Divorce 6 of 6: Scriptural Backing

One thing the scriptures listed next all state is that ministry is more important than tradition. We’ve forgotten this over the years as we take our traditions to foreign countries, and call it evangelism. Its good to bring the gospel to them, but it is not good to mix in our traditions and claim them as God’s. Sometimes, the rules that churches create keep people away rather than attract them. Let’s look at God’s Word through the prism of God’s love.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Moses’ Divorce Laws

Moses was taking up women’s rights long before modern times. In ancient Hebrew society, only men had rights. Legal rights, economic rights, inheritance rights, etc. That’s one of the reasons the Old Testament refers to men in a way that some would call ‘sexist language’. Women were due their rights but only through the man in their life. Daughters expected their fathers to take care of them until they married, then their husband would be responsible for caring for them. If a father did not take care of his daughter, he was chastised. If a husband did not take care of his wife, likewise. The oldest brothers had to take care of their sisters if the father had died.

If the husband died, the wife would go either to the husband’s father or back to her own. If her husband had a brother, she would go to him for legal protection, first. In fact, it was that brother’s duty to provide heirs for the dead man through the wife if none existed! Then on to the next nearest male relative. Women were cared for in this manner. This system apparently worked until some men found a way around it, a loophole.

They were ‘putting away’ their wives by giving them a hut on the corner of their property, but not allowing them into the main house. They did not divorce the woman, thus not allowing any other man to represent the woman in court or society. Then these men would take a second wife, a ‘sweet young thing’ as they got older. They forced their first wives to make do on their own, without legal rights or source of income, or any hope.

Since these women’s legal representative was the very man that was abusing them, they couldn’t sue, get jobs, nor go to social services. They often turned to prostitution or were at least accused of it. They were truly trapped unless they were ‘freed by a divorce’.

To prevent this, Moses allowed them to divorce the women, (because of the “hardness of their hearts”, remember?) so the women would be set free. Free to either return to their father’s household or to remarry again. To not facilitate weekend wife swapping, Moses told them that the wife couldn’t come back to her original husband. So now when a man divorced his wife, he could not take her back. This means if she had any potential at all, he should think twice, or a million times, before divorcing her! Moses made divorce a very serious decision, not a convenient loophole around God’s plan for marriage: “One man; one woman; one lifetime.”

Other Old Testament References

  • Leviticus 21:7,13-15, Priests forbidden to marry divorcees.

Yes, the priests were forbidden to marry divorcees. Do you see the other side of the coin? Men who were not priests were free to marry divorcees, weren’t they?! If not, then why forbid priests, and ONLY priests from marrying divorced women?

  • Isaiah 50:1,
  • Ezra 10, Men forced to divorce heathen wives!

In the New Testament

  • Matthew 5:31-32 Jesus teaches Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to (married?) men.
  • Luke 16:18
  • Matthew 19:1-12 Jesus answers Pharisees question on divorce
  • Mark 10:1-12
  • Luke 11:39-52 Jesus scolds religious leaders & lawyers
  • Malachi 2:14-16 God hates divorce
  • John 8:1-11 Jesus’ reaction to woman caught in adultery

Note how in the Old Testament, stoning was the legal reaction to adultery. Jesus didn’t choose that option. For those that believe that the only divorce allowed is in the case of adultery, I applaud you for not demanding to stone the woman for the adultery. God’s people were raised with a belief in the death penalty for adultery. It was practical because it freed the cheated person to remarry. Divorce is more merciful. It frees the cheated person to remarry without condemning the guilty one to death. It gives them another chance to live, to repent, to confess, and to continue. How like Jesus to offer so much to someone who deserves so little!

Still done in Afghanistan and other countries today!
  • Ephesians 4:28 How to treat a reformed thief.
  • 1 Corinth 8:1 Knowledge puffs up, love builds up
  • 1 Timothy 5:1-16 Rules for ministry to widows.
  • Colossians 3:18-19 Guidelines for marital relationships.
  • Ephesians 5:21-33.
  • James 1:27 Pure religion is …

Note again that widows and orphans are people that had a spiritual leader, and have lost him. Divorced women were in the same category, in that they also lost their man, but not to the death of his body, but to the death of his commitment to them!

  • Colossians 2:20-23 List of “don’ts” doesn’t work.
  • 1 Timothy 4:1-3 Beware men who forbid marriage!

Paul in 1st Corinthians!

  • 1 Corinth 7 Paul on Relationships1
    • Corinth 7:1-7 Guidelines for all marriages.
    • 1 Corinth 7:8,9 Guidelines for divorced & widows

But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

1 Corinth 7:8-9, New King James Bible

So many scholars claim that the above scripture refers to single people and widows. Well, as I see it, they are half right. I would like to remind them that throughout both the Old and New Testaments “single” people are called “virgins”, not “unmarried”. As I pointed out earlier, there was rampant divorce in the Old Testament, and would still have been when Paul wrote these words! Oh, yes, it is still rampant today!

Let’s look closely at the actual Greek word that is translated as ‘unmarried’, and see what it means. ‘AGAMOS’, comes from two other words; ‘A’ and ‘GAMOS’. ‘A’ is a negative prefix, similar to ‘un-‘ in English. ‘GAMOS’ is the Greek word for ‘wedding’. Literally then, ‘AGAMOS’ is … ‘un-wedded’ (used as an adjective) or an ‘un-wedding’ (as a noun). Note that the Greek word for a never-married woman is used later in the same chapter, as shown below.

Anyone addressed as ‘AGAMOS’, is un-wedded, or, divorced. It is possible that we have been using the wrong word! Since both widows and divorced women have lost their spiritual leader, it makes sense to offer them both the same advice. It is unfortunate that many people have taken this passage, which was always intended as guidance for a divorced person, and missed it altogether.

Single People

The word translated ‘virgin’ is the Greek word ‘PARTHENOS’, which means ‘maiden’ or ‘virgin’. It describes a never-married young woman. Some have taken this to mean physically a virgin, yet it was also used to mean socially a virgin. This was a practice common to both Greek and Hebrew. Nowhere in the Bible have a found a young woman referred to as “agamos”, or un-married!

Isaiah 7:14 is quoted in the New Testament as “and the virgin will be with child“. This use of the word “virgin” refers to someone who is not yet married … a “single person” as we would refer to her today.

It doesn’t make sense that both “agamos” and “parthenos” mean the same thing. There is separate guidance for each! There is no contradiction nor conflict here. Only recently, in the last few hundred years, have we tried to make them have the same meaning!

Is Divorce Accepted, Ever?

1st Corinthians 7:12-15 is a guideline for those Christians married to non-believers and is often forgotten. Most of the Christians in Paul’s time became Christians as adults since they were older than Christianity! Many may have become Christians after they married. Hopefully, they changed and were no longer the same person that their spouse married.

Paul tells people that if you have become a believer, whether or not you stay married is up to your spouse, not you. If they say you’re not the person they married, and they want out, leave them in peace. If they don’t mind the improvements in your character and life, and they want to keep you around, then you are to stay with them.

“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. 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. 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.”

1st Cornithians 7:12-15 New King James Version

So much for those people that say that adultery is the only scriptural basis for divorce! Notice that YOUR conversion, allows your spouse to divorce you. Hmm, no adultery here, yet God says divorce is an option in this situation!

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