Divorce in The Bible

Marriage is a life long commitment. Once a person commits, he or she should work to keep the relationship strong. Commitment grows out of the realization that God created marriage and gave it to us as a precious and priceless gift. Divorce is a separation of a married couple under the law or dissolving it. During the Biblical Era, it was the divorce would be carried out under a person with jurisdictional authority. However, the Bible mostly talks about the couple as one under the law and spiritual aspects. During those times, a single person was frowned upon, and a married couple was well respected in society.

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:15)

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

The Bible gives a list of dos and don’ts to maintain a happy marriage. The bride and the groom, and soon to be husband and wife take an oath at the time of marriage. They promise each other that both will remain loyal and sincere to each other until death. Making the decision to stay together is one way to honor a marriage. However, this commitment also involves emotions and feelings. Especially in this century, life is not a bed of roses, many obstacles come in the way of a couple which puts their relationship in danger. Hence, commitment plays its role and moves the roller coaster of life with contentment. It is not simply a matter of deciding to stay married but it is primarily about taking the active steps to maintain this relationship.

“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

The above verse is not directly related to divorce. However, when Ruth is widowed she asks her aging mother in law, Naomi to let her travel with her. So, through marriage, a man or a woman also has a responsibility towards their extended family, when he or she is married. Taking care of elderly in-laws was and still is a sign of respect and kindness.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. … (Ephesians 5:1-33)

“Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Mathew 19:8-9)

Adulterers break the solemn vow that they made to their spouse at the time of their marriage. It is also a “sin against God.”  (Genesis 39:7-9)

Adultery can cruelly separate children from parents. What is more, the Bible warns that “God will judge… adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4)

According to the above passages in the Bible, the root cause of unhappy marriages is every kind of impurity in our lives. More importantly, infidelity, adultery, or immorality leads to divorce. Divorce is mentioned in the Bible many times. Regarding divorce, Jesus approves that it is granted only on the grounds of adultery. Adultery is forbidden in the Ten Commandments. Even in the Old Testament, divorce is allowed in case of a partner’s infidelity. Other several reasons include where a couple lacks commitment, arguing, early age marriage, lack of preparation, and equality. These reasons do not qualify for a divorce. Bible permits divorce only one acceptable reason to end the relationship. In rare conditions, divorce is permitted when a wife or a husband is harassed by their partner and it becomes impossible for him to stay with her/him.

“Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication [sex outside of the marriage], and marries another commits adultery.” Mathew 19:9

God hates a deceitful, treacherous divorce. He will personally hold accountable those who frivolously leave their mate, especially when they do so with the motive of taking another partner. – Malachi 2:13-16 and Mark 10:9

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[a] 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Mathew 5:31-32)

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

According to the above examples, marriage is sacred and adultery is a treacherous sin. As mentioned above, unless there are adultery and fornication involved, the couple is not allowed to be divorced. However, in the above passages, if a man divorcee marries another person it is equal to committing adultery. In other words, if a man or a woman is divorced for a valid reason, they are expected to remain chaste and single under the law. Also, if a single person marries a divorcee, it is also considered as adultery.

‘A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord’ (Corinthians 7:39).

In many passages of the Bible, marriage is explained as a sacred act under the witness of God and family. Hence, divorce is not an option. A couple, with the right counseling and family support, always found a way to work on their marriages. The Bible also permits women to get remarried after the husband’s death if she remains loyal to her husband and did not get a divorce. If a person actually moves out, the situation is the equivalent of desertion, and divorce and remarriage are permissible.

Ephesians 4:2 – 3: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

According to the Bible, God’s desire is to see the preservation of society and future generations and a long-lasting relationship. He loves His people, He understands us and wants us to be respectful. The solution to reduce or avoid the cases of divorce, according to the above verse, is to be humble and kind, have patience with each other and try best to maintain peace.