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Doctrine of Marriage and Divorce - IV

January 15, 2023 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Topic: Doctrine of Marriage and Divorce Scripture: Matthew 5:27–32

Scripture: Matthew 5.27-32, WCT 24.I-III


Today we are going to speak about divorce and what the Scriptures teach about it.

The passage we just read talks about marriage

  • there are differing viewpoints on this passage

We must widen what our Lord says here with the rest of his teaching

  • in this passage we do not have all the information

Christ’s purpose is to do for the 7th commandment

  • what he has done for the 6th commandment

That is to show that the mere outward performance of the law is not what is required.

  • but it is indeed inward conformance as well

In the 7th Commandment

  • He condemns not only adultery
  • He also condemns inordinate lust and desire

Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her

He does not say whoso looketh on a woman to commit adultery with her.

  • It is lust that is the problem.

Do you see how far the 7th Commandment goes?

  • the application of the 7th Commandment
  • the understanding of the 7th Commandment
    • applies to human relations/ ordinance of God


Our Lord is going to teach us more on marriage

Our Lord is going to teach us how we fulfill marriage

The Pharisees and especially those of the School of Hillel had become very legalistic

  • they tended to be antinomian
  • they tended to take away the force of God's law, substituting their man-made conventions

They would say such things as

  • a man could divorce his wife for any cause
    • if she over salted his food
    • if she over roasted the meat

But let us read what the Scripture have to say

Matthew 19. 3-12

Mark 10.2-12

Luke 16.18


  1. Introduction to divorce
  2. The meaning of hard heartedness, from Christ
  3. Discussion on the “bill of divorcement” and the Mosaic legislation
  4. Christ’s words in the New Testament
  5. A look at 1 Corinthians 7

Quick Review

Last week, do you remember we talked about:

  • the greatness of marriage
  • the purposes of marriage (the 4 purposes)
    • for legitimate offspring
    • for the preventing of uncleanness
    • for the giving of the church a holy seed
  • for the mutual help of both husband and wife

We learned that our marriages are simply not our own

  • they are not given to us for our pleasures primarily
  • God gives us marriage
    • with the intimacies and pleasures of marriage
    • to induce us to our service to God through that marriage

Did you take that away with you last week?

  • that our marriages are not our own
  • that God gives us the ordinance of marriage
    • for His Kingdom’s sake
    • for His own glory
  • when we prioritize our marriage and before God
    • we abuse the reasons for which it was given

Remember Malachi 2.14

  • God had a residue of the Spirit
  • He could have made as many people as desired
  • God made only one man and only one woman
    • she is the wife of thy covenant.
  • the covenant is to subdue the earth
  • the covenant is to claim ground for the kingdom of Christ

God has given us our marriages so that we may

  • fulfill His commandments

The Protasis and Apodosis

Deuteronomy 24.1-4

This is an interesting passage and very instructive as to the words of our Lord.

  • This is actually quite controversial by commentators

Let us work through this.

  • What is the protasis?
    • this is the “if statement” or the introductory part of the passage
  • What is the apodosis?
    • this is the “then statement” or the result/ determination of the passage
    • similar to 1 Cor 14
      • “What is it then” , “Ti oun estin?”

The difficulty here is that commentators are divided

  • with the location of the if statement
  • with the location of the then statement

They understand the protasis and the apodosis as comprising on the 1st verse

  • both the introduction and the determination
  • both the “if” and the “then”

if a man take a wife and marry her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he thought it's a matter of uncleanness in her, then let her write, let him write her a bill of divorcement and give it her hand and send her out of his house.

It looks as if from your King James translation here that there's no choice in the matter.

  • He gets up one morning
  • He finds something that displeases him
  • He then gives her a writing of divorcement
  • He sends her on her way

But this is not exactly what is being said

  • The original has it as a continuation of the narrative all way from verse 1 through verse 3.

The protasis is really this:

  • a man has taken a wife
  • he finds no pleasure in her
  • he sends her out with the writing of divorcement
  • she has taken up by another man
  • and that man either dies, or he sends her out

The apodosis is really this:

  • her first husband cannot take her back

Why are we talking about all this?

The difficulty is the school of Hillel had taken this up

They made the protasis in verse 1 a requirement

  • if a man found no pleasure in his wife
    • he had to send her out.
  • but this necessity is not laid down in verse 1

The only necessity that is laid down in this passage is

  • if every condition is met in verses 1 through 4
  • then the original husband cannot take her back.

This is the only necessity that we find in the passage.

Of course, there are other non-related necessities

  • If a man sends her out
    • then he must send her out with a bill of divorcement.
      • this is for her protection

Verses 1-3 make up the existing condition

  • verse 4 makes up the determination

There is no necessity to the man to send her away.

