Look at all scripture to gain insight on divorce


But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. I Corinthians 7:15

As we consider the topic of legitimate divorce, we must look at a variety of scripture references and the context or setting of each one. We can’t just pull out a verse or two and get a clear understanding of what the Bible is teaching on the subject. Some people will pit verses against other scripture to try to prove what they believe. We must look at each verse in the setting or background in which it was given; this will then give us insight into the entire subject of divorce.

We will begin our study in the Old Testament to lay the foundation for what the New Testament has to say about this subject. In Exodus 20:14 it says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” this was one of the Ten Commandments. Adultery and divorce were somewhat different in those times. Multiple wives were allowed; a young girl taken captive in battle could become a legitimate wife, Deuteronomy 21:10-14.

In Deuteronomy 22:13-21, a divorce was allowed if a girl was not as pure as she presented herself to be before the marriage. This is very similar to the account in the New Testament of Mary and Joseph, when he had a mind to put her away secretly, Matthew 1:19. This type of divorce doesn’t normally happen in America today.

In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, it appears that a man could divorce his wife if he had a just cause. But the warning in this passage is more to the husband, after he divorced a woman, he had better not take her back again or it was considered sin.

In the book of Ezra 9-10, the problem of Jews marrying pagan women is condemned. The people are commanded to purify themselves by divorcing (separating from) their pagan wives. Here we have an example where divorce is actually commanded by the servant of God. We must also remember there were children caught in the middle of this situation, Nehemiah 13:24.

God often used the word picture of the relationship between a man and his wife as an example to describe His relation with His people. We find one of these examples in Jeremiah 3:20 where it says, “Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you (Israel) dealt treacherously with me. The idea here is that the wife departs from her husband with the intent to commit adultery, she also tries to keep it concealed (she does it treacherously).

There seems to be two parts to this type of separation; the first is the “departing from” or “turning away from” or turning your back on your mate to become involved with someone else. The second part usually involves lying and deceiving to keep the sin from being exposed. This usually produces more deception to try to cover the lie.

It seems that divorce was an option for the innocent party in a relationship like this. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary makes this statement, “Divorce was granted on a bill of divorcement in Old Testament times according to the law, Deuteronomy 24:1-2. Remarriage was clearly acceptable; there was little else for a woman to do.

It wasn’t this way from the beginning. When God created man and woman and put them in the garden, there was no need for divorce because there was no sin. When sin entered into the picture, everything changed. The depravity of man made divorce almost a necessity because the mind, will, heart and emotions were no longer pure.

Have you been hanging in there in a bad relationship? Have you been wandering for forty years (in a dry wasteland of mental and physical abuse) like the children of Israel did? God may sovereignly and providentially grant you deliverance if you have been faithful to Him. Take heart and don’t give up, I also believe divorce can be a legitimate option according to scripture.

Comments or questions, contact me at: thoughtsonword@gmail.com.


Lyndon Stimeling, of Richfield, has been writing about faith and family for many years. He has self-published two books, “Common Thoughts on The Word” in 2016 and “Eye of a Needle” in 2017. He has also had articles published in The Coming Home Journal and local newspapers and has written a children’s book.