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Torah Divorce

Torah Divorce

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A lot of people in the Christian and even the Messianic world have had a lot of bad teaching on the subject of divorce. This has led to a sense of condemnation for many people as well as other bad fruit. If they understood Torah properly and used this understanding as context for Yeshua's comments on the subject then much of this pain could be minimized in the family of God. Yeshua did not forbid divorce. He forbid divorce on frivolous grounds and pointed back to God's original design for marriage in the perfect world when divorce was not on the horizon. This is the ideal that God's people should strive for in their marriages. However, we don't live in the paradise anymore and you may be married to someone who doesn't choose to honor their covenant with you. What then?

This is where Torah comes in. Torah allows for termination of the marriage covenant in cases of adultery and abandonment of the covenant obligations. In such cases where one's mate has broken the covenant then the innocent party is free to terminate the relationship and is free to remarry. In fact, even the guilty party is free to remarry once the covenant has been terminated. Here are some Scriptures:

"When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he has found some unseemly thing [ervah = uncovered nakedness i.e. sexual unfaithfulness] in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. If the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife; her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before YHWH: and you shall not cause the land to sin, which YHWH your God gives you for an inheritance." Deu 24:1-4

In Torah divorce is a term used only for something the husband can do. This is not a gender neutral term. More about the options of the wife in a minute. If a man finds "ervah" (which is a sexually unfaithful act) in his wife he is free to divorce her. Once divorced, she, though the guilty party having been divorced for cause, is nonetheless free to remarry. Once she does remarry the divorcing husband can never marry her again, since she has been with another man.

In Yeshua's day many Pharasees twisted this judgment to allow a man to divorce his wife on any sort of ground. They focused on the "if she find no favor in his eyes" part of the verse and said that even if she burned the soup this was grounds for divorce! Yeshua was commenting on this distortion of Torah when He said:

“It was also said, ‘Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce,’ but I tell you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the cause of sexual immorality, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries her when she is put away commits adultery!"  Matt 5:31-32

Properly translated in the light of Torah this verse would read: “It was also said, ‘Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce,’ [shorthand refering to the verse in question as taught by Pharisees] but I tell you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the cause of sexual immorality [in other words, exactly what the verse actually stipulates as allowable grounds!] , makes her [out to be] an adulteress; and [makes out to be] whoever marries her when she is put away [as one who] commits adultery!"  Matt 5:31-32

What Yeshua is saying is that since the only Torah ground for divorce is sexual immorality if a man divorces his wife for burning the soup everyone will think she had been sexually unfaithful. Not only that, but if anyone marries her after that they will think he must have been the one she was unfaithful with. This view of the Greek is entirely supportable by how these same phrases are used in other places in Scripture, and this is also entirely in agreement with Torah. The point is, Yeshua was not altering Torah. He was showing the ill effect that would befall the wife who is unjustly divorced, and the harm it would work to any man who would take her in. Of course, this sanction of society would work against any possibility of her finding another husband, essentially insuring perpetual abandonment. This is evil.

According to Torah if the terms of the marriage covenant are not honored the injured party is free to leave the marriage and remarry. The marriage covenant guarantees every wife "her food, her clothing, and her duty of marriage" i.e. the essentials of her life. If her husband fails to provide those essentials it is abandonment and "she shall go out free." (Ex 21:10-11)

The Apostle Paul no doubt had this Torah judgment in mind when he wrote: "And, if the unbelieving one separates, let him separate himself. A brother or a sister has not been enslaved in such matters. But Elohim has called us to peace."  1Cor 7:15

Here Paul first says that the believer should not abandon the unbelieving marriage mate (12-14) but if the unbeliever abandons the marriage then the believer is free - meaning free to remarry - now having peace in the situation from Elohim. This advice is in perfect harmony with the dictates of Torah as explained above.

I find it so interesting that Christians so often eschew being "under the Law" when they have created their own law on divorce based on an ignorant understanding of what Yeshua said. Their Law is harsher than either the Torah or Yeshua's and Paul's application of Torah! Torah helps us to cope with an unrighteous world according to the righteous requirements of YHWH. Truly, "Elohim has called us to peace."

