“Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24). Marriage is the unique relationship between one man and one woman as יְהֹוָה intended in Gan Eden.
Marriage has two purposes: 1) to produce children; 2) companionship.
1) “And יְהֹוָה `Elohiym blessed them, and יְהֹוָה `Elohiym said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” (Gen. 1:28a). This is the first commandment יְהֹוָה gave to Mankind. Children are considered by Jewish tradition to be the highest treasure. This is the true meaning of man and woman becoming ‘one flesh’.
2) “יְהֹוָה `Elohiym said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” (Gen. 2:18). יְהֹוָה made Woman to be the primary companion to Man.
“’For I hate divorce,’ says יְהֹוָה, the `Elohiym of Yisra`el…” (Mal. 2:16a). There is no getting away from the fact that יְהֹוָה does not like divorce. His perfect will is for a man to marry a woman and for it to be permanent ‘until death do you part’. However, יְהֹוָה allows Mankind things that are not necessarily the best for man (cf 1 Sam. 8:1-22 where יְהֹוָה permits Yisra`el to have a king).
In all cases it is the man who divorces the woman. However, if the cause is the man’s behaviour, then the wife asks the husband who cannot refuse. It is actually יְהֹוָה’s grace that allows for divorce in several cases to protect the woman whereas the usual situation in the Nations is that a man could do anything to his wife as she is looked upon as part of his chattels. In יְהֹוָה’s economy, a woman is always looked upon as a person, never a ‘thing’. “He said to them, ‘Moshe, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been so.’” (Matt. 19:8). It was not Moshe, but יְהֹוָה who permitted divorce.
“When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he has found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.” (Duet. 24:1). This passage (vv1-5) is the proof text for this subject and was the passage that the Master was tested upon.
“Perushim (Pharisees) came to Him, testing Him, and saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?’” (Matt. 19:3). The first century CE has two main views on the subject resting upon the interpretation of uncleanness.
1) School of Shammai: uncleanness refers to indecency and probably means lack of virginity on the wedding night. The implication is that the husband finds out that his new wife has been immoral before or during the engagement period. “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sins: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall a matter be established.” (Deut. 19:15). It may be that the husband discovered the wife’s adultery but had not the required witnesses to bring it to court where the death penalty would be the only outcome.
2) School of Hillel: this was a more lenient view on behalf of the man. The full extent was that a man could divorce his wife for trivial reasons such as not being a good cook! Hence the reasoning behind the question to the Master.
“I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries her when she is divorced commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9). Anyone who divorces their spouse in order to marry another, commits adultery. This infers that the Master, teaching from Scripture, allows for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
“(but if she departs, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband not leave his wife.” (1 Cor. 7:11). Sh`aul’s teaching on divorce here does not allow for divorce, but he stresses that it is his opinion and not a commandment (from יְהֹוָה). However, this is in light of the previous verses on sexual relations. Both adultery and unreasonable withholding of conjugal rights would be considered grounds for divorce.
“But to the rest I — not יְהֹוָה — say, if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she is content to live with him, let him not leave her.” (1 Cor. 7:12). In this passage (vv12-16)
Sh`aul again gives his opinion on the following scenario: In a marriage between two un-Believers, one comes to Faith. Then if the un-Believer is happy to remain married to the Believer, the Believer should remain in the marriage and not divorce for the sake of the salvation of the un-Believer.
Two reasons, based upon Biblical concepts are:
1) If the man and woman married but were unknowingly entering a prohibited marriage ( e.g. close relatives).
2) One partner is declared a leper and considered dead.
A further traditional reason was if the man entered a loathsome occupation (e.g. tanner) after the marriage.
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