***This is the 3rd article in a series. The series is meant to be read in order. If you have not yet read the earlier articles, please stop and do so and then come back here. The first article can be found here. The second article can be found here.***
We discussed in our last article that when sin came into the world it brought with it tremendous damage and destruction. Nothing was safe from sin’s affects. Included in this, was God’s design for marriage. Satan went right to work on attacking what God intended. He did his best to distort it and break it apart. In many ways, he succeeded.
We see countless examples of polygamy, abuse, and even divorce in the OT. When Moses wrote the law (which came from God) he was not “instituting” divorce, as if he was bringing about a way for people to get out of their marriages. Rather, he was attempting to regulate/limit the divorce that was already happening. He attempted to stop people from divorcing rashly by stating that if you divorced your spouse and they married again, even if they got a second divorce, or if their second spouse died, you could not take them back (Deut 24:1-4). The divorce certificate was always a part of Israelite divorce. It was a way to protect the woman from her former spouse and free her to marry again.
God, through Moses, made sure that there were laws in place to protect women from abuse of their husbands. Not only do we read about this in Deuteronomy 24, but in other places as well. In Exodus 21:7-11 we read of God’s protection of the slave/wives. If a man neglected her by diminishing her food, clothing, and marital rights in favor of a new wife that he had chosen to take, the slave/wife was to be released. She was not to be bound and kept in that awful situation. In Deuteronomy 21:10-14 we read that if a man married a foreign woman and then he no longer found delight in her, he was to release her. What was happening in these situations is that if a man decided later that he didn’t really delight in his wife any longer, he would treat her as a slave. God steps in and protects these women. He could not sell her, or treat her as a slave, he had to release her.
We read of many examples and laws concerning divorce in the OT. So, since we see God instituting laws designed to protect the abused, and release them from their marriages and we even read of God divorcing Israel because of their unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3), does that then mean that God is “ok” with divorce?
God Hates Divorce
Hate is such a strong word. We generally don’t like to use it, nor do we allow our children to throw that word around haphazardly. The word brings about a certain kind of darkness that is uncomfortable, and our natural response is to flee from hate. However, there is no way around the fact that there are some things (several, in fact) that the Bible tells us that God hates.
Proverbs 6:16–19 (ESV)
16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
In this well-known and often quoted text we read of many things that God hates. If you and I love the Lord and want to serve Him, we would do well to make sure we are not doing any of these things. I cannot tell lies and think God is ok with that. I cannot shed innocent blood and think God is ok with that. I cannot stir up trouble within the brotherhood and think God is ok with that. As a child of God, our desire should always be to do what makes God happy, and avoid what He hates.
This list in Proverbs is not an exhaustive list of things that God hates. In Malachi 2 we read about another.
Malachi 2:16 (NASB95)
16 “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel…”
In context, Malachi is speaking about Israel dealing treacherously or “faithlessly” with the wife of their youth. What was taking place is that Israelite men were divorcing their Israelite wives in order to marry foreign wives who worshipped other gods. Malachi points out that God’s desire for them was to produce Godly offspring with their Israelite wives (Mal 2:15). Instead, these men were divorcing their wives in order to marry other women. God refers to this as dealing treacherously. “Treacherously” comes from the Hebrew word- מָעַל(mā·ʿǎl) which literally means- “unfaithfully, break faith, commit a violation”. These men who divorced their wives for the purpose of marrying another (foreign) woman, had not been faithful, they broke faith with their first wife by breaking the covenant that they had made with her. As God looked at what was happening, He hated it.
God had a plan for marriage. This was not it. What was supposed to be a beautiful union between two people for life had been distorted and abused in just about every conceivable way. God put in place laws to limit divorce, as well as laws to free women who were being abused from their marriages. However, the fact that something was allowed does not mean that it pleased God. It didn’t. We will see Jesus address this very point when we enter the NT in this series. God was not pleased, in fact, He hated what men were doing.
Just a casual observance of the damage that divorce can bring to the lives of people still today helps us to understand why God hates divorce. People break faith in their covenants. Unspeakable pain is brought into the lives of those involved. Not just for the two who are no longer married, but also to their children, friends, and family. All of that pain, all of that damage, was never part of God’s plan.
To this point, we have examined God’s plan for marriage and it’s beautiful design. We have looked at how sin corrupted all that was once pure and good, and that included marriage. We have examined various laws that were put in place to both limit divorce and protect women from abuse. We have also seen where God’s heart was on the issue, He hated what was happening.
Where does that leave us today? What does God expect today? How can we do what we need to do in order to make God happy? These are some of the questions we will begin examining in coming articles.