Mark 10:1-5… Rising up, Jesus went from there to the region of Judea, and beyond the Jordan; crowds gathered around him again, and according to his custom, he began to teach them. 2 Then some Pharisees came up to him, testing him, and began to question him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. 3 And he answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 And they said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.”
After Jesus left Capernaum in Galilee he made his way towards Jerusalem in Judea. Mark 10:1 says that he went “beyond the Jordan” – an area in Palestine known as Perea (literally “beyond”). The crowds followed him, and as was his custom, he taught them in v. 1. There were Pharisees in the crowd, however, who came to test in v. 2. It is significant that they approached Jesus in the region of Galilee with their question about divorce because Herod Antipas was the governor there, and he was the one who had John the Baptist imprisoned and later beheaded (Mark 6:14-29) because he dared to speak out against Herod and his unlawful marriage to his brother’s wife. Clearly the Pharisees wanted Jesus to say something in Herod’s territory so that they could accuse him before Herod and have him arrested just like John. After all, they’d been conspiring with Herod’s men since the early days of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (cf. Mark 3:6).
The Pharisees were among the most influential religious and political parties of Judaism during Jesus’ day. They were strict adherents to the laws of the OT but more so to their own man-made traditions. Jesus had offended them on more than one occasion, and they wanted to silence him. But ironically Jesus passed their “test” and embarrassed them again in front of the crowds. He answered their question about divorce by asking, “What did Moses command you?” And because Moses received and spoke God’s Word as given to him on Mount Sinai Jesus had no need to add to his teachings, for Moses’ words were Scripture to the Pharisees.
Then the Pharisees answered Jesus by reminding him, in v. 4, that Moses had in fact permitted divorce by allowing a husband to write his wife a certificate if he found in her “some indecency” (Deut. 24:1). Now this phraseology is somewhat vague, and the Jewish rabbis were divided as to its exact meaning. Some held that it could not signify sexual sins because that was punishable by death (Deut. 22:22-24; Lev. 20:10). One side of the debate held that divorce was never proper; the other side said it was for the most trivial of reasons (like burning the husband’s food!). But because Moses allowed for divorce people abused the provision. The question posed to Jesus then was pertinent, but the motive behind the question was sinister. The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in a trap because any answer he gave was sure to fail in their minds.
In v. 5 Jesus reminded the Pharisees that Moses’ stipulation for divorce in Deut. 24:1 was for those who had “hard hearts” and it wasn’t a command to divorce. The Law itself was given to protect the unwanted wife so that she would not suffer disgrace upon being rejected by her husband and would be able to remarry. Moses’ provision for divorce then was a payback to the husbands as opposed to a guilt-free permission for them to divorce and remarry for any reason.
Food for Thought
The question of divorce/remarriage is as pertinent today as it was in Jesus’ day. So when we ponder the legality of divorce we must do what Jesus taught, namely, return to Scripture. He quoted Moses who allowed for divorce for one reason: because people were hard-hearted. So it is today. Folks are going to do what they want to do, but what we want to do isn’t always the right thing. God hates divorce, and though He allows for it, because He hates it – it can’t be good.
Mark 10:6-9… “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.’ 9 Now what God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Jesus recognized that Moses had written a provision for divorce in the OT Scriptures (Deut. 24:1-4). He acknowledged this to the Pharisees who were trying to trap him, but he also knew that the provision was for people who simply wanted their own way – the hard-hearted. Now Moses didn’t command divorce; he simply allowed it, and since Moses wrote God’s words, it was really God who allowed for divorce for the hard-hearted who demanded their own way.
Jesus then gave the Pharisees, in v. 6, a theology lesson on what marriage really is. He said that, in spite of the fact that divorce was permitted, from the creation of the world God made people male and female – a reference to Genesis 1:27 when God created man on the sixth day of the creation itself and brought Adam and Eve together to form one flesh. Then he quoted Genesis 2:24 which says, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So the two people are no longer two but one, and God has joined them together. Now what God has joined together no man is to separate.
