Divorce and Remarriage: A Response

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Recently, a friend and brother in Christ posted two videos on his Facebook page dealing with the issues of divorce and remarriage.  Before I watched the videos—and before he posted them—we disagreed about its conclusions, though I was not in position to continue the discussion—wasn’t prepared and had a sermon to finish.  So, when he posted the videos, I watched them and felt a public response is necessary.  However, I want to be clear that my response is not personal in regards to the brother who posted them, but I do believe the views espoused by the videos are harmful and incorrect(We had a lengthy conversation before I posted this and were able to establish some common ground regarding marriage and divorce generally, but not on remarriage) .  It is for that reason and that reason alone that I chose to respond via my blog.

                We live in a world riddled by divorce and brokenness.  No one enjoys the experience of divorce.  No doubt remarriage adds on additional layers of complication and, in some cases, more layers of brokenness.  The videos are here and here.  My response follows his main points in the sequence they were presented.  The videos are posted by a Joseph Alexander, whom I don’t know.

                Alexander begins his presentation by making quick work on the issue of remarriage after divorce.  He claims the matter is crystal clear.  But it is only clear when isolating verses from their context.  This is what he does when he cites 1 Cor. 7:10-11 which reads, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife”(ESV).

                Contextually, Paul is addressing various groups in the Corinthian church.  He has already said he wished all could be like him (single), but acknowledges this is a gift.  Prior to addressing the married, he addresses the widows and the unmarried, and though he would prefer them to stay unmarried, his main concern is to avoid sexual immorality.  So, he permits them to marry.  This unmarried category likely refers to those whom have been previously married (i.e. divorced), and is thus why they are grouped with the widows.

                This significant point is further supported by two more observations.  1.  Paul refers to the group that apparently has never been married as the virgins.  If the “unmarried” were one and the same as the virgins, then why address them as if they were different groups?  2.  This identification is undeniable in the very verse Alexander quotes.  In verse 11 the term “unmarried” (Greek, agamos) describes the divorced woman.  What does this mean?  It means before we ever get to verses 10-11, Paul’s own instructions permit divorced folks to remarry in order to avoid sexual immorality, even if his own preference was that they would be like him—gifted with celibacy.

                Paul makes this concession because to demand celibacy for someone not gifted for it is to impose a harsh sentence.  In the verses quoted by Alexander, the instruction is to the married.  Paul is clearly trying to discourage further divorce.  Echoing Jesus’ own teaching, he pastorally teaches that someone should not divorce their spouse and marry another.  If Paul, however, meant that the person has undergone a divorce could never marry again in any circumstance, then he contradicts both what he already said and what he will go on to say.

                In the next section, Paul addresses what is to happen if an unbeliever divorces (leaves) his or her Christian spouse.  In such a situation, Paul says the abandoned spouse is not enslaved (ESV).  Surely, this means that a Christian in this situation would be permitted to remarry.  The issues confronting the Corinthian church were complex and the issue of remarriage does not seem to be as clear as Alexander claims.  One other interpretative consideration comes from v. 26, which places Paul’s instructions in the context of “the present distress.”  We don’t know what the present distress was, but, at least some of Paul’s instructions may be related to that present distress.  In any case, it is a stretch to say vs. 10-11 express unretractable and unqualified condemnation of remarriage.

                Alexander couples this verse with the last part of Matt. 5:32 to close his case on remarriage, “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”  So, if you married a divorced woman, then you’ve committed adultery.  The Bible says it.  That settles it.  Period.  Except not exactly.  Again, context matters.

                Here are both verses dealing with divorce from the Sermon on the Mount.  “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”  So, if we are going to take that last line literally, then we have to take the whole passage literally.  The person who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery.  So, she didn’t commit sexual immorality, but she is made an adulterer by him!  So, had she actually committed adultery and he had divorced her, then she wouldn’t be an adulterer?!!

                You can see the absurdity of forcing a literal interpretation of this passage.  So, the woman, who is a victim in this case, is divorced and somehow turned into an adulterer.  The man who marries her later is also an adulterer.  Do you realize the only person Jesus does not call an adulterer in this passage?  Yep, that’s right, the man who caused it all by unjustly divorcing his wife in the first place.  This is hyperbole just as much as the prior passages that counsels us to pluck out our eye and cut off our hand to keep us from sinning.  Unfortunately, some have taken that passage literally as well.

