The following is a study about Christian marriage or, more broadly, marriage and divorce in the Christian community.
This study has been made necessary due to recent changes in my own long-held (but in some respects erroneous) views, most especially in regards to the subject of divorce and remarriage.
As noted in my study notes to Mark 10:2-11, “Divorce” in Notes: Mark, 8-2006 (actual writing 11-21-06), it was due to the providence of God that in two study courses, one on 1st Corinthians and another on the Gospel of Mark, that I have been forced “the love of Christ compels me” (cf. 2. Cor. 5:14) to revisit and reevaluate my own understanding, leaning not on it but rather upon what the Word of God teaches.
This study, while certainly not the definitive work on the subject is, nonetheless, the result not of human will (as even I find some of the conclusions difficult to accept, in the flesh) but because the love of Christ the love for Christ, compels me to address these issues as the Lord, in His graciousness, has opened them to my understanding. It is thus, my sincere hope and prayer to God, that His Word and Name be glorified in this work.
Article I. Marriage
Section 1.01 Intro
(a) Earthly Marriage Defined.
(b) Purposes of and Limitations to.
(i) Marriage was Intended for Companionship
(ii) To Provide Man with a Helper Suitable to Him
(iii) To be a Life-Long Relationship
(iv) To be Monogamous
(v) To be Heterosexual
Section 1.02 Spiritual Truths Relating to Marriage
(a) Chief Purpose
(b) Spiritual Truths, Images Behind Marriage
(i) The Love of God Demonstrated in General
(ii) The Love of God Demonstrated in Nurturing and Admonition of Family Members
(iii) The Love of God is the Heart of the Gospel
Article II. Divorce
Section 2.01 Introduction
(a) Divorce Defined
(i) Hebrew O.T. Terms Related to Divorce
(ii) N.T. Greek Terms Related to Divorce
Section 2.02 Purposes, Practice, and Limitations of
(i) Example of the Progressive Nature of the Law and God’s Revelation of the Gospel Thereby
(b) Divorce in the O.T.
(i) O.T. Laws and Teachings re: Divorce.
(c) Divorce in the N.T.
(i) N.T Teachings Related to Divorce
(b) The Gospels on Divorce
(c) Paul on Divorce
Section 2.03 Final Words
Article I. Marriage
Section 1.01 Intro
Before any analysis of marriage and divorce can be undertaken, it is first necessary to define our terms. This is especially so in our “post-modern” society where the meaning of just about any word or concept is, shall we say, “up for grabs,” that is, not having a fixed, unchanging meaning or definition but rather only that meaning or understanding that each individual attach to it.
For this study, the Holy Bible, the very Word of God, comprising of the 66 canonical books of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, will be our dictionary.
In the Scriptures, there are two basic types of marriage:
- The Earthly; a physical, emotional, legal, and spiritual covenantal relationship between human beings. And,
- The Spiritual; that is, spiritual truths revealed about the relationship of God with His Covenantal People, revealed through the medium of Earthly Marriage.
(a) Earthly Marriage Defined
What is “earthly marriage” per God’s Word and why does it exist?
According to God, marriage is a covenantal relationship between a man and a woman. The first “marriage” as such, being made by the creation of Eve by God, to be a “helper” to Adam (cf. Genesis 2:18-24). This account of the “first” marriage is affirmed by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ’s use of the very words of Genesis about the purpose and nature of marriage during His own earthly ministry [as God incarnate] and that reference was to the relationship between the first man and first woman, before there were any other humans on the planet (cf. Matthew 19:5). This fact leaves us no alternative than to believe that Eve’s creation and giving to Adam by God Himself, was the “first” marriage on earth.
(b) Purposes of and Limitations to Marriage
(i) Marriage was Intended for Companionship.
After the creation of Adam, God saw that he was alone, the only one of his kind. God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” (Gen. 2:18 (Bible NKJV, 1982)) So, God made a woman, Eve, so that man would have someone like himself (in humanity) to keep him company and be a help to him. Also, Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9.
Related to companionship is to provide an outlet for the physical/spiritual expression of love between married partners. This is wonderfully illustrated in the “Song of Solomon” in the Old Testament. OF course, this has its greatest expression in the Love of Christ for the Church (to be discussed later).
(ii) To Provide Man with a Helper Suitable to Him.
To provide man with someone to share in the responsibilities of life. Eve was created to be “an help meet for him.” (KJV, 1769) The expression comes from the Hebrew word ‛êzer which means “helper.” Compare also, Proverbs 19:14 “a prudent wife is from the Lord.” (KJV, 1769)
(iii) To be a Life-Long Relationship.
Marriage was instituted and intended by God to be a life-long relationship. This truth is seen in the following passages:
- Genesis 2:24– “the two shall become one flesh” italics and underline added for emphasis.
- Matthew 19:6– “What God has joined together, let not man separated.”
(iv) To be Monogamous.
Marriage was never intended to be a polygamous affair. Although there is no straightforward and direct prohibition of any and all polygamous marriages, e.g., “Thou shall not have 2 or more husbands/wives,” in the Old Testament (hereafter O.T.) Laws, there are several passages which, taken together, indicate that while God did make laws regulating it, it was not part of His original design for marriage. The New Testament (hereafter N.T.) Scriptures bring home the truth of God’s original design for monogamous marriage.
For O.T. Scriptures, see: Genesis 2:24, the two [not 3, or 4, or…] becoming one flesh. Leviticus 18:18, the prohibition on the simultaneous marriage of sisters. Deuteronomy 17:17, prohibiting the kings of Israel from multiplying wives for themselves, a common practice among political leaders to solidify treaties and other political alliances. And Proverbs 18:22, God’s reference to whoever finds “a good wife” [singular] finding favor from the Lord.
In the N.T. we have:
1st Corinthians 10:1ff telling us that what happened to those who came before, whether good or bad, was recorded in the O.T. Scriptures for our example. Also there are the N.T. teachings that more clearly teach that the ideal marriage of God is a monogamous, life-long relationship. Additionally, every N.T. reference to marriage that is not addressed to all husbands and/or all wives, refers to a man [singular] and his wife [singular] not wives. And finally, the qualifications for leadership in the church include the fact that a leader must be “the husband of one wife.” Cf, 1st Timothy 3:1ff.
(v) To be Heterosexual.
Marriage was intended to be between a man/male and a woman/female only. It was not intended to be between two men or two women. This is seen not only from God’s words in Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5 (supra), but also the fact that one of the purposes of marriage was and is, “Procreation.” God commands mankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (cf. Genesis `:22, 28; 9:1,7; et al). something that a same-sex couple cannot do. Furthermore, God has given abundant revelation that any sexual relationship between persons of the same-sex [homosexual or lesbian] is an abomination [great sin] to God. Compare Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26, 27; 1st Corinthians 6:9; 1st Timothy 1:10.
