Most exegetical studies offer discussions on divorce, marriage, and other rights of passage. The passage is a complicated topic that contains thoughts and expressions that are hard to comprehend. The topic is a constant problem in real life and has other passages showing similar relationship. In fact, there are personal debates on marriage and divorce given that there is no absolute topic in any biblical episode.
Therefore, in order to harmonize this topic with other passages, it becomes important to associate them to get a complete teaching. The passage is essential given that Jesus set all truths underlying marriage and divorce in his teachings (Dobson 1986, 39).
Throughout the development of these contexts, it is imperative to consider the essential practical points revealed by this chapter. That is, what God deliberated to humanity through creation is an ideal part to be considered.
The production of Godly seed forms the union between men and women who are bound to live for a long time. Anything falling away from this is considered substandard in the face of God. Moreover, it is a transgression to fail to do things according to the Lord’s desires and failing to gauge His values.
The blessings and endorsement of God did not come with the permission of divorce (Wilson 1952, 11). As a result, prior to making decisions on how to walk with God after divorce, an individual must seek for the Lord’s remedial and restitution.
Initiating a second marriage before sorting out and dealing with the causes of divorce was an imprudent act. In general, the issues surrounding divorce and the ideals in marriage set in God’s will are the most important aspects to be discussed in this essay.
According to the Bible, there are various teachings regarding marriage and divorce. However, there is lack of clarity in the practical aim intended to handle the issues of divorce and the ideals proposed by God (Shaner 1969, 49).
Given the disputes emerging in the biblical scripts concerning divorce and marriage, this exegetical study examines the interpretation of marriage as a holy arrangement, whether divorce is permitted or not, and the celibacy question.
With respect to marriage as a holy arrangement, the study examines whether there are legal grounds for divorce or not. That is, whether or not the divine will tolerates divorce. Lastly, the study examines the celibacy issue concerning marriage as well as whether celibacy could be espoused by anyone.
Jesus taught lessons on marriage and divorce in response to the problems that surrounded these passages. Primarily, the Pharisees raised questions in relation to divorce before Jesus offered his teachings. The suspension of marriage as an alternative was no longer an insertion by Lord according to Jesus teachings.
Similarly, divorce is an evil act when the question about Moses allowing people to divorce is substantiated. However, it was just permitted due to sins that frequently occurred in marriages. Thus, a measure of grace is a requirement for individuals who intend to re-marry after marriage break up.
From Mathew 19: 7-9, is it true that divorce is permissible? The responses offered to the Pharisees regarding divorce were never satisfactory. The Pharisees went ahead to inquire from Jesus the reasons why Moses authorized divorce despite going against the Lord’s desires on divorce and marriage. In fact, the scriptures claim that Moses authorized men to send their wives away after serving them with divorce bills.
Despite basing their arguments on this premise, it comes out clear that Moses only authorized divorce based on the indecency acts but hardly commanded married couples to divorce as stated in Deuteronomy 24:1. According to Moses, a woman should not go back to the first divorced husband in case she fails to find favor she looked for in the second partner.
Thus, Deuteronomy refutes and helps in making rules governing remarrying and divorcing the first marital partner. That is, remarrying and divorcing were accepted although they were hardly authorized. Based on the scriptures, the devotees would always permit divorce provided the devised strategies for restoring marriages failed to work (Adams 1980, 24).
In Mark 10:2-9 and Mathew 19:8-9, Jesus taught that the acts of divorcing a marital partner hardly reflected the initial plans meant for all creations but symbolized how individual hearts were rigid. Hence, Moses tolerated separation given that it was perceived to be better compared to immoral lewdness.
While divorcing was permitted, it hardly specified whether the partner who divorced the responsible couple had committed a transgression. Mathew thus asserts that God hardly proclaimed divorce as a decent alternative in ruining marriages. It only signifies how humanity refused to obey God by taking hard lines in their hearts hence a proof of the prevailing sins.
Marriages could be dissolved based on the indecent actions (Aloysius 1972, 287). In Deuteronomy 22:22, indecency did not symbolize adultery since such acts were punishable by death. In most cases, marriage could be destructed by adultery in case a married partner engages in sexual contact with a person in a different marital association.
This implies that even if those who commit adultery are killed the ruling cannot give unusual legislation regarding this case. At this point divorcing a marital partner appears as an acceptable action applied when an act of indecency emerges in marriage. Thus, marriage would be rendered naked as a result of the coarse and dishonest actions, which mock marriage as an institution.
Jesus summarized that divorce ought not to be commanded except when infidelity becomes apparent in a marriage. According to Jesus, divorce should be authorized provided a marriage is exposed to dishonest and lewd action including open indecency, homosexuality, and prostitution or fornication. Therefore, Jesus made the decisions offered by Moses to be very specific.
For instance, Jesus agreed that when human hearts become hard then divorcing a marital partner should be permitted. Jesus however affirmed that divorce should just be approved on sexual sins grounds. That is, when a marriage partner is hardly anxious about the preservation of matrimonial sanctity and opts for a vicious lifestyle or conduct then divorce should be granted.
