I apologize in advance for the briefness of this article. I will be expanding on it within a few months at most. There are many more reasons than the ones I have presented here that prove there are times when divorcing a wife without any sin on her part is permissible, even righteous. Take the example of a young man who has been married only a few months when he is brutally mutilated, his sexual organs removed and his tongue cut out. Should his twenty year old bride be denied a divorce and a remarriage for as long as the husband is alive? To answer that, we must ask Jesus’ purpose in requiring a reason for divorcing a wife. Was his purpose to protect women or was it to cause them extreme anguish? Was His reason for saying that a man may not divorce his wife unless she committed fornication to destine a righteous wife to a life of misery? The husband who has been mutilated has already been given that destiny. God forbid that the butchers who mutilated him should be given the power through a false application of Scripture to deny his young bride a divorce and remarriage. Would it be cruel for a wife to accept a divorce from such a husband? It depends on what you mean by cruel. From whose perspective? Could a wife who was forced to continue in a marriage where the husband could not meet his sexual obligations to her retain her chastity? It is doubtful. If, therefore, it is likely that the husband would be rendered an unwilling witness to his wife’s adulteries, would it not be better that he divorce her before the adultery take place before his very eyes? Better that she should appear cruel by accepting a divorce from him than become an adulteress.
I’m sure you can think up many more verses that give permission in such circumstances to the husband to provide his wife a Bill of Divorcement. One such verse would be Luke 14:5 where Jesus “answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?” Honoring the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments and yet Jesus says it can be broken to do certain types of good. In that light, let’s proceed with this study, and again, I apologize that this article could not be provided to you in a more thorough fashion but it is of such great importance that even in this abbreviated form I felt it needed to be published. I pray that no reader will think that this gives them or anyone else permission to divorce. I do not have the power to permit or forbid divorce. A husband is the only one who can divorce and the Lord provides us the Bible which each of us must read in humility and come to our own conclusions as to when a husband can actually provide a Bill of Divorcement.
Can a Woman Divorce Her Husband?
Can a woman divorce her husband? This question involves the very nature of marriage which is a metaphor for our relationship with our Lord Jesus but before I give the long answer to this question I’ll give you the short answer and some alternatives.
No, a woman may not divorce her husband. A woman may leave her husband and a woman may ask her husband to divorce her but she may not divorce him. [This is because a marriage is a unilateral contract. I’ll discuss this later in this article.]
Paul makes this understanding of marriage in Romans 7:3 when he writes:
“So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
So if a woman can’t divorce her husband then what are her options when she is married to a man who is unwilling to treat her as a wife or to a man who has defiled himself? Let’s take the simplest case; a woman who is married to a man who has defiled himself. In such a case it would not be surprising that a wife would no longer want sexual relations and if she did not want any further sexual relations with the defiled husband then she would be left in a horrible situation of being married but with no outlet for her sexual needs. Here are some examples of defiled men from which such a wife might want a divorce. The penalties for these defilements are also given.
A husband who has defiled himself sexually by laying carnally with another man’s wife. [An adulterer]
Penalty: Death by stoning for the man as well as for the other man’s wife. [Leviticus 20:10]
A husband who has defiled himself sexually by laying carnally with the widow of his father.
Penalty: Death for both the widow and for the stepson. [Leviticus 20:11]*
A husband who has defiled himself sexually by laying carnally with the widow of his son.
Penalty: Death for both the widow and for the father-in-law. [Leviticus 20:12]*
A husband who has defiled himself by laying with a man as with a woman. [A homosexual – The Bible calls this an abomination and calls such men dogs.]
Penalty: Death Penalty [Leviticus 20:13]
A husband who has defiled himself sexually by laying carnally with both a woman and her daughter.
Penalty: Death by fire for both the man and the two women. [Leviticus 20:14]
A husband who has defiled himself by laying with an animal. [The Bible calls this confusion.]
Penalty: Death [Leviticus 20:15]
These are clear cases of defilement and the complete list is much longer than this. If a woman asked her husband to give her a Bill of Divorcement in such cases she would not be sinning nor would the husband be sinning by giving her a Bill of Divorcement. Jesus forbade men to give a Bill of Divorcement for the hardness of their hearts but He did not forbid them to give a Bill of Divorcement out of the tenderness of their hearts. In a moment of tenderness for a wife, a wife who does not deserve a defiled husband, the defiled husband may even desire to give his wife a Bill of Divorcement. If we were living in a righteous nation, a nation that followed God’s laws and carried out God’s punishments, the wives of such men would not have to seek a Bill of Divorcement since their husband would be put to death and the wives would then be free to remarry. A defiled husband in virtually every country escapes the death penalty so he certainly has no cause to cry injustice if his wife uses extreme tactics to get him to provide her with a Bill of Divorcement. If God had His way, the man would be given the death penalty.