In saying these things Jesus gives at least four reasons why divorce was not in God’s original plan. First, in the beginning God created mankind male and female. Now aside from this passage proving that even Jesus believed in God’s special creation of mankind (not evolution), it shows that God didn’t create groups of women and groups of men whereby people chose to be with more than one. He created them “male” and “female,” and in the beginning it was just them. Therefore, divorce/remarriage was not an option by simple virtue of there only being two people.
Second, Jesus says that once a man and a woman leave their father and mother they “join” together. Of course Adam and Eve had no parents, but their union would stand as the standard for all future marriages who do leave father and mother. The Hebrew root behind “join” is used for glue in bringing things together to form a bond. It clearly has the connotation of a male and a female coming together for eternity without the possibility of divorce.
Third, the male and female were to become “one flesh.” The Apostle Paul gives insight as to what this means in 1 Corinthians 7:4… “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Therefore, the husband and wife are indissoluble, and if their union should bring about children, their offspring becomes the perfect insignia of their oneness. Their offspring will be unique in that they will carry the combined traits of both parents.
The final reason why divorce was not in God’s original plan is that marriage is made in heaven: “What God has joined together let no man separate” (v. 9). Marriage, whether coming together foolishly or wisely – whether by believers or unbelievers – is a bond sealed by God in heaven (the same way all children are). And when God creates something, whether a child or a marriage, it is His creation, and it must not be terminated by an act of man (abortion or divorce).
Food for Thought
God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) because it tears apart what He joined together. Don’t you hate it when you make something, fix something, or simply arrange something the way you like it – then someone comes along and ruins it? That’s what divorce is; we break what God joined together. Praise God today that even though we are continually unfaithful to Him – that because of His commitment to love us He will never divorce us. And may we be more like that.
Mark 10:10-12… And in the house the disciples began questioning Jesus about divorce again. 11 And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”
The sin of adultery was (and is) a heinous sin. Exodus 20:14 says, “You shall not commit adultery.” Leviticus 20:10 says, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife… both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” Clearly God views this sin with divine hatred. But because the society in Jesus’ day (along with that of our own) was wicked and unable to remain married to one person for trivial reasons, God allowed for divorce. He didn’t command it or condone it; He only allowed for it. Sadly, God’s provision for divorce (Deut. 24:1) for the hard-hearted became all too common in Israel. So it is today as well.
In Mark 10:10, having silenced the Pharisees, Jesus and the Twelve arrived at an unknown “house.” And the disciples began questioning Jesus about the divorce stipulation in the Law of Moses. So in v. 11 Jesus explained to them in simple terms what adultery really was: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.” From this passage (addressed to husbands) it appears that adultery doesn’t occur when one simply divorces his wife; it occurs when the man remarries. His sin is then not against God, per se, but against his first wife! In other words, it’s not the divorce that constitutes adultery but the remarriage after a divorce. Even though the man may have secured a certificate of divorce for his wife legally, in God’s eyes he would still be married to his first wife.
The same thing is true, per v. 12, in relation to the wife who would seek a divorce. She would be an adulteress, not for divorcing, but for remarrying. Now it should be noted that a wife seeking a divorce was rare in the first century. To do so would leave a woman destitute and without financial support. It’s possible that Mark included this statement for the Gentile church in Rome for which he likely penned his Gospel. But writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit it seems clear that this addition would be relevant for all generations that followed.
Now Matthew’s Gospel (19:9) includes a provision for divorce, namely, for sexual infidelity. This should not, however, be confused with Moses’ provision in Deut. 24:1 which did not address infidelity but protection for the woman who had been sent away so that she wouldn’t be considered an adulteress (which was punishable by death). But even in the case of infidelity divorce is not recommended by Jesus in Matt. 19:9 but simply becomes a legitimate reason for divorce without actually sinning. Their remarriage, however, is not addressed by Jesus.
Food for Thought
In the Bible adultery is a sin that describes all who worship idols – anything that takes God’s place of prominence in one’s life. It also describes those who covet what others have, and those who fall away from the faith (apostates). Each of these actions describe all of us today in some form or fashion, but God doesn’t divorce us! He remains faithful to us in spite of our unfaithfulness to Him. And for those who call upon Jesus Christ for salvation God expects us to forgive as He has forgiven. We are to be like Him – growing in the knowledge of His Word daily and loving others until it hurts – even forgiving them over and over. Marriage is meant to last a lifetime, and in God’s eyes the two become one. So, if you have a spouse to forgive, forgive them! After all, God forgives you daily for your own adulteries. And if you’re an adulterer, God can forgive you! Just ask Him. [cf. Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7].
