Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage: Part I

25 The woman replied, “I know that Mashiach is coming” (that is, “the one who has been anointed”). “When he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Yeshua said to her, “I, the person speaking to you, am he.” Yochanan (John) 4: 25, 26

The woman at the well had been married and divorced many times and Yeshua recognized each man as her husband, except the one with whom she was currently living (not her husband).

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Yeshua said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.” Yochanan (John) 4:17-19

Though she had been divorced a fifth time and was living with a man (not her husband) it is clear from the reading of scripture. Messiah acknowledged that she was NOT married, and had in fact been married five times. He never said she had one husband (her first husband), and He never denied the other men were husbands while she was married to them – He simply said she’d been married five times and her current lover was not her husband.

There are many who say that only one marriage is a marriage and that divorce and remarriage does NOT end the first marriage. Yeshua said [Mattityahu (Matthew) 19:9] that for a man to divorce his wife causes her to commit adultery. Those who believe there is only one marriage use this as a proof text. They say it is adultery because “man’s” divorce does not end a marriage. However, Messiah did NOT say to the woman that she had ONE husband. He said she had had five husbands. What does it mean if not that each one to whom she was married was as much as husband as the first?

To men whose spouse has divorced them, specifically when 2/3’s  of all divorces are initiated by women, being wrongfully divorced does not mean a man cannot remarry if he chooses, BUT this doesn’t mean carte blanch in marriage, divorce, and remarriage. In fact the only way a person may remarry and not call it adultery is if (for the hardness of their heart) they divorce a spouse for having committed adultery, or if an unbelieving spouse divorces them.

Hardness of heart

The higher calling in Messiah Yeshua is forgiveness and restoration! Though one may divorce an adulterous spouse after adultery, because they’ve been deeply hurt by the sexual betrayal, we are called to forgiveness when that adulterous spouse repents. They should be forgiven.

21 Then Kefa (Peter) came up and said to him, “Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” answered Yeshua, “but seventy times seven! [Mattityahu (Matthew) 18]
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. [Kehilah in Colossae (Col) 3]

Yet, with regard to a marriage a man has a duty to obey the L-rd, which includes his treatment of his wife. If it was imagined that a man has not abused his wife (physically, emotionally, verbally) yet acts in such a manner that she does not feel safe, ignoring her need for acceptance and security, this action alone may leave her feeling the only way out is divorce. So, though he is innocent in the divorce, it is reasonable to say that he is guilty in setting the conditions which forced her hand.

To ignore her needs, to not help her feel as if she is the center of his human life (above children, above the job, above all else save the L-rd in his life) he may find himself alone. This does not excuse her divorce – it is still sin and disobedience to the L-rd – rather she should have sought to pray for him in love [Kehilah in Corinth Alef (1 Corinthians 13)]

Why then does Jesus call divorce and remarriage adultery? He never explains why. He simply states it to be so. Are there any exceptions to Christ’s statement? Yes, Yeshua also said,

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery. (Mattityahu 19:9)

So then ending a marriage to a wife who has been unfaithful is recognized as the only valid reason for divorce. And nowhere in scripture does it ever say that a man whose wife has divorced him means that for him to remarry is adultery. The Bible and Yeshua himself NEVER said this and for “standers” to say it sets a dangerous precedent for they are treading in an area the L-rd condemns.

I Timothy 4:1- 3 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry …”

While I am not saying those who say they are standers and preach one cannot remarry in light of a dissolved marriage have abandoned the faith, it is clear from the word of G-d what they are saying and what they believe.

 Excuses and Lies

There are Catholics and other faiths, which promote the idea that marriage given NOT under a priest or official of their faith constitutes an invalid marriage. Thus men and women of those faiths use the excuse that they “married themselves,” meaning G-d was not in the marriage. This is a lie.

G-d created marriage in Eden, before Church and State, and therefore He alone officiates at all marriages as a witness to vows made by the couple both to each other and to Him. Marriage was therefore created by G-d for all men and women of all faiths (or lack thereof) as a human institution for all time.

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. [Kehillah in Corint Alef (1 Cor) 7]

6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Mattityahu (Matt) 19:6-7]

11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. [Kehillah in Corint Alef (1 Cor) 7 ]

 So, a wife divorcing her husband (except for adultery) is not allowed to marry again. G-d’s word clearly indicates her options; live single the rest of her life, or reconciliation with her former husband (except if an intervening marriage has occurred, more on this later).  Though these options exist, they are not options FOR DIVORCE, since He has clearly commanded that believing men and women DO NOT DIVORCE. If she divorces him for any other reason than adultery, remarriage is not allowed and is called adultery.

Why else and for what reason is the wording in Kehillah in Corinth Alef (1 Cor) 7 so very specific?

10-11 To the married I give this command (not I, but the L-rd): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

What command of the Lord is this? Mattityahu 5 and 19 in which the L-rd says one may not divorce except for adultery, so that if a man divorces his wife (except for adultery) he himself (when he remarries) commits adultery, anyone who marries her also commits adultery. It must, however, be noted that the Master never says the opposite. If a woman divorces her husband she causes him to commit adultery, and anyone who marries him commits adultery is not said and it isn’t written. However, the general principle may be applied.