Shalom my family! :)

Interesting topic. My own personal situation had me delve into this much needed topic regarding divorce. What I had experienced was that many churches can and often DO use that whole "guilt trip" thing...either to keep people together, or whatever other reasons. I would just like to share what I found and realized through my study of Yah's word. I hope and pray that this will be of some benefit for those that are divorced...and have been "bullied into" believing they are evil, cant remarry unless ex spouse dies, and a slew of other reasons I'm sure they have heard. Here goes:

First off, I learned that the terms "divorce" and "put away" are NOT the same thing. Let me show you.

Divorce means just that...divorce. which includes a written letter of divorce. That much we know. But "put away"? Most christian churches teach it means the same thing, and in fact use the terms interchangebly. I believe, this is in error. Watch.

"For I hate divorce, says Yahweh, the Elohim of Israel." (Malachi 2:16)..Is that not correct? No, it is not! Please do not misunderstand me. I did not say that Yahweh does not hate divorce. I strongly suspect that He does in most cases. What I did say was, that this is not what Malachi was inspired to write.

Let me assure you, the reader, that I am not promoting divorce amongst Yahweh's  people. LOL just bear with me, ok?  Far too many people look upon marriage as being an event, when in actuality the wedding is the event; marriage is a lifetime accomplishment. Nevertheless, does all of this mean that Yahweh does not permit divorce under any circumstances? Yahshua declared that it had been Yahweh's design from the beginning that husbands and wives should remain together (Matthew 19:4-8). Does this then mean that Yahweh hates divorce? Does the Bible say that He does? No, it does not. However, as was stated previously, I strongly suspect that Yahweh does hate divorce since, almost without exception, divorce brings grief, heartache and havoc upon everyone it comes in contact with. Yet, on the other hand, Yahweh did provide for divorce:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house.... (Deuteronomy 24:1)
According to Yahweh's Law divorce was an option, but, for what reasons was it allowed? This may shock a lot of evangelical Christians, nevertheless we are told that a husband may divorce his wife if she "finds no favor in his eyes" and if he finds "some indecency in her." Yet, when we come to the New Covenant era, many modern preachers and commentators insist that Yahshua changed the law on divorce. Whereas Moses wrote that a man can divorce his wife for any just cause, in the gospels Yahshua appears to limit divorce to only cases of adultery. At least that is what many are led to believe from reading most modern commentaries, as well as from reading several New Testament passages in some of the newer translations.
Although many Christians have taken this position on divorce, I doubt whether they really understand what doing so implies. If their theology is correct, then Yahshua would have been a sinner, or at the very least promoting sin. In order for Yahshua to have been our perfect sinless sacrifice He had to fully keep and accurately teach the Old Covenant Law. The Apostle John declared, "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4). Thus, had Yahshua broken or changed the law, He would have been guilty of sin and thus could not have been our Savior.

Even if Yahshua had changed Yahweh's moral law under the New Covenant dispensation, as some Christians claim, His dissertations on divorce in the Gospels were given during the Old Covenant dispensation. Additionally, Yahshua Himself declared, "…Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:18).
Whatever the law on divorce was in Deuteronomy 24, not the smallest letter or stroke of it was changed by Yahshua. Therefore, we can safely conclude that something is wrong with the theology usually advanced regarding divorce.
The erroneous interpretation of Yahshua's instructions can be traced to two modern mistakes. This error is first made because most of today's preachers and commentators believe that Yahweh's Old Covenant laws have been abolished and replaced, thus they seldom consult them. Secondly, mistaken conclusions on this subject are derived from translation errors in most modern English versions of the Bible

My purpose in the remainder of this treatise is to clear up the mistaken notions held by many Christians regarding divorce and remarriage. Let us begin by going back to Yahweh's law concerning divorce. In Deuteronomy 24 we find that the divorce process can be broken down into three parts: (1) The husband must write out a certificate of divorce, (2) he must deliver it himself to his wife, and (3) he must then send her away. It takes all three integral parts in order for the divorce to be lawful, and to be recognized by Yahweh. A husband was not allowed to simply send his wife out into the streets. He was to formally divorce her through the aforesaid process. She was to be given a certificate of divorce, that is, a breaking of the lawful contract of marriage with a lawful contract of divorce. In other words, she was to be provided with proof that she was a lawfully divorced woman. This is more serious than probably it first appears. Without this lawful document, and if a woman was to "remarry" or attach herself to another man, she and the one whom she "remarried" would have been considered adulterers, and that was a stoning offense!
In this light, the writ of divorcement was intended to be a letter of protection for the woman, more than a letter of permission for the man.