Above we have looked briefly at the definition of, purposes for, and limitations to marriage as ordained by God. In addition to the earthly purposes of marriage, all of which are for mankind’s blessing and good, the ordinance of marriage is also intended to teach several spiritual truths as well.
Section 1.02 Spiritual Truths Relating to Marriage.
(a) Chief Purpose.
The chief spiritual truth revealed by/in marriage is the preaching of the Gospel. But then, this is the chief spiritual truth of all Scripture. (cf. John 5:39). “What,” you ask, “does marriage have to do with the preaching of the Gospel?” The answer is, “Much.”
God inspired the writing of the entirety of the Holy Scriptures, including its teachings relative to marriage, for one primary purpose – to reveal Himself and His Gospel to Mankind. This is affirmed in many places, among which are:
John 5:39 – Jesus says that the Scriptures speak of Him.
1st Corinthians 10:1-11 – That all [the O.T.] was recorded for our example.
2nd Timothy 3:16-17 – That all Scripture, including passages on marriage, were inspired by God to make us complete.
2nd Peter 1:3 – That all things necessary for life [temporal and eternal] and godliness [in this present life] are provided in the knowledge of Christ (by way of the inspired Scriptures which speak of Him).
From the above examples we can deduce that IF (and for only two letters, “if” is a very powerful word as all that follows hangs upon it) ALL Scripture was given by the inspiration of God to reveal Himself to us and to reveal His Gospel plan by which we are saved, then what is written in Scripture about marriage (and divorce) is so written not just to tell us what happened and what is required in our earthly relationships, but also and primarily, to teach us the spiritual truths of the Gospel and the relationship that is to exist between us and God.
(b) Spiritual Truths, Images Behind Marriage.
Two of the greatest means by which God reveals Himself and His Gospel to us are through images of the human family; the husband/wife relationship and the parent/child relationship being primary. There are others, to be sure, but those centered in the familial relationships are among the most beautiful and strongest. It is my hope to demonstrate that, as designed by God, marriage illustrates the following truths about God and God’s [Gospel] plan:
(i) The Love of God Demonstrated in General.
The love of God (cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1st John 4:19) is demonstrated by the prescribed loving care of the wife by her husband (cf. Ephesians 5:25-32). Note that God commands that husbands “love” αγαπατεG25 V-PAM-2P  (Robinson; James Strong, 1890) their wives even as, in the same manner, as Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for her.
Why would God command such a love? Because it is the same type of love that Christ has for us and a great part of God’s plan of salvation is that we become like Christ (cf. Romans 8:29; 2nd Corinthians 3:18). This is also born out in verses 26-28 of Ephesians 5 which gives the reason for the command as follows, “…that He might sanctify and cleanse her…that He might present her to Himself… holy, and without blemish.” (Bible NKJV, 1982) (Ellipsis and underscore added for emphasis and brevity.) Notice that twice Paul begins with the conjunction “that,” a word which in context denotes a purpose for the preceding action.
Just as Christ has a purpose in loving and giving Himself for His bride [the Church], so too, the husband is given a purpose for loving and giving himself for his wife – to first, be an imitator of Christ and also to bless and sanctify her (cf. 1st Corinthians 7:14). Therefore, the husband is to be towards his wife as Christ; self-sacrificing, non-condemning, gentle, patient, in all things working to draw her into a deeper relationship not just with himself, but with God and Christ.
How does this type of love of a husband for his wife related to the Gospel? We know that this relationship as mandated in Scripture illustrates the Gospel message because Paul writes in verse 32 of Ephesians 5 that, he spoke that mystery “concerning Christ and the Church.” (Bible NKJV, 1982)
(ii) The Love of God Demonstrated in Nurturing and Admonition of Family Members.
The love of God is further demonstrated in the nurture and admonition of spouses, one for the other and one’s children, to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that God’s blessing comes upon those who seek Him with a whole heart (cf. Matthew 6:33; Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalms 37:3-5). It is in the sacrificial seeking of the other’s good that we find our Lord’s own example; He who left all the glory of Heaven to come in humbleness to us, to live among us, and ultimately to die for us, cf. Philippians 2:5-8.
(iii) The Love of God is the Heart of the Gospel.
The love of God, which is the heart of the Gospel, cf. John 3:16, is demonstrated by the union that exists between a husband and a wife; the two becoming “one flesh,” united in marriage. So too, the believer is to become one with God (cf. John 17:22-26) just as Christ and the Father are one (cf. John 10:20)
The union that exists between a husband and a wife is more than a physical or mental, or emotional union. It is a spiritual union forged by God and not to be broken by man (cf. Mark 10:9). Just as the union between man and God, in the form of the Church is a spiritual union, of which God warns against any attempt at defilement, cf. 1st Corinthians 3:16-17.
In the above and in many other ways, marriage teaches us of the love of God; the patient, longsuffering, endurance of God (cd. Hosea; 1st Corinthians 13:4,7); and the forgiveness of God (cf. Hosea 2:14-23). Even more so, a godly marriage teaches us or reflects the intimacy of the relationship that God desires with His people. This intimacy is clearly reflected in the Song of Solomon.
Article II. Divorce
Section 2.01 Intro.
If the whole of Scripture is inspired of God to reveal the Gospel of Christ by which we might be saved (cf. John 5:39, supra), what place does divorce have in this revelation? What part does it play? Is there any legitimate place for it in the church today? And if so, to what effect?
(a) Divorce Defined.
In the Scriptures, there are 4 terms directly related to divorce and one term indirectly but in context refers to divorce. Those terms are:
H- Hebrew O.T.
G- Greek N.T.
|Hebrew/Greek Form||Transliteration||Relevant Verses per the KVJ or Authorized Version|
|H1644||גּרשׁ||gârash||Leviticus 21:14; 22:13
|G647||ἀποστάσιον||apostasion||Matthew 5:31; 19:7
|G683||ἀφίημι||aphiēmi||1st Corinthians 7:11-13[iv] (Indirect but contextually referring to Divorce)|
(i) O.T. Hebrew Terms Related to Divorce:
H3748 kerı̂ythûth This term comes from H3772 kârath meaning to cut, to separate as in “cut off,” whether physically, i.e., cut off someone’s head (cf. 1st Samuel 5:4), or spiritually/socially (cf. Genesis 17:14). As applied to marriage, the term refers specifically to the “bill of divorce” and is found only 3 times. (See table).
H1644 gârash This word has many uses biblically, drive out, cast out, thrust out, drive away, etc. (see end note ii). Of wives, it refers to “putting away” or “putting aside,” where H3748 kerı̂ythûth referred to the documents of divorce, gârash refers to the state of being divorced, see table above for usage.
(ii) N.T. Greek Terms Related to Divorce.
