Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage


Exodus 21:26-27
And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out this manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake

Here we have an additional instruction and direction to enhance the application of the above principle. The husband beating his wife in such a manner as to maim her in some way, as by blinding one of her eyes, or by knocking out one of her teeth, gives her the right to obtain freedom from him and remarry. In letting the wife go free the husband is not allowed to charge any money for his ex-wife as she leaves, or to restrict where she goes, or with whom she goes; she is to be set entirely free of the control of her abusive husband.

It would seem reasonable that judges would naturally extend this principle to any permanent damage inflicted on the wife by her husband. To maim a person is well beyond the scope of the husband's authority in the home, and remains part of the authority of the government in enforcing justice. If it is a foot that is crushed, a hand that is maimed, permanent disfigurement of the face, etc., this type of abuse can generally only happen if the husband is severely physically abusing his wife purposefully or carelessly. In either case, purposefully or carelessly, the abuse gives the wife freedom from her husband, and an implied freedom to remarry.

While occasional outbursts of controlled temper may result in a man being abusive with his spouse in his frustration with her at times, a husband who is beating his wife indiscriminately will eventually do her some permanent damage. This type of severe physical abuse, measured by the permanence of the damage, is not tolerated either in marriage or in slavery; the wife suffering such extreme indignity is permitted to depart from her husband in righteousness. This abuse is to be of such a nature that it is not dependent on the wife's testimony only, or something that she herself defines. There must be evidence of the abuse in the maiming of the wife, a clear indication of the severity of the abuse that God determines is appropriate for the breaking of the marriage bond. This is consistent with the expectation set in cases of neglect: proper authorities of the husband are brought to examine the nature of the abuse and the determination is made lawfully.

It is valid to use the broad principles given to provide a comparative standard for use in divorce. God seldom lists all possible conditions that are relevant in such a decision, but gives representative examples. For instance, we have now seen that if a man does not provide the basic necessities of life for his wife that she is to go out free, and that if he maims an eye or tooth he ends his authority in her life. Suppose then that he maims her foot, does she go out free? Her foot is not mentioned.

Clearly, God has not listed each and every condition that is relevant in this context. Any man that gives himself to abusing his wife emotionally, mentally, physically... this is plainly contrary to the basic instruction of God. If the husband's treatment is comparable to the neglect of basic physical necessities or worse, God's standard applies to release the woman from this horrible condition. The husband does not have the right to torture or molest the dignity of his wife in any arbitrary or malicious manner. If this is his manner of life, the wife should depart and protect her sanity and physical well-being.

The wife, though a servant, is equal in value and worth to the husband and she must be treated as such and her human dignity respected, regardless of the disposition of her character. If she is that intolerable to her husband that he finds himself beating her in an uncontrolled fashion… he is not bound by the law to put up with her, and should divorce her rather than physically endangering her.

As we noted earlier, it is appropriate here to plainly state that, though moderate physical chastening of a wife by her husband is tolerated under the Law, it is not necessarily a godly and proper thing to do. The one-flesh principle seen in Genesis implies a fundamental difference between the marraige relationship and slavery. No master is "one-flesh" with a servant... or even with his children in the sense God has defined it. This principle implies that it is actually inappropriate (though technically legal) for a husband to use any kind of force in controlling his wife. This insight, though perhaps obvious to us today, is based on a deep appreciation of the nature of the marriage bond and is more fully developed in comments on relevant texts appearing later in God's revelation.

In any case, this provision for divorce in the Law serves to protect both the woman and the man from the hardness of one another's hearts. A woman must think twice before defying her husband's authority, before verbally mauling him for crossing her way. A woman remains open to physical chastisement from a husband who is wishing to forcibly control his wife, though she is protected from being viciously and indiscriminately beaten by her husband. Abuse of the husband by the wife is naturally not mentioned since the husband's freedom to divorce his wife has been established upon much more general grounds.

In these last two passages, the principle of the protection of the basic health and well-being of both the man and the woman in a fallen marriage is becoming apparent, and this principle is more basic and fundamental to the economy of God than the sanctity of the marriage bond itself. The liberty to depart a husband and be free of him is thus given to a woman by proper authority over her husband on the grounds of severe neglect or mistreatment, but not on grounds of the husband's unfaithfulness to the marriage unity or on grounds of the wife's general comfort or emotional desires in the matter. The husband, as an authority in his home, may choose to end his marriage as it suits him, and appears to be in control of its state at all times.

Leviticus 18:6-18
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD… The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or the daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover… Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time

General instructions of the LORD concerning marriage also include that a man is not to marry anyone that is of near kinship to him, or to approach them to uncover their nakedness. All of the relationships covered in this definition of near kin are listed individually and carefully in the full text, which has not (obviously) been listed here in its entirety.

One condition highlighted above involves a man marrying a woman who is his sister or step sister. This was the case of Abraham and Sarah, as Abraham confessed, "And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife." (Genesis 20:12) While such a relationship seems inherent in the condition of Adam and Eve, as the intermarrying of their children seems to be demanded of the context of the Creation story, and may also be naturally admitted among the early descendants of Noah after the flood, eventually such a bond was not permitted. This prevents a weakening of the genetic structure of the children of a marriage as the gene pool in humanity continues to weaken over time, providing for more diversity in the genetic structure of the community and nation. This also provided for healthy relationships between brother's and sisters, and generally protected young women from vulnerability to males in the home.

One other particular forbidden relationship, noted for our particular purposes here, involves a man marrying two sisters. A man is not allowed to take a wife and then also to take her sister as a wife as well. This is what Jacob did when he married Leah and then Rachel. This is an unreasonable vexation for a woman to endure, to compete with her own sister for the attention and love of her husband. One can see the distress that this caused in Leah, the first wife of Jacob, and Jacob's home appeared to be quite miserable because of it. The natural sorrow inherent in the rusty communion between two sinners is intolerably aggravated by this condition. While polygamy is allowed, incest is not, nor the vexation of a woman by her husband marrying her sister. We see again permissiveness in the eye of God in what He tolerates in the context of marriage. There is a certain degree of leniency being demonstrated, but there are specific and rigid limits to it. God is not just tolerating polygamy, divorce and remarriage because it was common in an ancient culture; He is defining His Mind and Heart for us in His Law in righteousness.

Leviticus 19:20-22
And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him

If a man approaches a bondwoman, a woman subject to a more rigorous form of slavery than an Israeli woman, who is engaged to be married but who has not yet been taken by her husband in marriage, when this woman has not been divorced from her betrothed husband during the engagement and formally bought back ("redeemed") by her former master, or when this woman has neither been set free by her betrothed husband nor set free by other proper authorities, and this man approaching the bondwoman has intimate relations with her, the bondwoman is to be scourged but not killed and the man is to give an offering for his cleansing. The conditions are carefully stated such that the bondwoman is technically married in this case, which would imply that both of the individuals have committed adultery. The reason given that both the woman and the man are spared the death penalty is because the woman is not free. This implies that if the woman is free then both the man and the free woman are to be killed.

Apparently, a free woman is not under the dominant rigorous servile authority of a master the way that a bondservant is, and is therefore considered responsible for her actions in a way that a female bondslave is not. Jewish women are not allowed to serve as bondmaids (Leviticus 25:44); these types of bondservants may only be taken from the heathen nations about Israel. They may be taken for the purpose of serving either Jewish men or women, and are treated more severely than servants purchased from within the nation. Hagar, Abram's wife, was one such woman, who was Sarah's servant before marrying Abram. Sarah eventually dealt very harshly with her, even after she  became Abram's wife, causing Hagar to flee, yet God instructed Hagaar to return to her master and to submit to her hand. (Gen 16:6-9) Jacob also had such servants in his home, one for each of his wives, and he eventually married both of these bondservants at the request of his wives.

