What does the Bible say about divorce?
Love, it’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? We each know love, in some form from the moment we enter this world. Whether it’s the love of a mother or father, a guardian or stranger, we were each created by God with an innate desire to love and be loved.
Of course, when sin came into the world, so did the hurt and pain that breaks loving hearts.
God is love, and He’s the reason we are able to love. But in our humanness and on this earth, the Bible says we WILL experience pain, and heartache and confusion and anger. And in most cases, love will be the primary source of that suffering.
Take divorce for example. According to the CDC, 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce. That number is DOWN from eight years ago in 2010 when the United States divorce rate was more than 50 percent of the annual marriage rate.
What’s worse is that the Christian divorce rate doesn’t differ much from that of culture.
The Bible tells us a lot about what to expect, and how to face trials in this life. Jesus himself walked this earth and spoke very clear instructions on what is good and righteous.
So, what does the Bible say about divorce?
Well, a lot actually.
For starters, divorce is NOT a new thing. With the evolution of technology and temptation, many tend to think that divorce is something that more recent generations have turned to in their desire to escape the trials of this world.
The reality is that, because sin exists in this world, man has always had a way to escape their circumstance—divorce being one of them.
Examples of Divorce in the Bible
When you find yourself asking, what does the Bible say about divorce, perhaps you’ll look to Mary and Joseph for example.
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19)
Scandalous isn’t it? Joseph wasn’t even married to Mary, and he already had plans to divorce her.
The Bible talks a lot about divorce because just like today, divorce happened a lot. In fact, in the Old Testament, The Law, as described in Deuteronomy 24:1, says that it was fairly easy for a man to divorce his wife. As long as he felt she was displeasing to him or there was something indecent about her, he would write her a divorce certificate and send her from his house. A woman, however, could not initiate divorce in any form.
Obviously today it’s a little bit different than that—or at least, we make it out to be. In 2018, we call it “falling out of love,” and women have more rights.
But when you look at the big picture, divorce today is a lot like divorce thousands of years ago as it is written in the Bible. Historically, divorce is two people separating for selfish, human reasons.
Commandments of Marriage and Consequences of Divorce
In order to understand what the Bible says about divorce, we have to first understand what it says about marriage.
We see that marriage between a man and a woman is to reflect Christ’s love for the Church. Paul details this relationship extensively in Ephesians.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:22-27)
Marriage is sacred. It’s pure, it’s Holy, and it was divinely created by God and for God. So it’s no question as to whether or not God is a fan of divorce.
(Spoiler alert: He’s not.)
Mark quotes Jesus saying, “whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.” (Mark 10:11)
This is Jesus blatantly calling out sin for what it is—sin. In the Old Testament, we saw how easily a man could become unsatisfied by his wife and kick her to the curb. As the law is written, wives had no authority in divorce, and a divorced woman was an outcast from society.
With this statement in both Matthew and Mark, that divorcing a woman and marrying another is adultery, Jesus puts wives on an equal playing field with their husbands, where they previously were believed to be inferior.
He blasts the chauvinism of the old rule of law and men who had once placed blame on women for adultery and divorce.
What Does the Bible Say About Divorce and Its Character?
The Bible talks a lot about the consequences of divorce, but even more so about the CHARACTER of divorce and those who take part.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. “So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.” (Malachi 2:16)
God HATES divorce because to separate what He has divinely brought together as one flesh, is to cause harm to His creation.
The first institution of God, marriage was designed as a lifelong union. God created man, Adam, and declared that it was not good for him to be alone. From Adam, God created woman, Eve, a companion to man but more importantly, He created the sanctification of marriage.
You see, marriage was part of God’s PERFECT design for mankind. Scripture says it was created and sanctified before sin entered the world. So the character of divorce is one that defies literally everything that God intended for His people.
Does God Allow Divorce? What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)
We see here in Hebrews a command of marriage— for both men and women to honor it and keep it pure. Sadly, divorce is often a result of adultery. Ironically enough, that’s also the only circumstance in which the Lord permits divorce—if one party commits adultery.
Jesus says that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)
Know that this is only an exception, not a suggestion. Divorce is not mandated under the circumstance of adultery and it’s not even encouraged, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
God hates divorce. But this exception, as I see it, is a reflection of God’s character in a world torn apart by sin. The Lord protects us because we are precious to Him. I imagine this exception is as simple as that. Jesus loves us, and He understands betrayal better than anyone. So it makes sense that he would not require us to remain married to a person who has betrayed us.
Still, we are to live like Christ. And if there’s one thing that can be taken away from that command, it’s that Christ forgives.
What does the Bible say about divorce? Ultimately, we are called to be people who know and love Christ and know and love one another. As Christians, we know what the Bible says about marriage, which means that we ultimately know the answer to the question:
What does the Bible say about divorce? Divorce is not the answer, Jesus is. May we strive to honor marriage in the same ways we honor God and turn only to Him in our times of need and hardship.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)