G630 apoluō In the New Testament, a “bill of divorce,” G647 apostasion, is mentioned 3 times and only once the actual state of divorce. The term apoluō referring to the state of divorce is also translated as “release,” “put away,”, “let go,” etc. (see end note ii) but only once is it used as “divorced.”
G647 apostasion The term apostasion is an interesting term. Apostasion is a form of the word apostasia (G646, Strong’s) meaning “apostasy,” or a “falling away.” However, Strong’s dictionary says the word is derived from G868, aphistemi, which means variously; to remove, to instigate a revolt, to desert, etc.
G683 aphiēmi This third term is found only 3 times in the N.T. in relation to marriage. All three incidences are found in 1st Corinthians 7:11-13. The first two occurrences reference the husband not “leaving” or “putting away” (contextually, not divorcing) his wife (vv. 11, 12 respectively) and the 3rd to a wife not leaving (or in context divorcing) her husband.
In other words, whether O.T. Hebrew, or N.T. Greek, the terms that are translated as divorce, much like names, have negative associations; sinful, shameful, defeated (Compare the Hebrew name Ichabod which means variously, “no glory,” “the glory has departed,” “where is the glory?”).
Section 2.02 Purpose, Practice, and Limitations
Why, if marriage was intended to be for life, is there any provision for divorce at all? Jesus Himself, during His earthly ministry gives the answer, it was due to the hardness of men’s hearts (not women’s hearts, as women were not, nor are biblically allowed to file for divorce) cf. Matthew 19:8; Mark 10:5. The renowned Bible Commentator, Matthew Henry explains this writing in his commentary on Mark 10:1-12
“(1.) That the reason why Moses, in his law, permitted divorce, was such, as that they ought not to make use of that permission; for it was only for the hardness of their hearts (Mar 10:5), lest, if they were not permitted to divorce their wives, they should murder them; so that none must put away their wives but such as are willing to own that their hearts were so hard as to need this permission.” (M.H. Commentary on Mark 10:1-12, §II §§4 §§ (1). This is a stunning indictment of the evil or hardness of men’s hearts, indeed.
The purpose then was twofold. First, to save women’s lives who might otherwise suffer worse (one need only look around to see the truth of that). Second, to force from the man, an admission of his own hard, sinful heart; a hard heart being equated in Scripture with a sinful heart, cf. Ezekiel 3:7; 11:19-21; 36:26; Mark 10:5; Romans 2:5; et al.
Related to the above is one of the purposes of almost every civil and/or criminal statute given by God to Moses, that was to put a limit, to put the brakes on what was already being practiced without God’s consent and/or to an excess. For example, the laws limiting retaliation for harm done; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, were given to put an end to excessive retaliation by a victim or a victim’s family. Thus, if, for example, if I, through negligence or design, cost one of your relatives the use of his right ear, (such as Peter cost one of the High Priest’s servant’s come to arrest Jesus in the Garden, cf. John 18:10), then under the Law, the most you could legally require from me was my own right ear. You could not legally cause me any greater physical harm or crippling, nor could you legally kill me. Neither could you do more to any relative of mine should I not be able to be held directly accountable. Likewise, the Law on divorce, limited what a husband could do to a wife for anything short of adultery itself, for which there was another punishment, death for both the adulterer and adulteress.
Keep in mind that though there was a law allowing for divorce which limited what could be done, that Law did not promote or encourage the doing of it. It merely “allowed” for it to be done lest something worse happen.
As with God’s other civil and/or criminal statutes, the Law on divorce represented a softening, a limiting on retaliation and an increase in justice which, just as with God’s revelation of Himself and His Gospel, was progressive in nature. Thus, while permitted due to the hardness of men’s hearts, the Mosaic divorce laws were only one step in the revelatory process of God’s Gospel. This can be seen by comparing other teachings of Jesus (directly or through His Apostles) about the laws of the O.T. and how men interpreted them incorrectly. Remember also, the Law was not evil but “holy and just, and good,” according to Paul, cf. Romans 7:12.
(i) Example of the Progressive Nature of the Law and God’s Revelation of the Gospel Thereby.
Numerous examples of the progressive nature of God’s revelation by way of the “Law” are found in the so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” in Matthew 5:1-7:29. A portion of His sermon was explaining just what God’s Law really said as opposed to the many incorrect interpretations of it that existed in His day. In Jesus’ Day, there were many rabbinical schools of thought regarding how to properly interpret the Torah and other Writings explaining it. In Jesus day, as in our own, the schools of interpretation ran from extreme left/liberal to extreme right/harsh. Needless to say, both sides, left and right, could not both be right. Thus, many of Jesus’ teachings were to correct many of the erroneous teachings and beliefs that existed within the Jewish communities.
The following is excerpted from my own commentary on Matthew 5:21-48 “The Real Meaning of the Laws of God” available in full with related linked notes here: https://sovereigngracebroadcaster.com/2015/10/06/meditations-on-the-gospel-according-to-saint-matthew-chapter-5-2/
Matthew 5:21-48 “The Real Meaning of the Laws of God”
v.21 – Regarding murder. Jesus, citing the prohibition against murder, Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17, goes on to show that hatred, anger against another person, as opposed to hateful acts committed by that person, is the same as murdering them in one’s heart. The Apostle John expanded on this when he wrote, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (1st John 3:10), and, “[whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1st John 3:15).
Vv.23-25 – Jesus speaks of the need/importance of reconciliation.
Vv.27-28 – Regarding adultery, First, Jesus cites the actual law, Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; then He explains its true application, showing that to “think it” is to “do it.” Thinking is in fact, a form of action, of doing. Thus, the physical act has its beginnings in the mind or heart.
Vv.31-32 – Jesus set the record straight on God’s view of divorce.
- First, He cites the Law on procedure – a certificate of divorce must be written and delivered to the other party, cf. Deuteronomy 24:1.
- Then, to counter the liberal (for men) divorce laws practiced by the scribes and Pharisees (for whom just about anything constituted an “impurity” in the wife, and so, a justification for divorce), He limited divorce to its original intent, cases of sexual immorality.
- For more on this subject, see: Matthew 19:3-9; 19:4-6; 19:7; 19:8-9 and associated notes following; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24; Ezra 10:3ff and note[vi]; Malachi 2:15-16 and note[vii].
Vv.33-37 – Regarding oaths. Jesus refers to the law against false oaths, cf. Numbers 30:2, and the practice of many to get around the law by swearing by anything but God. Jesus points out that the Law was about ensuring honesty and reliability. That you should not even need to make a vow to be believed. Your word alone should be known to be reliable. Compare v.37with James 5:12.
Vv.38-42 – Regarding vengeance. Payback. Jesus says, “Don’t do it.” Cf. Romans 12:7, 14-21. Non-resistance to attacks on one’s own person, rights, pride.