                Hyperbole is used to make a dramatic point.  The point here is that the husband who divorces his wife spreads the pain of adultery to everyone (If anyone is the actual adulterer, it is him).  He thought that he could avoid the sin of adultery just by handing out a certificate of divorce and Jesus says he just infects more people with his sin.

                This text is not some new more legalistic interpretation of the Law of Moses, which permitted divorce.  More importantly the Law made provisions for remarriage, protecting women who were vulnerable to whims of more powerful men (cf. Deut. 24 for the law/background).  So, if we take Alexander’s approach here, Jesus has overturned the Law of Moses to make it more difficult on divorced women to survive, opening up them to further abuse and exploitation.  After all, it isn’t the man who is called the adulterer, but the woman and whomever she remarries.  Isn’t the gospel supposed to be good news? 

                Of course, this isn’t how the Sermon on the Mount is supposed to be interpreted at all.  Jesus is calling his disciples to keep not only the letter of the law, but its intended meaning and spirit.  Don’t just avoid adultery, but lust as well.  Don’t think giving out certificates of divorce protects you from the ramifications of adultery, because it doesn’t.   A disciple of Jesus stays married to his wife and fights lust at its root—the heart.

                People who insist on a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, run into the problem of literally applying everything that Jesus said.  So, a person with a hard view on divorce and remarriage is still walking around with his right hand/eye.  They probably still take oaths in a court of law as well (technically forbidden in the next few verses).  Jesus isn’t laying down a stricter legal code than the Pharisees; he’s calling his disciples to adhere to God’s intentions behind the written law (cf. Matt. 5:20).

                Much of the rest of Alexander’s presentations focuses on proving that divorce is never permitted for a Christian.  He makes a rather unique case (at least, unique to me) that the adultery Jesus addresses for the cause of divorce in Matthew 5 is actually fornication in the betrothal period.  The word used is porneia, a general word for sexual immorality instead of the more particular word for adultery.  I was not persuaded by this argument, because it relies too much on the distinction of one word used over another.  Porneia can include all sorts of sexual immorality, including adultery.  Furthermore, contextually there is nothing present in Matt. 5 that indicates that Jesus is only talking about the betrothal period—that would be a very narrow focus indeed.

                Much of this argument relies on the idea that God doesn’t recognize divorce, so a person is still living in adultery, if married to someone other than their original spouse.  But this simply does not square with the biblical data.  The allowance for divorce and remarriage in the Law of Moses indicates that both were certainly possible in God’s eyes.  Yes, such was not ideal and given “because of the hardness of your hearts,” but it was real nonetheless.  It was real in the days of Ezra when he ordered the Israelites to divorce their foreign wives.  It certainly seems Jesus recognized subsequent marriages with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Divorce is the result of sin and a broken world, but that doesn’t make it less real in our eyes or God’s.

                There are other arguments that Alexander makes in regards to other passages on divorce/remarriage from Jesus, but my responses would be similar and this is getting long.  I am indebted to Rubel Shelly and his book Divorce and Remarriage:  A Redemption Theology for my understanding of these texts.  If this issue really troubles you, I recommend you read his book. Image

                I will close by discussing implications of Alexander’s view.  You don’t start with implications when searching for the truth, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.  If I am working a math problem and I get an answer that is absurd, then I assume I made a mistake on arriving at that conclusion.  The implications of Alexander’s view result in a doctrine on divorce and remarriage that is absent of compassion, good news, or good sense.

                Someone very close to me was abandoned by her first husband so that he could pursue homosexual relationships.  She remarried, raised three kids, has been a faithful Christian, and an elder’s wife.  She was a divorced woman, so she and her husband are actually the adulterers according to Alexander.  So, was the woman to live her life unmarried or else be reconciled to her original husband?  And if she were to come to this conclusion after remarrying, is she to divorce her current husband?  That’s what some have taught and it brings us to the complete opposite of Jesus’ teaching, which was intended to curtail divorce.

                It may be wise for some divorced people not to remarry, but there is not a clear cut one size fits all law for New Testament Christians regarding this issue.  You can see the absurdities we breed when we create such legal handcuffs.  If you have a hermeneutic (method of interpretation) that takes you far from the spirit of the Christ and the power of the Good News, then you can be sure your hermeneutic is flawed.