There are other types of men who have not defiled themselves but who are incapable of providing their wives with their marital rights. Wives would not be sinning to ask such men to provide them with a Bill of Divorcement. Here is a short list of some men who are incapable of providing sexual satisfaction to their wives.
Men whose schizophrenia or other mental impairment results in violent behavior.
Men who are chronic alcoholics or drug addicts.
Men who are physically abusive.
Situations that fall short of what I have described above require a serious analysis before a wife asks for a Bill of Divorcement. The last thing that any man or woman wants is to find themselves party to a divorce which should never have occurred, for once a woman is divorced she cannot remarry her former husband if she has had sexual relations with another man. [Deuteronomy 24:1-4]
To sum up, I’ve shown here that even though a woman can’t divorce her husband she can righteously pursue a Bill of Divorcement and in Western nations it is very easy for her to make life intolerable for a husband if he refuses to provide it. Now I’ll explain why a woman cannot divorce her husband.
Marriage is a unilateral contract in that it involves three things: Payment, Acceptance, and Possession:
Payment: Bride’s Price
Acceptance: Father Gives the Bride Away. In the case of a father with a deflowered virgin he is required to give the daughter in marriage or he will be guilty of prostituting his daughter. “Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.”Leviticus19:29 The word which is transliterated as “chalal” and translated into English in the King James as the verb “prostitute” is translated more accurately in the Strong’s concordance: to profane, make common, defile, pollute, to violate the honour of, to dishonour, to violate (a covenant), to treat as common. It would be impossible for a father to remain in good standing with his community if he did not give his daughter in marriage to the man who deflowered her for that would mean he was planning to give a defiled daughter to some other future husband for she would be defiled to anyone other than the first. He would be forcing her to be profaned. The sad fact is that nearly every church and nation of the world has fallen into this wickedness but nations have the authority to enforce God’s laws and they must use severe action such as the threat of corporal punishment when a man refuses to declare a woman to be his wife after having taken her virginity or when a father refuses to give his daughter in the same instance. Proverbs and many other scriptures can be used for the basis of demanding punishment of those who allow the land to be defiled.
Possession: Sexual Union
Whether the sexual union takes place before the payment and acceptance or afterwards, God’s law requires that indeed the man declare the woman to be his wife. Only when the sexual union under discussion here was between a believing man and a heathen woman would it be deemed fornication. (See Ezra 10:10-11 on the invalidity of marriages between believers and heathens.)
Exodus 22:16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
Marriage is a Unilateral Contract
As in all unilateral contracts, only the one who has made payment can release what he has made payment for, in this case, a wife.
Marriage includes two additional stipulations to this unilateral contract.
1.) The man is required to provide the woman with her marital rights; food, clothing, and sex. [Exodus 21:10]
If the man refuses to provide the woman with her marital rights; food, clothing, and sex, then he is required to release her but it is his decision, not hers. He is the only one who can issue a Bill of Divorcement. A woman who has been defrauded can do her best to influence such a man with whatever legal means she has at her disposal but she cannot divorce him because she does not possess him any more than an arm possesses the body. Furthermore, a righteous community would impose severe measures against any man who refused to provide conjugal duties to his wife. Thirty-nine stripes with a whip would be appropriate in such cases and it may require no more than the threat of such action by those who have the authority to take action in order to get him to give his wife the affections she is due.
2.) The woman belongs exclusively to the man.
The man may divorce a wife who puts herself in situations by speech or action which increase the likelihood that she will not be exclusively his. A wife who seeks the advice of other men in regards to her marriage is fornicating for she is looking up to another man for advice. This is why I refuse to counsel married women. The Bible clearly forbids this. [1 Corinthians 14:35] ” And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
It’s sad that marriage is so misunderstood that Christians must re-learn what their own Bible teaches them. Custom and tradition now overshadow the marriage ceremony to the point that the simplest of transactions has been made complex by ministers who seek to inject their own hocus pocus when even the ceremony is not required. Payment, Acceptance, and Possession are all that’s required for a marriage to be valid. Woman was made for man, not man for woman despite the confused ideas of men who think that they are God’s gift to women. The first step toward wonderful friendships and wonderful marriages is to understand what is taught by the Bible and to follow it. Most men will agree with me that women are God’s most beautiful creation and that most of them will live up to their title, helpmeet. Learning what the Bible says about our relationships is the first step in making sure that we do the right thing when our marriages, courtships, and friendships are strained.
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Note: Copyright 2007 – Pastor Don Milton – All Rights Reserved