Saturday, April 25, 2009

Does God Hate Divorce?

It has been long held by religious people that God hates divorce based on an inaccurate interpretation of Malachi 2:16, as well as verses in Matthew and Mark. So in this article, we'd like to take a real hard look at this question. When I first heard this, I was married and I was in a pretty bad marriage, but in my mind, divorce wasn’t an option. So I wanted to find this notorious piece of scripture where a loving God says that he hates divorce. At the time, my favorite version of the bible, the New Century Version wasn’t available, so I did a web search and found the suspect verse:
“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”
(Malachi 2:16 KJVS)
Most other versions including some of my favorite translations, render the Hebrew word translated in the KJV as “putting away”, as “divorce”. Now I know already that most religious people would stop reading here and decide that this article is seeking a way to give people a free license to divorce their spouses at will, when this is not the point of this article at all. However, I will stand by the three basic points of this article:
1. According to Malachi 2:16, God DOES NOT HATE divorce. It should be noted that divorce is defined as “the legal dissolution of a marriage.”
2. God DOES hate putting away, and specifically putting away, or separating/leaving your spouse to marry someone else; as well as marrying someone who is “put away”.
3. AND in the SAME VERSE, GOD hates abusive spouses. That’s what the whole “covereth violence with the garment” thing means (i.e. punching your wife in the face and trying to hide it.) It really is a shame to really hate someone enough to physically beat them.
Now do these points give spouses who hate their significant other right now free course to rush down to the courthouse to file divorce papers? NO. There are still really good, firm, biblical reasons for divorce. But since there are reasons for divorce that God is pretty clear on, it would seem to continue to contradict the notion that God hates divorce. How can an almighty, all-knowing, God hate a thing and then give provisions for it and even in some cases, command divorce.

My point. The original Hebrew bible does NOT say that God hates divorce. The verse actually reads that God hates putting away, and that’s only if you render that "God is hating" anything in the first place... Hebrew is a crazy language, but that's for another thread.
Let’s look at a few different ways our English versions of the Hebrew text render this verse in two groups:
Group 1
“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” —Malachi 2:16 KJV
““For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”” —Malachi 2:16 ESV
““If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.” —Malachi 2:16 HCSB
Let’s also take note here that while the KJV renders the Hebrew word “shalach” as put away, the other translations I’ve used renders “shalach” as divorce.
Now let’s compare those renderings with the ones that we’ve heard in church:
Group 2
““For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”” —Malachi 2:16 NASB
““I hate divorce,” says the GOD of Israel. GOD of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat.” —Malachi 2:16 MESSAGE
““I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” —Malachi 2:16 NIV
““For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”” —Malachi 2:16 NKJV

