Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992




1. This is not to condemn anyone in any relationship.

2. This is to present the Scripture involved, and draw conclusions.

3. This is to reprimand the Church for its steady decline and slide toward the world in relation to this subject. The Churches divorce rate if about that of the world's.

4. This is to confront people in this situation with a head on look at what God says concerning the subject. Many today have accepted the norm for themselves, and have never looked into the Word to see what God has to say.

5. Malachi 2:15b, 16 States, "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."

Note: God hates the putting away of the wife of your youth. If you do, you deal treacherously against her. This is the context that this study must be done in. All else that the Scripture states must be understood in light of the fact that God hates divorce, and that the person that does go ahead and divorce, is dealing treacherously with their spouse.

6. This is also a call to the church to commit itself to two items:

a. Begin to properly teach the principles of marriage.

b. That it begin to minister to those already in the divorce/remarried situation.

First I would like to present some of the views held today on the topic.

1. No divorce No remarriage

2. Div. OK in some cases No remarriage

3. Divorce OK Rem. OK in case of fornication

4. Divorce OK Rem. in case of fornication and


5. Divorce OK Rem. OK in all cases

One, three and four are held in conservative circles, although four is not widely held. Three is the past favorite. Two is fairly new and not to much is being done with it. One is very conservative but I believe that it is growing rapidly due to the rethinking of the old position of number three.

Most view death as grounds for remarriage though Paul indicates that staying single may be best (I Cor. 7). Paul hints that young widows probably ought to remarry in one of his epistles if they can't handle the life of a single. (Which is hard for most young people that have lost a spouse via death. I Cor. 7:7-8 mentions it is better to marry than burn, however that is specifically in the context of single persons considering not marrying for the first time and widows. It has nothing to do with the divorcees situation.)

Let us begin with a text that God set forth through Moses long before any of the texts that we will consider, were given.

Gen. 2:23-24, "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh."

May I add a New Testament passage also?

Matt 19:4-8, "And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made [them] at the beginning made them male and female,

"And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

"Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

"They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

"He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so."

Most agree to this. Marriage is between two, and in the beginning, was for life.

"Leave" is imperative to a good marriage. The cleave is indicative of holding to one another and no one else, as in parents or friends (This is not the idea of moving away from parents, for the Old Testament concept was the family staying together. The one flesh is indicative of the unity of the marriage.

How can you divide one flesh? This is the dilemma that faces those that see divorce as an option. They just don't deal with it.

I might add immediately that a legal separation may be very wise and in some states divorce. This will provide legal protection in some cases for the person. IT SHOULD NEVER BE SEEN AS A DIVISION IN THE MARRIAGE FOR THE LAW CANNOT DIVIDE FLESH. DEATH IS THE ONLY DIVISOR OF THE ONE FLESH OF A MARRIAGE.

Let us look at the passages that seem to relate to the problem.

Exodus 20:14 "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

The clear command of God in one of His ten big ones! He says that you shalt not do it!

Lev. 18:16 mentions that it is not right for a brother to uncover the nakedness of his brother's wife. This would be in the case of a brother with his presently married brother's wife I would assume.

Lev. 18:20 mentions that adultery defiles the man.

Leviticus 20:10 "And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man's wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."

This passage is clear that death was the laws answer to the adulterus activities of the Israelites. Christ, living under that law, obeying that law and fulfilling that law would naturally have known of this passage. He would have had to be thinking of this when He announced the so called exception for fornication. He knew that under the law, death was the answer to fornication, and there were no other cases whereby adultery was acceptable. It is not acceptable in the case of fornication, but is cause for death.

Let us look at the relationship of Christ to the law.

1. Christ was made of a woman under the law: Gal 4:4

2. Christ came to redeem those under the law: Gal 4:5

3. Christ came to fulfill the law: Matt 5:17-20

4. Christ would have to keep the law to fulfill it:

Matt 4:13-17 ("fulfill all righteousness")

5. Christ taught the keeping of the law: Matt 19:16-19

6. Christ did not come to destroy the law, nor to set it aside: Matt 5:17

In light of this it seems doubtful that the Lord was giving an exception for divorce, but rather He was stating there was no reason for divorce. Indeed, the reaction of the disciples indicates that they viewed marriage for life and not something that could be dissolved.