Anyone found lying with a betrothed free woman when the woman is neither redeemed out of the betrothal by her former master nor properly freed from the betrothal by responsible authorities, will be guilty with her of adultery and both sinners will therefore be killed. It seems that a betrothed bondmaid, being one who is under the rigorous authority of her master, might be too fearful to resist the man who is approaching her, having had her dignity and strength marred by the severity of her bondage since she is accustomed to being a "low class" slave, and therefore she and the approaching man are both punished less severely (though the woman drastically more so). Perhaps the absence of the deterring effect of the woman's resistance is itself considered in the actual guilt of the man himself, and his punishment lessened as well. In this case the man is to deal with his sin by a trespass offering, and thereby be forgiven.

Incidentally, and this is the main reason that this text has been included as relevant to divorce and remarriage, we have here additional conclusive evidence that a woman could not take freedom from proper male authority in her life to herself at her own discretion: the text speaks of "freedom given her." The fact that this properly defines how a woman became free, in the act of her being given this freedom by a proper authority, may be seen in the apparent contradiction in this text if the inverse of such a primary hypothesis were false. The truth in its original form, which is the primary hypothesis, is: "If a woman has been given freedom, then she is free." The inverse of this is: "If a woman has not been given freedom, then she is not free." If this inverse is true, then being "given freedom" and being "free" are logically equivalent: they are one and the same and may be used interchangeably. If the inverse is not logically equivalent to the primary hypothesis, such that some women who have not been given freedom are free (e.g. those that took this freedom instead of being given it), then we have a contradiction in this text.

It is assumed in the text itself that the woman is not free because she has not been given freedom: "because she was not free." This is another way of stating the inverse: "If a woman has not been given freedom, then she is not free." The two ideas are used interchangeably, implying the truth of the inverse of the original hypothesis. This establishes the equivalence of the ideas. This completes the argument that a woman is not allowed to define her husband's requirements to provide for her, and that she is not permitted to determine the severity of the abuse or neglect that she receives in her home. In any case where a woman obtains such freedom, this freedom must be granted by a proper authority in her life, and this condition makes her responsible for her actions in a full and complete sense. Apart from being granted freedom by an authority at least equivalent to her husband's authority, she is bound to her husband until death parts them.

Leviticus 20:10
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.

In relation to the previous text, which indicates that adultery committed with a betrothed bondmaid was not punishable by death, this text reveals that in the general case of adultery between responsible persons the death sentence is applied. Obviously, adultery with another man's wife is not merely grounds for divorce… the man and the woman guilty of this thing are to be killed, making divorce irrelevant.

This text also gives additional information concerning any freedom of women to marry more than one man. While it is apparent that a married woman who is involved with another man is considered to be in an adulterous state, a married man who is involved with another woman is not considered to be in adultery per se. It is interesting to observe that the text does not read, "and the woman that committeth adultery with another woman's husband…" This would be an interesting predicament for two women married to the same man. The grounds of adultery can be established only in the context of violating a marriage; intimate relations between a husband and wife are not adultery. When a woman is single, and a man is married, and the two are drawn to one another, the two can become married conveniently prior to their intimacy, certainly avoiding the accusation of adultery. This was provided for in the fact that a man was permitted to have more than one wife, and this is not seen to be a violation of marriage in an adulterous sense.

However, if a woman could be married to two men simultaneously, that freedom would render the principle given in this text ineffective and meaningless, for the two lusters would just agree to marry prior to their involvement and circumvent the law by appealing to the fact of their recent marriage regardless of the initial married state of the woman. There is no way to enforce this principle unless it be such that an unfaithful married woman can be defined by a unique husband who has been violated by her involvement with another man. Men are free to marry many women, but not the wives of other men. Polygamous freedom cannot be available to women without annulling the Law: all women and all men could simply agree to marry each other, and then, by definition, there would be no such thing as adultery.

There is yet more truth in this text that is quite subtle and precious to observe. The fact that "adultery with another man's wife" is defined here, and stated carefully twice as the grounds for the death penalty in the text, implies that there may be a type of adultery that does not formally involve a married woman. This is an interesting point to note, and pertains clearly to God's ultimate definition of adultery. It is certainly possible that a man might desire to have another man's wife and make attempts to get at her without formally defiling her marriage. If he manipulated the situation properly, he might be able to manage some condition to influence this woman's husband to put her away, and so obtain this woman for himself. This would be adultery in spirit, but not punishable by law here. Only overt manifestations of the adulterous spirit, where an existing marriage is literally defiled by the lust, are punishable by law.

Further, if it be a sin for a man to defile another man's marriage, what is to be said about a man that defiles his own marriage? Certainly, it is clearly adultery for a man to lightly divorce his wife and put her away. In doing so he defiles his own marriage, defiles his wife, and commits adultery against her. This is just as sinful as defiling another man's marriage. So we have the admonition of Jesus Christ, " What God hath joined together let no man put asunder." Any man that is not earnestly seeking to develop oneness and unity in the marriage bond, cleaving unto his wife and being a faithful lover, leader, and friend to her, is violating his marriage in spirit and commits adultery against his wife.

The text implies that only verifiable forms of adultery are punished by God's civil law, and that God defines adultery itself more generally, as a spirit of defiling any marriage, including an intent to defile it, and not merely the actual defiling of it. He references this definition in His dealings in the New Testament with those who were expert in violating the spirit of the law without violating its letter.

Leviticus 20:11-14, 21
And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them… And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you…

Various penalties are given in these laws governing incest and sexual relations with near kin. These types of transgressions are not tolerated at all. This reference is given to show what God does not tolerate in marriages, lest anyone should say that the LORD permits divorce and remarriage only when it is part of the surrounding culture. The practices listed here were common in the cultures round about the Israelites, but were not allowed in her midst at all. God tolerates nothing simply because it is culturally acceptable, and it seems that God tolerates very little if anything that we would consider to be naturally immoral or unhealthy. God does openly tolerate polygamy, divorce and remarriage, indicating that it is not, in and of itself, unhealthy or immoral in the context of the Fall.

Leviticus 21:7, 13-14
(The priests) shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God… (The high priest) shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife

Special instruction is given to the priests, the sons of Aaron, concerning marriage. They are restricted in whom they may marry, to only virgins of the people of Aaron. This is related to the ceremonial cleanliness required of the priests, as observed by the additional fact that anyone having a blemish on him, or who is blind, etc., may not ever serve as a priest (see verses 16-24). Neither may a man actively function in the office of a priest if he has been exposed to any type of ceremonial uncleanness and is not purified from it. While this text does not indicate that marrying a divorced woman is improper in general, any more than it is improper for a man to marry a widow, such as David marrying Abigail or Boaz marrying Ruth, it does indicate that a ceremonial distinction existed between marrying a virgin from the people of Aaron and marrying a divorced woman, marrying a widow or marrying any woman at all outside of the tribe of Aaron; this limitation is recognized for priests as part of the ceremonial law. Some would use this text to imply that this is God's real will in marriage, that one should never marry a divorced woman. The fact that priests were specifically forbidden to do this, and not men in general, does not imply that this freedom was unavailable to men who were not of the Aaronic priesthood, or that it is always contrary to the perfect will of God.