- Note that this is not to say there is no place for vengeance. On the contrary, elsewhere Scripture teaches that vengeance belongs to the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrew 10:30), and that this is not a contradiction of God’s laws on retribution/vengeance as given to Moses in Exodus, cf. Exodus 21:12ff. Jesus is simply saying here that we ourselves are not to seek vengeance. Vengeance, if it is to be had, is to be left to God’s perfect judgment and justice.
- Related to the above point, we read that one of the functions of a lawful government is to be the executor of His judgment upon evil-doers, cf. Romans 13:4.
Vv.43-48 – Regarding love. Jesus addresses the issue of love. Here the Greek word is ἀγαπάω, Strong’s #25, agapao – to love with agape type love. He shows how love is to be practiced, to whom it is to be shown (including enemies) and why (because God gave us the example to follow.)
(b) Divorce in the O.T.
The first recorded incidence of divorce in the Bible is found in Genesis 21, the sending away by Abraham of Hagar, the Egyptian who had been given to him as a second wife by Sarai (cf. Genesis 16:3). Naturally, this marriage of convenience was against the intended design of marriage, one man, one woman, for life. It was also against His plan of Redemption, God intending that His Messiah be descended from Abraham through Sarai/Sarah, not Hagar. The resulting strife resulted in Hagar’s having to leave with her son. That strife that began between Hagar and Sarai/Sarah and their respective offspring Israel and Ishmael, and descendants is still on-going as can be seen in Israel and the Middle East today.
The next recorded incidence is that involving the Philistine wife of Samson. Here we have a woman married by Samson in conflict with God’s Law prohibiting marriage between God’s Covenant People and pagans, cf. Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Judges 14:1-15:6. In this case, the “divorce” was made by the bride’s father following Samson’s apparent failure to consummate the marriage after his angry departure from the wedding party. Here the “divorce” was according to the customs of the Philistines and initiated by the father of the bride. Here again, conflict, bitterness, and long term hostility were the end products. In truth, neither this nor the similar experience of David’s wife Michal, that of being given away from out under his feet by her father Saul, cf. 1st Samuel 25:44, can be considered as examples of “divorces” per se as neither were initiated by the spouses in question but by the fathers of the brides. But, as they do show the negative results of the forced termination of marriage by other than the natural death of a spouse, they do teach us the sanctity of marriage and the consequences of an early termination.
The next example is found in the Book of Ezra. The following is excerpted from my Commentary on Ezra, found in part as a foot note to Matthew 5:21-48 in my Commentary on Matthew. The commentary is to Ezra 10:3ff.
(3) Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
(4) Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”
(5) Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.
(6) Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.
(7) And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem,
(8) and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.
(9) So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.
(10) Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.
(11) Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.”
(12) Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.
The men of Israel, recognizing their sin in having taken “pagan wives” (verse 2) now want to remedy the problem by a radical solution. They propose to Ezra, a covenant with God to put away, divorce their pagan wives and children.
Though the Bible faithfully records this event, I do not believe their solution was according to God’s will. I believe it was simply sinful men trying to get right with God according to their own understanding. Did they succeed? Only God knows. Was their choice the best, or even the right one? No, I don’t believe so. But one must recognize that their understanding of God and His nature was still limited. Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, had not yet come.
Jesus teaches that Moses allowed divorces “because of the hardness” of men’s hearts, but that it was never God’s plan.
See Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-10; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24 for the New Testament teachings on Divorce and Malachi 2:16 for God’s attitude towards it.
And there you have it. In all the O.T., apart from the laws themselves, there are only 3 (4 if you count David and Michal, 2 if you discount both David and Samson) cases of divorce recorded. Clearly divorce, at least among God’s people was something that, if the amount of mention it received indicates anything, was supposed to be both a serious and a rare matter.
There is one other divorce recorded in Scripture but it is not a divorce between a man and a woman but a divorce between a nation [Israel] and her God. It is recorded in the book of Jeremiah, third chapter, 8th verse, where God declares that He had put her away and given her a Certificate of Divorce for all her unrepentant [spiritual] adulteries. Yet, if one reads this in context, verses 6-25, this divorce was but one more effort on the part of a loving God to awaken the conscience of the people of Israel and bring them back to Himself in repentance. Note how in verse 14 of that chapter, God says He is still married to them even though He had put away and given them a Certificate of Divorce. This particular event teaches 3 things.
- Even a divorce for cause only severs the communion between spouses and not the union itself. Thus, the ability to receive the divorced wife back (e.g., the permanence of marriage).
- The mercy and patience of God toward us. Israel, having been guilty of adultery could have been killed [metaphorically] outright. Instead, God opted for mercy and continued calls for repentance by only divorcing her.
- That unlike man’s, God’s divorce is motivated not by His hardness of heart but rather, His love for His people. This is evidenced by His repeated calls for Judah to respond correctly to the example of what happened to her sister Israel, and for Israel to return to Him.
(i) O.T. Laws and Teachings re: Divorce.
Related to the subject of the practice of Divorce are the laws governing divorce. The first such law (in order of appearance in Scripture) is found in Leviticus 21:14, the law defining whom a priest of the Lord may and may not marry. Among the may not’s being a “divorced” woman. This restriction was to protect the purity/holiness of the priest and by extension the name of God whose servant/representative he was.
Next is the provision in the Law for the return home of a daughter of a priest who is a “widow or divorced and has no child,” cf. Leviticus 22:12-13.
In Numbers 20:8, it is interesting to note that the vow of a “divorced woman” (who is not living under her father’s roof) shall be counted as valid. An elevation of not just a divorced woman but of women in general not heard of among the pagan religions of the day, wrongfully of many “Christian churches through to the 20th Century, and still unheard of in Islam! This also corresponds with Christ’s teaching that divorce was due to the hardness of the “man’s heart,” that a woman so wronged by her husband (remember, this does not cover adulteresses who were to be stoned along with their cheating partner), that God would elevate her societal and legal position in the nation rather than have her suffer additional hardship and stigma. Truly God is a merciful and loving God.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 give several regulations regarding divorce. It allows divorce for reasons of uncleanness (the Hebrew word used H6172 ‛ervâh some type of physical or social impurity short of adultery. While falling short of the N.T. standard, this restriction on divorce was an improvement over many contemporary practices and consistent with God’s progressive revelation. Compare with the law permitting women divorced under this provision who were w/o children to return to the homes of their fathers as an example of God’s merciful provision for the unloved and unwanted. Notice the provision in verse 4 that prohibits the husband from taking back the wife he divorced for uncleanness if she had subsequently been remarried and later widowed or divorced. Such a marriage (remarrying a previous wife who had later married and was divorced or widowed) was itself considered to be a defilement, testifying to the sacredness of marriage and its intended lifelong nature. (Remember this key provision indicating the legitimacy under the Law, of remarriage under certain circumstances. I believe it ties in readily with Paul’s writings in 1st Corinthians chapter 7 regarding an unbelieving spouse who abandons his/her wife/husband, that even at their harshest or strongest, God’s Laws are never meant to put down but to protect and elevate His people. Even those whose application result in the death of some law breakers, e.g., death penalty/capital offenses are meant for the overall good of His people in there being a warning to the rest.