Since God planned marital affairs to be based on sexual accord, there is no agreement when sexual promiscuities become apparent. This may hardly justify divorcing based on how the partners decide to solve the problem.
The consent to divorce in these situations appeared to conform to the Lord’s desires of ensuring that marital affairs remain unadulterated. Divorcing a marital partner was a minor option when confronted with such problems.
From the above biblical assertions, Jesus appeared to be clear in the answers he gave concerning divorce. Initially, Jesus said that there was no permission to divorce when the divorcing foundations accrue afar what the laws tolerate including divorcing due to marital sexual breach. Similar to Moses, Jesus authorized divorcing provided either party shows indecent or dishonest behaviors, which ridicule their marriage.
This implied that divorce was acceptable provided the repentance chances were not present. Irrespective of the grounds, God’s desire might not be fulfilled given that the offended partner must bear such failures prior to getting another marriage partner from God (Boecker 1980, 58).
Jesus asserted that the consequences of divorce could be stern. Any person who divorced a husband or a female partner and resorted to marrying a different person is committing infidelity. Given that indecency has taken place, marriage could be dissolved by the legal divorce grounds.
Second, if other grounds for divorcing are present, then sexual unification in such remarrying should be considered as a form of indecency that could be destroying the marriage plans instituted by the Almighty.
The celibacy issue
Jesus came very close to Shammai teachings although he had to restrict judgments as to whoever must lawfully remarry. According to Jesus responses, the disciples concluded that it was good if somebody did not marry whatsoever the case.
The perception of the disciples indicates that they wished that matrimonial arrangement would be more attractive if it were easier to disband. Jesus highlighted to the disciples that not everybody would positively receive the idea of celibacy with the exception of those whose celibacy had been divinely given.
He was talking about the eunuchs who were born in celibacy and those who deliberately embraced the practice for God’s kingdom. According to Paul (1Corinthians 7:7-9), celibacy is nine plus commendable for the interest of the kingdom.
He implies that one should marry instead of burning in passion. Jesus did not view celibacy as a better condition than marriage. Celibacy according to Jesus is a divine calling to meet the diverse objectives in the kingdom (Isaksson 2010, 28).
Marriage as a heavenly plan (Mathew 19:3-6)
The divine plan for marriage, the permission to divorce, and the issue of celibacy can be interpreted to help in understanding the passage of marriage and divorce. From the scriptures, the Pharisees were inquisitive and asked Jesus whether married couple could divorce at any cost. The general question regarded the legality of divorce in God’s kingdoms.
The expression reflects Judaism as the most imperative discussion on separation amid the devotees and the renowned instructors such as Shammai in addition to Hillel. In similar biblical verses, the diverse grounds offered by educators and scholars derived from the sermons saw each of these schools of thoughts accepting separation. Under certain grounds, divorce was permissible as seen in Deuteronomy 24:1.
On the other hand, divorce is an expression showing the nudity of any creature according to Hebrews. Divorce was simply for indecency following the emphasis of Shammai and his apprentices on the subject of nakedness. Generally, nakedness might mean several things thus no agreement became apparent regarding the meaning of indecency.
Indecency submitted to whichever demeanor in an individual’s way of life that is lewd, profane and that can mess up marriage. The penalty of this was no longer divorce but rather death since it was not an adultery or infidelity. So long as divorce never matched up to the rules of the marital conduct, Shammai permitted re-marriage.
In contrary, more compassionate viewpoint by Hillel and his group on any individual who considered divorce was evident. They focused and reasoned based on the expression “thing” and supposed whatever thing could make divorce to exist. In as much as they had restrictions, they permitted separation under several grounds.
For several years without any decision reached, the Pharisees had debated on the issue of marriage and divorce and thus found it ideal for testing Christ. Therefore, the ambiance of the arguments proffered by the Pharisees explained every ground why marital partners would want to be separated. A number of teachers undoubtedly permitted the split-up of marriages for more or less of the underlying principle.
It is true according to the biblical verses that divorce appears to be beyond the accord offered by the heavenly desires. The sexual misdemeanors resulted into Jesus restricting divorce. However, his solution towards divorce does not match both the stern view of Shammai and the slack Hillel’s elucidations. The agreement between marital partners in any marriage marks the restoration of the conception of the Lord’s plan.
In making his case clearer, Jesus used Genesis 1:17 to ascertain that marriage was an implication from God to unite a man and a woman. Furthermore, he reminds every individual that a man and a woman would be one flesh under the same marriage (Genesis 2:24).
Flesh according to the righteous channels in the olden biblical books never implied bodily unification alone, but also included a life merger including bodily doings, devices, aspirations, thoughts, and wishes. Marriage is God’s will according to the conclusion made by Jesus in this context. Divorce therefore is an uprising sin given that it splits what God has united as it goes in the opposite direction to the plans of God.
When discussing divorce it is hard to misplace the set down values used by Jesus during His teachings. The harmonization of a woman and a man as a flesh is Lord ordained. Hence, the original matrimony becomes consecrated. In addition, it is difficult to delineate marriage in terms of the union conditions and agreements made by the couples’ since marriage has a foundation in God’s creation.