Genesis 2:24-25… For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
The introductory statement “for this cause” is a Hebrew phrase normally translated as “therefore” or “that is why.” This appears to be an editorial comment by Moses himself (who compiled/edited Genesis) which is added to the account likely written by Adam. The statement does not appear to be an extension of the quotation (“bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”) but is a statement describing what typically happens when a man and woman marry, and Moses, in his office as a teacher, is explaining this by inserting these words. This should not be seen as a commandment regarding marriage… about what will or should happen to all men and women. It is saying, “This is why we do things the way we do.” The NET Bible commentary says, “It links a contemporary practice with the historical event being narrated. The historical event narrated in v. 23 provides the basis for the contemporary practice described in v. 24.” The future tense verbs “shall leave his father/mother” are better translated as a present tense verbs: “they become one.”
There are three actions that a man/woman goes through when they marry. First, they leave their father and mother. Now Adam had no father or mother, and neither did Eve. This is why it is likely that Moses, as the Genesis editor, inserted such a phrase. In many marriages today either one or both of the marriage partners fail to completely leave their parents. Unbroken ties to father and mother often equate to marriage difficulties, and when parents continue to exercise authority over their children through the use of money after they marry, then they themselves, well-meaning as they are, keep the marriage from its intended purpose.
The second action a man/woman goes through for marriage is to “cleave to his wife.” The word “cleave” means to be “united; joined” – to be in close association. It is used of one of King David’s mighty men when his hand “cleaved” to his sword during battle and wouldn’t let go. The whole principle of cleaving in marriage implies a normal continuing bond. So, a man leaves his parents, and he cleaves to his wife – he departs from one and unites with another. The new association between the two people is what God does: “the two become one flesh.” He leaves, cleaves, and now he weaves. The Hebrew words refer to more than just a sexual union, they refer to how the two become a family. They are now “bone of bone and flesh of flesh.” This description is used throughout the OT to describe a blood relation between two or more parties.
Verse 25 says that both the man and woman were naked and were not ashamed. The word for “ashamed” pertains to having a painful feeling or an emotional distress as a result of a condition or an action. It can refer to a social mistake or a serious sin. The man and the woman stand completely naked in one another’s presence, and there is no fear nor is there any anxiety over the mere possibility of exploitation by the other. They stand sinless and free of guilt.
Food for Thought
There are of course no marriages today that even approach the sinless perfection of the first union between a man and a woman. The fact that both people were joined and unashamed shows that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Can this be said of your marriage? There are many things for which we as humans can and should be ashamed of. No one brings an impeccable life into a marriage relationship. However, when Jesus Christ sees his children – those who have placed their trust in Him alone for salvation – since He has declared them righteous, He sees no sin. We stand before the Bridegroom (Christ) naked and unashamed.
Black and White… What we KNOW:
· Jesus believed in special creation not in evolution (man/woman evolve together?)
· Divorce was neither commanded nor commended. God hates it (Mal. 2:16)
· Adultery NOT grounds for divorce b/c it a capital offense (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10; John 8).
· Intent of Deut. 24:1 – to protect the woman (and thus the land).
· AND to protect the land where to keep it undefiled by remarrying first husband (1 Cor. 7:10)
· Divorce permitted but only an unbeliever who wants to leave (and sexual infidelity).
· Divorces were permitted b/c Moses had to deal with a rebellious and obstinate nation.
· God established marriage & makes the rules – it’s b/t man & a woman; it’s sacred & eternal
· Marriage is the most intimate union in the human race, for the two become one flesh. This is not true of a father and son or a mother and daughter, but it is true of a man and wife.
· And the two shall be one flesh... condemns polygamy and divorce.
· Marriage is a physical union: the two become one flesh, not one spirit. As a physical union, only a physical cause can break it: death (Rom. 7:1–3) or fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).