Deuteronomy 7:3-4
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

Here, God instructs His people to not intermarry with the heathen nations about them. The power of women in their home is evident here, being sufficient at times to turn their husbands away from following the Lord. However, though this is true, it is also apparent that a godly woman is not generally expected to turn an ungodly husband to the Lord, hence neither type of marriage is permitted. As it has happened with Adam and Eve, so it will continue to happen in homes if God permits men to marry wives who do not serve Him, or women to marry ungodly men. In either case the godly influence of the righteous spouse is severely diminished in the home and the character and strength of the family is broken. This becomes the basis for Paul's command for believers to marry only believers, and freedom for believers to remarry a believer when an unbelieving spouse departs from the marriage.

While the emphasis of the text would indicate that the primary direction of the home will generally be determined by the man, it indicates that a woman can bring great damage into her home in spite of her husband's godliness, and that likewise she can bring great blessing in spite of his foolishness and unfaithfulness. While it is not expected that Jewish girls sent out into heathen cultures would tend to strengthen them significantly, the permitting of ungodly women into the righteous culture of the nation would significantly endanger it. This is inherent in the fact that human beings are naturally bent to moral decay, and godly women are needed in the home to prevent its utter decay when a man is irresponsible and ungodly. While it is obviously best for both the husband and wife to continue in uprightness, wives are responsible before God to be upright apart from their husband's nature, and the same is true of husbands. This tends to balance and stem the natural moral decay within a culture. While the husband is the head of the wife, he does not determine the strength and integrity of his home alone. The wife plays a crucial role in her home and effects a real quality upon it in her own right: she is not the unwitting pawn of her husband's nature.

Deuteronomy 13:6-11
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou has not known, thou, nor thy fathers; namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: but thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

Here, if a wife entices her husband to stop following the Lord, and encourages him to serve any other god, he is to publicly expose her spiritual adultery, and actively initiate her destruction personally, encouraging others to join him in removing her from the land. This places the nature and integrity of the spiritual life above that of the temporal, and it shows that the basic spiritual health of the believer supersedes the marital bonds.

Interestingly, if a man's father or mother is the source of the enticement, apparently he is to respect them as having been in authority over him as a child, and do nothing against them; only if the luring comes to a man from one parallel to or underneath him in authority is he to act to purge them. This appears to imply that the woman may not do as instructed here toward her husband if he entices her to turn from the LORD and commit idolatry with him. While this will certainly end the marital relationship if the wife is guilty, since she will die, it is not evident that this will be ground for ending the relationship if the husband is guilty. This principle of passivity and silence in the wife is to be observed even in the case of blatant religious perversion in the face of clearly established spiritual teaching, as is expected in Israeli culture. It naturally extends to less serious errors such as might be present in the churches today.

There is apparently an issue here involving respect for authority that governs how false teaching is to be handled, though, admittedly, this issue is implied. The principle indicates that the wife is to respect the teaching of her husband in silence, and not to rebuke him openly when she feels he is wrong. She is certainly permitted to ask questions of him privately if she perceives an inconsistency in his teaching, and allowed to take a position of not understanding him until she agrees with him in her heart. While she is not required to follow false teaching in her heart and be blindly lead by her husband in her walk with the LORD, neither is she permitted to rebuke her husband or confront him directly either in public or in private.

This principle appears to be the basis for such statements such as 1 Corinthians 14:34, that women are to "keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." The "law" referred to here by the Lord in Corinthians does not exist plainly anywhere in the Old Testament: such a law cannot be found explicitly in any Biblical passage. Yet the Lord apparently instructs New Testament Christians based on principles merely derived from the Law. This principle is one of these imbedded truths, surfacing from deeper contemplation in the Law and its implications. While the truth of compliant silence in women is not formally found in the law, it is properly and boldly inferred from this text and similar ones, and is to be used now as a pattern of God's life in a woman's heart.

Deuteronomy 21:10-14
When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and has a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband and she shall be thy wife; and it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou has humbled her.

As soon as the principles of not intermarrying with the heathen cultures about them are given to the Jews, and the urgency impressed on them of not having anyone in the nation openly enticing anyone to follow another god, the very next principle given to the Jews concerning marriage involves how to handle the case of a man who wants to take a wife from a heathen nation! It would seem that this is openly inconsistent, but on further thought, the case at hand does not indicate a violation of the previous instruction, but is quite different.

This woman, taken into captivity after the destruction of her homeland, has no more home to be nurtured by, no family to go back to, no consistent cultural backing from her old friends to strengthen her heathen disposition in her new home. Her family is dead, as all males and non-virgin women were to be destroyed by the victorious Israelites. A virgin could be taken captive as a slave or as a wife into the Jewish culture. If taken as a wife, such a woman was to mourn for her family for a full month, putting them entirely behind her, before entering into her new life as a wife in Israel. This is quite different from the intermarrying mentioned earlier.

A woman under this condition would be surrounded by the godly culture and the upright principles of the Jewish nation, and, though she might not internalize these principles herself, it would be quite unlikely that she would, in this condition, significantly affect her husband to turn from the Lord to her ungodly habits and ways. If she openly tries to turn him from the LORD in any manner, she knows that her husband is instructed to have her killed for this. If she continues in her hatred for the LORD, she will have to do so privately, hiding it from her husband. This will cause her to have to suppress her ungodliness, and may eventually lead her to seek the Lord – if nothing else than for pure convenience. In this way, such captivity may have become the means of salvation for many heathen women, and has perhaps become an eternal blessing to many who have been taken in this manner into the nation.

Further instruction is given in divorcing a foreign woman who has had no say at all in her part in the marriage, since she has been forcibly taken in captivity. In this case, the woman has had no input into the matter of her marriage at all, and will be unacceptably humbled by the man who has taken her, should he later decide that he does not want her. While the husband remains free to divorce this woman if he wishes, the conditions are different than for divorcing a woman who is purchased from within the nation.

This implies that it is often the case, when a father is selling his daughter to be a wife, that her opinion in the matter is carefully considered so that she is not inappropriately humbled or discouraged by the marriage arrangement. In this case, however, since the heathen woman has had no say in the matter from the beginning, and has been humbled by it and taken from her native culture and land by force, the husband may not charge anyone for his wife as he puts her away, since he did not pay for her, and she is to be set free to do as she pleases. She is to be permitted to go where she wishes, either with another Israeli man, back to her own land, or to stay as a single woman among the Israeli people.

Deuteronomy 21:15-17
If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: but he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that the hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

This text is again an instance of a principle given to handle the injustice that can come within a polygamous home. While the divorcing of the hated wife is permitted, the right of the firstborn son is respected regardless of which woman he was conceived by. This is respected for both the welfare of the son and the hated wife; while the integrity of the marriage bond is allowed to be broken and the hated wife may be put away, an injustice toward her firstborn son is not permitted: he may not be denied his inheritance. This is further indication that the LORD is not tolerating divorce lightly, as if the people are bent on it anyway. Giving the inheritance to the son of the hated wife would be contrary to the heart of many polygamous men. God does not tolerate injustice in a home even if it were the strong disposition of the culture to accept it.

It is interesting to note that God apparently instructed Abraham to violate this principle before it was given in the law, in the context of the first divorce recorded in the Scripture: God told Abraham to divorce Hagar.

God had promised a son to Abraham, but as Abraham increased in years and Sarah remained barren, Sarah moved in the flesh against the promise of God and suggested that Abraham marry Hagar, her handmaid, so that Sarah could have children by her. Abraham's firstborn son was thus Ishmael, born of Hagar, Sarah's bondmaid. Yet this was done outside of the will of God and marred God's plan for Abraham. When Sarah gave birth naturally to Isaac some years later, Ishmael stood in line to receive the blessing and the inheritance as the firstborn son of Abraham, instead of Isaac, the son of promise. However, when Sarah observed Ishmael mocking Isaac at the time of Isaac's weaning, she became furious and demanded that Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael both, and dispossess them of their rightful inheritance. This thing was very grievous to Abraham and he went to the Lord about it.

