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            If your doctrine states that divorce is man’s way and not God’s way, then how does that doctrine line up with Ezra chapter 10 where God required the people and priests of Israel to put away their strange wives and how does your doctrine line up with Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:7-8 where God divorced Israel? Turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:7-8:

 Isaiah 50:1

1 Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Jeremiah 3:7-8

7 And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

            So, is divorce man’s way out and not God’s way out? We will deal with Ezra chapter 10 a little later on. We realize that some of what we are about to say here is very controversial, but here we go anyhow. The real question here is not how we feel about the issue, but what does the Bible say? What, if any, are the scriptural grounds for divorce? From Malachi 2:16, we realize that God hates divorce, but we also realize that God made provision for it under the law and under grace because of the hardness of men’s and women’s hearts. While death does end a marriage, there are also three other scriptural justifications for divorce. These are: (1) God’s command to divorce given to the people, the priests, and the Levites of Israel in Ezra chapter10 because they had taken to themselves the strange wives as identified in Ezra 10:2, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18,and 44. There are some object lessons that can be learned from Ezra chapter 10, if we will just set aside the unscriptural teachings that have been hammered into us on the anvil of false teaching.(2) A second ground for a scriptural divorce is an act of fornication known as adultery. (3) The third ground for a scriptural divorce is an act of desertion whereby an unbeliever rejects and deserts a believing spouse. We will now proceed to deal with these three grounds for divorce.



            Our first scriptural justification for divorce is God’s command to divorce given to the people, the priests, and the Levites of Israel in Ezra chapter10 because they had taken to themselves the strange wives as identified in Ezra 10:2, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18,and 44. The women were called strange wives because they were pagans. The reason for the divorces was to enforce ecclesiastical separation between the priests, the Levites, and the congregation of Israelis as a unit and the pagan nations that surrounded them. The law that had been violated was Leviticus 21:7, Leviticus 21:14, and Deuteronomy 7:3. The indictment of Israel took place in Ezra 9:1-2 and the trial and sentence was pronounced in Ezra chapter 10. The divorces were probably carried out at least in part in accordance with Deuteronomy 24:1. These Scriptures state:

Leviticus 21:7

7 They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.

Leviticus 21:14

14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.

Deuteronomy 7:3

3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

Ezra 9:1-2

1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

Ezra 10:1-3

1 Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. 2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. 3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

Ezra 10:10-12

10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. 12 Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.

Ezra 10:18-19

18 And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah. 19 And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.

Deuteronomy 24:1

1 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.

            What about that?! In Ezra chapter 10, we have a commandment from God to divorce (put away) their pagan, unbelieving wives. The law in Leviticus chapter 21 was given specifically to the priests and the law in Deuteronomy 7 was given generally to all the people of the nation of Israel. What is significant here, is not only did God allow these divorces, but also that he commanded them! So, were these divorces wrong? Put another way, were these divorces sin? There are those that state that divorce is always wrong, but these events in Ezra 10 prove that statement to be entirely false. While we know that there is sin associated with divorce, there is not one verse in the Bible that states that divorce is sin because if there were, God could be accused of sin because He divorced (put away) the nation of Israel because she was unfaithful to God when she went a whoring after false gods. Brother Karl Baker said this:

            “You cannot show me one verse in either Testament that states that divorce is a sin when the offended party divorces the guilty party, as previously stated in Deuteronomy 24, Matthew 19, and a 1 Corinthians 7.” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 76]

            While we know that divorce always involves sin, we also know that there are innocent parties in some divorces. Many fundamentalists and Baptists deny that because it destroys their theology that states that all parties to a divorce are guilty, even the innocent, and if the innocent party remarries they are guilty of adultery and/or perpetual adultery. Brother Karl Baker has rightly said:

            “Divorce is the only act in the whole Bible that makes a guiltless person a sinner by association.” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 61]

It is this same type of guilt by association that has been used by many fundamentalists and Baptists to permanently disqualify an innocent divorced man from the ministry. What this false doctrine essentially does is to hold an innocent party responsible for the sin of the guilty party. What comes to mind here is Exodus 23:7 which says:

Exodus 23:7

7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.

