The Great Moses Divorced and Remarried?

Exodus 18:2–3, After he had sent her back.There is an indication here that Moses divorced his wife after their altercation over the circumcision of their sons (Exod 4:24–26). If so, what are the spiritual implications of this for us today?

The phrase sent away/back in verse two is shilluach/JuKKA according to Strong’s Concordance and Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon can refer to divorce. Shilluach is from shalakh (shin-lamed-chet), a basic verb meaning “to send” where in Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:1 the prophets use it referring to YHVH’s divorce from the house of Israel or Ephraim. 

Though rabbinical commentators Rashi and Hirsch fail to note the possibility of Moses’ divorce (Jewish Torah commentators tend to gloss over the faults of their great biblical heroes), Baal HaTurim notes this possibility in his commentary. 

Yet in Exodus 18:2, YHVH still views Zipporah as Moses’ wife. What’s going on here? Before this, Zipporah seems to have evidenced reluctance at obeying YHVH’s command to circumcise their sons (Exod 4:25), so did Moses put her away (divorce her) as a result? Was Moses, as the human “savior” of Israel from Egypt and an antetype (­or prophetic forerunner) of Yeshua the Messianic Savior (Deut 18:15–19) in that he had to deal with a rebellious wife, even as Yeshua (in his preincarnate state as YHVH of the Tanakh) had to deal with his Israel rebellious wife and eventually had to put her away? 

Zipporah is never again mentioned in the Torah and, in fact, we see the possibly that the divorced Moses even married another woman (Num 12:1)—apparently a black woman from Ethiopia. Is this a prophetic picture of Yeshua remarrying his former wife (Israel) during the time of the Renewed (Marriage) Covenant (Ketubah), who has adulterously mixed herself with the nations and returns to him in a mixed racial (spiritually-speaking) condition (Hos 7:8)? 

If Moses led Israel as a divorced and remarried man, does this change your perspective about him? How about divorced and remarried people in present-day ministry?

 

Yeshua (and Moses) on Divorce

Matthew 19:8, Moses permitted. From Yeshua’s statement here, it seems that Elohim gave Moses certain freedom and latitude to redefine and adapt some Torah principles to accommodate the needs and realities of fallen and sinful man. 

In the case of marriage, even though it was Elohim’s highest ideal for a man to leave his parents and cleave to one wife for the rest of his life or until she died (Gen 2:24), the reality is that man is too often incapable of living up to the Creator’s highest ideal because of the hardness or sinfulness of his heart; therefore, divorce was permitted. 

It is important to note that YHVH gave the marriage command before the fall of man had occurred (Gen 2:24 cp. Gen 3:1–6). In light of the fact of the fall of man when sin entered the world thus negatively affecting the marriage relationship, YHVH allowed Moses to permit divorce under certain circumstances (see Deut 24:1–4). 

Had Moses not made allowances for the sinfulness and hardness of the human heart and forbad all divorce in Israel in an effort to strictly adhere to YHVH’s highest letter-of-the-law ideal for marriage, then the societal results might have been unimaginably chaotic. For example, people would have been compelled to remain in abusive, criminal, adulterous, irreligious or even anti-religious relationships or in situations of abandonment or substance abuse. What kind of impact would this have had on the children and on future generations? Probably it would have had even worse consequences than those resulting from divorce.

Continue reading
 

Yeshua on Divorce

Mark 10:2–10, (cp. Matt 5:31–32 and 19) Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Yeshua confirms the fact that divorce wasn’t part of YHVH’s original marriage plan, but that Moses allowed divorce only for a specific reason.

In the Torah, divorce was permitted for lack of virginity at the time of marriage, and for specific sexual sins committed that violated the marriage covenant (note Deut 22:13–14 cp. Deut 24:1–4), yet eventually (by the time of Yeshua), among some of the Jews, the divorce laws had become so relaxed that a man could put his wife away for any reason (Matt 19:3). To those Jews who had such a liberal interpretation of the Torah’s divorce laws, Yeshua was addressing not what the Torah specifically said, but what the religious-legal interpretations had become of those laws.

To bring the concept of marriage and divorce back to the Creator’s original design, Yeshua upheld that, according to the Torah—YHVH’s master plan, marriage between a man and a woman was inviolable and that divorce was permissible only for certain gross sexual sins and for (irreconcilable) hardness of heart (see more at Matt 19:8–9).

