Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anthropology: Marriage and Divorce

Its funny how in our society marriage has become a hot button issue or a so called “touchy subject”. Just a few generations ago you knew what a married couple looked like; it was one man and one woman. Did you know that in pre-exilic times a man could marry his half sister on his father’s side according to Genesis 20:12?[1] Also in ancient Israel girls could be betrothed from around the ages of twelve to seventeen and boys around the ages of fourteen to eighteen. According to Elwell, “Betrothal” (Exod. 22:16; Deut. 20:7) was a legally binding contract between the parents of the bride and groom. It had the legal status of marriage (Deut. 28:30; 2 Sam 3:14)…”[2] Marriage was based on a husband and wife, the husband would provide financially for his family and security and the wife would take care of the home and family (this consisted of getting water, gathering straw, preparing meals, etc.). The husband took care of the finances and assumed responsibility of teaching the boys around five years of age.

Did you know that there are some people who believe that the first person you ever had sex with you are married to? They base their belief off of 1 Cor. 6:16. While some believe, “… marriage is brought about as the result of a declaration of desire to be married, accompanied by the expression of mutual intentions of sole and enduring fidelity and responsibility toward the other, preferably undergirded by self-giving love, in the presence of accredited witnesses.”[3] The first view of marriage is especially denounced by our culture nowadays, with promiscuity running rampant and no one caring who they have sex with. The second view is closer to what we see in marriage practices currently (at least for the most part in the USA). However, in the Bible a couple had to live together for a week after their wedding ceremony then they would be considered a legitimate married couple (Gen 29:27). One of the most often used verses for the sanctity of marriage is Genesis 2:24, a paraphrase is “a man should leave his parents, cling to his wife and become one flesh.” The idea of one flesh shows the unity of the couple and the way they are to complete each other.

In our current society divorce has hit epidemic proportions. People getting divorces left and right because they no longer feel a certain way about their spouse or other trivial grounds. The Bible would allow a man to get divorced in the Old Testament if his wife cheated on him, he would be allowed to issue her a “bill of divorce”. “The word “divorce” in the phrase “bill of divorcement” is related to the word for hewing down trees, even cutting off heads. It indicates the severing of what was once a living union.”[4] By the time of Jesus the nation of Israel had perverted the right of divorce; it was beginning to look like our society, and the Pharisees asked him if it were permissible to divorce over anything? Jesus in Matt. 19:9 gives the ground for which a person may get a divorce which is sexual immorality, any other reason is unacceptable. Later in some of Paul’s writings he does come to include if your spouse abandons you after a certain period of time you may get a writ of divorce.

There of course may be some times divorce is inevitable because of hardness of heart and an unwillingness to repent. Divorce however should always be a last resort; there should possibly be some marital separation, along with counseling before divorce is ever considered. I and others use 1 Cor. 7:10-11 as a proof text for separation before divorce. Something that often goes hand-in-hand with divorce is remarriage, and whether or not Christians can remarry. I believe that they may remarry as long as the grounds of the separation from their spouse are death, adultery, or desertion. And should a person choose to remarry let there be some confession made by the couple to their sin (at least the party who is divorced outside of the previous stated grounds) showing their repentance and attempts to keep the covenant better.

If you divorce or attempt to remarry outside of the points listed above you are making a mockery of God. Divorce is dangerous to more than just the couple involved; it affects the family, community and the church. Divorce will always be ugly because marriage is the greatest image of the triune God we can have in flesh outside of Jesus. So when people see Christians divorcing they see God as weak and not whole.

So as a body of believers we should attempt to comfort those are in any stage of divorce and make sure we demonstrate God’s grace to the best of our abilities. If you believe God can fix anything then choose today to trust him to fix the problems you are facing (Rom 8:28).

Word Count: 849


Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, ,2001.

[1] Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. [Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, ,2001],740.

[2] Ibid, 741

[3] Ibid, 744

[4] Ibid, 346