Now which renderings do you disagree with? Group 1 or Group 2
Before we go to what Jesus said, let’s look at the law Moses gave… “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 "kriythuwth" , and give it in her hand, and send her out "shalach" of his house.” —Deuteronomy 24:1 KJV
““When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house,” —Deuteronomy 24:1 ESV
“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,” —Deuteronomy 24:1 NIV
Now let’s go to the NT and see what Jesus said in Matthew. “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 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 5:31–32 KJV
“They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 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. 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.” —Matthew 19:7–9 KJV
The author of Mark records it slightly differently,
“And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” —Mark 10:2–9 KJV
Here’s my point restated. The original texts make a distinction between “putting away” and “divorce” while most translators of the bible did not probably because of the way they were raised. Remember that Jesus (or the writers of Matthew and Mark) is using the term "apuluo" (put away) and not the term "apostasion" (divorce). Remember that the Pharisees question was "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement "apostasion", AND to put her away "apuluo"?
Now what about remarriage then?
"And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away "apuluo" his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away "apuluo" doth commit adultery. "
Notice, Jesus didn’t say who ever marries one that is divorced, but one who is “put away”. In other words, if you "put away" or "separate" from your wife for any reason outside of fornication AND you marry another, you are committing adultery. Everyone could agree that if a man who has been separated from his wife for 5 years is trying to marry another woman when he’s not legally divorced from his wife, that this is called adultery, no matter how you slice it. Now to get the gravity of this like we'll see the disciples got when they responded in verse 10, we have to consider that they were under the law... “The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”” —Matthew 19:10 ESV
Back in those days, if you were married, and you found out your wife had sex with another man (or woman for that matter), your wife would (or should according to the Law of Moses) get stoned to death and there wouldn't be a need for divorce, because she would be dead! However, some men wouldn't have her stoned, but would just put her away, or if the tables were turned, maybe the guy bypassed the stoning. But lets say that she committed adultery by fornicating with another man and was indeed stoned to death. In that case, you could go ahead and marry another woman. However, if you "put away" or separate from your wife without giving her a legal divorce, but you go have sex with someone else, you are now committing adultery. The penalty for adultery again is stoning. So now as a man who doesn't want to have sex with his legally married wife, but goes after a prostitute or another woman will be stoned and killed. So either way you go, somebody's got to die.  If another man marries or has sex with your wife before you actually get legally divorced, you guessed it, the stoning and boom you're dead.
Now if you don’t agree with all of this, it is fine. I was married before and it was terrible. I didn't want to sign her divorce papers that she filed even though I was being hurt, because I thought that God hated divorce, but then I read my bible and found out that I was going on somebody else's revelation. I’m now married again and God has blessed me in this marriage beyond my wildest dreams and I love my wife (whom I actually prayed about this time) with all my heart. God has caused me to forget all the pain that I went through in my first marriage.
Be blessed y’all and know that God loves you.

