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Matthew 19:3-9 – Grounds for Divorce

|| Mark 10:1-12

MT19:3 And now Pharisees approached Jesus to tempt him,[1] asking, “Is it permissible to divorce[2] a woman for any cause?”[3] MT19:4 Jesus responded to their question by saying, “Did you never read[4] that the One who created male and female[5] [Genesis 1:26, 27] from the Beginning[6] made them MT19:5 and He said:[7] ‘On account of this a man will leave behind his father and mother and he will stick[8] to his woman; and the two will become one flesh’? [Genesis 2:24] MT19:6 So, they are no longer two but one[9] flesh. Therefore, whatever The God[10] has yoked together,[11] let no person divide them.”[12] MT19:7 Now the Pharisees asked him, “So why does Moses command a paper of dismissal and divorce?”[13] [Deuteronomy 24:1-4] MT19:8 Jesus answered them, “Moses conceded the divorcing of your women because of your hardheartedness.[14] But it was not so in the Beginning. MT19:9 I tell you this: that whoever divorces his woman[15] not for the reason of sexual immorality[16] and marries another,[17] commits adultery.”

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[1] To tempt him: See Matthew 16:1 where they first test him.

[2] Is it permissible to divorce: One wonders why the Pharisees ask this question as a test of Jesus. It is possible that because there was considerable disagreement on this subject among the Jews, they had found a perplexing question very difficult to answer without offending someone (Shammai versus Hillel schools of thought). We are very interested in how Jesus will handle this. Will he compromise? Will he rationalize an answer favorable to all? The question may also be rendered: RSV: Is it lawful.

“Divorce” in Hebrew carries several meanings: Deuteronomy 22:19, “send away”; Leviticus 22:13, “drive out”; Deuteronomy 24:1, 3 “a bill of divorcement” means literally in Hebrew, “a book of cutting off.” Regarding Jewish divorce see Josephus (Jewish Antiquities, XV, 259 [vii, 10]; 4. 8. 23). Note that in Malachi 2:16 Yehowah says, “I hate divorce.”

[3] For any cause: The problem resulted from the Jewish interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jewish men could divorce for almost any reason. This could include, according to at least one rabbi, that if a man found a more desirable and lovely woman. Note, however, that the Law did not provide for a woman divorcing her husband. On this compare the notes on Matthew 19:9.

[4] Did you never read: This introduction has a degree of cutting sarcasm to it: these are pompous and arrogant teachers of the Law who have studied the Torah completely. Jesus is not unaware of their hidden agenda.

[5] The One who created male and female: Jesus means Yehowah in the designation “the One.” He alludes to Genesis 1:26, 27.

[6] Beginning: Jesus uses the word in relation to the creation of humankind. It is the Greek ARCHES.

[7] He said: Jesus nowhere hints that he believed this One to be himself as Jehovah. We also may draw the conclusion that Jesus believed the account of Genesis. Jesus here quotes Genesis 2:24.

[8] Stick: Or, KJV: cleave; RSV: joined. The Greek is KOLLETHESETAI. It is drawn from the root KOLLA which means to “glue.”

[9] No longer two but one: Or, NEB: it follows that they are no longer two individuals; PME: no longer two separate people, but one. We must make a note that this word “one” is taken by Trinitarians in some mystical form as if it proves their doctrine. On this issue research the text Genesis 2:24 in Nazarene Commentary as well as the Hebrew echad.

[10] The God: The Greek is HO THEOS as it is in most cases of designating the Father of Jesus, Yehowah. Research the Greek HO THEOS.

[11] Yoked together: Or, KJV: joined together. Marriage is the “yoking” of two different people. The word conveys the idea of two equal beasts of burden under the same yoke (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7). The Law forbade yoking animals of different strength. The Greek word-group, ZYGOS, ZEUGOS has the thought of a yoke and are rooted in ZEUGNYMI meaning “yoke; couple; join; bind; unite together.” The Greek ZEUGOS may include “a pair” or “yoke” as in Luke 2:24; 14:19, a “pair of turtledoves.” Birds such as these mate for life.

[12] Let no person divide them: Or, KJV: put asunder; TCNT: must not separate. The main “person” or “man” here would be the husband.

[13] A paper of dismissal and divorce: A reference to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Or, KJV: a writing of divorcement; KNX: a writ of separation; TCNT: serve his wife with a notice of separation.

[14] Because of your hardheartedness: The Nazarene gives the reason for divorce: the hard hearts of males. Or, KJV: the hardness of your hearts; NEB: because you were so unteachable; WMS: because of your moral perversity; PME: because you knew so little of the meaning of love.

[15] Whoever divorces his woman: This verse has come in for considerable debate and discussion because Matthew, Mark and Luke read each differently. Only Mark 10:12 adds, “…and if ever a woman, after divorcing her husband, marries another, she commits adultery.” This liberated women to seek their own divorce. However, the grounds for divorce remain the same in both cases.

[16] The reason of sexual immorality: Jesus gives only one reason. The Greek here is PORNEIA and is worthy of considerable research. The word is also rendered: RHM: unfaithfulness; RSV: unchastity; GDSP: her unfaithfulness. The root of PORNEIA is from “to buy” as in the purchase price of a prostitute and so “fornication” first became synonymous with “prostitution.” (Genesis 38:24; Exodus 34:16; Hosea 1:2; Leviticus 19:29) The word occurs about 65 times in the Bible. Most often in Hosea (17) and secondly in 1 Corinthians (11). In the Christian Bible fornication is incest (1 Corinthians 5:1), adultery (1 Thessalonians 4:3), a sin against one’s own body (1 Corinthians 6:18), “unnatural” sex (Jude 7). Paul alludes to Numbers 25:1+ and the fornication of Israelite men with Moabite women, possibly temple harlots as religious worship is associated.

  1. F. Westcott, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (1906, p. 76) defines PORNEIA: “This is a general term for all unlawful intercourse, (I) adultery: Hos. 2:2, 4 (LXX); Matt. 5:32; 19:9; (2) unlawful marriage, 1 Cor. 5:1; (3) fornication, the common sense as here [Eph 5:3].” Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (revised by F. W. Gingrich and F. Danker, 1979, p. 693) defines PORNEIA as “prostitution, unchastity, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.” “Fornication” is generally related to adultery, rape, and prostitution (Genesis 34:1, 2, 6, 7, 31; Genesis 38:24-26; Genesis 39:7-9).

The question may be raised whether sexual intercourse between two consenting persons who intend to marry is “fornication.” Some would state that it is. However, we are unable to find a single case where sex between engaged persons is considered “fornication.” Virtually every occurrence of “fornication” is limited to rape, adultery, incest, or prostitution. Indeed, the word “prostitution” could replace “fornication” in the Prophet Hosea and most of the cases elsewhere. While adulterous persons were stoned under the Law, couples (engaged or not) who had sexual intercourse were not stoned but required to marry, the male giving up divorce rights and required to pay a fine to the father of the woman (Exodus 22:16, 17; Deuteronomy 22:28, 29).

Since “fornication” is strongly prohibited to Christians it is necessary that each disciple research fornication, read and meditate on these verses and their related principles.

[17] Marries another: If one divorces and does not remarry adultery is not committed. Compare Mark 10:11, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.” Luke 16:18, “Everyone that divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he that marries a woman divorced from a husband commits adultery.”

 

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Preceding

Matthew 19:1-2 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: From Galilee to Judah

Find extra verses to think about: Matthew 19:3-9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Grounds for Divorce – additional verses

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