Many individuals fall out that marriage lawfully split ends once the terms of harmony break up owing to the fact that marriage is a covenant. Certainly, if marriage contravenes the will of Lord it might break up and lead to divorce. It is of great essence as a teaching in this passage to distinguish marriage as it appears in real world. That is, the arrangement of God to bring together a woman and man as one flesh.
Equally, we must make out divorce as it is since it is not an infringement of the harmony between a man and a woman but a failure of the couple to accomplish God’s will and a rebellion not in favor of marriage.
Any exegetical analysis is unfinished if it does not tackle the contemporary importance of the passage. It is imperative to decipher the differences that the passage makes. In considering the significance of the passage under this study, we consider the theological and practicality of the passage. Some contemporary Bible editions interpret “except for fornication” in Matthew as “except for matrimonial unfaithfulness”.
By stating that Jesus allowed divorce for matrimonial unfaithfulness, it is important to consider Matthew 5: 28. Matthew stated that whoever looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her”. Such a sin may be viewed as basis for divorce since Jesus termed it as adultery, which is the equivalent of matrimonial unfaithfulness. Jesus did not intend to condone divorce on grounds of matrimonial unfaithfulness.
The content indicates that Jesus was tipping on a higher aspect of viewing the heart of man. This includes defying anger, conceit, sexual desire and abhorrence that resulted in forsaking marriage agreement (Unger 1957, 15).
Jesus was inviting man to be mature and wholly in Him irrespective of the circumstances that we may encounter in life. As He stated in verse 32, the higher perspective includes matrimonial settings. In other words, He was condemning matrimonial annulment as an alternative.
In practicality, marriage is the creative action of God. Man cannot amend that action. However, it is evident that man has attempted to perceive the idea that he is the autonomous judge and leader of marriage.
This is illustrated by the Pharisees questioning of Jesus regarding whether or not it could be legitimate for marital partners to break up founded on ground. Although the query was intended to test Jesus’ knowledge of the Law of Moses, it generated the issue of marriage. Jesus saw the practicality in the subject. He told the Pharisees that what God has put together no man should separate.
While addressing the Pharisees, Jesus accused them for attempting to justify themselves in the eyes of man rather than in the eyes of God. He reminds Christians that marriage stipulates that remarriage is a matrimonial unfaithfulness (Chase 1921, 9).
In the modern society, there is an increasing acceptance of the view of matrimonial covenant as a social contract as opposed to a sacred covenant. Old principles appear to be constantly defied in all Christian settings. As a result, many Christians are mystified particularly in the sphere of divorce and remarriage.
Apparently, teachers and ministers contribute to the existing confusion through the contradictory construing of the fundamental Biblical passages. A majority of the writers interpret the passages in the context of their experiences as opposed to what the Bible actually states about divorce and remarriage (Clayton 2004, 1). While marriage is ordained, divorce is not. Divorce is a representation of man’s rejection of God’s original plan.
According to Jesus, “It was not so from the start”. Divorce emerged as man ‘hardness’ that Moses allowed it (Matthew 19:8). Allowing such actions could hardly be equated to establishing them. The Bible did not create divorce but provisions were made to avoid the abuse of the same since it already existed.
There are diverse passages in the Bible on divorce and remarriage. In order to build up an inclusive philosophy, it would be important to revise and compare the current course with different assertions. However, the main issues that cannot be set aside include the fact that marriage was a creation of God. What God has placed together no man should separate. The Law of Moses allowed for divorce and remarriage under specific conditions. The interpretation offered by Jesus did not change this.
The matrimonial unfaithfulness was a basis for divorce. However, God did not ordain divorce. In essence, divorce was a human act that destroyed God’s original plan for marriage.
Even in the present day, divorce is a violation of God’s plan irrespective of how one may justify it. In fact, it is the lesser of the two sins. According to Biblical traditions, celibacy could be assumed as an award from the Almighty. Those with the gift may remain unmarried and dedicate all the effort to the Kingdom of God.
Adams, Jeremy, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage (Phillipsburg, N.J: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1980), 1-90.
Ambrozic Aloysius, “Indissolubility of Marriage in the N.T. Law or Ideal?” Studia Canonica 6, no. 1(May 1972): 285-292.
Boecker, Jochen, Law and the Administration of Justice in the Old Testament and Ancient East (Minnesota, NJ: Augsburg Press, 1980), 1-224.
Chase, Frederic, What Did Christ Teach About Divorce? (New York: NY: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1921), 1-64.
Clayton, John. “The Need for Understanding Biblical Cultures.” Theological Blog, May 14, 2004. Web.
Dobson, Edward, What the Bible Really Teaches About Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage (Old Tappan, N.J: Revell Press, 1986), 1-90.
Abel Isaksson, “Marriage and Ministry,” Bible Review 2, no. 2 (January 2010): 27-30.
Shaner, Donald, A Christian View of Divorce (Brill, E.J: Leiden Press, 1969), 1-9.
Unger, Merrill, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1957), 77.
Wilson, Fisher-Hunter, The Divorce Problem (Waynesboro, Penn: MacNeish Press, 1952), 22-67.