The Lord's response to Abraham was, "Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called." (Genesis 21:12) God dealt with an improper marriage, a marriage born of the flesh and of convenience, by approving of a divorce, even when this was against the heart of the husband, and deeply grievous to him, because the continuance of the marriage was standing against the plan He had made for Abraham. If divorce were never to be permitted under any circumstances, God would not have said this and gone along with Sarah's angry advice. Not only did He go along with it, He directed Abraham to do it: God instructed Abraham to divorce Hagar.

This commendation of this divorce on the part of God could also naturally be seen as clearly contrary to the command given above, that the right of the firstborn is not to be sacrificed for the sake of a hated wife, were it not for the fact that Abraham did not hate Hagar. The fact that the incident occurred before the giving of the law perhaps releases Abraham from guilt, but God is eternal and His principles are timeless. It appears that the significant aspect of this is that Abraham did not hate Hagar: the movement of God was contrary to Abraham's own heart toward Hagar and Ishmael. Had Abraham hated Hagar, this directive would have been counter to God's Own ethics in dealing with such situations, but it stands as a part of the picture of the eternal truths being painted in the life of Abraham.

While approving of the divorce and separation of Hagar and Ishmael, God assured Abraham that He would personally care for Hagar and Ishmael and bless them richly, and that this divorce would not be a threat to their livelihood or safety. God was taking Personal responsibility for their well being, and dealing mercifully with a servant that had not been faithful to wait patiently on a promise. As God deals with contradictions in the human spirit, in dealing with the brokenness of humanity, He often moves in ways that initially seem counter to His revelation to us, but which are always consistent with His Spirit and Heart.

Deuteronomy 22:13-21
If a man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, and give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city in the gate: and the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; and lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; and they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

This text describes another condition that would prevent a man from divorcing a woman whom he had supposed was a virgin when he bought her from her father and married her. If such a husband tries to bring a false accusation against his wife after their marriage has begun, by a charge concerning her sexual impurity from before the marriage, and the accusation is shown to be false, then the husband is fined and never allowed to divorce this woman. This is a condition that implies that the sexual character of a pure woman is to be honored and protected in her home, and this transcends the husband's liberty to put her away.

In violating that character in her, and by threatening her life by falsely bringing public shame upon her by a false accusation of sexual impurity, the husband forfeits his privilege to ever divorce his wife. Once she has been shamed and threatened in this way, he is required to endure whatever ill-temperedness or contentiousness that she forces upon him in his home, something he is not required to do if he has not brought such shame upon her, or if he has not tried to destroy her unjustly in this way. Regardless of his desires in the matter he must provide for her and support her for life. While God permits the divorce of a woman who has not been so threatened, He grants permanent safety to the wife from being discarded and alienated from her family and children once she has been unjustly threatened.

The obtaining of such tokens of a woman's virginity, and the significance of them, implies that the family of the new bride takes great care on the night of an Israeli wedding to publicly capture evidence of their daughter's virginity. This token would naturally be a cloth placed under the woman during intercourse that would be used to blot the blood coming from the broken hymen when she gives her virginity to her husband. Once the cloth was properly stained, it would be presented immediately to the father of the young bride to be kept by him as a treasure in his home, capturing the purity of his daughter on her wedding day for future reference. After such a ceremony and ritual, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind about whether she is a virgin or not after this experience, and there should be no room whatsoever for future accusations if everything is done properly. However, a woman permitting herself to be taken in marriage without this protective concern and involvement of her parents and family, or who gives up her virginity in a moment of passion outside of formally advertised wedlock, will naturally become vulnerable to accusation later, even false accusations, if her husband ever turns against her for any reason.

If such a charge of marital unfaithfulness cannot be countered with such rich evidence of a woman's purity by the tokens of her virginity kept in her father's house, as soon as it is publicly announced that she was impure at the time of her marriage, the woman is immediately killed. The fact that this condition may exist at any time after a wedding implies that the husband who has taken an impure woman, whom he thought was pure at marriage, may be merciful to her if he so chooses, and that his wife remains at his mercy so long as they continue in the marriage. The new husband is not required to make a public example of his bride and have her stoned immediately upon discovering her sin, but may do so at any time he wishes if she comes into his wrath or disfavor at any point during the marriage. No lapse of time is forbidden in this situation: he is not required to announce her unfaithfulness within a certain period of time at all. If he ever chooses to divorce her instead of announcing this sin, the thing will necessarily be forgotten permanently, as there will be no expectation of the woman's virginity or purity at the beginning of any subsequent marriage. This seems to imply that Joseph, in putting Mary away privately upon discovering her supposed impurity, was being quite merciful to her and was operating within the context of this mercy allowed in the law.

Deuteronomy 22:22
If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so thou put away evil from Israel.

This text reinforces the fact that a man lying with a woman married to another man is committing adultery. Both are to be killed. This is not so for an unmarried woman found lying with a married man. Such a case is covered separately. It is clear from this text, when considered carefully, that a woman is not allowed to have more than one husband, she is not allowed to marry the second man and retain the first man as a husband as well. Any impurity engaged in on the part of a married woman is severely dealt with.

Deuteronomy 22:23-27
If a damsel that is a virgin, be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife; so thou shalt put away evil from among you. But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: but unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter; for he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

This text considers a situation left untouched by an earlier passage concerning unfaithfulness of a bondmaid. This passage relates the fact that an engaged woman (one who was not a bondwoman, but free or a maidservant) having relations with another man besides her betrothed husband is to be killed, along with her lover, if she participates willingly. She is to cry out against him if he attempts to take her like this, so that others will come and rescue her. Participating voluntarily in extra-marital relations when the woman is either married or engaged is adultery and is not tolerated. Proper divorce and remarriage is not considered inappropriate in the economy of God, and is at the very least openly permitted and tolerated by Him. Adultery with a formally married woman is not tolerated in any circumstance, regardless of the extreme.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29
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.

This text appears quite plain, that if a man rapes an unmarried woman who is a virgin, he is to give her father an appropriate price for her and buy her as his wife. The father has the liberty, however, to refuse to give her to him, as shown in Exodus 22:15: "If a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins". This second text, while not involving rape but pre-marital sex with the consent of the woman, indicates that the father is still responsible for the welfare of his daughter and may choose to keep her in his home and keep her single. While the Exodus text technically applies only in the case of mutual consent, it seems consistent with the spirit of the law to allow the father this intervening privilege in the case of rape.

The father is permitted to judge the health of the man involved and keep his daughter in his home if he thinks it is proper, protecting his daughter from this man who has raped her. In this case, the woman has been properly paid for, and then the marriage formally broken by proper male authority and dealt with for the protection of the woman. She leaves this abusive husband in freedom and remains under the protective authority of her father, being free to remarry as any other properly divorced woman would be. This is a sound protection for the woman to continue on with her life under the guidance of her father for her own safety and well-being. God does not forcibly require such a victim to choose between remaining celibate in her father's house the rest of her days, or to remain in the hands of the rapist because of this tragedy.

Regardless of the outcome of this, if the woman did not consent to the intimacy, the rapist has no control of the matter from this point on in his life. He is not ever allowed to divorce this woman since he has humiliated her and has taken her against her will into his life. He must make the offer of the dowry to her father and respect the father's decision in the matter. He has given up his right to control anything in this. Yet, it appears plain that, under legitimate conditions of severe neglect or abuse, as previously described, this woman could eventually leave her husband and be free of him if that is her desire, though her husband has forfeited the typical male liberty in divorce.

