reasons.
They were born that way; their sexual organs were dysfunctional so they have no sexual drive. They have no real need to be married to satisfy that desire, so they don’t get married. Jesus says some people are born that way.
They were made that way by men, kings in ancient society used to do that a lot. They had their harems and they didn’t want the man in charge of the Harem messing around with the women, so they castrated them so they would lose sexual desire and they could do their business without being attracted to the women.
3. Commitment to God.
They want to serve the kingdom of God without being tied down to a wife and the responsibilities and time commitment that would take. So, by choice, they remained single.
Jesus said, ‘not everybody can accept that’, Matthew 19:11. God designed man to be married but when a man marries, here are the requirements that Jesus says he must meet.
He cannot dismiss his wife for any old reason in the book and go out and marry someone else. If they dismiss their wife, they must give her a certificate of divorce.
If they don’t legally divorce her, they commit adultery when they remarry, she commits adultery when she marries and the one who marries her commits adultery because they have never legally been divorced.
If this distinction stands up between ‘putting away’ and ‘divorce’, then the only conclusion that I can come to is that God has NO regulations about reasons for divorce.
Jesus is saying, if they put their wives away, they better give them the ‘apostasion’, they better make it legal, so she can have the certificate and show anybody else that she has the right to marry again.
If they put their wives away, if there is separation, if there is abandonment, then they must give them the legal certificate of divorce or they are going to incur adultery and she will incur adultery when there is remarriage.
I think we can also come to the conclusion that Jesus doesn’t condemn ‘divorce’ as a sin. Many people teach that divorce is a sin but the Bible doesn’t say that.
Where does the problem come from in this text? Does it come in the divorce? No! It’s in the remarriage, that’s where the problem is, the problem comes in the remarriage. Jesus says they can’t remarry unless there has been an official divorce.
I’m sure some people will still ask, what about that passage in Malachi 2 in the Old Testament where God says, ‘I hate divorce’? He said, ‘I hate shalach’ which we now know means ‘putting away’. I hate putting away, God says. Why?
Because they hadn’t been granting their wives the ‘apostasion’, they hadn’t given them the ‘keriythuwth’ they hadn’t given them the legal certificate.
God says He hates it when they just abandon their wives. He hates it when there is separation and they don’t meet her financial needs, her emotional needs, her sexual needs, and her psychological needs. They just put her on the shelf and forget about her. And she doesn’t have the right to go out and marry anybody else who will meet those needs.
God says I hate that. If the husband is going to separate from her and abandon her, give her a divorce, make it official so she can remarry. God says, ‘I hate the putting away’, not I hate divorce.
Even if Jesus is talking about legal divorce all the way through, He says the problem comes when one divorces his wife and then marries another.
The person who divorces and marries another commits adultery. Isn’t that what He said? However, by default, we could say if a person divorces and never remarries, they have not sinned in the sight of God., therefore divorce is not a sin.
We know that there are women out there who are severely abused by their husbands, they beat them unmercifully. He’s not a Christian and has no desire to treat her right.
He has literally broken her bones at times in abusing her. And finally, after having struggled through all that and trying to make that marriage work for the sake of her own emotional and mental health, she divorces him.
Would God say to her, ‘that’s wrong, that is sin’! There are some who would say, ‘yes’, and some would say, she must stay with her husband or if she does leave him, she can’t divorce him! I don’t believe for one moment that God penalises a person who is trying to do what is right.
It’s really difficult speaking to anyone about divorce because we know that God wants permanency, but I believe that Jesus recognised that at times, sin enters into people’s marriages as it does into people’s lives.
Divorce is not what God wants, it’s less than the ideal, but God allows it. God permits it but to say that they aren’t free to marry again, is reading into the text, something which Jesus never said, 1 Corinthians 4:6.
I believe that the two words ‘apoluo’ and ‘apostasion’ mean different things and that Jesus is talking about ‘abandonment’ or ‘separation’ and remarriage without legal divorce from the first person.
