Divorce

Jesus responded to a Pharisee’s question about divorce by stating that it was only meant to be a solution for relationships that were broken beyond repair. He said, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 ESV). Jesus’ position on divorce was based on Genesis 2:24 which states, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The idea that two people can have such a close relationship that it is like they are one person is reflected in the trinity of God. The three persons that make up the trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are independent beings and yet, they are all considered to be a single entity. The closest that humans can get to such a relationship is that of a husband and wife.

Part of the reason Jesus said divorce was to be avoided was because the bond that is formed between a husband and wife cannot be severed spiritually. God no longer sees a man and woman that have been joined in marriage as independent persons. Jesus used the Greek term chorizo (kho-rid’-zo) to describe what happens when two people are divorced. Chorizo means “to place room between” (G5563). There is a physical distance, but the spiritual connection still exists. An example of this separation can be found in Jesus parable of the rich man and Lazarus where it says after the rich man died he could see Lazarus resting with Abraham in the distance, but was told he could not dip the end of his finger in water and cool his tongue (Luke 16:24) because “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26, ESV).

Jesus told the Pharisees the reason Moses had made a provision in the law for divorce was because of the hardness of their hearts (Matthew 19:8). The Greek terms that are translated hardness of their hearts are sklerokardia (sklay-rok-ar-dee’-ah) and humon (hoo-mone’). These words refer to a personal lack of spiritual perception (G4641). You could say that the provision Moses made for divorce was only meant to apply to those who were unsaved because their eternal damnation made the issue of divorce of no consequence. After hearing Jesus’ explanation, his disciples said, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10, ESV). Jesus told them it depended on God’s will for each person (Matthew 19:12). Marriage is not something that everyone can handle.

The power of the grave

In the book of Hosea, God used the analogy of a marriage to depict his relationship with the nation of Israel so that his people would understand he wanted a personal relationship with them. The prophet Hosea was chosen to model that relationship and was told to marry an adultress because Israel had been unfaithful to God and did not deserve his mercy. The only way Hosea could model God’s love effectively was to forgive his wife and redeem her from a life of prostitution.

The story of Hosea’s wife was meant to portray God’s redemption of his people, but it also showed his people that God’s love was not dependent on their behavior. In spite of their wickedness, God intended to fulfill his promise to king David that he would establish David’s throne for ever (1 Chronicles 17:12). In order to do that, God had to not only forgive his people, but provide a way for them to live eternally. Through Hosea, the LORD declared, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave: I will redeem them from death” (Hosea 13:14).

As when Hosea bought his wife Gomer for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a half of barley (Hosea 3:3), God planned to ransom his people. The Hebrew word translated ransom, padah indicates that some intervening or substitutionary action effects a release from an undesirable condition…When God is the subject of padah, the word emphasizes His complete, sovereign freedom to liberate human beings” (6299). Rather than taking away his children’s freedom to choose sin, God intended to take away Satan’s ability to punish them for it.

The power of the grave was the power of Satan to separate someone from the love of God. Sin was the key that enabled Satan to lock a person in the prison called hell, or the grave. Satan was given the key to hell when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:5-6), but God told them he would one day take that power away (Genesis 3:15). The message God communicated through Hosea was that the day of their redemption was about to arrive.

Although Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection was still hundreds of years away when Hosea spoke to Israel, the events were relatively close compared to the thousands of years that had transpired since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden. As if Hosea had a clear picture of the process of salvation, he stated, “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously” (Hosea 14:1-2).

Redemption

The prophet Hosea’s relationship with his wife provided a real life example of what God went through to redeem his people. God commanded Hosea, “Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who took to other gods, and love flagons of wine” (Hosea 3:1). The word used to describe the love Hosea was to show his wife was ’âhêb (aw – habe´), which meant to love “in the sense of having a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or be in the presence of the object” (157).

The kind of love Hosea was to have for his wife was similar to what we think of today as being in love with someone. It was supposed to involve making love and having a romantic desire for her. It was clear that those kinds of feelings would not be natural for Hosea, and therefore, God’s command to love his wife made it a matter of obedience to the LORD that caused Hosea to act appropriately toward his wife, not his own feelings.

The challenge for Hosea was that his wife had been sold into slavery and had to be purchased for more money than Hosea had available. It says of the transaction in Hosea 3:2, “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and a half homer of barley.” Hosea spent all the money he had and also gave up necessary food for his family in order to obtain his wife’s freedom. If his wife had been loving and faithful to him, the transaction might have made sense, but Hosea’s wife was an adulteress that was probably married another man and had been sold to pay his debt.

