What the Bible Says about
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

John Coblentz

Does the Bible ever permit divorce?
Pages 18 - 20

God made the man and the woman specifically to complement each other in marriage. Concerning divorce, Jesus said unequivocally, "From the beginning it was not so" (Matthew 19:8). God did not say to Adam, "Now I made this woman to be your wife, but if your marriage doesn't work out, you may divorce her, and we'll try another rib!"

The Scriptural account of God making a suitable companion for Adam concludes with the statement, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). This speaks clearly of lifelong fidelity.

The first instructions regarding divorce came under the leadership of Moses.

"When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance" (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

This Scripture taken by itself might be understood as giving sanction to divorce -- that it is all right. We will note shortly, however, that God says He hates divorce. When we look at the above Scripture with this in view, we can acknowledge that it does not say divorce is all right. It prescribes some regulations for divorce:

  1. Divorce could be only by official action, requiring a written document.

  2. Divorce granted the right to remarry.

  3. After remarriage, the divorcee could never return to the former partner.
In cultures around Israel at this time, women sometimes were considered little more than property to be bartered or traded or retained according to the pleasure of men. In Hebrew culture, however, a man was not free to send away his wife and bring her back at his whim. The "bill of divorcement" gave her legal protection from such abuses.

Previous Table of Contents Next

[Anabaptists: The Web Page]