                The issue of divorce and remarriage is a messy one by definition.  Simple solutions or conclusions are attractive because it gives us a clear rule of law in an otherwise complex matter.  Yet, sometimes  these solutions create disastrous results and I am convinced that is the case here.  And I haven’t even ventured into scenarios involving abuse and danger. Divorce is serious, but is it the only sin that requires a lifelong penance?  What is the meaning of the gospel, of redemption, and forgiveness when it comes to divorce and remarriage?  What is for sure is that we won’t find out, if we never get beyond a strictly legal reading of the relevant texts.

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About dgkeheflin

I blog about theology, church, culture, etc.
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19 Responses to Divorce and Remarriage: A Response

  1. Paul Smith says:

    Just a couple of questions you may want to clarify – You argue (and I agree) that Alexander overstates his case by building his entire argument on a limited definition of the word “porneia.” But do you not do the same with the word “agamos?” You say that the unmarried were “likely” those who had been divorced, but, to raise your own question, why would Paul allow the “unmarried” of 1 Cor. 7:8-9 to remarry when in v. 10 he specifically states that the divorced should either remain unmarried or to be reconciled to her mate? You are saying the “agamos” of v. 8 controls the “agamos” of v. 10-11, and that because of contexual grounds. But, in that case, Paul is saying, “the divorced can remarry, but the divorced need to remain unmarried or be reconciled.” I may be missing something here, but it seems to me, if we are to take context seriously, that the “agamos” of v. 8-9 and the “agamos” of v. 10-11 have to be in two different situations, otherwise, as you point out, Paul is contradicting himself within the space of a very few words.

    Second, I agree with your conclusion that marriage and divorce is a messy situation. But, and here is where my pastoral sensitivities kick in, is it more loving to tell someone that they can divorce and remarry (sometimes many times) with no ultimate liabilities attached, or is it more loving to point out that both Jesus and Paul taught very clearly that the marriage vow is not to be broken, and only in the most extreme of cases should remarriage be considered.

    My concern is this: I want to present a “redemptive theology” of the gospel. But I also do not want to equivocate on an issue that touches on the very heart of God’s relationship to his people. If the church acquiesces to the cultural norm of “serial marriage” how can we demand faithfulness to any aspect of our covenant with God? I do not agree with the conclusions of this Alexander fellow, but on the other hand the church is rife with serial adulterers who hide their “adultery” through the legal machinery of divorce and remarriage.

    We have to understand that divorce was only allowed because of mankind’s hard and unyielding heart. “From the beginning it was not so…” We need to return to “the beginning” if we are to teach the sanctity of marriage.

  2. John Burton says:

    David thanks for your thoughts on this tough subject. Few will undertake the task and even fewer will take the time to properly study and rightly divide and understand the bible regarding it. We studied this topic for some time and after many hours of discussion and prayers we have come to a similar conclusion that you have written about in your blog. I believe that God does hate divorce but he does not eternally condemn you for it as some suggest.

  3. dgkeheflin says:

    Paul, thanks for your comments. I absolutely agree that serial marriage/adultery is a great concern. I actually think that is who Jesus is targeting to begin with.

    However, when a case is put forth that says that even those that are victims of divorce are denied remarriage, then I think this turns Jesus’ teaching on its head. It is that group that I more or less have in mind.

    Regarding “agamos” it seems likely to me that it contains those that have been divorced. Paul addresses another group later that refers to those who have never been married. I don’t think Paul is contradicting himself, but giving different instructions to different groups. Before the “present crisis/distress” surely there must have been some who were divorced–maybe even before they were Christians. It seems to me that Paul permits these folks the right to remarry to avoid sexual immorality. That isn’t any more a contradiction than Paul permitting those abandoned by unbelieving spouses to remarry contradicts the same verses (10-11).

    But your point about making too much of one word is well taken. I don’t want to build my case entirely on that word. Rubel makes the case better than me, of course.

  4. Kenneth Robertson says:

    Even if Alexander is right, 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Trying to make law out of the grace of God is like grabbing handfuls of air.

  5. dgkeheflin says:

    Thanks for dropping by Kenneth and sharing your insight. May the grace of God be with us all.