It should be considered that if a man and an unmarried woman have sexual relations and are NOT found, the woman is robbed of her virginity -- and therefore of the protection of the tokens of her virginity. This makes her permanently vulnerable to being killed by any future husband as a common whore unless she eventually discloses her sin to her father. If her father arranges her marriage without knowing that she is defiled and her husband discovers her impurity, she is likely to be stoned to death at the door of her father's home (De 22:13-21). This is strong incentive for young women to remain pure and to abide under the protective direction of their fathers until they are properly and formally betrothed and married.

It is also apparent that it makes no difference in this case if the man committing this crime is already married to another woman or not. A married man lying with an unmarried woman is thus dealt with much differently than an unmarried man lying with a married woman. The principles do not apply equally to both genders. This strengthens the implied argument that women are not allowed to have more than one husband.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

This text reiterates the principles upon which a marriage is to be broken, and adds several additional components not heretofore observed. Divorce is not just permitted in this text, it is commanded under certain circumstances. The Jewish Pharisees properly understood this when asking Jesus about this passage: "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" (Matthew 19:7)

When the marriage has reached a state where there is no more favor in the husband's eyes toward his wife, it is not only permitted, it is required that he divorce her and let her go from him. This is said to happen here when the husband discovers some uncleanness in his wife. The interpretation of this "uncleanness" in his wife, especially by the Pharisees mentioned above, was often quite loose. It might be primarily in reference to physical uncleanness, as in the case of venereal disease, some physical sickness, or perhaps even emotional or spiritual incompatibility. Taken to extremes, it could be interpreted to mean anything at all.

Apparently, if this is the husband's reason, he is not to sell her to another, or to have any necessary part in determining where she should go in this case. This is quite a bit different from the earlier text in Exodus, allowing the husband to put away his wife in displeasure. The difference appears to hinge upon the fact that this husband has no more concern for the welfare of his wife at all: he hates her. He is not in a good position to manage the transition of this woman into a new home or to determine where she should be placed.

This command protects the woman from the emotional and physical abuse of a husband that does not care for her at all, when she could be regularly subjected to harsh mistreatment for the rest of her life at her husband's vengeful pleasure. It prevents the lasting abuses that occur due to the hardness of hearts grown cold in a domestic environment. The most prolonged and devastating abuses of women occur in cultures where this commanding principle is not observed.

A second principle gained from this passage is the permanence of divorce and remarriage. While a husband may divorce his wife for some uncleanness, or some deep displeasure or hatred he has toward her, she may never again become his wife if she marries another man. This ensures that men do not engage in "wife-swapping," or lightly put away the wife of their youth without resolving to make it a permanent and irrevocable thing. Without this principle, it would be technically possible for cultures to invalidate the laws of marriage altogether without literally breaking them. Women and men could just agree to marry and divorce quickly and conveniently whenever they chose to, and continue in a spirit of adultery and wantonness without formally breaking the law of God.  This principle prevents this type of legalistic loophole. 

Once the woman is remarried, she is permanently out of the reach of her first husband: he has become her "former husband" and is therefore no longer her husband. This formal change in the nature of the marital relationship hinges upon God's standard being followed in the breakup of the home; the fact that western nations claim authority to grant divorces under arbitrary conditions does not change God's mind on the subject. It is God that defines and authorizes both marriage and divorce… not civil governments or churches. God recognizes the dissolution of the marriage when the husband dissolves it resolutely or when he chooses to mistreat his wife in a most severe manner… no marriage can be dissolved in His sight under any other circumstances.

As soon as the conditions for either a marriage or a divorce are met before God, at that moment, the marriage is dissolved and neither spouse is married to the other. The man ceases to be a husband to the women and likewise the woman ceases to be his wife… she is no longer married. Therefore, before a husband puts his wife away in this manner he must be absolutely certain that there will be no regrets, and this encourages him to work with his wife to restore their relationship unless he feels that it is utterly and absolutely beyond repair.  In this case of complete brokenness, he is not required to force either of them to endure a brutal, damaging relationship.  It is proper for him to divorce her under these conditions.

It is interesting to observe at this point that David re-married Michal after she had been taken from him and given to another man by her father, David's father-in-law and arch enemy, King Saul. In this case, neither spouse had been in favor of the separation and the marriage was broken up by Saul in a step of retaliation against David. He perhaps considered David to be a dead man who could never escape the wrath of an anointed king, treating his daughter as a widow so as to justify her move into a new home as outside the bounds of adultery, even though she still loved David and David had not put her away. In an unusual case such as this, there are no laws to govern David's preference in the matter. He did marry several other women during his separation from Michal, and Michal was given to another man as a wife in a manner beyond David's control. David understood that Michal had been given to himself by her father to be a snare unto himself, and may have actually been glad at the deliverance. However, as it was the custom of kings to never let another man take the privilege of ownership of a king's wife (even if she was not wanted, as in the case of Vashti), David demanded that she be returned to him once he came into power in the kingdom. Apparently this was not a breach of the above principle since he had not formally put her away, or ever hated her.

A similar problem as this snare with David happened between Abraham and Sarah when they lied together about their marital relationship and Sarah was taken into the home of Pharaoh as his wife (Genesis 12… In this case, perhaps we do have a woman with two husbands!). It happened again with Abraham and Sarah and King Abimelech (Genesis 20), and with Isaac and Rebekah and Abimelech. Yet, in each of these cases the sovereign hand of the Lord restored the marriage without any impurity being caused. Again, perhaps it can be said that there was no violation of the above principle since Abraham had not really put Sarah away, nor Isaac Rebekah.

Deuteronomy 25:5
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.

This text is another indication that God regards the general health and balance of the fabric of the human constitution above the integrity of the single marriage bond. If a man living in domestic community with his brothers dies and leaves no children, the nearest of the male kin to this man is obligated to take the widow and raise up children for his kinsman. The woman is not to be turned outside the family in order to find another husband. This holds true even if the nearest kinsman is already married and has children of his own. This would tend to mar the integrity and wholeness of this living kinsman's home, causing him to receive another woman as a wife in addition to the wife of his youth, but it was nonetheless his proper duty. An instance of this is illustrated in the story of Ruth, where Naomi had a near kinsman that was unwilling to mar his own inheritance. He was apparently already married, or was intending to marry someone else, and wanted to have a proper home with just one wife and his own children. It was appropriate for Boaz to see that this kinsman had the opportunity to accept his duty before he took Ruth as his bride, even though the near kinsman was unwilling to fulfill his duty. This text indicates that polygamy could at times occur as a direct result of God's command, and not be unhealthy or improper at all.

Deuteronomy 32:21
They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

God has given plain teaching on divorce and remarriage, and here He begins to hint that this is yet a picture of divine pain. He hints at the coming struggle between Him and His people – His wife -- and that there is going to be a failure in this marriage between the two of them. She will turn on him, leaving Him, and provoking Him to angry jealousy by going after other gods in spiritual adultery. He will eventually take another wife -- a lowly, foolish, forsaken one -- and will provoke His first wife to an angry jealousy over her in the beauty of His second marriage.

Judges 14:16-17
And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and has not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people.

Judges 16:16-17
And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death, that he told her all his heart.

Perhaps part of the context of God's tolerance of divorce may be found in the intensity of the emotional pain that comes when a spouse is abused in the midst of personal intimacy. There are no examples in the Scripture of a man afflicting his wife either emotionally or physically, but there are several actual examples of women afflicting men and many other general references to this type of abuse. The power of a woman's tongue to afflict the soul of a man who is close to her is seen here in these two examples in Samson's life, and lends balance to the freedom that a man has to put away a woman who is consistently afflicting him in this way during a marriage. Nowhere in the Scripture is a man seen to have this power with his tongue, but it appears that it is less than rare among women.

