The Biblical Reasons for Divorce

Divorce and remarriage is a hot topic to discuss, and arriving at a balanced biblical perspective is not always easy. Those who advocate divorce and as well as those who are against it have their favorite scriptures that justify their position, while each side tends to overlooks the Scriptures that disagree with them. In this study, we will look at one aspect of divorce and the reasons that Scripture permitted it under certain circumstances. To be sure, this is a delicate subject that affects the lives of so many people.

Deuteronomy 24

Deuteronomy 24:1, Write her a bill of divorcement. Divorce laws and a bill of divorcement (Heb. get)is the subject of this passage. This verse forms the basis of the divorce laws of the Torah and the actual get or bill of divorce, which was a written document that a husband gave to his wife because of some immoral activity on her part (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash, p. 1058). The subject of divorce and remarriage is a large subject and is beyond the scope of this present work, yet it is interesting to note that Moses himself, the one who YHVH used to pen the Torah, was very likely divorced and remarried. (We have discussed this subject in Parashat Yitro.) YHVH himself divorced Israel and gave her a get because of her unfaithfulness to him, though he never remarried. (See the teaching below.)

The Real Purpose for Divorce Under Torah

Deuteronomy 24:1–4, Natan’s Notes on the Biblical Reasons for Divorce

  • Jeremiah 3:14, After YHVH divorced Israel (v. 8), he was still married to her. What’s going on here? Even though YHVH divorced Israel, he still considers himself married to her because he had made a covenantal vow with Israel, and vows can’t be broken (except by death or under very stringent requirements). Period.
  • Look at Hosea 1:2 cp. 3:1–3. Hosea’s actions toward Gomer, his adulterous wife, is an example of YHVH’s unfailing love for is Israel, who was his spiritual adulterous wife. Marriage is a covenant vow that when broken by adultery requires the death penalty for the offending party. Gomer committed adultery. Yet Hosea brought her back and redeemed her from adultery. He loved her unconditionally and laid his life down for her (as YHVH does for us, see Eph 5:28).
  • Deuteronomy 24:1 can’t be used as a justification for divorcing under just any circumstances. Only if the wife has committed or is committing sexual immorality (in Hebrew ervah) can her husband put her away. A bill of divorcement, in Hebrew called a get, must first be issued for the purposes of restoring the immoral woman. One cannot put their wife away for any reason. Even Yeshua confirmed this in Matthew 5:32. Ideally, according to the Torah and to Yeshua, some sexual immorality (in Hebrew ervah)has to have been committed for a man legally to divorce his wife according to the Torah-law. I inserted the word ideally because there are seldom ideal situations in life, and humans rarely live up to YHVH’s ideal moral and spiritual standards. As such, Yeshua admits that the Torah as administered by Moses allowed for divorce to occur, sadly, because of the hardness of human hearts (Matt 19:8). What does “hardness of heart” mean? Scripture doesn’t say. The following is simply my speculation on what this means. For example, I would not expect one to be required to stay married if several severe conditions existed such as physical abuse, criminality, drug addictions, abandonment, total dereliction of responsibilities or extreme heathenism. Such sins make it all but impossible for a righteous person to remain in such a spousal relationship. A spouse who is practicing such has violated their contractual marriage vows and thus there legally and technically is no marriage. A believer shouldn’t be forced to remain in such a relationship. Having said this, it is the saint’s duty, as much as possible, to vet out a prospective mate before marrying them to ensure that they have never been involved nor are currently involved in such activities. One should only marry an Elohim-fearing, commandment-keeping, born again faithful believer in Yeshua the Messiah, who has a long fruit-bearing track record of such a lifestyle. Again, this is Natan Lawrence speaking, not Scripture, but it is my best understanding of scriptural principles as they relate to marriage and divorce.
  • Marriage between two believers is a vow with YHVH. Marriage between two unbelievers is something else. It is simply an agreement or contract between two people. Maybe YHVH is part of it, maybe he is not. It all depends on the vows and the situation. 
  • Deuteronomy 24 is not a permission to divorce and to remarry. Rather it is a judgment because of sin. It must be viewed in this manner. YHVH’s Torah-laws, statutes and ordinances are for when things go well. The judgments of Torah, on the other hand, were for when things went wrong. A judgment was meted out because some Torah-law had been broken and now a solution to the problem had to be found or worked out within the framework of Torah. This is the situation Deuteronomy 24 is dealing with respect to the marriage covenant that has been violated. A get was a temporary legal measure to protect the adulterous woman from stoning so that the marriage could be restored.
  • In the Torah, divorce was to be a temporary situation to bring the sinning wife to repentance and to restore YHVH’s perfect ideal of marriage—to restore order back into the home, to heal the family structure. If the sinning wife refuses to repent and remarries (Deut 24:2–3), and continues in her sin and she becomes divorced again or if her second husband dies, then this severs the marriage covenant permanently. This act on her part renders the marriage covenant null and void forever.
  • Again, a bill of divorcement or a get under the Torah was a temporary legal measure to protect the adulterous woman from stoning, so that the marriage could be restored. Matthew 1:19 demonstrates this. Joseph acted righteously in not putting Miriam (Mary) his pregnant betrothed wife away, which could have resulted with her being stoned to death. By all outward appearances, she was guilty of adultery, but Joseph’s act of mercy was an example of his exercising mercy over judgment. It ended up that she was pregnant not by a man, but by the Spirit of Elohim resulting in the birth of Yeshua the Messiah. Thus Joseph’s act of mercy spared the Messiah from potential death.
  • In Malachi 2:10–17, YHVH addresses the issue of divorce. Here the prophet speaking for YHVH is discussing the treacherous nature and misuse of divorce, which is one of the reasons YHVH states that he hates divorce (v. 16). This is because divorce often results in treacherous dealings between people (vv. 10–11, 14) and it violates and profanes sacred covenants (vv. 10), it profanes the holy institution of marriage, which YHVH loves (v. 11), because it is often the result of adultery (vv. 11–12), and adultery leading to divorce often causes a man to leave the wife of his youth (v. 14) thus breaking the oneness of marriage (v. 15), and divorce covers one’s garments with violence (v. 16). Again, for these reasons, YHVH hates divorce, and why he refers to it as “evil” and unjust (v. 17).
  • According to YHVH’s Torah standard, the righteous are to care for widows and orphans, not to create them as a result of the misuse of Torah’s laws regarding divorce.
  • In Matthew 5:32 Yeshua’s words fit into the above context. Only, ideally under the strictest standards of the Torah, for sexual immorality is divorce permissible. Otherwise divorce is unlawful, since the couple is legally still married and a bill of divorce (a get) is simply a temporary measure for purposes of reconciliation the couple and bringing the marriage back together.
  • In Matthew 19:3, when Yeshua mentions divorce “for just any reason,” he is referring to the Pharisaical schools of Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel of the time. The Pharisees that came to him asking the question were from School of Hillel. Yeshua is taking the Beit Shamai conservative position as was the case when John the Baptist took Herod to task for his adultery. Verse 8 shows that there is a provision for divorce but it is not YHVH’s perfect will. Rather it is a judgement and an indictment against carnal men.
  • Again, in 1 Corinthians 7:10–11, we see that the primary purpose of divorce is for reconciliation of the marriage, not so that one can justify themselves in getting out of a less than ideal marriage in order to fetch themselves another spouse. Divorce and remarriage, as millions of people will attest to, causes a shipload of unintended negative consequences on the lives of many people and often for generations to come. It is something to be avoided if at all possible.