  6. I’ve been through the absolute ringer on this issue. I don’t mind sharing it…as I still struggle a bit with condemnation and actively seek God on the matter. I became born again when I was pregnant and very newly married to an abusive unbeliever. He could have committed adultery, who knows. I divorced him but really started to awaken spiritually. So, I “waited” for him in a sense because after all, he was so far from God and I’m the one who changed. Sadly, he couldn’t leave the sex/drug lifestyle. One night 6 years after my divorce, the Lord said as I prayed for his salvation, “He is going to marry someone else.” Sure enough he did.

    I was single a total of 9 years and met a divorced believer. He is truly an awesome man with a wonderful heart. He had a wife who systematically and strategically divorced him because she basically wanted to wear the pants and did not leave and cleave from her rich parents.
    She had a boyfriend before I even met her ex husband. And she has since remarried the boyfriend. She is a very religious person.. Beautiful on the outside but ugly enough inside to divorce her husband and control their children to this day. So that is a very small nutshell.

    I pray diligently for my ex husbands salvation. I even pray for my husbands ex wife, sometimes. The whole thing is sad. As I look on the landscape of my life I would have given anything for the Lord to make me born again when I was 15 or 18 or 20, so I could have a better chance of being married to the same Christian man my whole life. But that’s not how it worked out for me.

    When I married my hubby an elders wife in my church turned against me because she did not control my whole courting relationship. She caused my pastor to not marry us. She turned her husband against me (whom was like a dad to me). But I’m over that….and pray for them all. But, her words still stick in my brain, “You serve another master” and “You have a false peace.” I almost broke off my engagement but I got before the Lord alone and the Holy Spirit assured me that he was provided for me.

    So, I am grateful for your interpretations of the scripture. God has given me more than enough to make me see he is with me and I am saved. One particular verse is Mark 3:28
    28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.”

    WOW! One verse I never thought to obsess over concerning my situation….ALL SIN men commit will be forgiven…….

    Now what really gets me is this….to some religious/critical people that can pass condemnation on to people because they divorce and remarry…usually have some error in their own life that needs correcting. Both those women mentioned above love to control their households over their husbands and have no problem exalting themselves above others to quell their fears or insecurities.

    Iv’e been a Christian 14 years and I am still learning. But one important lesson Ive learned is not to put anyone on a spiritual pedistal. Pharisees do that.

    To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.Prov 28:21

    and when I die…here will be my defense, because it’s all I got:
    10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    I just have to believe in faith that Jesus is my clean white robe of righteousness. That if I could I would have chosen to never have experienced divorce.

  7. dgkeheflin says:

    I really appreciate you reading my blog and sharing your story (Proverbs27one). It is certainly not a simple matter, but I know Jesus calls us to both a high view of marriage AND a compassionate/grace-filled/pastoral response to those who are divorced and/or remarried. Thanks again for “dropping by.”

  8. John Burton says:

    David as usual I enjoy your thoughts and teaching. I have studied this topic and have come away with the most of the same conclusions. I have not read Brother Shelly’s book but plan on down loading a copy. Thanks for using the talents that God has blessed you with!

  9. Jenna says:

    David,
    Thank you so much for your willingness to address this issue, and to do so with such care and thoughtfulness.
    Without going into much detail, my husband divorced me at the age of 20, claiming he was no longer a believer. For the last 7 years I have refelcted upon the question/issue of remarriage but have not really dwelled on it while God kept me much too busy with healing me and drawing me so much closer to Him. Lately, however, it has been on my heart and I truly appreciate your article, and recommendation of Shelly’s book. My heart has always wondered why God would “punish” the victim in a divorce situation such as mine, in my understandings it seems to go against God’s character. I don’t know what God has in store for me, maybe I am truly meant to be single, which as you highlighted is also a gift, but I do want to ensure that the fallout and consequences of my husband divorcing me does not spread to anyone else.
    I’m anxious to read Shelly’s book, i’ve already ordered it, and again I thank you for your gentle approach to such a painful, and controversal issue.

  10. dgkeheflin says:

    Jenna, thanks for your feedback and sharing your story. I hope that Shelly’s book will be a blessing to you. No doubt Jesus does not wish to punish you and sincerely hope he will guide you into whatever life has next. Blessings.

