Marriage and divorce according to Jesus-Part 2
Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”
Extra Reading: Genesis 2:4-24
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” (Matthew19:7). The Pharisees clearly understood that Jesus was denying the divorce laws with his statement “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6). If that were the case, they asked, why then….did Moses command divorce? Again the Pharisees were summarizing the law recorded in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They wondered if Jesus was saying that Moses had written laws contrary to God’s commands. Because sinful human nature made divorce inevitable, Moses had instituted laws to help its victims. Under Jewish law, only a husband could initiate and carry out a divorce. The civil laws protected the women, who, in that culture, were quite vulnerable when living alone. Because of Moses’ law, a man could no longer just throw his wife out-he had to write a formal letter of dismissal, a certificate of divorce, so she could remarry and reclaim her dowry. This was a major step toward civil rights for women, for it made a man think twice before sending his wife away. Moses’ words gave protection to the wife and limited abuses of divorce.
The Pharisees asked why Moses ‘commanded’ divorce (Matthew 19:7); Jesus explained that Moses only allowed divorce. The Pharisees had tried to make this concession into a divine law, but this was not God’s plan from the beginning. As in Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus was again arguing from the “weightier” position-the law versus what had been planned when God had created marriage. In Moses’ time, as well as in Jesus’ day, as well as today, the practice of marriage fell far short of God’s intention. Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce only because the people were so hard-hearted, that is, they were insensitive to God’s will for marriage. “Hard-heartedness” refers to a stubborn, willful attitude (see Deut. 10:16). Many refused to follow through with their marriages as God had intended, so God allowed divorce as a concession to their sinfulness. Divorce was not approved, but it was preferred to open adultery.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to defend the sanctity of marriage. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.