"Divorce" & "Put Away"
In addition, the two terms "divorce" and "sends her out" (also translated as "put away" and "send away") should also be considered. It is extremely important to understand that nowhere in the Scriptures are these two terms used interchangeably. The Hebrew word for "divorce" in Deuteronomy 24:1 is found in only two other locations: Isaiah 50:1, describing Yahweh's future divorce of the House of Judah, and Jeremiah 3:8, regarding Yahweh's previous divorce of the House of Israel.
Deuteronomy 24, Isaiah 50 and Jeremiah 3 are the only three instances where the Hebrew word for "divorce" can be found in the Old Testament. That is right; this is not the word used in Malachi 2:16 as would be expected if Yahweh were saying that He hated divorce in that passage.
The Hebrew word translated "divorce" is a very specific term, and in all three instances it is used in conjunction with the term "bill," "writ," or "certificate." On the other hand the Hebrew word translated "sent out" or "put away" is a very common term and is used nearly a thousand times in the Old Testament.

There is no interchangeability between these two Hebrew words. One could not be divorced without being put away. However, one could be put away without being divorced. It is this latter condition that was addressed by the Prophet Malachi: cover the altar of Yahweh with tears ... because He [Yahweh] no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because Yahweh has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:13-14)....

Note that the women spoken of in this situation were still considered as being wives by covenant or contract with their husbands, that is, they had never been lawfully divorced.
...Take heed then, to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce, says Yahweh, the Yahweh of Israel.... (Malachi 2:15-16 -- New American Standard Bible)
Is that how Yahweh intended this verse to be translated? No it is not. Had He intended this, He would have inspired Malachi to use the same Hebrew word translated as "divorce" in the twenty-fourth chapter of Deuteronomy. Instead, He inspired Malachi to use the same Hebrew word translated as "sends her out" or "put away" in Deuteronomy 24.
The King James Version translated Malachi 2:16 correctly:
For Yahweh, the Yahweh of Israel saith that He hateth [the] putting away....
In other words, the treachery committed by these men was not in divorcing their wives, but rather in that they were putting their wives away without a certificate of divorce. In their vindictiveness, they were putting their wives in a horrible no win predicament. If the wives had "remarried" or had attached themselves to another man, they would have been subject to stoning for adultery since without a certificate of divorce they were still lawfully married to their first husband. If they would not commit adultery then these women were left to fend for themselves which was nearly impossible under the conditions of that time.
Consequently, one can perceive the treachery in what these men were doing, and consequently understand why Yahweh would hate it. You can also visualize the hardness of some men's hearts and then understand why Yahweh would provide for divorce (Mark 10:2-5). On the other hand, if divorce itself is treachery then even Yahweh promoted it by allowing for it and even making provisions for it in Deuteronomy 24. Additionally, Yahweh would be guilty of treachery Himself since He divorced His wife, Israel.

As can be seen, much has been misunderstood about this subject, resulting in much injury and unnecessary guilt being laid upon the backs of divorcees. This has occurred because much of modern Christendom has rejected Yahweh's perfect law and because of the mistranslation of some key words pertaining to this subject.

The same has happened with the New Testament Scriptures. Yahweh is not the author of confusion, thus He cannot be blamed for the turmoil over this subject. Rather, man is to be blamed for it. The devastation of divorce is undeniable, however under certain conditions both divorce and remarriage were permitted according to Yahweh's Law as provided to us in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Taking then what we have already learned from the Old Testament let us now see if we can not make sense of Yahshua's statements in the New Testament on this important subject.
The two Hebrew words translated "divorce" and "sent out" or "put away" in Deuteronomy 24 mean two different things and are not interchangeable. The same is true with the corresponding New Testament Greek words. The Greek word for "put away" is apoluo, whereas the Greek word for "divorce" is apostasion

Shalom and I hope this helps clarify the difference between "divorce" and "putting away of"...I would be hap[y to email the whole article if anyone is covers things like the "exception clause" in Matthew...and goes into great more detail about this issue....thanks for letting me post this Brother! :)

Thanks for your comment.

Between these two posts there is a lot here, so I would like to bring this back to practical essentials.

1. The righteous are to honor their marriage covenant, which is meant to be a life-long covenant. Covenant-breaking is a grave offense and should not be taken lightly.