Eve enticed Adam against his full knowledge to depart from the Creator Himself in the Garden; Solomon, in all of his wisdom, was lead astray by the tongues and selfish desires of evil women; Joseph was pressed daily by the tongue of Potiphar's wife to be unfaithful with her; Samson's wife pressed him sore for a solid week in an emotional torment that went well beyond all reason; Delilah pressed Samson nearly to death with her smoothly poisoned tongue. These are examples in the Word of the afflicting power of the tongue and they are all found in the lives and hearts of women. There are no such examples of men with this trait in the written Word.

While it is plain that men can be perpetrators of verbal abuse, and that women can be physically violent, it seems that women in general prefer to attack their victims verbally and emotionally while men will prefer to channel their abuse physically. The verbal abuse that many men apparently suffer at the tongues of wicked wives parallels the physical abuse that many women receive from their husbands. I really see no significant differences here; one is physical abuse and the other is emotional and mental abuse. Both are wrong when done in maliciousness and selfishness, but emotional and mental abuse cannot be measured or defined cleanly. What our modern culture has done is to react vehemently to physical abuse, and to take verbal abuse lightly. Perhaps this is because physical abuse is easier to identify and manage. Mental and emotional abuse is much more subtle, though it is as potentially permanent and damaging.

In any event, western culture has stripped men of their preferred means of defense and strife management while leaving the woman's preference largely untouched. It is apparent to me that most women talk circles around their husbands and cut them to pieces emotionally and mentally with their tongues, and that many wives do this often when their husbands do not conform as they wish, causing their husbands to be afraid of them. This can be sensed quite plainly in our culture in the context of jokes and comments common in our society. Anyone sensitive to this type of thing will become plainly aware of it, in my opinion.

It is not right for a woman to act this way, just as it is not right for a husband to abuse his wife physically. It should not be taken lightly; I think it is being taken much too lightly in our western culture today. I think our culture looks so lightly on this that there is now more fear on the part of men in the western home than on the part of women. This trap stumped me for years in my own home… until I bought a portable tape recorder that would conveniently capture my wife's abuse of me… She was unwilling for others to learn of her abuse of me. When she realized that this was going to strip her of her primary means of control in our home, she left me immediately, that same day, claiming that it was I who was abusive to her. Interesting…

Perhaps one will think that such digression in this matter of the tongue is inappropriate, that it is well beyond the scope of this current topic. It is included with purpose, and there is more to follow, because it is my personal perception that the abuse of the power of the tongue is the chief problem in marriages, and I think it is the woman who primarily abuses it. I think this basic principle being overlooked in the home is the primary visible cause for divorce.

Verbal abuse naturally springs from the inward cause, which is (of course) selfishness: a lack of love for God and for others. I think that this is a significant part of the motivation for God to leave such unclassified liberty in the authority of the husband to divorce his wife, and why the conditions are significantly different for the woman. Verbal abuse is very difficult to classify and measure, the pain of it is deep, and husbands and children are most often the victims it seems. The Scripture is plain concerning the evil fire of the tongue -- that it is set on fire of hell. (James 3:6) God directs both men and women to be quiet as a general rule, much more so than they are. Women, in particular, seem to rebel against this principle in the home and in the church without scruple whatsoever. Very few women that I have come to know personally seem to understand this, appreciate it, or respect it at all. Regardless of whether I am correct in this supposition or not is irrelevant: the differences between the freedoms given to men and women in this matter of divorce stand plainly, explained or unexplained.

1 Samuel 25:25-26
Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.

We have here a very unusual story in the Word of God, of a very foolish and wicked man married to a very virtuous and upright woman. The words above were spoken by a virtuous and godly wife, about her husband, to someone ready to kill her husband, her sons, and all of the male servants in their home. Abigail spoke these words to David in the twilight, as David made his way up the hill toward her home to slay every male in her extended family because of Nabal's rudeness to David and his men. During this same time, Nabal was feasting sumptuously in celebration of the successful return of his flocks… at David's honest expense.

Abigail had been prompted to do something in this emergency by the very household servants who were endangered by Nabal's foolishness, who understood the vulnerable strait that they were all in. It was commonly understood in their midst, as these servants conferred with Abigail about the matter, that Nabal was such a fool that no one would be able to speak reasonably to him about his rudeness to David. She knew what must be done.

She hastily prepared an extravagant present of food for David and his men, and rode quickly to meet him before he came to attack their community. She pled with him to spare them the anticipated vengeance upon Nabal's foolishness, asking David to receive the present at her hand and explaining that she understood David to be a righteous man who was being pressed unjustly by king Saul. She asked the Lord to protect David and his men, and to deal justly with her husband – bringing him into judgment along with all the rest of David's enemies.

This was obviously totally against her husband's wishes, yet Abigail fully sided with David in this matter, standing against her husband in his sin. However, she appears to have remained faithful to Nabal as his wife in her spirit in this, as well as to God and His uprightness in her: though she loathed her husband's cold-hearted foolishness, she remained submissive to him, even in her disobedience to what she knew he wanted in his heart. After she had appeased David and saved the lives of her husband and his men, she returned and told her husband everything that she had done, submitting herself to his hand to do as he pleased to her for her action (!).

This was an extremely brave and upright thing for Abigail to do, in a situation that reveals the extreme differences between her and her husband in their character and disposition. It is plain that she was a woman of rare virtue, married to an infidel of unusual proportions. We see that God, in His sovereign pleasure, at times places two people together in a marriage who are at the two extremes of human nature: one very pleasing to Him, and the other very displeasing to Him. We see in this the fullness to which God would have a woman submit to a man, regardless of his wisdom or character, and how He honors this. This is the only example in the Word of God where a godly woman plainly dealt with an abusive and sinful man, and she was properly submissive to him in all respects. She followed God's principles carefully and fully under extremely difficult circumstances. God protected Abigail from Nabal's retaliation, and struck her husband dead. David heard about this a short time afterwards, and sent to take Abigail as his bride. She spent the rest of her days as David's wife.

Abigail is perhaps the most profoundly righteous woman that we read about in all of the Word of God. There is certainly no record of any other woman called upon to deal with a situation as difficult as this, who evidenced such poise, wisdom, and perfect humility as this dear woman did in her response. If any woman righteously endured an unreasonable man as a husband, Abigail did. If any woman was called of God to disobey her husband's heart in righteousness, Abigail was. If any servant can be found such as this, to return to a master after having saved his life, to humbly be destroyed by him in his rage against her for having done so, I have not seen it. It is superbly fitting that she was delivered of this fool by the hand of God, and placed at the side of king David as his bride. Amen!

There are certainly other women who have suffered as Abigail did, at the hands of brutal and foolish men… who may read this, being deeply sensitive to having wronged their husbands even while walking with utmost care before the Lord to be godly and helpful wives, and will perhaps be unduly grieved by my emphasis in this topic. I do not intend to beat down the downtrodden and abused, blaming all the evils of the world upon Woman… I only intend to bring the laxity of our modern culture and the ignorance of the church into the light of the Word of God as I discover it.

Should such a woman as Abigail read this, it would be my deep pleasure that she be comforted and encouraged to continue on in her obedience to our Lord in her calling as a woman. I pray it be so. Those women reading who have allowed some carelessness in their lives in these matters, I would that God would use these things to make them more tender and circumspect in following the Lord's pleasure in their hearts.