If Christ had such strong feelings about divorce/remarriage, why shouldn't the minister of God, why shouldn't the woman of God, why shouldn't the man of God abhor divorce/remarriage within the family of God?

Deuteronomy 5:18 "Neither shalt thou commit adultery." This is a repeat of the commandment.

Deuteronomy 24:1 We need to understand this text in light of the Malachi passage concerning God's hate for divorce, and realize that the New Testament mentions this was allowed because of the hardness of their hearts. (Matt 19:8)

1. "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

2. "And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.

3. "And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;

4. "Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance."

Some brief information on the words used: v 1 some = 1697 (from 1696) = "dabar (daw-baw) = twot 399a; relates to saying, speech, word, or business. uncleanness = 6172 (from 6168) = "ervah" (er-vaw) = twot 1692b; relates to nakedness and shame, or exposed. bill of divorcement = 3748 = "keriythuwth" (ker-ee-thooth) = twot 1048; means divorce or dismissal. v 4 defiled = 2930 = "tame" (taw-may') = twot 809; This tern relates to being unclean or impure. It can be sexually, ceremonially, or religiously.

The use of the word "dabar" would indicate that this uncleanness may be related to the spoken word. It could be cursing, or more to the point probably, would be the confession of some uncleanness. However, when you put this word with the word "ervah" you have a double term indicating other than the thought of uncleanness, but rather the thought of some spoken nakedness or exposure. This could relate to most any exposure of information that causes the man to decide he does not want this woman for a wife.

Many believe that this passage relates to the engagement period, before the actual marriage. It is something that the man finds out before the actual marriage ceremony and consummation of the marriage.

The term married = 1166 = "baal (bah'-al) = twot 262; Strong: " be master; marry:-have dominion (over), be husband, marry...." twot "possess, own, rule over, marry." Neither mention the thought of engagement period. This would indicate that they were indeed, married, however, since marriage is for life and the penalty for adultery is death, it seems right to assume that the text may well be speaking of the engagement period rather than an actual completed marriage.

Barne's Notes has a good comment which needs to be considered. (Cook, F.C., editor; "THE BIBLE COMMENTARY"; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; no copy, pp 315-316) The author mentions that these four verses are actually one sentence. "Moses neither institutes nor enjoins divorce. The exact spirit of the passage is given in our lord's words to the Jews;, 'Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives' (Matt. xix. 8). Not only does the original institution of marriage as recorded by Moses (Gen. ii. 24) set forth the perpetuity of the bond, but the verses before us plainly intimate that divorce, whilst tolerated for the time, contravenes the order of nature and of God." He goes on to state, "Moses could not absolutely put an end to a practice which was traditional, and common to the Jews with other Oriental nations. His aim is therefore to regulate and thus to mitigate an evil which he could not extripate."

Since this is a text that we can't really nail down as to meaning, it should be subjected to a proper level under the institution of marriage in Genesis and the thought that God hates divorce. The most you might conclude from this text would be there is something revealed that causes the problem. You should not assume that this is basis for the divorce rate we see today.

A New Testament illustration of this would be Matt 1:19 when Joseph considered putting Mary away before they had consummated and completed the marriage.

In an informal paper from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, OR, the faculty were trying to work through the issue of divorce/remarriage. They state of the Deut. 24 passage, "Divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was allowed but not ordered. What was commanded is this: if there were a divorce, the person being divorced must be given a bill of divorcement...." They go on to emphasize that the divorce was due to the hardness of their hearts.

It seems that the emphasis is not on allowing divorce, but that if you are going to be hard hearted enough to divorce then give a bill of divorcement.

The term defiled in v 4 is "become unclean" according to the Theogical Wordbook of the Old Testament. It is used in the following texts: Lev. 18:20 defiling a neighbor's wife; Ezek. 18:6 defiling a neighbor's wife; Num. 5:133,14,20,29; This is strong number 2930.

The first husband caused his wife trouble evidently because she went out and remarried.

