As mentioned last week I received a question from a reader of the Murphysboro American in Murphysboro, Illinois, about divorce in the situation of abuse. Last week, I responded with the Biblical relationship between a husband and wife, emphasizing how they should treat one another. This week, to further answer the question we will look at the subject of divorce as outlined in the Scripture. Remember, the Bible also uses the term “to put away” in speaking of divorce.
The first mention of divorce in the Bible is when Moses gives the law (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). If this were the only passage about divorce, it would seem as if God didn’t mind divorce for any reason. The reason for divorce in this passage is, “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.” The passage goes on and explains that the wife may remarry and the only restriction given is that if the woman is divorced from husband number two she cannot return to husband number one.
Then Jesus came along.
In Mathew 19:3-9, when the Pharisees were trying to corner Jesus with his words, there is an interesting exchange. The Pharisees asked him if a couple could be divorced for any reason. He responded by explaining that when a couple marry the two become one and what “God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
The Pharisees quickly respond with the passage from Deuteronomy; more or less saying divorce is okay for almost any reason.
Christ answers them by informing them of their own hearts and the will of God, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” He goes on to explain that adultery is the only acceptable reason for divorce and in such cases the adulterer is not to remarry.
The Apostle Paul, however, gives one more reason for divorce, but only in a particular circumstance. The Apostles taught that believers should only marry other believers (2 Corinthians 6:14-16 as an example). The question arose among early Christians that if we are to only marry other believers; what is to be done in the situation when someone becomes a Christian and they are already married to a nonbeliever.
Paul gives an answer in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. The believer is to remain married to the unbeliever, however, if because of the spouses new found faith the unbeliever seeks a divorce, then the Christian, “is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” To summarize this particular circumstance, if a person becomes a believer and their unbelieving spouse divorces them, then the believer is not bound to the marriage.
Now, what about abuse? There is one last passage to consider. Malachi 2:14-16. This passage talks of anyone who deals “treacherously” with his wife. The Hebrew word “bagad” is what is translated as the word “treacherously” here. It means to cover, to act covertly, to pillage, deal deceitfully, offend, transgress, unfaithful. Long story short, if a man has done anything concerning his wife that he must hide; he has dealt treacherously with her. How many women have covered with sunglasses and/or makeup a bruise or a mark left on her body by her husband?
Also, in this passage, God’s only remark about divorce is that He hates it (see v16). God makes no remarks here if the wife should divorce or husband or not. It appears that spouse abuse, divorce and really, any trouble in marriage, frustrates God as much, if not more than it does us.
From here on I speak with my heart.
If a woman came to me and told me her husband hit her; I would tell her to leave. Not necessarily divorce, but to leave. If she was walking down a dark street and someone started following her and the threat of physical danger was there, anyone with common sense would agree that she should get out of the area to a place of safety as quickly as possible. I see no difference here.
Can a marriage be saved after physical abuse has occurred? Yes but only through Christ. Behavior basically does not change without a change of heart and God is the only one that can provide an everlasting change of heart inside an individual (Matthew 12:43-45).
Preacher Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. All Scripture references are from the KJV. Blog: www.preacherjohnson.com Email: email@example.com. If you email, please inform me where you have seen Preacher’s Point.