(God NEVER Hated “Divorce” but Rather, “Putting Away”!)
(Matthew 19:3-12 Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage)
By: Stephen Gola
Understanding what happened in Malachi 2:10-16 is key to understanding Matthew 19:3-12 ( Matt 19 ).
Malachi 2:16a reads, “For the Lord God of Israel says that HE HATES DIVORCE (putting away).” Why did God hate “putting away?” Why was His heart so stirred to anger over the “putting away” incidents?
The Hebrew word shalach translated “putting away” (and sometimes “divorce”) means: a separation or to separate; it does not mean divorce nor has it ever meant divorce—EVER!
“Putting Away” (from shalach and apoluo) NEVER Meant Divorce!
For example, shalach is used 878 times in the Old Testament and only 13 times related to a marriage or intimate relationship, which means; 865 times it is used in other situations. To show you that shalach never meant divorce nor does it in any way, here are five random examples from the Old Testament:
1. Genesis 8:7: (Noah on the Ark) ...of the ark which he had made. AND HE SENT FORTH a raven, which went forth to…
2. Genesis 24:7: (God giving Abraham the Promised Land) ...Unto thy seed will I give this land; HE SHALL SEND his angel before thee…
3. Exodus 5:1: (Moses delivering Israel from Egypt) ...the LORD God of Israel, Let my people GO, that they may hold a feast unto...
4. Joshua 6:25: (Rahab hid the Spies) ...day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua SENT to spy out Jericho.
5. 2 Kings 5:10: (Naaman healed) ...of the house of Elisha. And Elisha SENT a messenger unto him, saying, Go and ...
The full list of how the word shalach is used can be viewed at: http://www.divorcehope.com/shalachapoluoputtethaway.htm.
Shalach’s New Testament equivalent: apoluo, though at times is translated divorce never meant divorce nor does it mean divorce but rather, a separation.
For example, apoluo is used 94 times in the New Testament and only 18 times related to marriage or intimate relationships. Which means it is used 76 times in other situations. To show you that apoluo never meant divorce, here are five random examples form the New Testament:
1. Matthew 14:15: (Jesus feeds the Five Thousand) ...desert place, and the time is now past; SEND the multitude away, that they may go ...
2. Luke 8:38: (Man w/ 2000 plus Demons) ...that he might be with him: but Jesus SENT HIM away, saying, Return to thine ...
3. Luke 13:12: (Woman with the Issue of Blood) ...her to him, and said unto her, Woman, THOU ART LOOSED from thine infirmity. And he laid ...
4. Acts 4:23: (Lame man healed at the Gate Called Beautiful) ...this miracle of healing was shewed. And BEING LET GO, they went to their own company, and...
5. Acts 15:33: (Judas & Silas Leaving Antioch) ...And after they had tarried there a space, THEY WERE LET GO in peace from the brethren unto the...
The full list of how the word apoluo is used can be viewed at: http://www.divorcehope.com/apoluoshalachputtethaway.htm.
God Hates “Putting Away” NOT Divorce!
Therefore, we can see that Jesus (God) who dealt with the Israelites in Malachi 2:16 regarding “putting away,” it was the same issue with the Pharisees in Matthew 19 when He came to earth to redeem mankind. The “putting away” problem was still continuing.
The Prophet Malachi and Ezra were contemporaries together in 430 B.C. — both of them were dealing with the “putting away” problem with the people of God. Here is a condensed version of Ezra 9,10 of that situation:
God’s people “have taken [them] as wives ...in this wicked act and direct violation [of God’s will]. And now, for a brief moment, GRACE HAS BEEN SHOWN US by the Lord our God…, who has left us a remnant TO ESCAPE… they solemnly vowed to PUT AWAY [separated from] their wives, ...UNTIL THE FIERCE WRATH OF OUR GOD OVER THIS MATTER IS TURNED FROM US” (Ezra 9, 10).
The same thing was happening in Malachi 2:14-16. The husbands were not divorcing but were just separating “putting away” their wives and remarrying other women without ever getting a divorce. This is what made God so angry. I believe the husbands knew that if they were not lawfully divorced (by giving their wife a Divorce Certificate) it gave them an excuse not to give back to the wife (or her father) the “dowry of the bride” that they paid for her when they were first married. This could of course have been a great price. However, the wives could not marry someone else without committing adultery unless they had a Certificate of Divorce that Moses COMMANDED their husbands to give when divorcing — which brings us to Matthew 19.
“The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘IS IT LAWFUL for a man to separate [from] (put away) his wife [without divorcing her] for just any reason?’ And He answered and said to them, 'Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female', and said, 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?' So then they are no longer two but one flesh.’”
