Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Marriage and Divorce 4

WeddingRing.jpgOne of the more interesting sources for information about divorce can be found in the prophets. What practices can be inferred from them?

William F. Luck’s Divorce and Re-Marriage: Recovering the Biblical View  examines this sort of question in chp 4.
To begin with, though the Mosaic Law did say that adultery was to be punished with capital sentence, clearly by the time of the prophets [and I leave to the side the issue of critical dating of books and texts] capital sentence was not the norm and divorce was. This is the underlying social custom at work in Hosea’s incredible metaphor in Hosea 1–3 as well as in texts in Jeremiah 3:6-8.
God divorced Israel — that’s the point of the prophets and divorce customs are at work in those texts. We can infer from such texts some things about divorce.  The cause of such behavior by God was that Israel had broken covenant with God. Israel, then, broke covenant and destroyed the covenantal relationship. Luck argues that Hosea chp 2 shows that the implication of divorce for Israel was the lack of a right to physical provision and security. [Luck gets himself into a debate with D.H. Small over whether or not Hosea divorced his wife … but we need not examine the back-and-forth discussion here.]

One of Luck’s big conclusions is that the prophets show that “adultery” is not simply a sexual act but a breach of the covenantal relationship and infidelity (86). He sees this also in the dramatic divorces in Ezra 9–10: there the covenant relationship with the women of Babylon indicated covenant infidelity to God. That religious infidelity led to the discipline of divorcing those wives.

Which leads Luck to Malachi 2:16, the famous text in which YHWH says he hates divorce [though Luck later argues that it is not “God” but the “husband” who hates in this text]. Some contend that since God hates divorce, we must reject divorce completely. Here Torah people — male Israelites — were putting away their wives in order to marry women of the land. Luck contends that God’s hatred of divorce is hatred of illegitimate divorce: “divorce grounded upon nothing more than the desire to be monogamously devoted to another woman” (91).
When Luck sums up the OT teachings he arrives at some conclusions that are not agreeable to all: namely, that not only the innocent party was permitted to remarry but also the guilty male (though not the female). The adulterous relationship was rectified by returning to the spouse.
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Phil M

posted January 19, 2010 at 1:00 am

“God divorced Israel”

That seems a bit contrived to me. God didn’t put Israel aside and choose another nation – in the end he fulfilled the covenant Himself by providing the true Israelite.
If anything, he smacked her around a bit to try knock some sense in to her, but I don’t think we will be drawing any parallels there!!

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Your Name

posted January 19, 2010 at 5:59 am

God may not have chosen another nation but he did give her a certificate of divorce.
Jer 3:8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.
and kindly don’t equate God to a domestic abuser. that is not even funny.

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Scot McKnight

posted January 19, 2010 at 8:45 am

OK, the first comment was insensitive to how the language of the Bible works, and it’s one of the big points for William Luck’s book: divorce is God’s loving, covenantal, disciplinary action in order to restore Israel to himself. No one can read Hosea 2 and not see this.

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Your Name

posted January 19, 2010 at 9:16 am

GOD restores and that is what God wanted for Israel, yes God did say in jeremiah 3:8 that he gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce because of all her adulteries. but He also cries out to Israel to come back and ask for forgiveness and he will forgive them and frown on them no longer. He promised to be merciful. This is the part of christianity that soo many of us have trouble with forgiveness and restoration. The Lord GOD forgives and restores if we come back to him and ask to be forgiven.

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posted January 19, 2010 at 11:43 am

If anyone has not yet observed, the ESV comports with Luck’s exegesis of Mal. 2:16. Hum….

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Dan Smith

posted January 19, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Not all divorces are to get a different spouse. This certainly was not the case of YHWH’s divorce of Israel. His preference for this sinful tribe never waivered.

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posted January 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Along with Phil (excepting the poorly thought out commentary) I also find this to be constructed and contrived. It seems to me sort of like saying, hey since God “divorced” Israel in this way and for these reasons, we humans can likewise do the same thing, so long as we adhere to the prescribed way and for the prescribed reasons. As well, there seems to be an underlying idea of marriage involving physical provision and security and whenever dominance issues exist we selfish and short-sighted humans find a way to corrupt the ideal. I am also uncomfortable with the idea that God really “divorced” Israel – as in the severing of the relationship as we humans consider divorce. All along the Father knew of the future breaking into this world by Jesus. I recognize there is reconciliation after divorce, however rare, but it seems like requiring repentence, etc., a turning back, as was the requirement for the wayward Israelites, to be a requirement that again would easily be the subject of corruption. I am not sure we can take the “divorce” idea without also being bound by the “reconciliation” idea presented there as well. I guess I’m feeling like the divorce discussion in Hosea to be more metaphoric than prescriptive.

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Phil M

posted January 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I had never taken notice of Jer 3:8 before. I had assumed that the use of the word “divorce” had been co-opted into the topic since I couldn’t recall (off the top of my head) any verses such as that one.
So, sorry for whipping off such a quick response without thinking about it more or doing a bit of basic research. My bad – I was heading out and should have waited till I got back before responding.

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posted January 20, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I wince whenever I hear “Christians” throw stones at homosexuals and their “sin”, yet have no problem justifying divorce. Its remarkably easy to be righteous about things that don’t affect you…funny how you can bend the rules when it comes to something that affects you personally. Let’s remember that Jesus, while not mentioning homosexuality, was explicitly clear on divorce:
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. ?Mark 1:1-12
Threat to marriage: divorce. Don’t cast out homosexuals while welcoming adulterers…or at least don’t claim you are doing so in the name of Jesus.

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posted December 8, 2010 at 10:37 am

@ Kurt, You quoted from the scriptures but yet you put in the wrong book, and chapter and verse.. None of which match your quote, we should all remember that when speaking of God, or His word, we should know what we are talking about or we might be talking empty talk such as quoted in 1 timothy chapter 1 verses 6,7 ‘there are some who have given these for nothing but empty talk. they want to be teachers of the law of moses. But they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they think they do.’

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