To do that means that one commits adultery when they form a second union to which they have no right because the first union still exists.
You see, slavery wasn’t what God wanted, He didn’t create slaves in the beginning, but He allowed it, He didn’t want a man to have more than one wife. He created Adam and Eve and that’s all, but He did permit it, right?
Abraham had several wives, David had several wives, and Solomon had several wives. Others had several wives. God never came to David and said, ‘All right now, David, you have to give up all your wives except the first one that you married.’
He never said that, it wasn’t what He wanted, it wasn’t the ideal, but it was permitted. God never wanted divorce, but He did permit it.
Jesus spoke to people who were under the law of Moses, in a covenant relationship with God and as a part of that covenant they had certain terms, certain conditions that they were to meet that flowed over into their marriage.
What about the Gentiles who weren’t under the Law of Moses, who didn’t have any special specifications lined out? Does God have any directions for them? I believe He does and Paul addresses those questions in 1 Corinthians 7.
The disciples never seemed to want Jesus to be bothered, so they were constantly trying to keep certain kinds of people away from Him, Mark 10:46-52. In this case, it was children, Mark 10:13-16 / Luke 18:15-17.
Mark writes that when these children were brought to Jesus, He took them into His arms and blessed them, Mark 10:16 / Luke 18:17 / 1 Corinthians 14:20 / 1 Peter 2:2.
When Jesus saw that they were hindering the children from approaching Him, He was indignant and rebuked them. He said that the kingdom of God itself belongs to people who become like children.
He took the young people into His arms and began to bless them. He always had time for children. The kingdom of God belongs to those who humbly submit to Jesus, as these children do, Mark 10:15 / Luke 18:17.
These children were simply brought to Jesus for blessing and prayer, a practice which was common in Israel. When the disciples hindered the little children from coming to Jesus, Mark records that Jesus was greatly displeased, Mark 10:13.
He was greatly displeased because the children represented the nature of those who would accept His kingdom’s reign in their hearts.
The young man who addressed Jesus here was rich, Mark 10:17-31 / Luke 18:18-30. However, we must also remember that he was a ruler with some position in society.
The positions for which James and John sought in the following case of Mark 10:35-45 is what this young ruler had but could not give up.
Mark records that this rich young man came running to Jesus and kneeled down, Mark 10:17. Jesus looked on this man with great love because of his dedication, Mark 10:21. He ran up to Jesus requesting information on how to receive eternal life.
Mark records that he calls Jesus ‘good teacher’, Mark 10:17, the word ‘good’ was a Jewish reference to God, that is, there is no darkness in God, 1 John 1:5, and so, Jesus says that it is God who is standing before Him.
Jesus first told him to keep the commandments, he asks which ones and so Jesus lists five of the ten commandments, Exodus 20:12-16 / Deuteronomy 5:16-20 / Leviticus 19:18, and the man said, he had kept all of those.
But he still lacked one thing, Philippians 3:6-7, he was good, but he knew that he still lacked something, Acts 10:1-6 / Galatians 3:21.
Then Jesus ordered him to sell all that he owned, give the proceeds to the poor, and start following Him, Luke 12:33 / Acts 2:45 / Acts 4:34-35 / Acts 12:12 / Acts 21:8.
The man wanted eternal life, but not at that price. He turned away, saddened. The problem with the young ruler was not with his outward manifestation of religiosity, but with his heart.
In order to come into a right relationship with God, this particular rich person had to relieve himself of that which emotionally kept him from dependence on God.
He was self-sufficient in his riches and self-confident in his performance of law from youth. He, therefore, felt that he didn’t need to trust in the grace of God.
As Jesus talked to the rich man, He observed that he lacked only one thing, he only needed to get rid of his possessions. It became obvious that Jesus had properly diagnosed the man’s need because the man was unwilling to do so. He indeed was valuing his possessions over the Lord.
