What does the Bible say about divorce?

Divorce is a major problem in our nation. The current statistics suggests half of all couples who marry will get a divorce. Though the recent marriage debates have been focused on homosexual marriage, divorce is an issue dealt with in the Bible. The Bible addresses divorce in clear and concise language. The Bible also makes a couple statements about divorce that are not immediately clear and understandable. In an article of this nature space and time do not allow a thorough discussion of all the passages related to divorce. Therefore, the focus in this particle article will be the clear Bible passages about divorce. The more difficult questions and passages relating to divorce will be left to be addressed by themselves in later articles.

God designed marriage to be permanent. Genesis 2 tells that God created man, woman and marriage. In God’s creation work He gave the parameters for marriage and by which all marriages are still bound. Genesis 2:21 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they two shall be one flesh.” In Mark 10 Jesus is asked about the lawfulness of divorce for any reason. In His answer, Jesus quotes Genesis 2 and then adds this statement, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put assunder.” Marriage is designed by God to be a permanent union of one man and one woman. Divorce is a violation of that Divine direction. The original created order still orders marriage.

Because of man’s sin God does at times permit divorce. The question about divorce brought to Jesus in Mark 10 found it’s Biblical support in Deuteronomy 24. The Old Testament law provided an orderly means for a man to divorce his wife if he found some uncleanness in her. The law of Moses provided reasonable instructions for civil divorces to maintain order in the state and to provide protection for those involved in divorce. These Old Testament instructions do not require or approve of divorce, but give direction for orderly civil conduction a difficult matter. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus refers to Deuteronomy 24 and tells the uncleanness for which divorce is allowable. “Whoseover shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.” Jesus says divorce is permissible in cases of sexual unfaithfulness.

One other Biblical passage seems to permit divorce, 1 Corinthians 7. In that chapter Paul says that in the case of an unsaved spouse leaving a saved spouse, the Christians is to let him (or her) go. The Christian is not to seek a divorce, but if the unbeliever divorces him, the Christian is not to oppose it. Sexual unfaithfulness and an unbeliever’s desertion are the only two exceptions found in the Bible which permit divorce. These exceptions are not indications of general approval for divorce, but provide a measure of protection to more or less innocent spouses in a couple specific cases.

God never commands divorce, even in those cases in which divorce is permitted. The one married to an adulterer is not bound by the Bible to get a divorce. In fact, the Bible gives specific examples of individuals who were married to serial adulterers and remained married to the glory of God. The believer was never to court divorce from an unbeliever. He was instead to promote a healthy, whole union for the eternal benefit of the children and the unsaved spouse. Divorced is at times permitted but never commanded.

In the end the issue when discussing marriage and divorce is not an issue of happiness, freedom, tolerance and mental health. The issue is what God’s Word says. God designed every marriage to be permanent. Man’s continued sin corrupts that design, but the plan remains unchanged. Every marriage is a union put together by God and should not be torn apart by any act of man. Though God gives a couple exceptions allowing for divorce, He does so for the protection of marriage and not the frivolous dissolution of the marriage covenant upon any pretext.