Discussion about Divorce and Marriage
1 Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: "Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?"
3 Jesus answered them with a question: "What did Moses say in the law about divorce?"
4 "Well, he permitted it," they replied. "He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away."
5 But Jesus responded, "He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But 'God made them male and female' from the beginning of creation. 7 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.' Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together."
10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery."
Continuing to make his way southward toward Jerusalem, Jesus is once again accosted by Pharisees seeking to trap him with a question on a much- debated topic. This time they want to know Jesus' opinion regarding divorce. As usual, Jesus quickly moves from mere human opinion to God's authoritative declaration. Moses never commanded divorce; he sought merely to regulate a practice that fell far short of God's intention for marriage. Any and every act of divorce violates the sanctity and permanence of an institution established by God himself.
The religious leaders asked Jesus "whether it was lawful [Greek exesti: "to be obligatory - 'must, ought to'907] for a man to divorce [Greek apoluo: "to let loose from, let go free"908] a wife" (Mark 10:2, NASB). The Pharisees were once again trying to trap Jesus, their aim being "to discredit him in the eyes of the public, so that the crowds would turn away from him."909 The Pharisees would have been well aware of the fact that it was the issue of divorce that had led to John the Baptist's imprisonment and eventual execution.910 Since "Jesus was now in the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas (i.e., Judea and beyond the Jordan),"911 it seems very likely the Pharisees were hoping Jesus' stance would likewise land him in trouble with Herod.912 At the very least, Jesus' taking sides in the debate would likely "split the ranks of His followers."913
Among the Jews of Jesus' day, there were two basic schools of thought regarding divorce, one broad-loose-liberal and the other narrow-strict-conservative.914 The broad-loose-liberal view was that of Rabbi Hillel (HILL el915), which held that a man could divorce his wife - only in very rare cases could/would a wife divorce her husband916 - for many less-than-serious "offenses," including "going in public with uncovered head, entering into conversation with other men, speaking disrespectfully of the husband's parents in his presence, burning the bread, being quarrelsome or troublesome, getting a bad reputation or being childless (for ten years),"917 or even if the husband was to find "another woman more beautiful than" his wife.918 Those who subscribed to the narrow-strict-conservative view of Rabbi Shammai (SHAM eye919), however, understood divorce to be warranted only in the case of sexual immorality.920
The law (Mark 10:3)
"Appeal to the Law of Moses was for the Jewish people ... an appeal to the highest authority on any question."921 By asking what Moses "commanded" (see Mark 10:3 in NASB), Jesus was forcing the religious leaders to acknowledge that divorce was permitted but not demanded.922 Hence their reply: "'Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY.'" (Mark 10:4, NASB). Thus Jesus challenged the "assumption that because something is 'permitted,' it is therefore according to the will of God."923 (Polygamy is another example of this same truth.)
In answering Jesus, the Pharisees summarized Deuteronomy 24:1-4: "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man's wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce ... " (NASB). The problem is that since "some indecency" and "turns against (= hates) her" were not clearly defined, their meaning was open to debate.924 They likely do not refer to either adultery or pre-marital sexual relations, as both were addressed elsewhere and, moreover, carried a penalty of death (see Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:13-29).925 ("By Jesus' time [ca. A.D. 30] the death penalty was dropped, but Rabbinic law compelled a husband to divorce an adulterous wife.926) "The great mistake of the Pharisees was that they imagined that the dissolution of marriage for some cause or other was originally contemplated in the will of God concerning marriage. Hence they thought that for this reason Moses wrote that permission in Deuteronomy 24:1 and commanded only that a written certificate be given the wife."927
The law's intent was to check divorce, not to encourage it.928 Moses allowed divorce "in view of their hardheartedness, their obstinate refusal to accept God's view of marriage. Moses acknowledged the presence of divorce in Israel but did not institute or authorize it."929The fact is that Moses sought to bring civility to a very uncivil practice. As one source puts it: "Jesus explained that Moses gave the divorce law because of the sinfulness of the human heart. The law protected the wife by restraining the husband from impulsively divorcing her and abusing her like an unwanted piece of furniture, instead of treating her like a human being. Without a bill of divorcement, a woman could easily become a social outcast and be treated like a harlot. No man would want to marry her, and she would be left defenseless and destitute."930 Once the divorce took place and the wife married another man, she could never again return to her first husband, not even if the second husband divorced her or died. Apparently this provision was added in an effort to force the husband to think twice before rejecting his wife.931
God (Mark 10:6)
"Jesus answered the question not on the basis of rabbinic custom and the debate over Deuteronomy 24:1, but rather from the account of creation and God's original design."932 In effect, while the religious leaders were arguing that marriage can (should?) be considered a temporary arrangement, Jesus upheld its permanence. "The Hebrew words for 'male' and 'female' reveal that the two were made complementary to each other. God's plan was that in marriage the husband and wife become one flesh, an intimate closeness that cannot be separated. The wife is not property to be disposed of, but an equally created person."933 In quoting from the book of Genesis (Genesis 1:27 [and possibly Genesis 5:2], and Genesis 2:24), Jesus demonstrated: 1) that God created marriage to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman, and so 2) "[d]ivorce is tantamount to an undoing of the created order."934