Jesus is saying haven't you read that if a married couple separates without an actual divorce, they are still "joined" as "one flesh"? And if they remarry in that condition they are in adultery? In the beginning the Lord never wanted the husband and wife to separate without a divorce. Otherwise, they could not become another man's wife or another woman's husband (See Deuteronomy 24:1,2).
“Therefore what God has joined together, let not man SEPARATE.” (Jesus is talking about being SEPARATED and marrying another while still being married, NOT divorced.) They said to Him, 'Why then did Moses COMMAND to give a Certificate of Divorce, AND to put her away (separate)?'
These Pharisees still don't seem to understand why they have to give a Certificate of Divorce when they separate from their wives!
He said to them, “Moses, BECAUSE OF THE HARDNESS OF YOUR HEARTS, PERMITTED you to separate from (put away) your wives [without a Certificate of Divorce]. But from the beginning [being separated WITHOUT a Certificate of Divorce] was not so. And I say to you, whoever separates from (puts away) his wife [without a Certificate of Divorce], except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is separated (put away) [from her husband without a Certificate of Divorce] commits adultery.'"
There Are Two Things Required To Divorce:
Matthew 19:7, “They say unto him, why did Moses then COMMAND to give a [1.] Writing (Certificate) of Divorcement, AND [2.] to put her away.” It takes two things to be correctly divorced:
1. Writing of Divorcement (doing the legal thing).
2. Put away (physically separate from each other).
Notice in the next Scripture that God just separates (puts away) Israel without ever divorcing her. In other words, God is separating from His wife because of a bad situation but it does not yet merit a divorce: “Thus says the Lord: ‘WHERE IS the CERTIFICATE OF YOUR MOTHER’S DIVORCE, Whom I have PUT AWAY?’” (Isaiah 50:1). God is “separated” but not yet divorced
However, at this point God is fed-up with Israel continually playing the harlot with other gods so He “separates” from her (puts her away) AND divorces her (gives her a Certificate of Divorcement): “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had PUT HER AWAY [SEPARATED FROM HER] AND given her a CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE...” (Jeremiah 3:8). God is currently divorced from Israel He will one day remarry her.
As Jesus continued in Matthew 19:8-9, “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts SUFFERED (allowed) you to PUT AWAY your wives (without giving them a Certificate of Divorce: but from the beginning it was not so ((to just separate and get remarried without being divorced).
And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away (separates from) his wife (without giving a Certificate of Divorcement), except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away (only separates from their spouse) doth commit adultery.”
Take notice that the “exception clause” was for a hard-hearted spouse who was not divorcing but rather a spouse who wanted to marry another person without ever getting divorced. Jesus allowed it for cases of fornication only. It has nothing to do with divorce. Therefore, the “exception clause” was always a myth — a doctrine we made-up because of wrong understanding of the Scriptures — basically, these truths have been lost through time.
It is better NOT to marry?
Continuing in Matthew 9:10-12, “HIS DISCIPLES SAID to Him, ‘If such is the case of the man with his wife, IT IS BETTER NOT TO MARRY.’
But He said to them, ‘All cannot accept THIS SAYING, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept IT (THIS SAYING OF THE DISCIPLES), let him accept it” (Matt 19:9-12).
The disciples replied to Jesus that it is better that no man EVER be married. First off, the disciples made an absurd statement and Jesus knew it. If no males would marry females than there would be no one left upon the earth in so many years. Because Jesus knew what they said was absurd, He answered their SPECIFIC QUESTION by stating first that “All cannot accept THIS SAYING — what the disciples said about no one ever getting married, NOT about what Jesus Himself said. Then He went on to address that if no one ever got married then everyone would be a eunuch. And if everyone was a eunuch then there would not be any life on the earth in so many years. So Jesus told them about eunuchs in verse ten and why they are eunuchs. Then the Lord summed it up by saying that, “He who is ABLE TO ACCEPT IT (what the DISCIPLES SAID regarding being single), let him accept it. The Lord was responding to what the disciples said about never marrying at all because it was that far off course.
To sum this teaching up, the Geneva Bible translated from the Textus Receptus in 1560 (about 50 years before the KJV) has a margin note concerning the term “put away” (the use of the Hebrew word (shalach). It says that put away, “was not lawfully divorced.”
Stephen Gola is a Bible teacher and preacher who ministers on many different spiritual subjects. His current focus is on helping divorced Christians overcome guilt and experience hope for their future. For information on Stephen's book, Divorce: God's Will? visit http://www.divorcehope.com.
(All Scriptures taken from the King James Version Bible or the New King James version.)