Is DIVORCE in any MARRIAGE ideally ACCEPTABLE to God TODAY? "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 uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man's wife..." (Deut 24:1-4)
The above passage does not provide divine sanction for divorce, but simply recognizes that divorce was practiced among the Israelites during the time of Moses. In fact, no Old Testament law explains or, clarifies the issue of divorce very well. In the texts that mention about divorce, the focus is to place limitations on the practice of divorce itself (22:19, 29). These verses do not institute, encourage, or approve divorce, but treat it as a practice already operating in the Israelite society during those days.
The custom of giving certificates of divorce was probably adopted by the Israelites from the Egyptians because they had a practice of writing out contracts in relationship to every area of life. A man could divorce his wife for uncleanness by writing her a certificate of divorce and giving it to her. This certificate of divorce then became a legal document that provided certain rights to the divorcee (see Lev. 21:7, 14; 22:13; Num. 30:9). One such right was that the divorced woman could remarry someone else, but if her second husband died or divorced her, the first husband was not allowed to marry her again!
The purpose of this law was actually to prevent hasty divorce, discourage adultery, and preserve the institution of marriage. It was aimed at preventing people from moving in and out of marriages in a way that trivialized marriage itself (Jer. 3:1). However, the people of Jesus’ day took this permission to divorce as a promotion of divorce but Jesus reminded them that such was not God’s original plan (Matt. 19:4–6), and that divorce was allowed by Moses only because of the “hardness of your hearts” (Matt. 19:8). Actually, divorce is contrary to the creation purposes of God (Gen. 2:24). The original plan of God is for a man and woman to be committed to one another for life!
That brings us to the question: Is divorce in any marriage acceptable to God today? This is a complex issue, but three biblical principles suggest that settling questions about divorce should start with a proper understanding of marriage itself:
- Marriage is a divine covenant and a lifetime commitment (Matt. 19:6).
- Marriage is a holy institution conceived and established by God Himself (Gen. 1:27; 2:24).
- Marriage is based on mutual trust and faithfulness between the couple (1 Cor. 7:10-11).
Let’s never forget that God wants both happiness and holiness in our homes. We will enjoy those blessings if we love and obey Him, as well as love our spouses deeply and are committed to them for life – just the way God intended. Thus, no divorce in any marriage is ideally acceptable to God today!