NOTE: The 2nd divorce or idea that she is defiled to the point she is not able to be married without adding problems to the situation indicates that the defilement is permanent. Marriage is for life.

Divorce is only recognized in this text, and is not commanded. Divorce is not even condoned in this text. Divorce is only recognized as being in existence in this text.

The first husband and I would assume all others are not to marry this woman. She is defiled for life! The text does not state it but the second marriage is what defiled her. She is not to remarry.

If the husband divorces he is to do the paperwork that is involved. This is all that this text is getting at.

The standard of the woman for marriage was: Being a virgin Deut. 22:13ff, Matt. 1:18ff; or a widow - Ruth and Boaz produced a child in the line of Christ.

The defilement of this woman was life long. Barne's Notes backs this line of thinking as well.


This woman defiled herself when she married the second time.

This woman had caused problems in the marriage.

This woman would defile any one that she married.

Thus the divorcee that remarries is defiled or unmarriable for life. The second and succeeding spouses are defiled because of the marriage to the divorcee.

The defilement in the case of the divorcee is for life, while we aren't told of the second spouse. The indication of Lev. 22:7 is that the priest would be defiled. If there was a possibility of him removing that defilement the Bible is silent. I would assume that if he were to put her away, then his defilement would end.

Leviticus 21:7 "They shall not take a wife [that is] a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he [is] holy unto his God." (v 14 also)

The priest is not to marry a divorced woman because he is holy. This is very plain and the indications are very clear that the divorced woman would be a defilement to the priest.

An associated passage is Lev. 22:13. A priests young childless - widowed or divorced daughter may live with the priest, but no strangers are to eat there. Since this text mentions the widowed, I would assume that the danger here is that some unwanted possibilities would exist if a stranger were to drop in for a period of time.

Conclusions from the Leviticus texts might run along this line. If a man marries a divorced woman he will become defiled or unholy.

It should be pointed out that 22:13 tells us that associating with the divorcee is not defiling. The divorcee needs to be ministered to and that is a real problem for the church. We have many divorcees going to churches that are inadequate doctrinally because they find acceptance there and they don't in our fundamental churches.

A word of warning: I think that a close relationship to a divorcee could well damage a good marriage, so there is a real danger in this. The divorcee can affect in a negative manner a happily married person to the point of damaging the marriage.

Some suggest many things from Deut. 22:13-21. There is a lot built on this text that is not really there. If you see comments on it be sure that you look very carefully. The context is a woman that is claiming to be a virgin and is trying to publicly get away with her lie. Note: If she is virgin the marriage bond is for life! Divorce in vs. 19 is literally "send her away". This is a problem that arises before the marriage is consummated. (virgin)

It is of interest that Joseph (Mary's husband) knew this ruling. If he thought that Mary was a non-virgin He may have been showing a great love for her by trying to divorce her quietly. He didn't want to chance any harm for her and her baby.

Deut. 22:22 Remember for awhile, the fact that verse 22 mentions death as the punishment for adultery. Divorce is not in view here!

Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 is of interest while we are in the vicinity. It speaks of a single man and single woman that have relations. The point of the passage is marriage and payment of money to the father. The passage ends with a command, "...and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. This idea is in v 19 as well. It seems Moses wanted to emphasis the point. Unless I am seriously wrong, this is a command that a marriage is for life. It would not seem logical to penalize these particular situations for life, so we should see it as general principle - marriage is for life. If there is divorce, the person is defiled when remarried.

Ezra 10:3,19 "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.

"And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and [being] guilty, [they offered] a ram of the flock for their trespass."

Chapter nine and Neh. 13:23-31 are also background for this text.

This speaks of putting foreign wives away, however there is no mention of divorce or bills of divorcement which Deut. required.

The most you can draw from this is that the Jews were allowed to separate themselves from foreign wives - not divorce. The term used here "put away" is "yasa" which means to go out from. (This is Strong's 3318 and twot's 893) This is not related to the terms for divorce in the Old Testament. This was a step to keep the Messianic line pure, and I have not found any that speak of this being for today.

Proverbs 6:32 "[But] whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he [that] doeth it destroyeth his own soul."

