If one of the spouses in a Christian marriage gets married to someone else, is the marriage void and is the innocent spouse free to get married to another in the Lord?
The Bible gives no exception to the laws of marriage whether a couple is Christian or not. It is only a husband who may divorce his wife. A wife may not divorce her husband. A wife who has sexual relations with another man but has not been freed to remarry with a Bill of Divorcement from her husband is an adulteress and the penalty for the wife and the man with whom she has had sexual relations is death. Now neither you nor I can take the law into our own hands but death by stoning is the biblical penalty for adultery.
Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Do we dare to change the definitions of adultery? Adultery always involves a married woman with a man who is not her husband. A married man who has sexual relations with an unmarried woman is not committing adultery. Certainly if she is not a virgin [I’ll address this later in the article] he is committing a fornication worthy of church discipline but it is not adultery and it is not as serious as the case of a wife who has sexual relations with someone other than her one and only husband. Now listen, this is where people get confused. Murder is a horrible thing. It requires the death penalty according to the Bible. Is beating a man till he has black eyes and multiple bruises on his face a horrible thing? Of course it is! Does it require the death penalty? NO! The same logic applies to the difference between a wife having sexual relations with another man and a husband having sexual relations with another woman. Both are sins but the one sin is worthy of death while the other is worthy of some lesser punishment. Men and women naturally know that there is a difference between a man who has sex with women other than his wife and a woman who has sex with men other than her husband but what we naturally know is not at issue. What is at issue is what the Bible says and it simply is not adultery when a married man has sexual relations with a single woman and when a married man gets married to an additional wife it is no sin at all. It is marriage. It is not against what the Bible teaches. Now, concerning a married man who has sexual relations with a virgin.
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.
Notice, it does not say “if a man that is not betrothed.” The woman must not be betrothed and she must be a virgin [maid] for this verse to be understood to mean that the man must declare his marriage to her, that she has indeed become his wife, but there is absolutely nothing said about the marital status of the man. We must take this to mean exactly what it says unless we are not the “Bible believing Christians” we claim to be and what it says is “if a man.” The man here described is any man who is not forbidden to marry her by the incest laws given in the Bible. Whenever the Bible uses the Hebrew word which is transliterated ‘iysh and has it followed by a verb, it is translated as “if a man” or “whosoever” and then the verb. In this case it is ‘iysh pathah and as we have seen this translates as “if a man entice.” We see ‘iysh nathan in Exodus 22:10-11 “if a man deliver.”
If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing [it]:[Then] shall an oath of the LORD be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept [thereof], and he shall not make [it] good.
The phrase “if a man” that is found in both Exodus 22:10 and 22:16 as well as many other verses signifies that what follows, applies to all men and not just a select group of men. So married or not, a man who deflowers a virgin must declare his marriage to her and upon declaring that she is his wife their congregation must acknowledge that they are indeed married. A wife who does not like the fact that her husband has married a second wife has no valid reason to ask him for a divorce unless he stops providing her with the same amount of conjugal rights that she had before he took the second wife or if he decreases the amount of money set aside to take care of her food and clothing.* If he fails to do these, she can demand that her church and the civil authorities put whatever pressure is needed to force her husband to give her what is her due. Thirty-nine lashes to the husband would probably be sufficient to persuade the husband to render unto his wife her due benevolence. Divorce is such a horrible alternative that it makes sense to use corporal punishment against husbands who refuse their first wife her due benevolence after they have taken another wife. A discussion of the appropriateness of corporal punishment shall be provided in another article. Until a few hundred years ago it was considered a standard mode of punishment for certain crimes and if used it is valid according to many verses in the Bible, particularly in Proverbs.
*Exodus 21:10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
Let’s not forget, if he provides her all this, she will not have any valid reason to ask him for a divorce but every wife is free to leave her husband as long as she doesn’t take another man. Wives are not slaves and since Paul states that a wife may indeed leave her husband he is clarifying that it is only the husband who must provide conjugal duties and this accords well with the fact that nowhere in the Bible does it state that a wife must not diminish her “duty of marriage” for a wife does not have any duty she must perform. The man may simply take another wife if he finds himself in the unhappy situation of living with a wife who has no interest in marital affections.
1 Corinthians 7:10,11 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
Divorce for cause [see Matthew 5:32] was not abolished by the New Testament so 1 Corinthians 7, verses 10&11 are discussing departure without cause. Notice how simply Paul puts his paraphrase of Exodus 21:10, “let not the husband put away his wife” but his wife can depart as long as she remains single. If a man could not marry more wives then Paul certainly would have taken this opportunity to write a reciprocal verse such as: [not in the Bible->] “if he depart, let him remain unmarried, or be reconciled to his wife.”[<-not in the Bible] Of course no such verse is found in the Bible and Paul does not make such an instruction.
We must remember that in all cases, the woman must not be a heathen or the marriage is void from inception. “Strange” refers to those who have not adopted the worship of Jehovah and only Jehovah.
Ezra 10:10-11 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.