It might be argued that the proximity of Nabal's death to this dealing of Abigail with David was an indication of God's pleasure for David and Abigail to marry, that He wanted David to have Abigail as his bride even though David was already married. Abigail was an extremely upright and virtuous woman, someone suited to be the bride of a king. This appears to be the woman that God intended for David to be one with, even though Michal was David's first wife and was still alive, and though David took many other wives after this. It is also interesting to note that Abigail did not appear to be grieved at the passing of her husband, and gladly became David's wife soon after she was widowed. While it seems that Abigail might have been God's choice of a wife for David, God gave David several wives after this, as apparent from His rebuke of David for his adultery with Bathsheba.

2 Samuel 12:8
And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

Here we have God's open tolerance of polygamy, He himself giving David many wives and the freedom to marry them. While not commanding David to marry Saul's wives, God Himself gave Saul's wives to David to receive into his bosom, even though David was already married to Abigail. God never rebukes David in any manner for taking all these women as wives, but sternly rebukes David for taking another man's wife even after having all of these other women at his disposal. Here we see plainly where the lines of the principles of God are drawn. It is the violation of a marriage that God is grieved by, and this is profoundly more grievous to Him than polygamy. If polygamy were wrong, God would not have "given" these women to David. We see David's own weakness here in his polygamous heart; he did not know how to be one with a woman, even a woman as upright and virtuous as Abigail, and was not content to have only her. This was not a great concern to the LORD, until David crossed the bounds of marriage in his wantonness by taking another man's wife. This was David's single weakness, and God allowed it to destroy him for all practical purposes. It wrecked his family, and eventually destroyed his son Solomon as well, who inherited David's weakness to an extreme. This particular instance of God's open permission of polygamy was a very unusual situation, to say the least, but it illustrates the practical outworking of the principles of God in the context of sin and the fall.

Ezra 10:3,11
Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
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.

Here, in another unusual situation, Ezra was dealing with a disproportionately large number of Israeli men who had married women from the heathen culture round about them, incorporating the ungodliness of the foreign culture into their homes and passing it on to their descendants. This was against the plain command of the LORD, given explicitly in the law, and it was considered appropriate for these men to divorce their foreign wives and put them away. This was actually pleasing to the LORD, and it was a sin for the men not to do this. The men involved in this dilemma purposefully made a covenant with the LORD and with one another to carry this out, committing themselves to it fully, deliberately, and uprightly. The principles provided in the law concerning divorce became the instruction for carrying out this cleansing process; the breaking up of these unequal yokes, and it was done according to the righteous principles of God.

This is interesting, and requires much further thought, in light of the instructions given to men wanting to marry a heathen woman taken in captivity, and when considering the freedom of those in the lands about the Israeli people to leave their idolatry and join themselves with the Hebrew nation. The invitation for foreigners to come into the nation was open to men as well as to women, anyone wishing to seek the God of heaven was encouraged to come and be a part of the Jewish people. While we see men such as Uriah the Hittite among the faithful servants of God, it is also true that certain women came from the heathen cultures about the nation of Israel and married into the nation, like Rahab the harlot and Ruth the Moabitess. Both of these women were from the heathen lands about Israel, were received into the culture, married into it, and actually appear in the lineage of Jesus Christ! This was not seen as unhealthy, or as a violation of the Lord's directive to remain separate from the heathen nations about them. What is so different about this particular situation in Ezra's time? Why did he demand that these women be put away from their husbands?

What was apparently happening in Ezra's time is that women had been taken into the Hebrew culture from the surrounding nations that were spiritually closed to the things of the Lord, still married in their hearts to the satanic rituals of their heathen families and cultures, and who were actively subverting the spiritual health of their husbands, families, and nation on a massive scale. These women were not open to leaving their families and culture to seek the God of Israel. On the contrary, these women were pulling their husbands into temptation and weakness as the women struggled to remain in their ungodliness. This would be the natural meaning of "strange wives," and explain the urgency of the problem as perceived by Ezra. Nehemiah's urgency, in a similar setting is profound.

Nehemiah 13:23-31
And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?

It is not merely the fact that these women were of a different culture that made them "strange," it is that they were "outlandish," unacceptably intolerant of spiritual life and godliness. It is evident that no man is expected to be able to deal with this type of woman in his home by the plain reference in this text to the wisest of all natural men, Solomon, who was eventually turned away from the Lord by his idolatrous wives. Rather than cater to them in their stubborn ways, or deal with the obvious domestic contentions that would arise if these women were not catered to, both Ezra and Nehemiah commanded the people to leave their wives and let them go back to their sinful cultures, or else choose to stay with their wives and be dispossessed of their godly roots and inheritance in the nation of Israel. They were not to continue to try to live in both realms.

Perhaps all of the women in question here were of this type, outlandish and spiritually adulterous. Perhaps there were a few like Ruth or Rahab that were not strangers to the Lord and His ways, even though they had been born and raised in heathen idolatry. I would think, during this period of national divorce under Ezra's and Nehemiah's leadership, that any woman willing to be separated from her natural family and alienated from the "people of the land," who earnestly wanted to participate in the spiritual life of her husband, would have been encouraged and permitted to remain in her home and to continue as a spiritual Jew. I think it would be unreasonable to expect every single home involving a foreign wife to be broken regardless of the spiritual disposition of the woman.

This approach also seems consistent with the spirit of God's admonition to Christians today that find themselves married to unbelievers. If the unbelieving spouse is open to the things of the Lord and wants to remain in the home, enjoying the daily company of believers in the spiritual life of the community of the church, and feels and respects the separating of their saved spouse from the ungodliness and worldliness about them, they are welcome to stay in the marriage. Those wanting to leave are allowed to do so peaceably, and the believing spouse is not bound to be faithful to the marriage broken in this way. Thus, in both Old and New testaments, the integrity of the marriage bond gives way to the spiritual health and integrity of the saints of God when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the two and the unbelieving spouse wishes to depart.


The entire book of Esther is in the context of a divorce and a remarriage, and the blessing that this was to the Jewish nation during a time of crisis. This is an example of the carrying out of the principles of divorce and remarriage as they have been observed in the Scriptures.

King Ahasuerus put away his wife and queen, Vashti, because she publicly refused to obey him: the ground was rebellion on the part of his wife that permanently separated her from his favor. His motive does not spring from a lust for another woman, or from some selfishness on his part as a husband, but is an indication of the king's concern for the domestic health of his nation and his own personal dignity. The divorce of queen Vashti was perceived to be in the best interest of the nation, as she had promoted a spirit of rebellion in the homes of the king's subjects, encouraging women to despise the authority of their husbands in their homes. Letting this influence go unchecked in the land would bring about too much wrath and contempt, such that the land would be deeply marred if the queen's rebellion was not dealt with appropriately. Therefore, she was put away from him, not being permitted to approach the king any more, and she was kept in isolation from him. As her governmental authority, he chose neither to kill her, nor to allow her the freedom to remarry.

It is noteworthy that this public disobedience of the queen was perceived as a deep threat to the nation. It indicates that women do not generally need much of a reason to be disrespectful and disobedient to their husbands, and that they can easily be encouraged to rebel against their husbands. While the queen had apparently never disobeyed the king in this manner, her single public act of disobedience was perceived as a devastating blow to the integrity of the entire culture. With thousands of proper examples to stir righteousness in the land, it was perceived that women would look to one poor example to encourage them to do what is naturally in their hearts. The king recognized this and acted quickly to counter it.

