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.) If the woman is a slave wife, which applies to any woman who did not willingly become a wife, her husband must not diminish her marital rights in the event that he takes an additional wife. Marital rights are food, clothing, and sexual relations. [Exodus 21:10]
If the man diminishes the marital rights of a slave wife after taking an additional wife then he must release his slave wife, i.e., provide her with a Bill of Divorcement.
2.) The husband has sole authority over his woman.
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 woman 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.
Additional references are:
Note: Copyright 2007 – Pastor Don Milton – All Rights Reserved
Do you believe that Jesus taught that men may never divorce their wives? If you believe this, then you believe that a man who gets married deserves the same penalty as a man who rapes a virgin!
Deuteronomy 22:28,29 (King James Version)
If a man find a damsel [that is] a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty [shekels] of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
Take note, the rapist “may not put her away all his days.” If you truly believe that Jesus’ teaching on marriage was that a man can never divorce his wife then you must be at least a little curious as to why Jesus would pronounce the same sentence on a man for getting married as the law pronounces on a man who rapes a virgin.
The fact is, Jesus never forbade legitimate divorce. The false belief that a man may never divorce his wife evolved from the long standing position of the Roman Catholic church, not from any teachings found in the Bible. Those who claim that the Bible forbids all divorce can only do so by invoking the false doctrine of gender parity. Gender parity claims that all verses that apply to women, apply equally to men. Romans 7:3 is the favorite verse of gender parity advocates. Here are Paul’s actual words:
“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.” Romans 7:3
Those who teach the false doctrine of gender parity twist and yes, change Romans 7:3 by claiming that it can also be understood as follows, minus my warnings:
[WARNING! THE PARAGRAPH YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS NOT FROM THE BIBLE]
So then if, while [his] wife liveth, he be married to another woman, he shall be called an adulterer: but if his wife be dead, he is free from that law; so that he is no adulterer, though he be married to another woman.
[WARNING! THE PARAGRAPH YOU JUST READ IS NOT FROM THE BIBLE]
I have placed the [WARNING NOT IN THE BIBLE] marker next to the phrases above to make sure that you understand that only by CHANGING the words in the Bible can the gender parity advocates make verses that apply to women apply also to men. The gender parity advocates cannot prove their point against divorce unless they put the same restrictions that the Bible places on women upon men and they can only do this by making up words and or inserting different words. What they do is a great sin. The word woman simply does not mean man! Not only do gender parity advocates change and insert words but in so doing they muddle the meaning of the words they are using. The definition of adulterer that is found in the Bible is a man who lays with another man’s wife or who lays with the betrothed of another man. It is impossible for a man to be an adulterer by legitimately divorcing his fornicating wife and taking a new wife. There is simply no verse that states this when taken in the context that the law permitted and Jesus repeated that a man may divorce his wife for fornication. A man is only forbidden from divorcing a fornicating wife when the marriage was precipitated by forcible rape. However, even in such marriages, if proven adultery is discovered (copulation between the wife and another man) then he may divorce his wife. Not only may he divorce her but the Bible demands that the government put her to death by stoning as long as that government abides by all the stipulations of biblical law in their proceedings.
Now that I’ve shown how ridiculous it is to believe that a man can never divorce his wife, let’s look at cases where divorce is actually considered a righteous act. We’ll begin with Jesus’ own stepfather, Joseph, who was called a “just man” for planning to divorce Mary secretly. This was prior to his being told by the angel Gabriel that Mary was “with child of the Holy Ghost.”
Matthew 1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
Now let’s find out why a man who is a just man, a righteous man, not only can but must divorce his wife if he finds out that she is pregnant with another man’s child.
Leviticus 18:20 and Ezekiel 33:26 make it clear that both the adulterer (a man who lays with his neighbor’s wife) and the adulteress (a married woman who lays with a man other than her one husband) are defiled.
Leviticus 18:20 “Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her.”
Ezekiel 33:26 “Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour’s wife: and shall ye possess the land?”
Leviticus 18:24-30 warns us not to defile ourselves with any of customs of the nations out of which the Israelites came.
Lev 18:24 “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit [any] of these abominations; [neither] any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which [were] before you, and the land is defiled;) That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that [were] before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit [them] shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that [ye] commit not [any one] of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I [am] the LORD your God.”
Now, if you don’t mind being “spued out” as the “nations” that defiled themselves with such things were spued out then go ahead and ignore what the Old Testament says and when you ask me, “Why does any of this matter? We’re under grace, not the law.” Answer yourself and go ahead and allow marriage between children and parents, bestiality, and all the other abominations that are only forbidden in the Old Testament. But if you’re not ready to abandon those righteous laws then don’t call me legalistic for asking you to show your love to God by obeying them. Sure, salvation is of grace but faith without works is dead.
If you’re so convinced that I’m legalistic when I preach that we must show our love to God by obeying Him then tell me what you would say if your kids said the following to you:
“Oh, I love you mom and dad, I just don’t have to obey you because that’s legalism. You love me unconditionally because I’m your kid so I’m going to do whatever I want. If I even tried to remember your rules or pay any attention to them it would be legalism and since I can’t possibly obey all of your rules I’ll just give up on trying to follow even one of them. After all, it’s your grace that made me your child and I’m no longer under your rules.”
Note: Copyright 2007 – Pastor Don Milton – All Rights Reserved
Pastor Don Milton writes on various topics of Christian Marriage.
Attributing the characteristics of a woman to someone or something else.
Attributing the characteristics of a man to someone or something else.
The primary reason that men and women have differences in their understanding of their marriage relationship is that:
Men think that women think and feel like they do. This is known as Andropomorphism.
Women know that men don’t think or feel like they do. They only pretend to suffer from Gynepomorphism.
More on this shortly.