Thus if a believer divorces his or her spouse they cause them to commit adultery. It is clear that they have abrogated his duty to the L-rd and to each other. The divorcing spouse is the cause of the adultery.

Mattityahu 19:9 gives the exception of a man divorcing his wife because of sexual immorality. It does not address a woman divorcing her husband because of sexual immorality. In fact, both passages that give the “exception clause” (i.e. Mattityahu 5:32 & 19:9) end stating adultery has been committed if a divorced woman is married.

. . . And whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Mattityahu 5:32)

. . . And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery. (Mattityahu 19:9)

Scripture does not give a woman permission to divorce her husband. Even under the law, it was the men who were permitted to divorce their wives (Deuteronomy 24:1; Mattityahu 19:8), not the women. The P’rushim (Pharisees) asked Yeshua, “…why did Moshe give the commandment that a man should hand his wife a get and divorce her?” (Mattityahu 19:7). Yeshua’s reply is succinct and cuts to the heart, ““Moshe allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts are so hardened. But this is not how it was at the beginning. ”

Some might argue that a woman has the right to divorce her husband if he is sexually immoral. Scripture nowhere says any such thing. Jesus said no such thing.

Moreover, the very passages that would most likely be used to justify such a conclusion (Mattityahu 5:32 & 19:9), end stating anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Therefore, Scripture teaches that a divorced woman involves herself in adultery whether her husband was sexually immoral or not. Because, Jesus says repeatedly (three times, Mattityahu 5:32; 19:9; Lukas – Luke – 16:18) marrying a divorced woman constitutes adultery.

No matter the reason she was divorced with one narrow exception (more on that later). Messiah recognized that divorce ends a marriage (as He did with the woman at the well). Rav Shaul (Paul) writes that Messiah commands that believers if they divorce are TO REMAIN UNMARRIED or RECONCILE. The issue here is of TWO MARRIED CHRISTIAN BELIEVERS. If the spouse committing the divorce is unsaved, the believer (1 Corinthians 7:15) is not bound. The word for bound is the same word for slavery, meaning not bound to slavishly wait for the unsaved spouse. The believer is free to remarry.

The subject of the verse and the whole chapter is marriage, so it is clear that the believing male or female spouse having been abandoned by their unbelieving spouse is NOT BOUND. This is dynamically different for two married believers and the precepts are different, the principle involved is higher than for a mixed marriage (for the unbeliever in the marriage). That higher principle is forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.

Married believers are commanded to NOT divorce, and G-d will hold married believers accountable for the vows they speak, specifically, for their marriage vows. This short list demonstrates just that precept, G-d holds us accountable for our vows:

Wives should submit to their husbands as they do to the Lord; Kehillah in Ephesus (Ephesians) 5:22 

For example, a married woman is bound by Torah to her husband while he is alive; but if the husband dies, she is released from the part of the Torah that deals with husbands. Kehillah in Rome (Romans) 7:2

If you make a vow to God, don’t delay in discharging it. For God takes no pleasure in fools, so discharge your vow!  Better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not discharge it. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 5:2 – 4

So then, anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it is committing a sin. Yaakov (James) 4:17

Then Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Isra’el. He said, “Here is what Adonai has ordered: when a man makes a vow to Adonai or formally obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is not to break his word but is to do everything he said he would do. Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:1 – 2

“If, having made vows or rashly committed herself to an obligation, she gets married; and her husband hears but holds his peace with her on the day he learns of it, then her vows and obligations she has bound herself to will stand. Bamidbar (Numbers) 30: 7, 8

 When you make a vow to Adonai your God, you are not to delay in fulfilling it, for Adonai your God will certainly demand it of you, and your failure to do so will be your sin.  …. but if a vow passes your lips, you must take care to perform it according to what you voluntarily vowed to Adonai your God, what you promised in words spoken aloud. Devarim (Deuteronomy) 23:21 – 23

For marriage is a covenant and a covenant is a picture of G-d’s relationship with fallen humankind. One might say G-d hates divorce because it gives him a bad reputation. Believers who divorce and refuse to reconcile, must remain unmarried and celibate.

Now if the L-rd recognizes the marriage ended, is this for believers? Yes, and no. Yes if the unbeliever departs (see below), and NO for two married believers. But then He commands both believers to remain single or reconcile to their marriage, because for either to remarry is adultery. Yet, this is NOT permission to divorce just to remain single. It is an admission that even believers will sin in divorce.

There is no way to get around this, though the marriage is ended, they are to remain single.

On the other hand, if 1 Corinthians 7:15 applies the believer (who did NOT initiate or cause the divorce) is free to remarry. Why do I say that bit in parenthesis? Simply this, there is no permission to divorce your spouse unless it is for adultery. I would go further and say adultery is not a reason for divorce, it is a reason for forgiveness. If that spouse repents, we are obligated to forgive them and reconcile. Yet, if that spouse is an unbeliever, you are free.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 18 says if your brother (or wife – husband) sins against you… forgive. Because 2 Corinthians refers to both husband and wife as believers in marriage saying they must not divorce, and because the higher standard in obedience to Yeshua (quoted in Mattityahu 5:23), we ought to not only forgive but to restore what has been stolen. Forgiveness and restoration, and all else is disobedience.

Dr. Ramón de Torres

Edited: June 28, 2020

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