Few in the church recognize the devastation caused by rebellion of wives in the Christian home. Such is the plain state of the church today, and of most all who claim to be servants of the Lord in it, that no danger is perceived in the least when women professing Christ resist their husband's authority in the home. Men are taught that the rebellion of their wives is somehow due to their own insensitivity or carelessness. Women encourage one another frequently to buck their husband's authority at a whim if he makes any error in judgment at all or is insensitive in the least, and men are taught to meekly receive this and to try their best to please their wives at all costs. Men who, in common public conversation, merely broach the subject of wives needing to be obedient to their husbands are generally immediately disdained, warned and/or mocked. Any man who would give his wife a direct command is seen as harsh, unreasonable, and insensitive, yet women commanding their husbands about the house are quite common and expected. The devastation and destruction of the home is so solidly complete and ingrained in the life and culture of the western church that any attempts to counter this are met with fierce opposition, mockery, backbiting, arguing and contention… primarily from women. Most pulpits dare not touch this subject, though they are quite free to encourage men to love their wives and submit to their wives in profound degree regardless of their wives' disposition and rebellion.

Consider carefully that the disposition of the queen was not considered by the king in his command for her to appear before him, he need not have first asked her opinion in the matter, found out what kind of mood she happened to be in, or to have merely requested her appearance rather than directly commanding it. There is no hint that the king had no right to command this of his wife, or that he had erred in any manner. His right to command her was seen as equivalent to that of any husband to command his wife, and her violation of his command was seen as directly promoting similar rebellion in the homes of the nation. No excuses were made for her whatsoever. None should be made for women of our day. Rebellion and disobedience of a wife before her husband is inexcusable and devastating: it damages the husband and children deeply, and, as we will shortly see, it leads to blasphemy of God and His Word. The church is completely broken in this matter and the public blasphemy of God and His Word in the nation is at full throttle. The connection between the two is not merely coincidental.

After the divorce of Queen Vashti, God appears to have encouraged and blessed the choice of an Israeli woman, Esther, to be the new queen of this polygamous, heathen king. God apparently placed Esther in the king's life as his wife for a divine purpose, and she did become his new queen. Esther's godly uncle, Mordecai, was an upright and holy man, and did not see any problem with this arrangement. In giving his daughter unto the king, and in being glad that she had been chosen as the king's new wife, knowing that the LORD forbade him to give his daughter in marriage to an idolatrous heathen man, Mordecai apparently felt that the king himself was an upright and godly man, having a spirit consistent with the holiness and godliness appropriately found in the nation of Israel. This can be viewed as an indication that in Mordecai's estimation, the king had done an upright thing in divorcing Vashti and that the king had a wholesome spiritual disposition.

Mordecai's joy at the marriage of Esther to the king, and the Lord's apparent blessing of this, implies that either the king actually was an upright believer, that Esther was not a believer, or that God approved of an unequal yoke in a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. Esther and Mordecai both appear to have been believers, thus it may well have been that king Ahasuerus was a strong believer in God who personally blended into the purity and uprightness of the Jewish law and culture so that this marriage was not an unequal yoke or a violation of Deuteronomy 7. God placed Esther in this position in the king's life in order to be a blessing to the king and to the LORD's own people, which she eventually was.

God apparently placed His blessing on the choice of Esther in the marriage to the king, to the delight of Mordecai and Esther both, and blessed their marriage with lasting health and happiness. There is no hint anywhere in this story that the king or Mordecai or Esther were wrong in their participation in this divorce and remarriage, or that it was a displeasure to God in any way. It was apparently appropriate for the king to divorce his wife Vashti for the reason that he did, and it was apparently the pleasure of God to give the king a virtuous new wife in Esther after his divorce from the rebellious Vashti was accomplished. Mordecai, as an upright and godly man, eventually became the trusted friend and companion of the king, indicating that the king loved both Mordecai and Esther for their uprightness and purity in God. This implies that their hearts were all three of one accord in this blessing of the Lord, which is indicative of the uprightness and purity which was present in the king's own heart and life. It seems that we have a story of a godly divorce and remarriage, woven into the fabric of Jewish history, as a beautiful pleasure to our Lord. One would almost think that this is a type of God's own experience.

Proverbs 5:15-23
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Proper instruction is given here to a husband about how he is to view his wife. The text plainly indicates that the husband is to have a heart of rejoicing with his wife, enjoying her love for him and returning love to her without reservation or distraction. While there is no text in the Scriptures strictly forbidding a man to take more than one wife, the practice of polygamy is inconsistent with this text and with the basic principles of marriage. A man cannot become one with several women, and minister effectively to them from his heart as he should. His heart will naturally be divided among them, and he will tend to prefer one above the other at times. The husband is instructed to rejoice with a single wife, the one he marries first in his youth, and no other.

He is warned that it is common for men to be wanton in their homes and to look with desire upon other women, but this is seen and shown to be a way of captivity and defeat. It is apparently as difficult for a man to be content and satisfied with a rebellious wife, as it is for a woman to submit cheerfully to a harsh, foolish, unloving man. The fullest potential for the enjoyment and beauty of a marriage is when a man gives himself fully to one single woman, and she in turn submits to him and reverences him as her lover, lord, and head. It is then that she can complete him and satisfy the deepest earthly longings of his heart. It is then that he can nourish and protect her and give her the earthly security that she longs for, and satisfy the deepest earthly longings of her heart.

In the command to draw deep and lasting enjoyment from his wife at all times, it is implied that he has the freedom to do so and that his wife is not in a constant and selfish habit of denying her husband his right to enjoy her, instead of giving herself freely in abandon to him. The command and principle is given here to a man with a good woman in his home who loves him and cares for his well-being.

Perhaps the most difficult thing for a man to endure is the defrauding of a contentious, obstinate, insensitive woman. A woman that is given to provoking her husband and controlling him, slandering him to the children and wasting his time and resources in trying to keep up with her discontent, will not allow a man to do as he is told to do in this passage. It would be unreasonable to expect him to do it. It is apparent in the context that this should not be an obstacle in his way. When it is, and is so for a prolonged period of time, a man with a heart to obey the principles of a marriage will find it impossible to do so with balance and health.

Likewise, it is deeply painful for a woman to submit herself and be vulnerable to man who does not care for her and love her as he ought. A man who would refuse to live in delightful communion with a warm and receptive spouse, who has set her heart in meek obedience to her God in her home to meet the needs of her husband as his helper and servant, is a creature that I do not understand. They do exist, I know, and I grieve for the dear sisters who suffer at their hands.

The story is told of one such godly woman, who cared deeply for her neglectful husband. One late night, when he was out with his friends at drink, and they each in turn spoke sarcastically of how angry their wives were for their obnoxious behavior, the husband boasted to his friends of his wife's meekness and goodness to him, even claiming that if they all returned to his home at that unlawful hour of the night, that she would rise meekly, greet them pleasantly, and be profoundly gracious unto all of them. They did so, and to their great surprise, found that he was altogether correct. After dining pleasantly at her hand, as the night wore on, one of the men could not help but ask her, in the presence of them all, what moved her to such kindness. She responded earnestly and meekly, "I fear… that this is the only heaven… that my poor husband will ever know. I want to make it as pleasant as I can for him… before he dies… and it is gone." It is said that her husband was converted shortly thereafter…

Proverbs 12:18
A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.

While some in our day say that any troubles in a marriage are the husband's fault, and would blame all divorces on the husband because he is the head of his wife, the Scripture describes two kinds of women who deeply affect the climate and health of a marriage.

A godly woman uplifts her husband and strengthens him, praying for him in his weaknesses and helping him where and when she can. She blends with him, encouraging and promoting him. To him she is a crown, for she makes him feel like a king in her life.

A woman who gives her strength to picking apart her husband, exposing his areas of weakness and sin, and provoking him to anger and foolishness with her constant battery of accusations and manipulations, undermines and defeats her husband from within. She is as a disease in the very marrow of his bones, robbing him of strength and capability until he utterly fails under her hand.

It is stupid foolishness to pretend that these two types of women are really one and the same spirit, just responding to the goodness or badness of the men in their lives. It is empty… some of the counsel we are hearing in this day.