Marriage, Divorce, God Hates Divorce, God Commands Divorce…

I was going to write today on the traditional marriage.  I just gave a lecture on what marriage was like in the Reformation, but I saw that Mark, again, didn’t like what I had to say (big surprise). 

March 7, 2008 Mark at Chesterstreet had this to say to me:

Actually Dr. Kevin, God commands divorce in the Bible– Nehemiah 9:2, Ezra 10:2-3.

…and your poor students have to call you "professor"?

Maybe his god has a bit of schizophrenia, since I recall that God hates divorce:  Malachai 2:16:

2:16 For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.

Here is what Nehemiah 9:2 and Ezra 10:2-3 have to say:

9:1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.9:2 Then those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors.

There is nothing in Nehemiah 9:2 that suggests divorce.  This passage has to do with the Israelites separating themselves religiously from other people–nowhere is God commanding them to divorce.  The problem is with the word ‘separate.’ Some, like Mark, think that wherever this word shows up it means divorce.  And that is the problem with not really knowing the text of the Bible…


Here is the passage from Ezra: 

10:2 "Shecaniah son of Jehiel, of the descendants of Elam, addressed Ezra, saying, "We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.10:3 So now let us make a covenant with our God to send away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.10:4 Take action, for it is your duty, and we are with you; be strong, and do it."10:5 Then Ezra stood up and made the leading priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear that they would do as had been said. So they swore."

Now Ezra is interesting.  At the beginning of Chapter 9 you have Ezra being told that priests and the men of Israel have married women who weren’t the people of Israel.  Ezra was upset at this because marriage between the Israelites and other groups of people (at least most) was forbidden.  See Deut. 7:1-4:

7:1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you–the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you–7:2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy.7:3 Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons,7:4 for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.

(I won’t comment on the defeating and utterly destroying them part here–I’ll leave that for when one of these so-called Christians bring up the Koran…).

So Israelites were forbidden to marry these groups and they were threatened with destruction.  And this is specified in Ezra 9:13-14:

9:13 After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this,9:14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you destroy us without remnant or survivor?

Now look at Ezra 10:2:  Shecaniah makes a vow that he will make sure that Israel sends away the wives AND the children.  And this is divorce.  However, they were told not to marry in the first place and they were being punished for it.  They took foreign wives and these women were unclean religiously (and apparently the children were too).  And at the end of Ezra, the priests do just that–they send away their wives and their children.  And then they sacrificed a ram to atone and hope that God will not destroy them for doing what they were expressly forbidden from doing.

So did God command divorce?  Well, He commanded them to follow his commandment that they not marry foreigners.  But Shecaniah himself (and not God) vows to make a covenant before God that they divorce their wives.  This isn’t God commanding divorce–they broke the rules and they were being punished for it.  To stop the punishment, they had to divorce these foreign women and send away the children. 

Now that brings us around to Malachi.  Just before the famous "God hates divorce" passage, God tells Malachi:

2:10 Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?2:11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.2:12 May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob anyone who does this–any to witness or answer, or to bring an offering to the LORD of hosts.

Here God does not say that Judah, who married a woman of a different religion, divorce her.  He states that this cuts them both off from God.  They are cut off because Judah married a foreign woman.  And God also points out that people cry on His altar for help, but that God is not listening.  And why isn’t he listening?  Because some cheated on their wives:

2:13 And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand.2:14 You ask, "Why does he not?" Because the LORD was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.2:15 Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth.2:16 For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.


Notice the phrase ‘wife by covenant.’  This wife isn’t a foreign woman.  This is an Israelite.  This is a marriage that God approves of.  But He doesn’t approve of faithlessness.  God hates divorce in the case of two Israelites, and demands that the Israelites not marry foreigners in the first place. 

So is God schizophrenic?  No.  God hates divorce, pure and simple.  However, in Ezra, the Israelite men broke the commandment of God not to marry foreign women. They did and they were punished and as I said above, they were punished and they vowed to divorced their wives–who shouldn’t have been their wives in the first place.

But God still hates divorce.  I noticed that Mark didn’t deal with that passage. 

And since this is all God’s word, let’s look at a few more interesting passages about marriage in the Old Testament: if a man who rapes an unengaged virgin, the man must pay money to the woman’s father, but he isn’t permitted to divorce her (Deut. 22:28-29), nor shall a man divorce a woman who he accuses of being a virgin but he thinks she isn’t (Deut. 22:13-19).  The whole town must look at the blood of her broken hymen to verify that yes, she is a virgin (22:17).  Apparently raping an unengaged virgin somewhere equals a marriage (is this another case of one flesh=marriage???). 

And if she did lie about being a virgin, she is to be stoned by the men of the town (22:20-21).  That is a pretty radical form of divorce, but one that is decreed by God.  And what a marriage. Is this a traditional marriage?

"…and your poor students have to call you "professor"?

And your poor friends, Mark, call you a Christian?

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3 Responses to Marriage, Divorce, God Hates Divorce, God Commands Divorce…

  1. Kevin says:


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