But what is the righteous man to do if his mate is unfaithful?

2. Divorce is a provision of Torah for the righteous as a means of dealing with an unrighteous mate who violates the marriage covenant. The purpose is that YHWH allows the righteous man a way to separate himself from a woman who is violating her marriage covenant. This is to deal with the reality of sin in the world. Divorce means the man is no longer responsible for the unfaithful woman. It also means that she is not his anymore, so is free to re-marry whom she chooses.

Divorce in Torah is not necessarily the same as "legal" divorce as defined by a given government jurisdiction today, since divorce court is not governed by Torah. In these days a righteous woman may be "divorced" in court by her husband on grounds not allowed in Torah. This amounts to abandonment according to Torah, which is a violation of the marriage covenant on the part of the man. This is grounds for the woman to "go free" - such a woman is free to re-marry under Torah with no violence done to the Renewed Covenant. Sometimes today a man will abandon a believing woman but not even bother to terminate their legal marriage. If she then goes into court to get a legal divorce to terminate their legal marriage and clear her marital status in the eyes of society she has not sinned.  She has a right according to Torah to free herself in such a case. I have known a number of women who have remained in marriage limbo for years simply because of poor teachnig on these matters. This slavery is not of God. He wants better than that for His daughters, and has provided for better in His Word.

Greetings, Friends in Yahweh;

This is a very interesting topic, and has a personal drawing to me.  I think there is a lot of great information within these three posts.  Yet, there is a thought thread that may not have been considered, a concept that goes well beyond the outward obvious—physical, sexual adultery—to the very dark depths of the human heart.  In dealing with this subject, I will keep my personal thoughts to a minimum so that Yah’s Word can speak for itself.

Upon hearing the term, adultery, most people immediately think of sexual sin—in the physical sense.  While this thinking is certainly true, there is the sin of “spiritual adultery” that must be considered, especially in that Yahweh considered His relationship to Israel and Judah as husband and wife.

If one wishes to consider the total aspects and legitimacy of approved Torah divorce, then insight must be gleaned from Yahweh Himself.  Yahweh reveals a far more serious reason for divorce through Jeremiah in 3: 8, “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce.”

Yahweh says His children have backslidden into adultery.  Certainly, many of them were involved in physical adultery.  Yet, His Word is replete with examples of spiritual adultery, all the while portrayed in the physical sense. 

In each of the related Scriptural references herein, the term, “Play the harlot”, is used.  I present references derived from the “Nelson, New King James Version”.  It should be noticed that the King James Version interprets this same term as, “Whoring after other gods”.  In either rendering, the picture is anything but flattering.

In each underlined reference, the same Hebrew word is used.  Strong says that word is “Zanah”, #2181.  He says this word is a prime root with a definition that reads, “(highly fed, and therefore wanton) to commit adultery (usually of the female, and less often of simple fornication, rarely of involuntary ravishment), fig: to commit idolatry (the Jewish people being regarded as the spouse of Jehovah), caus: to commit fornication, x continually, x great, (be an, play the) harlot, (cause to be, play the) whore, (commit, fall to) whoredom, (cause to) go a whoring, whorish.”

With this definition in mind, consider each reference that incorporates this particular word, in its context, and see Yahweh’s justification for a “Certificate of divorcement”.

Consider the aspect of “personal ideals”, as described in the following references.  In 2 Chronicles 21: 12-13a, Yahweh says through Elijah, “…because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa King of Judah, but have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot like the house of Ahab…’”

    The Psalmist says in 106: 39, “Thus they were defiled by their own words, and played the harlot by their own deeds.”  And, Ezekiel writes in 6: 9b, “…and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols…”

Consider the aspect of “vanity”, as described of Gideon—who was considered a great man of God—in Judges 8: 27, 33.  The writer says, “Then Gideon made it into an ephod (in his honor) and set it up in his city, Ophrah.  And all Israel played the harlot with it there.  It became a snare to Gideon and his house…so it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals…”

Consider the aspect of “unfaithfulness” as described in 1 Chronicles
5: 25.  “And they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the people of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.”

Consider the aspect of “jealousy” as described in 2 Chronicles 21: 13b.  “…to play the harlot…and also killed your brothers, those of your father’s household, who were better than yourself.”

