The Tanakh Take on Divorce.

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

Those of us that left the church, to move closer to Torah, are still hampered by our old Christian ways.  Divorce is one of the many hot button topics that comes into view.  We know what the NT (New Testament) says, but where does it differ with the Tanakh (Old Testament) or does it? Let us look at the whole Tanakh as we determine a plumbline for consequence of a failed marriage.

Our first clue that the NT differs from His written Word is when the Christian messiah tries to rewrite Deuteronomy.  In Deuteronomy 24:12 Moses states that if a husband wants, he can have a divorce.  So, about 1,500 years later, JC comes on the scene and recants Torah by saying “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a get.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery.” -Matthew 5:31-32 (also Mark 10:11-12). “Wow!” talking about flipping the script.  I guess the man from Nazareth wasn’t at yeshiva the day the taught “to not add or take away from God’s word” (Deuteronomy 4:2, 13:1, Proverbs 30:6). Some say that Moses was the one that introduced divorces because the requirements are first mentioned in Deuteronomy. Remember Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell speech to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land.  The problem with this theory is that divorce was mentioned about 40 years earlier in Leviticus 21.

If you really think about it, getting a divorce just for adultery doesn’t pass the common sense test.  What about people that are in abusive relationships, how about spouses that will not break from dangerous behaviors (crime, drugs, alcohol, …etc,) … and the list goes on.  So a God fearing person needs to cohabitate with this poison spouse and expose this toxic demeanor to the family, simply because they are monogamous?  Remember King Solomon said “For the prudent, the path of life goes upward…”, staying in one of these disasters relationships would not make someone very prudent.  These tragic relationships aside, yes, sometimes couples grow apart and the relationship is not good for either person, should they be condemned to a life of marriage?

Arguing the other side of the coin, although I don’t think adultery is the only grounds for divorce, I do think divorce is a last alternative after truly working on issues and counseling. In Jeremiah 3:8 God threatens to divorce Israel for her adulteries ways, but He doesn’t.  God will always remember the covenant (Deuteronomy 4:31 , Ezekiel 16:60,  Psalm 105:8).  Also, even though God did allow divorce, He is quick to state he hates it (Malachi 2:16).  I think when we think about marriage we need to remember we took a vow and when it comes to vows, God takes them very seriously (Numbers 30:3, Ecclesiastes 5:5, Psalm 76:12).  Even though a wedding vow is not directly to God, it should be taking serious enough to do all things before the marriage is terminated.

When studying out people of faith we have these divorce statistics (1):

  • Mormon -6% men / -7% women
  • Catholic 28%
  • Jewish 30%
  • Muslim 31%
  • Protestant 34%

I hope this doesn’t cause you to run to the Mormon church to save your marriage.  But, in all seriousness, as disturbing as these figures are, the current National divorce rate is between 40% to 50%. This would imply that those person who have a faith walk have a better than 10% to 20% chance of not being divorced.  Still a 1/3rd divorce rate should make anyone cautious.  Torah demands certain mandates from us when dealing with other people, do we do these for our spouse, that one person  we should most care about?  Many of us are guilty for treating acquaintances and strangers better than our own family.  I laid out 8 Mitzvots (Commandments) from Mamandeses list of 613 (2).  These are all biblically sound and commandments given by God.  Do we do these things in our own marriage?

  1. Not to wrong anyone in speech; Lev. 25:17
  2. Don’t slander or gossip; Lev. 19:16
  3. Not to cherish hatred in one’s heart; Lev. 19:17
  4. Not to take revenge; Lev. 19:18
  5. Not to bear a grudge; Lev. 19:18
  6. Not to put to shame; Lev. 19:17
  7. Do not commit adultery; Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18
  8. To emulate God’s ways–Deuteronomy 28:9

Yes, God did allow for a “no-fault” divorce, but before divorce becomes an option we need to look at our relationship with our spouse through the lens of Torah.  Likewise, it does take two people for success.  If one person is doing all the heavy lifting, they will get injured before making things better.  In writing this article I must say I am an advocate for staying married and working your issues out.  I could not image my life without my beautiful wife Danielle.  We are active in honing our skill set through marriage seminars, workshops and reading related literature.  When it gets that bad, never be too proud to bring your problems to a licensed counselor. Don’t let money be an excuse “Give an Hour” has free licensed counselors.

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Proverbs 14:23

References:

  1. Jones, Audrey M. “Divorce Statistics by Religion.” LoveToKnow. Accessed August 24, 2017.
  2. Maimon, Moshe Ben, Rabbi. “A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments) .” Judaism 101: A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments). Accessed August 24, 2017.
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