How to Avoid Divorce
I thought it proper to spend a little time to talk about how to avoid divorce in the first place before giving the bible reasons for divorce.
First let me repeat the outline that Jesus gave in Matthew and Mark:
1. "He which made them at the beginning..." First and foremost God has to make them "at the beginning" of the relationship, implying that God has to be an integral part of each partner's life.
2. "...made them male and female..." Don't get it twisted, God DID intend for marriage to be between male and female, not male and male, and not female and female.
3. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." This statement alone is one of the most missed rules of marriage. People make the mistake of not making their spouse a priority once they get married. Then if they do an “o.k.” job in making their spouse a priority, the two people still go through life as separate individuals with their own separate bank accounts, separate cars and other assets, etc. Many times this is a result of distrust or bad upbringing. Marriage is designed to work with both partners being one with each other socially, financially, mentally and physically (hooray for sex!). Many people end up in divorce because they are breaking these three foundational laws of the institution of marriage. Jesus continues to reiterate, "wherefore, they are no more twain, or two separate individuals, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together (or “made”, i.e. this original intent or the institution of marriage), let no man put asunder (or depart from).”
Other scriptural guidelines for marriage that should be self-explanatory:
Gal 5:15, Ephesians 5:25-33, 1 Peter 3:1-2 and 4, Titus 2:3-5.
1. Love yourself.
2. Love your spouse.
3. Stop being selfish.
4. Be kind to your spouse.
5. Be respectful to your spouse.
6. Pray with your natural understanding. Don't just tell God about the problem though. He already knows what the problems are. You need to find out what His Words say about marriage, and pray about that and confess those words. Then you need to be quiet and just listen closely to see if He says anything to you. A lot of times we'll pray or talk, talk, talk, talk, then go on about our day or our business, not taking the time to see what God is trying to say. There is no magic amount of time to pray, but you at least need to get quiet and still long enough to hear something from God. You may not hear it right away, but you can be confident that he hears you 1 John 5:14.
7. Pray in the spirit. If you don't believe in talking or praying in tongues, it's just because you don't understand it. If you don't understand praying in tongues, you know you don't understand it. Every Christian has the right to pray in other tongues. Praying in tongues is simply letting your spirit do the talking when you don't know what to pray. Romans 8:26. There are only so many words in the English language and chances are you only know less than half. Let your spirit pray, when you don't know what else to say. But again, after you're done talking in the spirit, stop and get quiet to listen to see if God gives you any instructions. Chances are that He will give something specific and simple, like cook dinner today or stop nagging today.
Reasons for Divorce
There are a few legal reasons for divorce, however it would be best to avoid getting to the place of divorce in the first place by following the groundwork as laid out by God in Gen 2:24.
However, in some cases, divorce can be a way for many to move from being a victim to having victory in life. Whenever you have trouble and temptation in life, God will provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13)
“If a man marries a woman and she does not please him because he has found something offensive in her, then he may draw up a divorce document, give it to her, and evict her from his house.” -Deuteronomy 24:1 NET
Now according to this verse, what is grounds for divorce? He has found something “offensive” about her! That is the law that was written in the bible for all to read and follow. Why would God give a command that if a man doesn’t like a woman to give here a bill of divorcement, if he hated divorce? No, the problem wasn’t divorce as we discovered earlier, the problem was men back in biblical times committing violence against women, just because after a time the man began to not like the woman anymore.
We have been taught that it was only if there was adultery would divorce be legal, but the law said that if adultery was found, the penalty was death;
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. –Lev. 20:10
What if your husband doesn’t want to be with you anymore? 1 Corinthians 7:14 gives a pretty clear answer on what to do there… Keep in mind when reading this that “depart” here doesn’t mean divorce, but rather Paul is exhorting married people not to simply walk away from the marriage, but rather be reconciled to one another.
“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”
(1Corinthians 7:10-16 KJVS)
Examples where God told someone to get a divorce or allowed divorce:
Example 1: Very few people seem to be aware or recognize the instances where God actually instigates a divorce. Of course the first such instance where God told a man to divorce a wife was before the law was written in Genesis 21. The back-story is that Sarah gave to Abraham a servant named Hagar to be his wife (Gen 16:3), because Sarah figured she was too old to have children to fulfill the thing God had promised them. Of course as with any situation where you have two women at odds with one another, things were getting pretty heated and Sarah, naturally, became jealous of Hagar (Gen 16:4). An of course, Abraham was right in the middle of the whole situation.
Everything finally came to a head when Sarah told Abraham to divorce (garash) Hagar because she didn’t want Hagar and her son to share Abraham’s inheritance (Gen 21:10). The word “garash” used there gives the sense of Sarah was telling Abraham to annul the agreement and send them both packing. Of course Abraham didn’t want to do this because he had a son by this woman, and you can imagine how heart-wrenching this situation was.
So God comes on the scene and simply tells Abraham to listen to Sarah, and “garash” Hagar (Gen 21:12). So with child in tow, Abraham gave Hagar a little food and a care package and sent them both, mother and child, packing. However, God being the good God that he is, took care of the woman and the child, Ishmael, and made him a nation too, since he was Abraham’s seed as well.
Example 2: Ezra 9 and 10. This was like a mass divorce where the people of Israel per usual got out of the will of God and married people they had no business marrying. The operative verse here would be Ezra 10:3 where the men decide to make a covenant with God to correct the past mistakes and put away their wives according to the law as prescribed in Deut 24.


  1. I just want to say thank you. I agree, we should try to make it work, but I also know that living in an abusive situation, verbal, psychological, or physical is wrong in Gods eyes. I really appreciate the way you broke the verses down from the original writing. I know God has walked you through this.
    God Bless you, and thank you again.

  2. GOD BLESS YOU for posting this. I have seen so many misuse this verse to keep women in abusive situations. I think it is time for the body of Christ to shine a light on this and proclaim the love of God for these women that Jesus loves! Very well done and informative!

  3. Here again.Our human sinful hearts trying to make it good and right before God to "get what we want,when we want it". What about the children? God doesn't say we have an escape clause. Adultery.Thats the only grounds for divorce.Abuse...a Christian may separate.But not remarry.
    If it was like you say...marriage isn't holy at all.....shame.....