(c) Divorce in the N.T.
There are no N.T. accounts of divorce in the N.T. The closest thing would be the Samaritan woman at the well who gave Jesus water to drink. She had been with numerous men, none of whom had been her husband. But, that is another subject.
(i) N.T. Teachings regarding Divorce.
As explained earlier, in line with the progressive nature of God’s revelation of Himself and His Gospel, the various laws: civil, criminal, ceremonial, and moral of the O.T. were given to begin teaching us about God and our relation to Him as His creation and/or His people. As the beginning of His revelation, the teachings and lessons of the O.T. find their completion in Christ and the N.T. Scriptures.
One other quick note. Though we speak in terms of the Old Testament and the New Testament, it must be understood that we are speaking only in terms of the extent of revelation of God’s Salvation plan or Gospel. There is and always has been only one plan of salvation, one Gospel. Thus, Christ and His teachings are the fulfillment, the completion of what God began revealing of Himself, of ourselves, of His redemptive plan through Moses and the Prophets. There is therefor, no conflict, no contradiction between what is revealed in the O.T. compared with what is revealed in the New when dealing with the same subject matter, the teachings are complimentary, not contradictory.
b) The Gospels on Divorce
That said, there are only a few passages in the N.T. that deal with the subject of divorce. Let us examine them.
The first reference (sequentially) is found in Jesus’ so-called, “Sermon on the Mount., Matthew 5:1-7:29 in which Jesus, in a demonstration of His authority as the God of the O.T., corrects and/or explains the proper understanding of and/or application of God’s Laws as previously revealed in the O.T. Many of God’s laws, as previously noted, had by the time of Christ’s advent been perverted by or even supplanted by the teachings of men, but that too is another subject for another day.
In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus addresses divorce. He said,
31″Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (32) But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
As I have previously addressed this passage earlier in this study (supra) I will refer you back to that section and simply add this little bit. Jesus set the record straight on God’s view of divorce. First, He cites the Law and the procedure, cf. Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Then to counter the liberal and sinful divorce laws practiced by the scribes and Pharisees – just about anything could be considered an “impurity” or “uncleanness” according to them, He limits divorce to cases of sexual immorality on the part of the wife. “Sexual immorality” or πορνειας the Greek porneias from Strong’s G4202, in context bearing the meaning of fornication not involving adultery as adultery while certainly including fornication was a separate and much more serious offense punishable by death.
The next time divorce is mentioned is Matthew 19:3ff, again it is in context of our Lord correcting man’s misrepresentations of God’s Law and going on to address God’s reason for it in the first place. Following is an excerpt from my commentary on Matthew that deals with this passage.
19:3 Liberals – vs. – Conservatives
- The Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful in the eyes of God, for a man to divorce his wife “for just any reason.” This is the key to their question: In the first century, there were two main divisions within the sect of the Pharisees; one very liberal, the other very strict.
- The liberals thought that a man could divorce his wife for just about anything that displeased him – if she burned supper, spilled wine on his favorite robe, whatever. In effect, they were trying to see which side of their debate Jesus would take. They were not interested in what God had actually said in His word as much as whose side Jesus would take.
- The two factions; liberals who were followers of Rabbi Hillel, and conservatives who were followers of Rabbi Shammai, were both well established in Jesus’ day.
19:3-9 Re: Divorce
- Jesus corrects the Pharisees about marriage/divorce. Cf. Mark 10:1-2.
The Whole Counsel
- See also: Matthew 5:31-32 and note to 5:21-48 The Real Meaning of God’s Laws, supra.
- One important consideration not previously mentioned, at least not in relation to this topic, is that one must take the whole counsel of God into consideration when dealing with how to apply Scripture in our lives. We cannot take one or two verses that, by themselves, support our preconceived (or preferred) views. We must take all of what God has to say on any given topic.
See Matthew 7:7-8 and 17:20[v] and their notes to see how and why taking the whole counsel of God into consideration is important.
19:4-5 According to the Word
- Instead of arguing from conflicting traditions, Jesus takes them to the Word of God.
- Compare Isaiah 8:20.
19:7 Command OR Permit?
- Matthew reports the Pharisees responding to Jesus by asking why Moses “commanded” them to give a certificate of divorce and thus put away his wife. Compare this with Mark 10:4 where Mark records the Pharisees saying that Moses “permitted” or “allowed” men to divorce.
- While there seems to be a conflict between these accounts, it is not necessarily so. Both accounts report that there were a number of Pharisees who came to test Jesus on the matter of divorce.
- Mark 10:2 makes it very clear that the motives of the Pharisees were not pure; that is, they were not interested in the truth but rather, to see if they could trap Jesus up by getting Him to take sides in their own debate (see note to 19:3 above), thus showing a weakness in His own teachings.
- Matthew and Mark, in all probability, simply recorded two different responses by two different Pharisees among those present and those two being on opposite sides of the debate. Notice, the Pharisee in Matthew’s account presses the issue by misstating the law of God as “commanding” divorce (as some interpret the passage). The Pharisee in Mark’s account merely states that it was “allowed” without touching on why.
- Another, and I believe more accurate consideration is that the Pharisee’s reply in Matthew about God’s “command” dealt not with a command “to divorce” but rather a procedural matter in divorce, that is, a “certificate of divorce” being a required element. In the latter case, there is still no conflict with Mark. In Matthew, the Pharisee seems to side-step the legality of divorce in general by emphasizing an element in the prescribed divorce procedure. Look at the exchange:
3 Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” 5 and He also said:
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?”
8 He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. 9 And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
(Holman Christian Standard Bible) Bold, Italics and underline added for emphasis.
- Notice that the original question was if it was lawful to divorce on “any grounds,” Jesus replies, effectively, “No.” The Pharisee then comes back with why Moses (speaking for God) “commanded” them to “give divorce papers” to the wife and then send her away. This is a false citation of Deuteronomy 24:1 where Moses gives first the reason and then process for divorcing one’s wife. The reason being “uncleanness” and the process, giving her divorce papers and sending her away. Notice the Pharisees’ reply did not deal with the original question or Jesus’ response, shifting to the process instead! Jesus then clarifies the matter stating that Moses “permitted” (not commanded) divorce itself and so, there is no conflict but rather agreement between Matthew and Mark.
19:8-9 God Hates Divorce
- God is against divorce (cf. 19:4-6; Mark 10:5-9) though He did make allowance for it due to man’s own hardness of heart. He limits it to such cases where the marriage covenant had already been broken by infidelity. Yet even then, He does not endorse divorce, He merely “allows” it.