  11. bopeep's sheep says:

    David, just came across your blog and this article. Like another poster, I struggle mightily with this issue as I am remarried. I came from a background of family violence, abuse and alcoholism. I had been dating a guy who had his own issues with some similar things. In a nutshell i wound up marrying this manipulative and controlling individual because he had a fit of rage and began raving like a madman when I attempted to break off with him. At that time, I was too messed up and weak to deal properly with his ploy and quite a lot younger. I knew that I did not want to marry him and I did not love him. I was married to him and his incredibly entitled and controlling family for 13 years. Eventually I fled the marriage but not before having reason to suspect he was involved with someone from his workplace, something that he seemed to confirm via lies he told me about the situation. I am now remarried. I became very disturbed by teachers such as cadz.net/joseph webb, etc, who claim that the historical church took a different positon on divorce and remarriage than today and that the bibile teaches that if you are remarried with a living spouse, even if you think you had grounds for a divorce, you are in fact an adutlerer, and since no adulterer will inherit the kingdom of God, one is going to hell unless they divorce to repent. Their side of the argument also asks questions along the lines of “how does it stop being adultery if you continue in the relationship just because you got down on your knees and repented”. I dialogued with one of them briefly and I guess their main concern is that they don’t understand why you would have to leave a fornicating relationship to repent but can continue in a marriage if you wrongly divorced and remarried. These beleive that you are not sinning by getting a divorce only leaving an adulterous relationship in obedience to Jesus. They do not believe there are any grounds for divorce or remarriage to a believer and that if one has sinned in this way the only valid repentance is to end the second marriage and preferably reconcile with a former spouse. However when I’ve attempted to get direct answers to these questions from those who beleive differently they just insist on the grace of God but no one has supplied a scriptural response to the question of how if one has entered illegitimately into a second marriage, it ceases to be adutlery by virture of repentance. I am going to read the book you’ve linked to to see if the author takes any of these questions on. On the negative side with these folks if you don’t agree with them, they have no time, interest, use or love for you and they aren’t willing to put their money where their mouths are and actually assist people in getting out of the sin they are so concerned about. They kind of have the mentality that your burdens are your problem and have no compassion whatsoever on actually helping people through the turmoil and fear the idea of having to leave a marriage and a life they’d committed to can bring. For some weaker people who have no family, resources or other supports, they could care less. This alone doesn’t necessarily negate their theological stance but it made me wonder. I’d be interested in your thoughts, since this issue is affecting my life. Thanks for your time 🙂

    • dgkeheflin says:

      Hi Patricia,

      I don’t know if I have any additional thoughts beyond what I shared in the original post. I do have empathy for people who have gone through ordeals like you. There is no New Testament author or speaker who suggests we should get divorced to correct an adulterous relationship. If God hates divorce, then why compound it by adding yet another divorce? There is no once for all law governing divorce/remarriage in the New Testament. Not surprisingly, Jesus’ teaching on the subject corrected abuses of the Mosaic Law. Paul applies Jesus’ teaching very differently to a new situation in 1 Cor. 7, because his audience is mostly non-Jewish. Divorce is a tragedy and it reflects a major ill of our world, but it is not unforgivable and Jesus can give people a clean slate without expecting them to go back and fix their past. I don’t find support for the idea that a 2nd marriage is continual adultery. So, when people appeal to that by trying to say something like, “If you became a Christian, you would stop stealing, so if you are remarried you have to end that adulterous relationship,” I think they are comparing apples and oranges and reaching a conclusion that Scripture never does. Don’t know if those thoughts help any, but I appreciate you sharing some of your story and I hope you will find peace in this matter.

  12. Rusty says:

    Hello Mr. Heflin,
    First, thank you for your work (on this and other topics). I am struggling with this issue and was hoping for some guidance. I’ve read Rubel Shelly’s book (still digesting it actually) and find it compelling. I confess to “legalistic” tendencies and in my youth I would have likely dismissed Shelly’s work on nothing more than his critics recommendations. That of course was before my life became “complicated”. At the moment, I’m reconsidering old views not to judge others, but to come to terms with my own failings. My first marriage ended because I made terrible choices and had an affair. After a time of separation, my wife chose to divorce and the papers were signed. A few years later, I was introduced to a woman, we dated, married and now it has been five years. After the divorce, I withdrew from a lot including church. When I met my new wife I began attending church with her. Our “community” church doesn’t have the “hard” stances on MDR that my own background would claim. Recently, my wife and I began to work on improving our relationship with God and moving beyond Sunday spectators (which is really what we’ve been doing for several years). My renewed study has brought to light questions I fear I should have answered differently. Rubel Shelly’s work has helped, but again I’m far more accustomed to being weary of his work than embracing it. Maybe I’m just finding what I want to find? I don’t know. I’ve checked what I could and found that his work appears “scholarly”. Certainly, I find reason to respect your work. So I’m struggling…
    My concern of course is the status of my “remarriage”. One thing that occurs to me would be Christ’s recognition of the Samaritan woman’s five husbands. Is it a stretch to apply that statement to the idea that marriage after divorce is possible and recognized (i.e. it’s binding to God)? Is it too much to point out that the woman was not told to find her first husband (or earliest surviving husband if deaths factor in, I suppose)?
    I apologize for my rambling. I will confess to a real fear about all this. Any thoughts would be wonderful. Thank you.