There are two things mentioned here. The adulterer lacketh understanding, and he destroyeth his own soul.

Just what the last item means is another thing. It would probably be readily accepted that this is not talking about eternal things. It would seem that it speaks of the man's earthly life. The soul is the center of our world consciousness, thus the thought should relate to how the man relates to his world. Adultery certainly has been observed to seriously affect the mental and emotional side of people involved, and these two often can cause problems within the physical realm as well.

Thus the destruction probably relates to the life, or quality of life of the people involved. I once was told by an older woman of a part of her life. Her account relates to this point. She had divorced her first husband and had remarried. She began to look at the Bible and realized that she should not be married. She mentioned that she went through many years of guilt feelings because of her situation. She said that she was very relieved when her first husband died. She felt that she had been freed.

Jeremiah 3:1 "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD."

God views the put away wife that remarries as an harlot, or as we've seen - defiled.

Jeremiah 3:8,9 "And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also."

"And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks."

The whole tenor of the text should set the person contemplating adultery at odds with their straying desires.

Several things to note:

Israel committed adultery and was put away: This might indicate that the exception of the New Testament for fornication had Old Testament basis. This is God that did this.

It could better be said that it is an understandable picture that God gave to the Jews, and that He did not really give them a divorce - He just put them away for their spiritual adultery.

The thought of Israel being His wife is merely a picture, thus so would be a divorce from her. If you make the mistake of making this a real divorce then you have him married to Israel and divorcing her, while he is married to Judah. You might tack on the fact that Christ will marry the church one day. Bigamy on the part of God - not a tolerable teaching!

God gave a bill of divorce: Again this does not indicate an Old testament basis for the exception of the New Testament. Even if this is a true event of divorce on the part of God, it was for the fear factor in others. He did it to salvage a relationship with Judah. Application of this might run along the line that any divorce in this age should be an example and a case to cause fear in other peoples relationships. It is of interest, that if this is true, then the people of our day have done as Judah - feared not and played the harlot.

Conclusions from this text:

1. The thought of the text is that God was trying to set an example and salvage another relationship.

Those today that do not take the example of others divorcing are not fearing God and the party that is unfaithful is an HARLOT.

2. This text should be taken within the context of all prior Old Testament information on divorce, and putting away. The Jewish mind would have understood this terminology because of their background.

The thought that God actually issued a bill of divorcement should not be taken as a literal writing and delivering, nor should it be taken as an okay for man to do so.

I personally feel that it was a picture for Judah and that it was an illustration. As were the anthropormorphisms of the Psalmist. They picture an attribute or act of God. He merely saw their adultery and put them away because of it.

Verse one "they say" may refer to Deut. 24:1-4

The most you might come up with here is that the wife that plays the harlot, and continues in it for many years - not a one time act of adultery, may be put away. Remarriage is never an option here. However to view this as a basis for putting away, I believe that it would be stretching the text. Indeed, reconciliation is the thought of all that God does in the book of Jerimiah. He is always calling his people back to Himself. If you see divorce for adultery in this text, then you must also see no thought of remarriage to another, as well as the key thought of reconciliation. Note should be made that this adultery was over many years and even generations and God still wanted them to return to Him.

Some information on the words used: "committed" and "adultery" are one word: 5003 na'aph {naw-af'} a primitive root; TWOT - 1273; It seems to mean to commit adultery. It is used of men/women/figuratively of idolatry. "her a bill": 5612 cepher {say'-fer} or (feminine) ciphrah (Psa. 56:8 [9]) {sif-raw'} from 5608; TWOT - 1540a,1540b; it has the idea of a book, document or legal document. "of divorce": 3748 k@riythuwth {ker-ee-thooth'} from 3772; TWOT - 1048a; simply refers to dismissal or divorce. "harlot": 2181 zanah {zaw-naw'} a primitive root [highly-fed and therefore wanton]; TWOT - 563; relates to commission of fornication, adultery, or harlotry.

Jeremiah 5:7 "How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by [them that are] no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses."

The spiritual adultery of Israel should let us know how God feels about it in the physical realm. Words like these should move the believer to refrain from the act, to abhor the act, and to teach against the act.