            The wicked end up getting justified in their conduct while the faithful innocents are forced to pay the penalty for the guilty’s sin. In continuing our discussion on Ezra chapter 10, we would note that the priests had to put away their profane wives and that no steps were taken to remove them from the priesthood. In fact, there is every indication that they were required to put away their pagan wives so that they would be ceremonially clean in order to be able to administer the sacrifices. The guilt and sin associated with the divorces in Ezra 10 was that of the people, the priests, and the rulers of Israel and not of the pagan spouses they had married. The pagans were innocent in the divorces. Yet, those who were guilty of causing the divorces, because they had broken the law in the first place when they had married the pagan wives, were allowed to continue in the priesthood. Can you imagine that: a divorced priest ministering in the house of God!



            Our second ground for a scriptural divorce is an act of fornication known as adultery. God put away His wife, Israel, for adultery. That makes adultery a scriptural ground for divorce. God called that wife a harlot three different times in Jeremiah 3:1-11, six different times in Ezekiel 16:1-43, and four different times in the book of Hosea. That adultery and whoredom was described as fornication in 2 Chronicles 21:11, Ezekiel 16:15, Ezekiel 16:26, and in Ezekiel 16:29. In Revelation 2:20-22 we see fornication equated with adultery where we read:

Revelation 2:20-2220 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

So, how is it that adultery is not fornication and how is it that fornication and adultery are not grounds for divorce in the eyes of some doctors of the law? A friend of ours, Brother John Asquith, argues that fornication and adultery are not the same and spends eight pages in his book proving it. We are not saying that Brother John Asquith is a doctor of the law because he is an outstanding Christian man, the most Biblically literate individual we know, and a wonderful pastor. He has taught us many things that we have never heard from another man. Nevertheless, those things line up with the Scriptures. He has been a wonderful blessing to this author and we love him, but we do not agree with him on this issue. While we agree that fornication and adultery are not the same, we do not agree with anyone who states that adultery is not an act of fornication. Adultery is an act of fornication by a married individual with an individual they are not married to. First Corinthians 5:1 also proves that adultery is an act of fornication. This verse reads:

1 Corinthians 5:1

1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

We here quote Brother John Asquith with whom we disagree on the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:1:

The Oxford editors go no further with their proof. Some of the Brethren have. Certain of the brethren have seized upon another use of the word fornication as being proof that its definition includes adultery. Again, they are wrong.

They quote I Cor. 5:1, It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. This, to some, is proof positive that fornication can mean adultery. A closer look at the verse proves otherwise.

The assumption made here is that there is a living father whose latest wife has been having an affair with the man’s own son. Such a sin is not without precedent in the Word of God, Gen. 35:22, 49:4. Yet such a sin is also named among the Gentiles. In my brief sojourn on this earth, I have heard of a couple cases reported.

The key to the verse is the phrase not so much as named among the Gentiles. There is a perfectly sound, rational explanation that does not alter the word fornication to give it a definition that it never had before 1611 and has nowhere else in the AV 1611. [Further Thoughts On The Word Of God, John M. Asquith, pages 109-110, copyright 2005]

This particular sin of adultery with a stepmother was outlawed in the Roman Empire when the book of 1 Corinthians was written. That is why the sin was not so much as named among the Gentiles. In the Roman Empire, adultery with a stepmother was considered to be incest also and resulted in permanent exile and the loss of citizenship and all property [Cited from: Justinian Code, Book IX, Title IX of the Roman Code, The Law of Adultery and Debauchery, dated 18 B.C.]. The Holy Ghost is rebuking the church at Corinth because they were tolerating something that would not even be tolerated amongst unsaved Gentiles in the Roman Empire. The point of the Holy Ghost is that the Romans were putting like offenders out of the empire while the church at Corinth was doing nothing to put the offender out of the church. Brother John Asquith states that the father called out in 1 Corinthians 5:1 is dead while we believe that the father called out is alive. So, what would be the issue here? If the son’s father was dead there would be no real issue here under Roman law. Under God’s law, it would be an act of fornication that would be named among the Gentiles. The issue is that the father is alive and the son is guilty of an act of fornication known as adultery with his father’s wife, in other words, his stepmother. That is the same issue with Reuben when he took his fathers wife (concubine), Bilhah, in Genesis 35:22. Bilhah was one of Reuben’s stepmothers. It is clear that Leviticus 18:8, Deuteronomy 22:30, and Deuteronomy 27:20 are in view in 1 Corinthians 5:1 and these verses read:

Leviticus 18:8

8 The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

Deuteronomy 22:30

30 A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.

Deuteronomy 27:20

20 Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he uncovereth his father’s skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.