Deuteronomy 24:4, Her first husband who divorced her shall not take her again to become his wife.The prophetic implications of this are astounding in light of YHVH’s divorce of unfaithful Israel and his eventual remarriage to her. The whole message of the gospel and Yeshua’s death on the cross relate to this verse. (See the teaching below.)


4 thoughts on “The Biblical Reasons for Divorce

  1. Wow Natan
    Somewhere I was reading in the Bible where God is speaking. He talks to Israel saying “where is the written bill of divorce” as a question. I wondered about that but didn’t write down the reference.
    If Israel prostituted herself to marry another ( paganism) & God only verbally told her to GET (gone!) & didn’t issue an official GET of breakage of the marriage contract officially…. I begin to wonder about when God says.
    I only turned from you ( Israel) for a little while but have loved you with an undying love. …ABBA really did treat us like Gomer & the doctrine of needing to die for remarriage doesn’t come into the picture because God’s Love for Israel is eternal & he waited despite all appearance of the marriage being completely ended by refusing to lose desire for her to be repentant.
    These New Covenant vows then really are Renewed with a better love than Israel understood or appreciated prior to this.
    Blessings to All.

  2. I know it talks about the sinning wife and she is a metaphor for us believers, but what about the sinning husband? Of course I am only hearing one side of the argument, but I am shocked to hear stories of mistreatment – not physical abuse, but mental abuse and manipulation – and not from just one woman! I remember Derek Prince saying: manipulation, domination, and intimidation are all witchcraft – in which case I think the woman has to remove herself from the situation, doesn’t she? The children are always the ones who suffer, but is one supposed to continue to be mistreated?

    • To be perfectly honest, I have asked myself the same question. Why does the Torah largely focus on the sinning wife and not the husband. In cases of fornication and adultery, both are mentioned with the commensurate punishments, but Scripture seems to overlook the husband in too many instances. I don’t have an answer for this except to say that it has to be assumed that in the Torah it takes two to tango, so to speak. The sinning woman is a remez or hint at the fact that the same laws apply to a man as well. I would certainly be open to hear other opinions on this issue.

Share your thoughts...