- Compare Jesus’ direct teaching here with His teaching through Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15). There, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, expands Jesus’ teaching to cover an area not raised during Jesus’ earthly ministry, or raised but not previously recorded (cf. John 21:25).
19:8-9 (cont.) Infidelity
- Verse 9 gives the only reason allowed for divorce – sexual immorality!
- “Sexual” immorality, or fornication (Greek, πορνεία, porneia Strong’s #G4202) (James Strong, 1890), was the uncleanness referred to in the Law of Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 24:1). The Hebrew word in Deuteronomy being ערוה, ‛ervâh, lit. “nakedness,” Strong’s #H6172, (James Strong, 1890) is the same word used in Leviticus 18:18 “uncover her nakedness,” a reference to having “sexual relations” with one’s step-mother is the same sin described in 1 Corinthians 5:1 called “fornication” or “sexual immorality.”
- Jesus addresses the issue of celibacy. It is ok for some, but not for all. This teaching of Jesus (and later expanded on by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-3) directly contradicts the ordinance of the Roman Catholic Church, that forbids priests, bishops, monks, nuns, etc., from being married. Compare also 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
- Celibacy, marriage, singleness are all issues of individual calling and God given disposition.
Next, we have a parallel account of the encounter found in Mark’s Gospel, 10:1-12. Again, Jesus takes them first to the Word of God, not popular wisdom. Then having directed them to God’s Word, He tells them what it means, not according to man’s interpretation, or better, misinterpretation, but according to God’s.
c) Paul on Divorce
Finally, we have the teachings of God as revealed through the Apostle Paul, as found in 1st Corinthians 7:11-13. Outside of the Gospels, this is the only other place the subject of divorce is referenced and even here, only indirectly and in context, using Old Testament phraseology.
Here is the passage as found in the King James (Meyers, 2002-2014) Version with Strong’s Numbers.
1Corinthians 7:11-13 KJV+
11 ButG1161 andG2532 ifG1437 she depart,G5563 let her remainG3306 unmarried,G22 orG2228 be reconciledG2644 to her husband:G435 andG2532 let notG3361 the husbandG435 put awayG863 his wife.G1135 12 ButG1161 to theG3588 restG3062 speakG3004 I,G1473 notG3756 theG3588 Lord:G2962 If anyG1536 brotherG80 hathG2192 a wifeG1135 that believeth not,G571 andG2532 sheG846 be pleasedG4909 to dwellG3611 withG3326 him,G846 let him notG3361 put her away.G863 G846 13 AndG2532 the womanG1135 whichG3748 hathG2192 an husbandG435 that believeth not,G571 andG2532 if heG846 be pleasedG4909 to dwellG3611 withG3326 her,G846 let her notG3361 leaveG863 him.G846 (Meyers, 2002-2014)
Modern translations, understanding the context simply render the term “divorce.” See, for example:
1Co 7:11-13 NKJV But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.
And that’s it. No other reference in the New Testament outside of the Gospels. So, what can we learn from this? Let’s first go back to the older translation and the terms “put away” and “leave” respectively. The term aphiēmi, Strong’s G683 is translated “put away” when used in reference to the husband’s actions and “leave” in reference to a wife’s actions. In the one case, it directly references and uses terminology equivalent to the O.T. usage where it speaks of a man “putting away” or “divorcing” his wife for cause. In the latter, regarding the wife’s actions, the term is translated “leave” which while not phrased the same as with a man, does mean the same in context. Remember, in the O.T., a woman could not file for divorce under any circumstances. Yet, when we read chapter 7 of 1st Corinthians in its entirety, we see a reference to the wife leaving (or divorcing) her husband, “10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband…” (Bible NKJV, 1982). This is something new in the matter of divorce, the possibility of wife leaving or divorcing her husband. Albert Barnes, in his commentary writes the following:
Let not the wife depart … – Let her not prove faithless to her marriage vows; let her not, on any pretense, desert her husband. Though she is a Christian. and he is not, yet let her not seek, on that account, to be separate from him – The law of Moses did not permit a wife to divorce herself from her husband, though it was sometimes done (compare Mat 10:12); but the Greek and Roman laws allowed it – Grotius. But Paul here refers to a formal and legal separation before the magistrates, and not to a voluntary separation, without intending to be formally divorced. The reasons for this opinion are:
(1) That such divorces were known and practiced among both Jews and pagans.
(2) It was important to settle the question whether they were to be allowed in the Christian church.
(3) The claim would be set up, probably, that it might be done.
(4) The question whether a “voluntary separation” might not be proper, where one party was a Christian, and the other not, he discusses in the following verses, 1Cor 7:12-17. Here, therefore, he solemnly repeats the law of Christ, that divorce, under the Christian economy, was not to be in the power either of the husband or wife. (Barnes, (1798-1870))
Matthew Henry, in his commentary writes:
- To the advice itself, which is that if an unbelieving husband or wife were pleased to dwell with a Christian relative, the other should not separate. The husband should not put away an unbelieving wife, nor the wife leave an unbelieving husband, 1Cor 7:12, 1Cor 7:13. The Christian calling did not dissolve the marriage covenant, but bind it the faster, by bringing it back to the original institution, limiting it to two persons, and binding them together for life. The believer is not by faith in Christ loosed from matrimonial bonds to an unbeliever, but is at once bound and made apt to be a better relative. But, though a believing wife or husband should not separate from an unbelieving mate, yet if the unbelieving relative desert the believer, and no means can reconcile to a cohabitation, in such a case a brother or sister is not in bondage (1Cor 7:15), not tied up to the unreasonable humour, and bound servilely to follow or cleave to the malicious deserter, or not bound to live unmarried after all proper means for reconciliation have been tried, at least of the deserter contract another marriage or be guilty of adultery, which was a very easy supposition, because a very common instance among the heathen inhabitants of Corinth. In such a case the deserted person must be free to marry again, and it is granted on all hands. And some think that such a malicious desertion is as much a dissolution of the marriage-covenant as death itself. For how is it possible that the two shall be one flesh when the one is maliciously bent to part from or put away the other? Indeed, the deserter seems still bound by the matrimonial contract; and therefore the apostle says (1Cor 7:11), If the woman depart from her husband upon the account of his infidelity, let her remain unmarried. But the deserted party seems to be left more at liberty (I mean supposing all the proper means have been used to reclaim the deserter, and other circumstances make it necessary) to marry another person. It does not seem reasonable that they should be still bound, when it is rendered impossible to perform conjugal duties or enjoy conjugal comforts, through the mere fault of their mate: in such a case marriage would be a state of servitude indeed. But, whatever liberty be indulged Christians in such a case as this, they are not allowed, for the mere infidelity of a husband or wife, to separate; but, if the unbeliever be willing, they should continue in the relation, and cohabit as those who are thus related. This is the apostle’s general direction.