Both of the popular interpretations regarding divorce were prejudiced in favor of the husband and thus resulted in his advantage.935 Jesus said "it was because of the hardness of men's hearts that divorce was conceded. The law was unequally balanced to the disadvantage of women, and Jesus' ruling, with its appeal to the Creator's intention, had the effect of redressing this unequal balance."936
Some Bible versions/translations extend Mark 10:7 (see NET Bible textual commentary). The NASB reads: ""FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER,'" while the KJV adds: "'and cleave to his wife.'" ESV: "'and hold fast to his wife.'" HCSB: "'[and be joined to his wife,]'" While Jesus' point regarding the permanence of marriage remains the same with or without the additional text, nonetheless it is worth noting that "cleave/hold fast" (Greek proskollao) means: "To glue one thing to another."937 And so the thought is that a man will leave his parents and be glued to his wife. Thus "'the two are united into one'" (Mark 10:8). "The Pharisees, who allowed a husband to discharge a wife at will for any trumped-up cause, were in conflict with the divine view of marriage. They considered husband and wife two like master and servant so that the husband could remove his wife at any time."938
As one source puts it: "Marriage is not a contract of temporary convenience which can be readily broken; it is a covenant of mutual fidelity to a lifelong union made before God."939"This does not mean that a man is committing a sin by not getting married. Rather, it means that those who decide to marry must view marriage as a divine institution, a state in which they must so conduct themselves that true union - sexual, to be sure … but also intellectual, moral, and spiritual - is not only established but more and more firmly cemented."940 How is this accomplished? By seeing marriage as a team effort in which both partners work together, plan together, pray together, play together, and pull together.941 Which goes along with Jesus statement that "'God has joined together' [Greek: suzeugnumi]" (v. 9) the man and woman - a word picture of two animals being yoked together.942
Adultery (Mark 10:11, 12)
"Adultery" (Greek moichao) refers to "sexual intercourse of a man with a married woman other than his own spouse. From the standpoint of the NT, adultery was normally defined in terms of the married status of the woman involved in any such act. In other words, sexual intercourse of a married man with an unmarried woman would usually be regarded as 'fornication,' but sexual intercourse of either an unmarried or a married man with someone else's wife was regarded as adultery, both on the part of the man as well as the woman."943 It is important to note that "Jesus did what the rabbis refused to do: he recognized that a man could commit adultery against his wife. In rabbinic Judaism a woman by infidelity could commit adultery against her husband; and a man, by having sexual relations with another man's wife, could commit adultery against him. But a man could never commit adultery against his wife, no matter what he did. Jesus, by putting the husband under the same moral obligation as the wife, raised the status and dignity of women."944
If, as appears likely, "commits adultery" (moichao) is in the middle voice, then the thought is that the offending spouse has made him-/herself an adulterer/adulteress.945 "Unlike Roman law, Palestinian Jewish law did not permit a woman to divorce her husband (although under extreme circumstances she could request that the court force him to divorce her)."946 Whether Jesus' words regarding a woman divorcing her husband reflected the rare Jewish practice and/or the more common Gentile practice, his point remains the same: "the sin consisted in the disruption of the marriage, no matter by what means this was effected."947
Jesus' statement to his disciples might be paraphrased: "Any man who unlawfully divorces his wife in order to marry another woman makes himself an adulterer. And any woman who unlawfully forces her husband to divorce her in order to marry another man makes herself an adulteress." Since elsewhere Jesus affirmed that adultery (Gk. porneia) is the only justifiable grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:32; 19:9), one lesson to be drawn from Jesus' teaching is that the innocent party in a marriage - that is, the one who was left behind - is free to remarry. Although the ideal response is always forgiveness and reconciliation,948 in the event that simply is not possible - such as in the case of unrepentant adultery - the innocent party should not feel as if he/she sins against God by remarrying. "In all his utterances on this subject Jesus blames only the one who disrupts the marriage and not the one whose marriage is disrupted. ... The deduction cannot be drawn from the words of Jesus that a disrupted marriage is still a binding marriage in the sight of God. ... Nowhere does Jesus forbid the innocent party of a disrupted marriage to marry again. As regards the guilty one who causes the disruption, the way of repentance is surely open also for such a sinner as it is open for any other who has caused an irreparable wrong to another."949(Notice the link between living in "peace" and marriage/divorce both here [Mark 9:50-10:12] and in what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth [1 Corinthians 7:12-16].)
"A deaf husband and a blind wife are always a happy couple." - French Proverb950
"A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers." - Robert Quillen (1887-1948)951
"An ideal wife is any woman who has an ideal husband."952
"By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you will become very happy. If you get a bad one, you will become a philosopher." - Socrates (470-399 B.C.)953
"Even if marriages are made in heaven, man has to be responsible for the maintenance."954
"[W]hen the doors on a marriage are shut and bolted and a fire breaks out, all your time and energy goes to putting out the flames." 955
We need to emulate "Jesus' high view of marriage and low view of divorce. ... God created marriage to be a sacred, permanent union and partnership between husband and wife. When both husband and wife enter this union with that understanding and commitment, they can provide security for each other, a stable home for their children, and strength to weather any of life's storms or stresses."956
??? How does God's design for marriage compare to our society's loose and free attitude regarding both marriage and divorce?