            If the father were dead, the law just cited would be of none effect just like the law of not marrying two sisters was of none effect after the death of one of the sisters (Leviticus 18:18). If the father was dead, there was no violation of the law and therefore, no reason to call it out as the Holy Ghost did in 1 Corinthians 5. This would be true although it would have been a particularly revolting act of fornication with no need to reference the woman as being the father’s wife if the father was already dead. There is no provision in the Law of Moses that prohibited a man from marrying a dead man’s former wife provided they were not blood kin as defined by Leviticus 18. It is clear that the King James translators knew that the Holy Ghost was making reference to the Scriptures we just quoted because they are given as marginal cross references for 1 Corinthians 5:1. What we have in 1 Corinthians 5:1 is an act of adultery being described as fornication just as it is in Matthew 19:9. If fornication cannot be an act of adultery, then there are no scriptural grounds for divorce based upon adultery because the Lord Jesus Christ initially limited just grounds for divorce to fornication. We reject that notion. What that would mean is that there would be no recourse for a spouse trapped in a marriage to an adulterous mate. It would force the victimized spouse to live in a polygamous state where they were sharing the marriage bed with another mate of their spouse. Would that be right? In fact, a New Testament law or precept that allowed that situation to continue would violate the spirit of the restoration of the “one flesh” ideal reestablished by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-8. For those of you who believe that a married person cannot be guilty of fornication, why would adultery/fornication in marriage not be justification for a divorce and fornication before marriage would be? Adultery is a much more serious matter because it involves an illicit sexual act and the breaking of vows and/or a covenant. Also, if divorce is not allowed for adultery, how can a spouse who is having continuous sexual affairs be stopped? Does the innocent party have to run the risk of getting a fatal sexually transmitted disease by continuing in a marriage with a sexually promiscuous spouse with no recourse to a divorce to end the danger? I realize that some of you self righteous hypocrites would counsel that person to separate from their spouse and remain celibate and alone for the rest of their lives when God has allowed a means of grace for the innocents that are trapped in such adulterous marriages. Forcing the innocent spouse to live in celibacy would violate the intent and the spirit of 1 Corinthians 7:5 which declares:

            1 Corinthians 7:5

5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Many times the only solution that will work for an innocent spouse is a divorce. Brother Karl Baker put it very well when he said:

Divorce is a divine sanctioned grace in the New Testament established by our Lord himself (Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7)[The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 71]

            That divine sanctioned grace is divorce and remarriage if so desired by the innocent party. You do remember that God said that is not good for man to be alone don’t you (Genesis 2:18)? You do remember that God has said that it is better to marry than burn don’t you (1 Corinthians 7:9)? You do remember that God has said that it is a doctrine of devils to forbid marriage, don’t you (1 Timothy 4:3)? Brother Harold Sightler had this to say concerning fornication and adultery:

            “The Lord makes it clear that “fornication” is the only ground for divorce. Fornication and adultery are often terms used interchangeably, though they are not the same. There is a difference in the Scriptural use of the two words. Fornication is the practice of illicit sexual relation of unmarried peoples; while adultery is the same sin practiced by married people.” (Divorce and Remarriage, Harold B. Sightler, Page 3)

“Divorce is never permissible upon the grounds of adultery. Now I full well recognize this to be a controversial thought. Many good preachers and many good Christians will not agree with me here. However, a careful study into the general subject has convinced me that adultery, as terrible as it is, is not a Bible ground for divorce.”(Divorce and Remarriage, Harold B. Sightler, Pages 5-6)