To follow Jesus, we must give up anything in our life that is more important to us than He is. Interestingly, this man lacked only one thing.
Some people have the idea that one sin is not all that bad. They think that while they may be failing in one area, at least they serve the Lord faithfully in all the others.
This story shows clearly that even one thing can keep a person from being accepted by God. Is there one thing in your life that is separating you from faithfulness in the Lord’s service?
Many follow in this young man’s steps. They desire eternal life, as long as they don’t have to make too many sacrifices. Jesus referred to these people when He remarked about how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter heaven, Matthew 13:22 / Luke 18:24-25 / 1 Corinthians 1:26 / 1 Timothy 6:9.
He said that it is easier to thread a camel through a needle than for a rich man to be saved, Matthew 6:20. No one is sure where this figurate phrase originated, but some do believe it may have been taken from a gate in the walls of Jerusalem that were so small that it was difficult for a camel to enter.
Whatever the source of the metaphor, the principle is still the same, it’s difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
The disciples were shocked. The Lord explained that with God all things are possible, but that it is hard for rich people to go to heaven, because of the tendency to trust in material possessions and not in God.
The disciples were shocked. The Lord explained that with God all things are possible, but that it is hard for rich people to go to heaven, because of the tendency to trust in material possessions and not in God.
They believed that one’s wealth was a sign that God was working in one’s life. They were wrong, Mark 10:17-31. The conclusion that righteousness was based on the perfect keeping of the law of God was also wrong. No man can be justified before God by keeping law, for all sin, Galatians 2:16.
Peter and the others indeed left everything to follow Jesus, Matthew 4:20 / Luke 5:11, but here Peter is wondering what he will receive for such a sacrifice as leaving everything behind to follow Jesus.
Coffman, in his commentary, says the following concerning, Jesus’ response.
‘This was not a reference to literal thrones but to spiritual thrones of eminence and authority in Christ’s kingdom, from which they should exercise influence, not over fleshly Israel but over the spiritual Israel which is the church, Romans 9:6 / Galatians 3:29. Note that no preference was given to Peter. There was not to be one throne, occupied by Peter and his successors, but twelve thrones, implying the equality of the Twelve. The word of the apostles, that is, the New Testament, is the instrument through which they exercise the authority that Jesus granted them in this promise. ‘Times of the regeneration’ refers to the times of the new birth, namely, the time of the present dispensation when men are hearing the gospel, obeying it, and being born again.’
‘Efforts to apply this passage to some kind of literal return of Jesus to the earth and which envisions Christ and the apostles actually occupying literal earthly thrones must surely be rejected in the light of the truth that Christ and the Twelve are NOW reigning in his kingdom. The reign will continue until all enemies have been put underfoot, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. When death, the last enemy, is destroyed, Christ will not initiate a reign but will end it, delivering up the kingdom to the Father.’
Mark says that those who leave these family relationships and possessions in order to follow Jesus will receive a hundredfold in this life, Mark 10:30.
Three things are promised here.
1. There is the multiplication, on a vast scale, of the wealth that people may forsake to follow Christ.
2. There is the multiplication, on the same vast scale, of loved ones, however near and dear, who may be forsaken for his name’s sake.
3. There is the promise of eternal life, Mark 10:30 / 1 John 5:13.
Jesus says, ‘many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first’, Matthew 20:16 / Luke 13:30.
Clarke, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the first and last.
‘The Jews, who have been the first and most distinguished people of God, will, in general, reject the Gospel of my grace, and be consequently rejected by me. The Gentiles, who have had no name among the living, shall be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and become the first, the chief, and most exalted people of God. That this prediction of our Lord has been literally fulfilled, the present state of the Christian and Jewish Churches sufficiently proves. To illustrate this fully, and to demonstrate that the Jews and Gentiles were now put on an equal footing by the Gospel, our Lord speaks the following parable, which has been unhappily divided from its connection by making it the beginning of a new chapter.’