    • dgkeheflin says:

      Rusty, thanks for commenting and sharing your story. I have not written a new post for this blog in almost two years and it is encouraging that some posts are still being read and helping in some small way. Obviously, it would have been best had your first marriage been successful. It would have been better had you not made that mistake. There’s a Christian song on the radio a lot today that has the line, “Yesterday’s a closing door.” There is absolutely nothing you can do about what happened in the past. If you are now in a godly relationship, then that is something to be thankful for. You are not living in a perpetual affair. You are living in a covenanted relationship with the only woman who can now be your wife. The point of Jesus’ teachings was to address the issue of divorce (especially as it impacted women who could be tossed aside). The best thing you can do to honor Jesus’ teaching right now is to be sold out to your marriage, intent on making it work for the glory of God.

      Regarding the situation of God recognizing new marriages after divorces, yes, the Samaritan woman may be an example. In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Israelites put away their foreign wives (and children!) and certainly most of them married again. The OT law definitely provided for divorce and remarriage (in fact, it prevented you from taking back your original spouse!). Laws and covenants may change, but God does not. If God was capable of accepting a new marriage after divorce before, he is still capable today. The key is what you do from now on. May God bless you as you reflect the love of Christ for his church in your love for your wife.

  13. Rusty Gray says:

    Thank you for taking the time to answer me and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it. I’m still wrestling with a few things, but you’ve helped me see things from a new perspective and I’m grateful. You’ve made a difference. God Bless (and I’m sure I’ll find something else to ask).

  14. bo peeps sheep says:

    I have always thought that what Jesus was addressing with the pharisees had to do with confronting evil motives and hiding them behind the law. I suspect that the pharisees were using the divorce laws as a cover for adultery. In other words, these men had grown bored with their faithful companions, and were divorcing them to marry other women who were already waiting in the wings because an adulterous affair was already in progress. By divorcing their wives via God’s provision thru Moses, they made it appear as if it was lawful, but it was only in appearance and letter. God still saw their hearts, intentions and behind the scenes deeds and knew what they were up to and what had likely motivated the question in the first place. The fact that this group of leaders knew where an aduterous affair was taking place so they could drag a half naked adulteress out in front of Him suggests that this was commonly going on and that they were complicit somehow, in that it was likely one of their own who was the other party.

    If I understand Jesus correctly, He was saying that it was still adultery even if they hid behind the law that made it seem it was not. “He who divorces his wife AND marries another woman suggests the actions are connected with one leading to another. A similar situation occurred with Onan, who outwardly obeyed the law regarding raising up children to his brother’s wife, but who in fact had no intention of impregnating his dead brother’s widow so that he might have someone to carry on his name. The swine had no problem taking what suited him, i.e. using his brother’s widow for sexual release, but he was intentionally defrauding her of what the law intended she was to recieve. Yet outwardly, he probably seemed quite an upstanding fellow to his fellow jews. God wasn’t impressed and saw his heart in the matter.

    When Jesus said that a man makes his wife to commit adultery, I suspect that it could be more correctly be said that he makes his wife appear to be guilty of adultery. If he committed adultery, how does she become an adulteress via his sin? She is innocent. God does not blame the innocent for the sins of the guilty. That would be a perversion of justice. Since all jews would have understood that a righteous person who was law abiding would only divorce his wife is she cheated on him, the husband’s outwardly striking the posture of being lawful would have left her vulnerable to public accusation and assumption that she was the cause of his action, when in fact it was his affair behind the scenes that was the issue.

    I certainly don’t have this all worked out but this is what I think thus far.

    • dgkeheflin says:

      Thanks for your comment (and sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I haven’t been using my blog in a while). I think your line of thinking here is very similar to mine. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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