            Now, as much as we respect Brother Harold Sightler, those statements will not stand an unbiased test of the Scriptures as we will now document. The problem here comes through misinterpreting and misapplying the word “fornication”when the Lord Jesus Christ plainly stated in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 that a spouse could be guilty of fornication. The way most fundamentalist and Baptist preachers and pastors handle the problem before us is to twist the words of the Lord Jesus Christ by stating that fornication applies only to unmarried people. It just does not make any sense at all that a sexual act “BEFORE” a marriage would be scriptural grounds for divorce and that an unfaithful sexual act “AFTER” a marriage would not be scriptural grounds for divorce. It is incredible to us that anyone could actually buy into that belief! We suspect that many fundamentalists and Baptists are unwittingly walking hand-in-hand with the Roman Catholic harlot Mary while she leads them into the crypts of Roman Catholic theology. If you do not believe it, take a look at Appendix I to this chapter where we document the Roman Catholic marriage heresies from the 1563 Council of Trent and the 1994 Roman Catholic Catechism: some of which we quote in this chapter.

            For those who selectively use a few passages of Scripture to give a false impression that divorce and remarriage is never permissible and that those who remarry are always guilty of adultery, even perpetual adultery, let’s put a package together that includes the whole counsel of God concerning adultery. The next three and a half pages include the pertinent Scriptures that speak to adultery. Those scriptures include Exodus 20:14, Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 5:18, Deuteronomy 22:13-30, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Matthew 5:27-32, Matthew 19:1-12, Mark 10:2-12, Luke 16:18, John 8:3-9, and Romans 7:1-4 which we now quote:

Exodus 20:14

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Leviticus 20:10

10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 5:18

18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

Deuteronomy 22:13-30

13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: 15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: 16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; 19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. 20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: 21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you. 22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. 23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. 25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: 26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: 27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her. 28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. 30 A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

1 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. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 3 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; 4 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.

Matthew 5:27-32

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:1-12

1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. 3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Mark 10:2-12

2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Luke 16:18

18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

John 8:3-9

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Romans 7:1-4

1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

            After having read all of that, our first conclusion is that there was no divorce for adultery or fornication in the Old Testament. According to Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning! Case closed. The remedy for the innocent spouse for adultery in the Old Testament is that the guilty spouse was put away by stoning them to death! This was an especially fast and effective means of divorce for adultery that ensured there would be no repeat offenders! Do you actually think that God would not supply some means of relief for the innocent spouse in the New Testament!? That means of relief in the New Testament is that the innocent spouse was allowed to put away the guilty spouse through divorce. Though Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not mention adultery, it is often brought into the discussion concerning adultery for the purpose of destroying the means of grace that the Lord Jesus Christ provided for those who are victims of adultery. This approach makes the fornication of Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 the uncleanness of Deuteronomy 24:1. A typical interpretation of this passage is that of Brother Harold Sightler who writes:

“In Deuteronomy 24:1 we find the explanation for the permission given Moses to divorce one’s wife. When he found in his wife some “uncleanness” which occurred before marriage, he was then permitted to give her a writing of divorcement and send her out of his house. This uncleanness is called fornication in the New Testament. Being unfaithful to the marriage vow has never been or ever will be grounds for divorce. Like Hosea, we are to forgive even adultery”. (Page 3, Divorce and Remarriage, Harold B. Sightler)

            To this we respond, the uncleanness of Deuteronomy 24:1 is not premarital fornication or adultery because if it were the law of Deuteronomy 22:21-24 would apply and the offenders would be stoned to death. They would not be allowed to divorce and remarry. Brother Sightler is correct when he says that being unfaithful to the marriage vows in the Old Testament was no grounds for divorce. The marriage was terminated in a whole lot faster fashion than a divorce could ever accomplish. The offenders were stoned to death! That is why a bill of divorce was required in Deuteronomy 24:1. It was insurance against getting stoned to death for adultery! In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, those getting the divorce were granted the right to remarry. In fact, the woman that was divorced could get remarried and divorced again! As we have already mentioned, the marginal note in the King James Bible for Deuteronomy 24:1 sheds some light on the interpretation of the phrase “found some uncleanness”. The King James marginal note refers to it as a matter of nakedness. In other words, it was some defect that could not be observed until the woman was found naked in the marriage bed. It is obvious that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 had a wide range of interpretation from the way the Pharisees tried to use it in their confrontation with the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 19 and Mark 10. The Pharisees interpreted it of divorce being justified for every cause. Unlike many modern day preachers, pastors, and teachers they knew it did not apply to fornication or adultery and the confrontation between the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus Christ in John 8:3-9 proves it. In John 8, in tempting the Lord Jesus Christ, the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that under the law she had to be stoned. They wanted to know what the Lord thought. In the confrontation that ensued, He put them on the run convicting them out of their own mouths. The Lord probably wrote Leviticus 20:10 on the ground. The Lord Jesus Christ wanted to know where the man was who participated in the act of adultery because he was supposed to be stoned to death also.