Jeremiah 7:9 "Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;"

This use of adultery is speaking of physical and not spiritual adultery. Adultery is related to stealing, murder, lying, and idolatry. Are these things that a believer wants to involve themselves in? I fear in our "gray area" Christian society, believers feel free to be involved in these areas with no thought.

Jeremiah 23:14 "I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah."

Again, how can the believer desire to have anything to do with adultery if God feels this way about it? Indeed, there may be a harsh message to the pastors and leaders of our day that give the idea that divorce/remarriage are correct methods of operation. Pastors have now, in some cases, decided it is acceptable for them to be divorced/remarried.

Jeremiah 29:23 "Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and [am] a witness, saith the LORD."

This passage would call the erring believer to realize that God is witness of what they do in the dark. He is also their judge, the judge with the perfect, truthful, and unfailing witness - Himself.

Ezekiel 16:32 "[But as] a wife that committeth adultery, [which] taketh strangers instead of her husband!" A bold, concise, and clear statement of what adultery is!

Ezekiel 23:37 "That they have committed adultery, and blood [is] in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through [the fire], to devour [them]."

This passage should wake some up to the effect their life style has on their children. God states that the adultery of the father may well be passed on to the family. Indeed, this is easily observed within the fabric of our society today.

Ezekiel 44:22 "Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before."

Hosea 2:2; Hosea 4:2; Hosea 4:13, 14.

Matthew 5:27 "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Christ related the wondering minds eye to the wondering physical eye. If you are involved mentally with one that is not your spouse, you are involved in adultery. Christ relates this new truth to the commandment that we have already seen in our study.

One might ask the question, if a person involved in pornography comes to know the Lord does that person need to remove his mind from the pornography? I think that the overwhelming answer would be YES! If the one involved in mental adultery needs to come out of their sin when they are saved, why shouldn't we teach that the physical adulterer should set aside their adultery when they become believers?

Matthew 5:32 "But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

It is of interest to me that Christ assumes that the person will remarry. This is related to the society they were operating in. The woman would have no way of living without a husband, so would naturally look for another husband.

The statement is clear - If a man puts away his wife, he causes her to commit adultery. Further, if one marries her he also commits adultery. "committeth adultery" is a present tense verb which indicates that this is an ongoing adultery, not just a one time act.

Q. What is this adultery that is committed? Is remarriage equal to one act of adultery, or is remarriage equal to moving into a relationship of ongoing adultery? It seems logical that it is ongoing rather than a one time event. There is no logical basis to relate the act of marriage to the sin of adultery. Getting married does not make you an adulterer, the intimacy of marriage to one not your spouse makes you an adulterer.

Some might suggest that remarriage = adultery = one time = this is what Christ was saying = leaving the spouse. If this is true then the application of that concept is that any man stepping out on his wife the first time commits adultery - one time act, and then following occurrences of infidelity are not adultery. The adultery was the original leaving. Believing that the adultery is a one time sin that is forgiven once, is not a logical conclusion.

Context: The Jews and no one else. This is a group of instructions given to the Jews to prepare them for life in the Kingdom. This is a Jew talking to Jews, in a Jewish setting, in Jewish times, in a Jewish law discussion, in Jewish land, with Jewish leaders about a future Jewish age, under a Jewish ruler.

Most use this verse to show that divorce is okay in the case of fornication. Most relate fornication to the sin of adultery. By the way none I've read mentions in this context that the Old Testament penalty for adultery was death.

The contrast of "some say" and "I say" is of interest as well. Christ is not teaching on what "some say", but on what He says. This whole section seems to be His expansion and explanation of some of the Old Testament concepts, that indeed had been misinterpreted by the Jews of His day.

You might easily view this verse as stating that in the case of fornication the death penalty (Deut. 22:24) is to be carried out and there is no remarriage in that case for the person is dead. This was Christ, the one that lived the law perfectly, that is speaking, and this would certainly be His interpretation I would think. It is also to be noted that Christ is speaking of the Kingdom in which He will reign with a rod of iron and judgment of wrong will be immediate. This would mean the adulterous parties will not be around long enough to remarry!