Consider the aspect of “disobedience” as described in the following references.  It is written in Numbers 15: 39, “And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined.”

Hosea writes in 9: 1, “Do not rejoice, O Israel, with joy like other peoples, for you have played the harlot against your God.  You have made love for hire on every threshing floor.”

Consider the aspect of “rebellion” as described in Judges 2: 16-17.  The writer says, “Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.  Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them…”

Then, consider the aspect of “idolatry” as described by these references.  It is written in Exodus 34: 14-16, “For you shall worship no other god…lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice.  And you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.”

Leviticus 20: 5-6 says, “Then I will set my face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.  And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set my face against that person and cut him off from his people.”

Deuteronomy 31: 16 says, “And the Lord God said to Moses, ‘Behold you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them.”

Their harlotry encompassed every aspect of their lives, and even had no territorial bounds.  Jeremiah said in 3: 6, “The Lord also said to me in the days of Josiah the king, ‘Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done?  She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot.” 

In the spirit of the words of Paul to the Ephesians in 6: 12 concerning principalities and powers of the darkness of this world we wrestle with, consider the source of the witchcraft that would imprison us, as described by Hosea in 4: 12.  “My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them.  For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God.”

In Jeremiah 3: 7, the prophet quotes Yahweh’s fervent plea for repentance.  “And I said after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me!’ But she did not return.  And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.”

In a possible beginning of repentance, the prophet shows “treacherous Judah” as a fickle fence rider in v. 9.  “So it came to pass, through her (casual harlotry), that she defiled the land by committing adultery with stones and trees.”   

Her fence riding pretense is described by the prophet in v. 10, making her obedience a lie.  “And yet for all this, her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, (but in pretense), says the Lord.”

Our Lord, Yeshua, quotes Isaiah 29: 13 when He says of these people through Matthew in 15: 8-9.  “These people draw near me with there mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but there heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

In tying together this whole matter of “spiritual adultery”, consider the words of Samuel in his conversation with King Saul, recorded in 1 Samuel
15: 22-23.  “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.  For, rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”

In consideration of the heart of this matter, questions have been asked regarding the validity of divorcing a wife.  Can a man actually divorce her—reject her from being his wife?  If so, under what conditions can she be divorced?  Is he within the bounds of Torah to divorce his wife for "spiritual adultery", even in the absence of physical adultery?

Scripture is clear in the affirmative regarding a husband’s right to divorce as an option.  The conditions of physical and, according to these Scriptures, "spiritual adultery", or fornication are a clear given, although he does have the option to forgive such actions of a wife, whether or not genuine repentance is evident. 

It is my assertion that these Scriptural references speak for themselves.  It has not been the point of this writing to promote divorce in any way.  Rather, it is to include the concept of “spiritual adultery” into the thought process so that the “man after the heart of the Father” may make a more informed decision in a very, very difficult and painful matter. 

I would leave only one more jewel from Yah’s Word, in Genesis 2: 18, and then a closing comment.  “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

It is one thing for a man to walk through this life in the solitude of a single man.  Loneliness in Yah’s men was not a part of His compassionate heart for them.  There are a few that can handle natural concerns that arise.  And, there are even fewer actually called to live such a life. 

But, consider this.  There aren’t enough words in ANY language, combined, to describe the stark loneliness of a man after the heart of the Father that has a wife that cannot find it in her heart to be a “true helper”. 

I pray the blessings of Yahweh our Messiah pour down like rain on all that truly seek His compassionate heart.

Yah’s Shalom,
Danny Lee Ben-Israel

@ tsiyon


I have a Q regarding your post.
Most of yhe time the example that is given is about a man who finds his wife in adultry, what he can do.
But what if its the other way around?
Lets say for argument sake......
a man and woman are married, the man falls in love with another woman and leaves his first wife,( she was faithfull) he is living with that other woman now, and first wife lives alone.
Then, without a legal divorce ( he used the "sending away"formula with his first wife, not officielly)  he "marries"this new wife by a jewish cermoney.  Is he a bigamist then, is this second marriege right in Gods eyes. I know that according the law in my country, you have to divorce first, before you can marrie someone else. So my Q is:
Is the marrieges between the man and his second wife lega or right in Gods eyes?
And is the first wife allowed to ask for a divorce now, since her husband is living with the other woman?

Thank you for your time.



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