            In our Lord’s response to the Pharisees in Matthew 19, He reset the law for marriage to God’s original intent set down in Genesis 2:24. He also done away with the “for every cause divorce” and established fornication as a scripturally just grounds for divorce. Here is where the controversy begins. In the New Testament, fornication applies to every sexual sin under the sun including adultery. Adultery is an act of fornication committed by two people at least one of whom is married. We would refer you back to our extensive discussion on fornication. The fornication referred to here is not premarital sex. Why would the Lord allow a divorce for a presumed act of premarital sex and not allow divorce for an acts of adultery and/or fornication during a marriage?? The act of adultery and/or fornication during marriage would be much more destructive to a relationship than an act of premarital sex. Again, for those of you who believe that adultery is not an act of fornication, you need to study Ezekiel 16 in depth where acts of adultery are called fornication at least three different times. We realize the context of Ezekiel 16 is spiritual fornication, but that does not change its application to the adultery that is described in the context.

            What many Christians do is to take Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 alone and use them to condemn any divorce and to teach a doctrine of “perpetual adultery” for all those that have been divorced and remarried. That is akin to neglecting 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 when trying to teach the scriptural doctrine of the rapture of the saints (Church). It does not present the whole counsel of God. Still others will take Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, Matthew 5:32, and Matthew 19:9 and use all of them, but then deliberately neglect to use the phrases “saving for the cause of fornication”in Matthew 5:32 and “except it be for fornication” in Matthew 19:9. Many also will deliberately neglect to use the phrase “and shall marry another” from Matthew 19:9. That is a critical error in interpretation. Matthew 19:3-10 is granting the right of the innocent party in a divorce to divorce and remarry when their spouse is guilty of fornication. In other words the context of Matthew 19:3-10 is lawful divorce and remarriage. Concerning the exception clauses the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia had this to say:

            “Why, then, will reason stand by this exception? Because adultery is per se destructive of monogamic family life. Whoever, married, is guilty of adultery has taken another person into family relation. Children may be born to that relation — are born to it. Not to allow divorce in such case is to force an innocent party in marriage to live in a polygamous state. There is the issue stated so plainly that “the wayfaring man need not err therein,” and “he who runs may read,” and “he who reads may run.” It is the hand of an unerring Master that has made fornication a ground for divorce from the bond of matrimony and limited divorce to that single cause. Whichever way we depart from strict practice under the Savior’s direction we land in polygamy. The society that allows by its statutes divorce for any other cause than the one that breaks the monogamic bond, is simply acting in aid of polygamy, consecutive if not contemporaneous.”[The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Copyright 1929, James Orr General Editor, Volume II, page 865]

            Now let’s get back to Harold Sightler’s assertion that divorce is never permissible on the grounds of adultery. While that may sound very righteous, “no divorce, ever” is not the historical position nor is it the scriptural position. The Westminster Confession of 1646 stated:

“Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, gives just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.”[Westminster Confession Of 1646, Chapter XXIV, Section V]

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) had this to say about Matthew 19:9