The bottom line of what Yeshua is saying is this: YHVH’s highest ideal is for a man and woman to marry and become one, as YHVH Elohim (the Godhead—the Set-Apart Spirit [the feminine side of Elohim], and the Son) is one, of which the marriage is to be a reflection. Sadly, because of the hardness of the sinful human heart, divorce happens, which Moses permitted under certain circumstances, but not for just any reason. Divorce, though permissible, is YHVH’s lowest ideal for the family, since it leaves in its wake so much ruination.

Mark 10:10–13, Divorces…little children. The proximity to Yeshua’s teaching on divorce with his blessing the little children presents us with an interesting juxtaposition of ideas. It’s as if the Gospel writer is obliquely conveying to us the fact that divorce is detrimental to families—especially to children.

Mark 10:11, Divorces his wife and marries another. Tertullian (A.D. 160–220), the early church father, understands this to mean that he who divorces his wife in order to marry another does so unlawfully and is thus an adulterer. He concedes that Moses allowed for divorce and that Yeshua accepts this provision in the Torah, but not if it’s done for the wrong reasons and, therefore, unlawfully (Ante-Nicene Church Father, vol 3; “Tertullian Against Marcion”; Book 4, chap 34; pp. 404–405; Hendrickson, 1995).


 

Why did Yeshua allow Moses to permit divorce?

Marriage - Divorce signpost in a beach background

In the study below, we will discuss why Moses added the divorce clause to the Torah, and why Yeshua permitted it and what he had to say about it. (For the record, I am not divorced and thus have no dog in the fight. I am simply analyzing what the Bible has to say to say on the subject and attempting to accurately report my findings. — Natan)

Matthew 19:8, Moses permitted. From Yeshua’s statement here, it would seem that Elohim gave Moses certain freedom and latitude to redefine certain Torah principles to accommodate the needs and realities of fallen and sinful man.

In the case of marriage, even though it was Elohim’s highest ideal for a man to leave his parents and cleave to one wife for the rest of his life or until she died (Gen 2:24), the reality is that man too often is incapable of living up to the Creator’s highest ideal because of the hardness or sinfulness of his heart. It is important to note that YHVH gave the marriage command before the fall of man had occurred (Gen 2:24 cp. Gen 3:1–6). In light of the fact of the fall of man when sin entered the world thus negatively affecting the marriage relationship, YHVH allowed Moses to permit divorce under certain circumstances (see Deut 24:1–4).

Had Moses not made allowances for the sinfulness and hardness of the human heart and forbad all divorce in Israel in an effort to strictly adhere to YHVH’s highest letter-of-the-law ideal for marriage, then the societal results might have been unimaginably chaotic. For example, people would Continue reading


 

The Prophetic Implications of Divorce in Light of the Two Houses of Israel

The teaching that follows is a prophetic view of divorce (and remarriage) as presented in the Scriptures, nothing more or less. The reader may be thinking at this moment that the author in presenting this teaching is really “going out on a limb.” Perhaps so, but keep in mind that there are those who go out on a certain “limb” that is weak only to have it break off from under them, and then there are others who venture out on a different “limb” and what they say later proves to be accurate. The former are discredited, while the later are considered prophetic forerunners as they are helping to move the open-minded into the deeper areas of spiritual and Scriptural truth and into the deeper waters of the heart of YHVH Elohim. We will leave the reader to decide which this teaching is.

For the record, let it be stated at the outset that this teaching neither condones nor condemns divorce. This is the position of Scripture, by the way. It is not YHVH’s perfect will for divorce to occur, but sometimes reality dictates otherwise. Furthermore, in this paper we  shall see that Scripture never presents divorce as a positive occurrence, but as something that is regrettable. Additionally, nothing in this paper should be viewed as advocating divorce. And finally, for the record, the author is happily married to his first and only wife and his best friend and partner in life. Divorce is not even a word in his marital vocabulary, by the grace of YHVH.

Yeshua Teaches on Divorce

While on this earth, Yeshua taught on many subjects pertaining to all areas of human existence—136 in all. He taught on everything from angels to worship, from money to taxes, sexuality to celibacy, fasting to food, joy to sorrow and yes, on the subject of divorce, as well. In Matthew 19:1-12 we read,

“And it came to pass, that when Yeshua had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan; and great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?’ And he answered and said unto them, ‘Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore Elohim hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They say unto him, ‘Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?’ He saith unto them, ‘Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.’ His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, ‘All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.’”