Notice that, unlike taught in some fundamentalist circles and commonly found even today in some churches, the teaching of Scripture as affirmed by Barnes and Henry among others, while affirming God’s intention that marriage be a life-long covenant, also makes provision for those cases, where men’s (or women’s) hearts are hardened to the point where they do harm to the one to whom they owe fealty and love. Rather than making of marriage a bondage like unto that of a slave, He reveals it for what it is meant to be, a loving, tender, and uplifting thing. And when there is harm being done, whether physical, emotional, or a combination thereof, He provides a process by which the matter may be resolved either preserving and restoring the marriage to what it was meant to be, or providing a means of life saving escape for the injured party.
Section 2.03 Final Words
I don’t pretend to have presented here the definitive word on the difficult subject of Marriage and Divorce. I do believe, however, that by the grace of God, what I have learned in my studies of God’s Word, and of the nature of God, that He is both Holy and will not tolerate sin, yet is loving and tenderhearted towards His children, leads me to the conclusion that both Marriage as created by God, and Divorce, as allowed and regulated by God are both, as with everything else, used by God, transformed by God into that which is “for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose,” that we might be “conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” which is our ultimate good, to become like Christ. Cf. Romans 8:28-29. In Biblical Marriage, we have presented a beautiful picture of Christ in relation to His Church, in relation to us, of great love and fidelity. In Biblical Divorce, we have a picture of both the devastation of sin in the lives of man and particularly husbands and wives, but also of God’s provision and tendency to protect the innocent and the wounded. To provide for hope and for life. That being the case, marriage is an estate into which one should neither rush to enter, nor to depart. But in all cases, we should seek His will for our lives and His glory in them.
May God bless the reader of this work.
Michael Fernandez February 26, 2017
 Covenantal- adjective from: Covenant.
Covenant (Webster, 1828)
COVENANT, n. [L, to come; a coming together; a meeting or agreement of minds.]
- A mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing; a contract; stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed; or it may be implied in the contract.
- A writing containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties; or the clause of agreement in a deed containing the covenant.
- In theology, the covenant of works, is that implied in the commands, prohibitions, and promises of God; the promise of God to man, that mans perfect obedience should entitle him to happiness. This do, and live; that do, and die.
The covenant of redemption, is the mutual agreement between the Father and Son, respecting the redemption of sinners by Christ.
The covenant of grace, is that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel.
- In church affairs, a solemn agreement between the members of a church, that they will walk together according to the precepts of the gospel, in brotherly affection.
COVENANT, v.i. To enter into a formal agreement; to stipulate; to bind ones self by contract. A covenants with B to convey to him a certain estate. When the terms are expressed ti has for before the thing or price.
They covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. Mat 26.
COVENANT, v.t. To grant or promise by covenant.
(James Strong, 1890)
From H5826; aid: – help.
(James Strong, 1890)
Perhaps from ἄγαν agan (much; or compare [H5689]); to love (in a social or moral sense): – (be-) love (-ed). Compare G5368.
Part of Speech: Verb
Person: second [you+]
 A point of clarification. Any and every time I make a statement of the type, “Jesus Himself” says, said, etc., I refer to a recorded statement that Jesus made during His incarnation. As Jesus is God, anything Scripture teaches, O.T. or N.T., is His Word and carries the same weight of validity as those things that are recorded of His earthly ministry.
 The Hebrew Scriptures also referred to as the Tanak or Tanakh were comprised of the Torah or Pentateuch,(Exodus-Deuteronomy) the Nevi’im or Prophets (Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I-II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve (or Minor) Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) and the Ketuvim or Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, I-II Chronicles). In addition to the Scriptures, the Jews held as authoritative the various writings explaining them, much like our commentaries today only carrying far more weight, principal among them being the Talmud.
 Interesting historical note. Those restrictions prohibiting marriage outside the Hebrew Faith/Covenant Faith, were used (and still are today) by many to incorrectly teach racial separation in marriage, that is to wrongfully prohibit interracial marriage. Those laws were not about “race” but about “religion.”
 Historical note: Nowhere in Scripture is to be found the practice of mandated priestly celibacy. That is strictly a papist invention.
[i] Per the KJV Concordance there are only 4 occurrences of the Hebrew term, all of which are related to Divorce.
Deu_24:1, Deu_24:3, Isa_50:1
[ii] Per the KJV Concordance, there are 46 different occurrences of the Hebrew term with different meanings. Only 3 of them refer to Divorce. These are as follows:
Total KJV Occurrences: 46
Exo_6:1, Exo_23:28-31 (4), Exo_33:2, Exo_34:11, Num_22:6, Num_22:11, Jdg_2:3, Hos_9:15, Zep_2:4
Gen_21:10, 2Ch_20:11, Psa_78:55, Psa_80:8, Pro_22:10, Isa_57:20, Amo_8:8, Jon_2:4, Mic_2:9
Exo_11:1, Exo_12:39, Deu_33:27, Jdg_9:41, Jdg_11:2, 1Ki_2:27
Gen_4:14, Exo_10:11, 1Sa_26:19, Job_30:5, Eze_31:11
Lev_21:14, Lev_22:13, Num_30:9
Jos_24:12, Jos_24:18, Jdg_6:9
Gen_3:24, Exo_2:17, Psa_34:1
[iii] Total KJV Occurrences 111. 111 of which only 1 refers to Divorce. These are as follows:
Total KJV Occurrences: 111
Mat_1:19, Mat_5:31-32 (2), Mat_14:15, Mat_15:22-23 (3), Mat_15:32, Mat_15:39, Mat_19:3, Mat_19:7-9 (4), Mar_6:36, Mar_6:45, Mar_8:3, Mar_8:9, Mar_10:2, Mar_10:4, Mar_10:11-12 (2), Luk_8:38, Luk_9:12, Luk_16:18 (2), Act_13:3
Luk_14:3-4 (2), Luk_22:68, Luk_23:22, Act_3:12-13 (2), Act_4:21, Act_4:23, Act_5:40, Act_15:33, Act_16:35-36 (2), Act_17:9, Act_28:18
Mat_1:18-19 (2), Mat_5:31-32 (2), Mat_19:3, Mat_19:7-9 (4), Mar_10:2, Mar_10:4, Mar_10:11-12 (2), Luk_16:18
Mat_27:15, Mat_27:17, Mat_27:21, Mar_15:9, Mar_15:11, Luk_23:16-18 (3), Luk_23:20, Joh_18:39 (2), Joh_19:10, Joh_19:12
Luk_22:68, Act_3:12-13 (2), Act_5:40, Act_15:33, Act_16:35-36 (2), Act_17:9, Act_23:22, Act_28:18
Mat_14:22-23 (2), Mat_15:39, Mar_6:45, Mar_8:9, Luk_8:38, Act_13:3
Mat_14:15, Mat_15:23, Mat_15:32, Mar_6:36, Mar_8:3, Luk_9:12
Mat_27:26, Mar_15:6, Mar_15:15, Luk_23:25
[iv] Total KJV Occurrences: 156.. Only 3 of them or I should say only 3 times do any of them refer to Divorce.