  • If he finds some matter in her, and wants to send her away
    • But finding the matter does not necessitate sending her away.
      • he can forgive
      • he can live with it
      • he can dwell with her in understanding
      • he can instruct his wife
    • he can help her to understand or come to his mind on that matter.

The Matter In Divorcement

Let us talk about the matter.

The literal interpretation of “uncleanness” is “nakedness”

  • The matter is a “matter of uncleanness”

This word is used 54 times in the Old Testament

Let’s look at some of these in context so we can understand what this means

Scripture: Genesis 9.22

Remember what's going on in Genesis 9

  • Noah has come out of the ark with his family

That 8-member church has a mandate from God

  • to subdue the earth
  • to grow and to flourish

Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk, exposes himself.

In verse 23 → And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brethren

  • that word nakedness is the same used in Dt 24.1

This is pretty clear, the word nakedness

  • refers to something that was uncovered
  • refers to something that ought to be covered up
Scripture: Genesis 42.9-12
  • the same word that we see in Deuteronomy 24.1
Scripture: Exodus 20.26, 28.42

This is an injunction to the priests of the Lord

  • the Lord wanted the altar on the ground

He did not want it on steps

  • somebody standing by might to see up his skirt

The Lord also has Moses make linen breeches

  • linen underwear that go from a loin to the thigh

Now there would be no question as to whether or not the high priest might become exposed

Scripture: Leviticus 18.6-21 (will not read)

This passage that speaks of the laws of consanguinity and affinity

  • consanguinity
    • refers to being related by blood
  • affinity
    • refers to being related through marriage

There are limits to whom who we are able to choose for mates

  • limits of consanguinity being of common blood
  • limits of affinity being of near relations

We will not read the entirety of the passage but over and over again, the word nakedness is used

Scripture: Deuteronomy 24.1

This man who marries a woman

  • in the course of their marriage, he finds a matter of uncleanness or a matter of nakedness in her

Some godly men believe the matter of nakedness does not necessarily mean to adultery

  • but has to do with another immodest behavior

The Rabbi's spoke of this as well

  • say a woman in public had her arms uncovered
    • She is showing some kind of immodesty
    • in that culture, that would be huge.
  • say that she went out and had some kind of immodest behavior
    • freely talking with the neighbors.
  • say that she went to one of the public baths
    • people weren't naked, it was a public bath
    • but where other men were bathing.
    • that would be a matter of nakedness

Say there was a thing so immodest

  • that it rendered her so odious to her husband
  • that he could no longer remain married to her

For this discussion, we give him the benefit of the doubt

  • he has instructed her
  • he has told her not to do these things

At this point, Moses said, he can give her a writing of divorcement and send her away, and she is free to be married to another man.

This might sound a little odd to us in our New Testament understanding

That is because Christ is going to elaborate and tell us what is truly going on there.

  • Why Moses gave that law
Many other godly commentators say that what's going on here means adultery

Consequently, he's to give her a bill of divorcement.

Look again at verse 1a

  • This is what many of old rabbis had focused on
  • This is one of those times when we look at the scriptures, we have to interpret the entirety of the phrase/ not simply focus on a particular phrase

The School of Hillel focused on the portion “she finds no favor” and then she is sent out

The School of Shimmai focused on the matter of nakedness in her

  • that she has committed adultery
  • that her finding no favor in his eyes
    • is because there is a matter of immodesty, or nakedness or exposure
  • so, he must send her away.

I believe that the matter of nakedness Moses is speaking of here is adultery.

  • And there was a concession made which Christ exposes for us in the New Testament.
Recalling Mark 10 and Matthew 19

Christ said that the bill of divorcement was for the hardness of men's hearts

The difficulty there is that most people think that it was the hardness of heart as described by Hillel

  • they will just choose wives at every turn.

The practice in those days was according to the ascendancy of the Hillelean doctrine,

  • this is far more amenable to man’s lusts

The School of Hillel was in the ascendancy in that day

  • which is why the Pharisees come to Christ in Matthew 19, and ask can a man divorce his wife for any cause?

This is where Jesus brings up the hardness of heart

The reason he mentions hardness of heart is because

  • He is doing what he did with the with the 6th commandment
  • I say to you, whosoever is angry with his brother is in danger, right?

What is going on in the in the 7th Commandment?

  • He said, if you look upon a woman to lust after her now, he doesn't limit that to men that are unmarried but also to unmarried men

The School of Hillel would say that if you find another woman that suits you better

  • send your first wife out with a bill of divorcement

But Jesus strikes against the lust of men’s hearts

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