The prophet Malachi says that YHVH hates putting away, a Hebraism for divorce (Mal. 2:16). Yet Yeshua says above that in the Torah (the Books of the Law) divorce was permitted if one of the parties had a hardened heart resulting in irreconcilable differences. Adultery was cause for divorce if the offending party refused to repent, but Yeshua, by implication, does not seem to limit divorce for reason of adultery only.

YHVH’s Marriage to Israel: An Historical Overview

YHVH Marries the Nation of Israel

The Hebrew Scriptures are the history of YHVH choosing a spiritual virgin bride from among the nations of the world, preparing that bride for marriage and then entering into a spiritual, marital and covenantal relationship with that bride. That bride was the nation of Israel whom YHVH married at Mount Sinai. The Torah-law was the marriage agreement (See my teaching where the Jewish wedding is outlined historically and prophetically in a biblical context available on our web site and entitled, The Bible: A Love Story—The Story of Two Lovers—How YHVH’s Set-apart Feast Days Are the Outline of that Love Story: A Plan of Redemption). Ezekiel describes the marriage between YHVH and Israel succinctly as follows:

“And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt [kanaph which is the corner of a talit] over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I swore unto thee, and entered into a covenant [i.e., a marriage covenant or ketubah] with thee, saith the YHVH Elohim, and thou becamest mine” (Ezek. 16:6-8; read verses 1-43 for context).

One Nation (Wife) Becomes Two Nations or Houses

Now at the foot of Mount Sinai YHVH married one (spiritual) woman comprised of several million Israelites who were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob comprising of 12 tribes. Those 12 tribes remained as a single national entity for 500 years until the death of King David’s son, Solomon. When Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king over the nation of Israel the northern ten tribes of Israel revolted against Rehoboam and under the leadership of Jeroboam seceded from Israel and formed a separate nation whose capital was Samaria. In countless places Scripture refers to this nation as the House of Israel, or Ephraim, named after the largest and most prominent tribe of the Northern Kingdom.

Those Israelite tribes which remained loyal to Rehoboam were named the house of Judah after the most prominent tribe of the Southern Kingdom.

Whereas YHVH had married the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai, 500 years later that nation split into two. It was still the nation of Israel, but it was like a woman with a split personality who acts like two people. Indeed… (to continue reading this article, go to http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/divorce.pdf)


 

Some Thoughts on Moses’ Divorce and Remarriage

Numbers 12:1, Whom he had married. Some Jewish sages (e.g. Rashi, Baal HaTurim) teach that Moses divorced Zipporah and remarried an Ethiopian or Cushite woman. Was Moses’ marriage to the Ethiopian woman legal in YHVH’s eyes? If not, perhaps this is what the siblings’ complaint was about. Consider this. When Moses married Ziporah, he was not “saved.” His first encounter with YHVH occurred at the burning bush after he had already married Zipporah. This is when Moses received his spiritual calling. He received salvation on Passover night in his house with the lamb’s blood painted on the door. He was baptized in the Red Sea and received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

There is no indication that Zipporah accepted Moses’ heavenly calling to follow YHVH. Even though her father, Yitro, as a descendant of Abraham, knew and seemed to have followed YHVH, this may not have been the case with his daughter. To the contrary, she seems to have resisted YHVH and obedience to him (Exod 4:24–26). In fact, it appears that she returned to Yitro, her father, in Midian and did not accompany Moses in the exodus (see Exod 18:2).

The point is that sometimes YHVH will call, commission and grant salvation to a married person, but the person’s spouse is not open to receiving that calling and salvation. In such instances if the unsaved spouse remains hard hearted toward YHVH and after a period of time has passed, the saved spouse is released from their marriage and is free to remarry a believer.  Paul discusses this in 1 Corinithians 7:10–16.

Though the Torah doesn’t tell us, it is entirely possible that Zipporah was dead by the time Moses married the Cushite woman, since he was an elderly man (somewhere between the age of 80 and 120). Yeshua accepts the fact that because of the hardness of hearts, the Torah permits divorce (Matt 19:8) and presumably remarriage, as seems to have been the case with Moses.

Presumably, the Cushite woman was part of the mixed multitude that accompanied the Israelites in their exodus out of Egypt.