· In the OT an Israelite marrying a pagan was adultery, and because it was unclean they were to divorce immediately. In the NT, however, what was once made unclean by a simple touch is now sanctified by the union. Believers are not to marry unbelievers, for that would make them unequally yoked (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14), but when it does happen the unbeliever is sanctified by the believer – a NT turnaround from the OT Law.
Grey… What we’re UNSURE of:
· Remarriage is permitted but on what grounds? When a spouse dies (infidelity?).
· “Some indecency” – inability to bear children? also used as a euphemism for excrement (Deut. 23:14). Shammai vs. Hillel
· Divorce doesn’t defile; no law against it; no sexual act. It’s the remarriage that defiles.
Deut. 24:1-4 Conclusions:
· It does not institute divorce but only acknowledges it, and not w/God’s approval.
· Though divorce is “permitted” and not prohibited, it was not looked on with favor in the OT. A divorcee was free to remarry, but she could not marry a priest (Lev 21:7) suggesting there was something of a stigma (social or moral) attached to her as a divorced woman.
· “Since she has been defiled” (Deut 24:4), indicates a measure of moral defilement.
· It clearly prohibited the remarriage of a divorced woman to her first husband if she had been married to another man.
So What? GRACE, GRACE, GRACE!
· Jesus taught… No matter what answer Jesus gave, He would be sure to displease someone. He used Scripture to argue.
· We must not view divorce as a legalized form of adultery. It’s not! God hates it.
· Every man must be satisfied w/his own wife and not desire more. She is all he needs.
· The official “bill of divorcement” was given to the wife to declare her innocent in the matter and that she was indeed free to remarry. So too when an unbeliever leaves.
· Calvin… Let the husband and wife, therefore, live together in such a manner, that each shall cherish the other in the same manner as if they were the half of themselves. Let the husband and rule, so as to be the head, and not the tyrant, of his wife; and let the woman, on the other hand, yield modestly to his commands.
How does one preach marriage, divorce, and remarriage to a congregation where half the people are divorced and remarried – happily remarried? It’s one thing to teach the truth of God from His Word, but won’t it condemn people who can truly do nothing about it if they’ve already remarried?
Today even Christians divorce – sometimes for trivial matters. Other times they divorce because of infidelity, and claim that they just couldn’t get past the issue. Others divorce because one spouse abuses them physically or verbally. Still others find justification for divorce when the man is found viewing pornography. Those that do remarry are looking for happiness. When they find happiness in their second (or third) marriage they feel that God brought them together and share testimonies about this. But they’re happy, and they have children that love the Lord who go on to be missionaries. How then could their union be considered wrong and adulterous?
The issue of happiness is something that we as humans feel we are entitled to – no matter what. If we’re happy then God must be blessing us. But what about God-hating atheists who are multi-millionaires? They have multiple wives, and they blaspheme the name of Christ through words and actions. They’re happy, but does that mean that God is happy with them and blessing them as a result? The answer is NO, and therefore we cannot conclude that just because a person is divorced and remarried, and living happily ever after, that God is blessing them.
How can God bless a second marriage that is adulterous? Doesn’t He consider the first marriage the one that is truly legitimate? Isn’t divorce only for the hard-hearted? I think the truth is clear, but it is so hard to preach given that there are many godly people in the church today who are divorced and remarried.
Maybe the answer lies in God’s grace. The disciples were hard-hearted. They often didn’t see or understand what Jesus was saying even while witnessing his miracles. But one day they did get it, and their ministries changed the world after they did. Clearly and biblically divorce is for the hard-hearted. It is for unbelievers who have no regard for God, and too often it’s for believers who just didn’t care enough about God’s command to marry believers. But God allows for divorce. It’s not part of His perfect plan for mankind, and because of this there are natural consequences for adultery.
Marriage is for a lifetime. It’s for those committed to Christ first and foremost. Only they marry the one God chooses for them, and only they will remain true to Christ. Remarriage is for those whose spouse dies. And if one spouse is unfaithful to the other, the other spouse can seek a divorce. But this is for the hard-hearted who cannot forgive.
If a person is just convinced that they can’t be happy with their present partner then they have a hard heart. Possibly in hindsight those who are remarried today can see their hard-hearted past.