The reference to Hosea’s wife as a harlot (Hosea 3:3) indicated that Gomer had become a prostitute. In that case, the purchase price Hosea paid could have been the amount owed on her contract for sexual service. Typically, slaves, even sexual slaves, could be redeemed by a family member for a set price. The total value of the silver and barley Hosea paid for Gomer was likely 30 shekels, the redemption value of a woman (note on Hosea 3:2, Leviticus 27:4). In essence, what Hosea was doing was buying back Gomer’s spiritual life, so that she was no longer obligated to server her “true” master, the devil.

The goal of Hosea’s redemption of his wife was to restore their relationship. If Hosea had merely brought his wife back into his house and not resumed their sexual activity, Gomer would have continued to be a slave rather than a wife to Hosea. She was not just a possession, but a member of the family, the mother of Hosea’s children. No doubt, Gomer felt shame after she returned to her home. Like Israel, it says in Hosea 4:19, “The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”

Moral decline

The marriage alliance between Jehoshaphat, king of Judah and Ahab, king of Israel was formed primarily to ensure that neither kingdom would be wiped out by Syria. Although the kingdom of Israel was considered to be the dominant partner in the agreement, Jehoshaphat’s devotion to God was a great asset because Ahab knew the LORD’s judgment upon him would eventually come to pass.

After Ahab made a covenant with Ben-hadad, king of Syria, he was told by a prophet of God, “Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people” (1 Kings 20:42). Then, Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard and received a visit from Elijah, the prophet with a reputation for pronouncing judgment and executing those who defied God.

Elijah’s message to Ahab was clear, his entire household would be wiped out. Because Ahab humbled himself before the LORD, his punishment was postponed, but not retracted. According to the word of the LORD, “because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house” (1 Kings 21:29).

Not knowing what would happen after his death, Ahab may have planned for his son-in-law, Jehoram to take over as king of Israel when all Ahab’s sons were killed. Since Jehoram was from the tribe of Judah and his father, Jehoshaphat was right with God, it was likely his marriage to Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah would secure the kingdom’s future. Unfortunately, Ahab’s wicked influence on his son-in-law caused Jehoram to turn away from the LORD. It says in 2 Chronicles 21:10 that Jehoram “had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.”

The word translated forsaken in 2 Chronicles 21:10 is azab. “This word carries a technical sense of ‘completely and permanently abandoned’ or ‘divorced'” (5800). Jehoram’s abandonment of his relationship with the LORD after marrying Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, brought judgment on the kingdom of Judah. As a result, both dynasties were wiped out.

The only survivor of the royal family in Judah was a baby by the name of Joash, the grandson of Jehoram. “But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber…And he was with them hid in the house of God six years: and Athaliah reigned over the land” (2 Chronicles 22:12).

Turn it off

After my ex-husband told me he was having an affair, I was an emotional wreck for about a year. We spent many hours talking, going over the details of what had happened. In spite of our effort to straighten things out, I struggled to understand what had happened and why he had done it. At one point, my ex-husband told me I needed to just “get over it,” so we could move on.

Solomon said, “Therefore, remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10). The word translated remove, sûwr (soor) means “to turn off” (5493). The implication being that we can control our emotions if we want to.

Looking back at my situation, I can see now that my ex-husband’s advice was biblical. There was no way to make sense of what happened and understanding the reason why it happened didn’t lessen the pain, it actually made it worse. Although it seemed impossible at the time, I could have stopped thinking about  it and the emotions I felt would have eventually gone away.

Compromise

Solomon’s wisdom was supernatural. His request for an understanding heart (1 Kings 3:9) was not about seeing things from a human perspective, but about seeing things from God’s perspective. Solomon’s wisdom enabled him to discern between good and evil and gave him experience in Divine things (2449). As a result of this understanding, it says in 2 Chronicles 8:11 that “Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he built for her; for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy whereunto the ark of the LORD hath come.”

Solomon’s solution of building a separate residence for his foreign wife was a compromise. Solomon didn’t want his marriage to interfere with God’s blessing on the nation of Israel, nor did he want to jeopardize his alliance with Pharaoh, so he came up with a solution that would keep everyone happy. In addition to his discernment of good and evil, Solomon also had prudence in secular matters. He was able to adapt what he knew to what he ought to do in any given situation.

The problem with Solomon’s compromise was it opened the door to secular worship practices in Israel. Solomon’s wife did not convert to Judaism, but remained an Egyptian both culturally and spiritually. She was afforded the luxury of living in God’s holy city without becoming holy herself. An example of this today is the person that goes to church every week, but never becomes a Christian. Solomon’s Egyptian wife never experienced conversion.