This study was taught by Pastor Barry Forder at our family service on 2nd September 2018.
In this study we see the Pharisees trying the trap Jesus with a question regarding divorce. At that time there were two opposing views put forward by the leading Rabbi’s of the day:
- The first was the school of Rabbi Hillel – He espoused a lenient and popular view
- The second was the school of Rabbi Shammai – He taught a strict but unpopular view
David Guzik comments: The real point of the Pharisees’ question is made clear by Matthew’s account: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? (Matthew 19:3) If the question is, “is it lawful?,” then lawful is understood by for just any reason.
- The debate centers around the Mosaic law that gave permission for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1: When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house. The debate among the rabbis tried to answer the question “What constitutes uncleanness?”
- Rabbi Shammai understood that uncleannessmeant sexual immorality and said that was the only valid reason for divorce. But Rabbi Hillel understood uncleannessto mean any sort of discretion, even to the point of burning the breakfast being valid grounds for divorce.
iii. William Barclay described the teaching of Rabbi Hillel on divorce and the term uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1, “They said that it could mean if the wife spoiled a dish of food, if she spun in the streets, if she talked to a strange man, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relations in his hearing, if she was a brawling woman (who was defined as a woman whose voice could be heard in the next house). Rabbi Akiba even went the length of saying that it meant if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was.”
As Jesus does, He then brought the issue into the light of God’s Word and taught then again the real foundation of marriage!
- “The Mosaic law granting divorce was a concession to the hardness of your heart. It was never commanded by God but permitted because of the hardness of the offending party (in the cruelty of their unfaithfulness to their spouse). It was also permitted because of the hardness of the offended party (being unable to perfectly forgive and restore a damaged relationship). – David Guzik
By bringing the issue back to the foundation of marriage, Jesus made it plain that couples must forsake their singleness (a man shall leave his father and mother) and come together in a one flesh relationship that is both a fact (they are) and a goal (shall become).
i.The term joined to his wife has the idea of gluing two things together. “Be glued to her… A husband ought to be as firm to his wife as to himself.” (Trapp)
ii.The term Jesus uses for joined together is literally yoked together. Like two animals yoked together, couples must work together and head the same way to really be joined the way God wants them to be joined.
iii.Here there is a new and overriding unity. The bond between a husband and wife should be even stronger than the bond between parent and child. The marriage bond should be stronger than the blood-bond. “And the law of God was not, that a man should forsake his wife whenever he had a mind to it, but that he should rather forsake his father and mother than his wife; loving his wife as his own body.” (Poole)
In using the terms ‘joined together’ and ‘separate’ (put asunder), Jesus reminded us that divorce is really like an amputation. Sometimes in the most extreme circumstances, amputation may be the right thing to do. But the patient must first have a diagnosis worthy of such an extreme solution.
- The reason why a person who does not have a legitimate divorce commits adultery upon remarrying (as well as their new spouse) is because they are not divorced in the eyes of God. Since their old marriage is still valid, they are actually guilty of bigamy and adultery.
- This means that as God looks down from heaven, He does not have three categories: single, married, and divorced. He has two categories: single and married. You are either bound under a marriage vow or you are not. If you are bound, you can’t marry another. If you are not bound, you are free to marry in the Lord. Understanding the whole counsel of God on this subject frees people from the stigma of “divorced” in the church. – David Guzik
May you be blessed and encouraged by this study.
The Powerpoint slides used in these study are available for free download