“He [The Lord Jesus Christ] settles the point by an express law; I say unto you (v. 9); and it agrees with what he said before ch. 5:32 ); there it was said in preaching, here in dispute, but it is the same, for Christ is constant to himself. Now, in both these places,(1.) He allows divorce, in case of adultery; the reason of the law against divorce being this, They two shall be one flesh. If the wife play the harlot, and make herself one flesh with an adulterer, the reason of the law ceases, and so does the law. By the law of Moses adultery was punished with death, Deu. 22:22 . Now our Saviour mitigates the rigour of that, and appoints divorce to be the penalty.” [Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, on Matthew 19:9]

Matthew Poole [(1624-1679) said this about Matthew 19:9:

“We met with the like determination of our Lord’s upon this question Matthew 5:32, only there it was (instead of committeth adultery) causeth her to commit adultery, that is, in case she married again. Here our Lord saith the like of the husband: we have the same, Mark 10:11 Luke 16:18. The reason is this: Because nothing but adultery dissolves the knot and band of marriage, though they be thus illegally separated, yet according to the law of God, they are still man and wife. Some have upon these words made a question whether it be lawful for the husband or the wife separated for adultery to marry again while each other liveth. As to the party offending, it may be a question; but as to the innocent person offended, it is no question, for the adultery of the person offending hath dissolved the knot of marriage by the Divine law. It is true that the knot cannot be dissolved without the freedom of both persons each from another, but yet it seemeth against reason that both persons should have the like liberty to a second marriage. For,

1. The adulteress is by God’s law a dead woman, and so in no capacity to a second marriage.

2. It is unreasonable that she should make an advantage of her own sin and error.

3. This might be the occasion of adultery, to give a wicked person a legal liberty to satisfy an extravagant lust.

But for the innocent person, it is as unreasonable that he or she should be punished for the sin of another. But what our Saviour saith here, and in the other parallel texts, is undoubtedly to be understood of husbands and wives put away not for adultery, but for other light and trivial causes, for which by the law of God no divorce is allowed.” [See Matthew Poole’s Commentary On The Holy Bible, Volume 3, pages 88 and 89]

Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole also believed that 1 Corinthians 7:15 granted another scriptural cause for divorce and that being desertion. We will quote those comments later. Brother Karl Baker had this to say concerning Matthew 19:

“Trying to keep the churches pulpits “pure” by preaching against double married preachers at the expense of doctrinal truth is no more effective than the Pharisees trying to clean up the outside of the cup and platter, when the inside is full of extortion and excess... First of all, Jesus said that because of the Pharisees perversion of Deuteronomy 24; to preserve the spiritual intent of God’s mercy to those who are married that found themselves joined to an unfaithful spouse, the allowance of divorce under the grounds of fornication (which also included adultery, read the dictionary) would be the only acceptable act that constituted an annulment of the marriage bondage under the law. It is not the right of the guilty party to instigate the divorce proceedings (see the statement under the statutes of law in index).” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, pages 98-99]

“Therefore, Matthew 19 is to be understood to mean what our Lord plainly stated in the first place: a lawful means by which one is allowed by the grace of God to put away an unfaithful spouse. We are to interpret it as our Lord specified [as] the relief of an innocent party in a situation where the heart has been hardened against the spouse for violating the marriage bonds by fornication. The application is this: reconciliation is to be made for all offenses with one exception – fornication (and that is not a commandment, it is an option for the relief of a broken spirit!)...The putting away has to be done by the innocent party and if the accusation of fornication is true, the Lord will honor the innocent by allowing the divorce and marriage again.” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 110]

            In closing this section on adultery as a scriptural grounds for divorce, we have proved that adultery is a scriptural grounds for divorce and remarriage. Throughout this book we have quoted, and will continue to quote, numerous authors on the issues that are before us, but those authors do not determine our doctrine. We have also looked at many Bible dictionaries and commentaries NOT to determine where we should stand on these issues, but to see where various “great men of God” stood on these issues. What we can tell you is that it is a mixed bag with many “great men of God” coming down on opposite sides of the issue. We are not mocking here. We know many great preachers that we disagree with on this issue that we have driven hundreds of miles to hear preach. While we have never met Brother Karl Baker, we pretty much agree with almost everything that he says in his book “The Marriage and Divorce Controversy”. It was his book that motivated us to search the whole counsel of God on these issues. Boy were we surprised! The bottom line is this: What does the Bible say!

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