Mat_4:20, Mat_4:22, Mat_8:15, Mat_22:22, Mat_22:25, Mat_23:38, Mat_24:2, Mat_24:40-41 (2), Mat_26:44, Mar_1:20, Mar_1:31, Mar_8:13, Mar_10:28-29 (2), Mar_12:12, Mar_12:20-22 (3), Mar_13:2, Mar_13:34, Luk_4:39, Luk_13:35, Luk_17:34-36 (3), Luk_18:28-29 (2), Luk_21:6, Joh_4:3, Joh_4:28, Joh_4:52, Joh_8:29, Act_14:17, Heb_2:8, Rev_2:4
Mat_6:12 (2), Mat_6:14-15 (4), Mat_9:6, Mat_18:21, Mat_18:35, Mar_2:7, Mar_2:10, Mar_11:25-26 (4), Luk_5:21, Luk_5:24, Luk_11:4 (2), Luk_17:3-4 (2), Luk_23:34, 1Jo_1:9
Mat_9:2, Mat_9:5, Mat_12:31-32 (4), Mar_2:5, Mar_2:9, Mar_3:28, Mar_4:12, Luk_5:20, Luk_5:23, Luk_7:47-48 (3), Luk_12:10 (2), Act_8:22, Rom_4:7, Jam_5:15, 1Jo_2:12
Mat_7:4, Mat_8:22, Mat_13:30, Mat_27:49, Mar_7:27, Mar_14:6 (2), Mar_15:36, Luk_6:42, Luk_9:60, Luk_13:8, Joh_11:44, Joh_11:48, Joh_18:7-8 (2)
Mat_5:24, Mat_18:12, Mat_23:23, Mar_12:19, Luk_11:42, Luk_19:44, Joh_14:18, Joh_16:27-28 (2), Joh_16:32, 1Co_7:13
Mat_3:15, Mat_19:14, Mat_23:13, Mar_7:12, Mar_10:14, Luk_18:16 (2), Rev_11:9
Mat_15:14, Mar_14:6, Mar_15:36, Luk_13:8, Joh_11:48, Joh_12:7
Mat_3:15, Mar_1:34, Mar_5:19, Mar_5:37, Luk_8:51, Luk_12:39
Mar_4:36 (2), 1Co_7:11-12 (2)
Mat_26:56, Mar_1:18, Mar_14:50, Luk_5:11
Luk_10:30, Rom_1:27, Heb_6:1
[v] Matthew 7:7-8; 17:20
Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 17:20 NKJV So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
7:7-8 Ask, Seek, Knock
- “Ask…seek…knock…” In each case, the Greek verb is in the present continuous or progressive present tense and the imperative mood. Literally it means, “Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking,” etc.
- This, as other passages dealing with prayer and receiving what we ask for in faith, must be taken in the context of what the whole of Scripture has to say on the subject of prayer. See, for example the following note, “Ask. But How?”
7:7-8 Ask. But How?
- Following is a brief review of what Scripture has to say about the how of prayer:
- We are to ask God through Christ. John 14:13-14; 16:23-24, 26.
- We are to ask in faith, believing that we will receive. Matthew 21:22; James 1:5-8.
- We are to ask unselfishly. James 4:2-3.
- We are to ask per God’s will. Matthew 6:10; 26:39, 42; 1 John 5:14-15.
- We are to ask in a state of obedience or having first confessed and repented of known sin. Psalm 66:18; James 4:3; 1 John 3:22.
- We must also understand that sometimes God says, “Wait” or “no” according to His perfect plan and will for our lives.
17:20 The Power of Prayer
- “[F]aith the size of a mustard seed.” In the Middle East, the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds visible to the naked eye.
- “[A]nd nothing will be impossible.” This is not to say that we, as believers, will go around casting mountains (in the sense of geographical objects) into the sea – playing havoc with the countryside. Rather, it means that anything we ask in faith (even, little faith), and in accordance with His will, will be done, including, if He wills, the casting of physical mountains into the sea. Cf. Matthew 21:21.
- Cf. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ…”
17:20 (cont.) Unbelief or Little Faith?
- While there are some manuscripts (principally those used in the NU or UBS4 Greek New Testaments, which the majority of newer translations use) which are different than the Textus Receptus (Lit. The “Received Text” the manuscript upon which the KJV, NKJV, and Geneva Bibles are based) which leads to sometimes contradictory conclusions or translations that are contradictory; that is not always the case as we see here. The Received Text reads as follows:
ο G3588 T-NSM δε G1161 CONJ ιησους G2424 N-NSM ειπεν G3004 V-2AAI-3S αυτοις G846 P-DPM δια G1223 PREP την G3588 T-ASF απιστιαν G570 N-ASF υμων G4771 P-2GP αμην G281 HEB γαρ G1063 CONJ λεγω G3004 V-PAI-1S υμιν G4771 P-2DP εαν G1437 COND εχητε G2192 V-PAS-2P πιστιν G4102 N-ASF ως G5613 ADV κοκκον G2848 N-ASM σιναπεως G4615 N-GSN ερειτε G2046 V-FAI-2P τω G3588 T-DSN ορει G3735 N-DSN τουτω G3778 D-DSN μεταβηθι G3327 V-2AAM-2S εντευθεν G1782 ADV εκει G1563 ADV και G2532 CONJ μεταβησεται G3327 V-FDI-3S και G2532 CONJ ουδεν G3762 A-NSN-N αδυνατησει G101 V-FAI-3S υμιν G4771 P-2DP (GNT-TR+ Strong’s Numbers and RMAC).
ο δε ιησους ειπεν αυτοις δια την απιστιαν υμων αμην γαρ λεγω υμιν εαν εχητε πιστιν ως κοκκον σιναπεως ερειτε τω ορει τουτω μεταβηθι εντευθεν εκει και μεταβησεται και ουδεν αδυνατησει υμιν (GNT-TR, text only).
- The NU/UBS4 reads as follows:
ὁ δὲ ᾿Ιησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· διὰ τὴν ἀπιστίαν ὑμῶν. ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ, μετάβηθι ἐντεῦθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται, καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν. (GNT). BOTH Greek texts have the same exact wording.
- Why then do the newer translations that are based on those newer manuscripts use “little faith” as contrasted with “unbelief, when both Greek texts say the exact same thing? Whatever the reason, I believe that in the context of “mustard seed” size faith, that “unbelief” was what the original meant as, “little [mustard seed size] faith” is all Jesus said was needed and in that context, there is no justification for translating the Greek term απιστιαν G570 N-ASF as “little faith” rather than “unbelief.”