A half-truth (see footnote #2) is a deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may use some deceptive element, such as improper punctuation, or double meaning, especially if the intent is to deceive, evade, blame or misrepresent the truth. (Merriam Webster Definition of Half-truth, August 1, 2007″. M-w.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-02.)
Please be sure to read footnotes 3 & 4 (which are the Old Testament’s proof of what is stated, the evidence as found in God’s Word.), otherwise you will be only reading part of this article, which means you would be taking it out of context – context demands that you consider all of what is written or presented. Meany well-meaning Christians start a book regarding a Biblical subject, then put it down when they disagree with something stated. By doing so they are taking the book’s presentation out of context, perhaps later in the book the writer will present scriptural evidences that prove the point you first disagreed with. God demands that we do the right thing the right way, not half-hearted; which is deceitful, though unintentional. Please allow for me to example.
We’ve all heard the old axiom:
“A text without a context is a pretext.”
Though unfortunately, this is a misquote, as the original expression by Donald A. Carson is,
“A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text,”
We must also remember that context is not just the immediate passages before and after the proof text, but that there is biblical context which is many times much more important to our full understanding and comprehension of what the Holy Spirit is teaching.
We do not merely have 66 books by 40 authors, but one volume written by one author, the Holy Spirit.
When we fail to cross-reference any subject in the Bible, we fell to examine the full counsel of God ~ “all the Council of God.”
Remember what Paul said in Acts 20:27 (KJV):
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” (see footnote #1)
Pretext is defined as, “a reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason.”
Proof is text is defined as, “a passage of the Bible to which appeal is made in support of an argument or position in theology.”
Context is Perspective / Understanding
Understanding the full perspective of the above axiom becomes clear in that by taking a passage out of context, one not only presents potential half-truths, but distorts the passage in whole, and therefore violates the justification for the teaching of the subject matter; not simply presenting an improper application.
Context is a pair of glasses that give the sight of understanding, that without, leave the observer with an ambiguousness that the unlearned or deceptive misuse or abuse in presenting error.
Contextual violation is not simply contamination of God’s word, but is an evil distortion of the Scripture (again, please see footnote #2), and also to the extent that if we quote a passage, and leave anything out we violate the context, and therefore the true meaning that the Holy Spirit desired to communicate.
We must not only seek the immediate context, as well as the Biblical context, but the cultural, historical, and linguistic context which presents deeper understanding of what is being said in order to maintain the FULL context the Holy Spirit desires to communicate.
Our current cultural traditions and the terms connected with them are not always the same as in Israel 2000 years ago or more. An example is that a bill of divorcement was given as protection for the wife.
In the Old Testament times, men divorced women, women did not divorce men, though they could simply leave them. It was not until the time of the writing of the New testament that women could seek (but not get one if the man refused) a divorce. (see footnote #4)
Because of the hardness of their hearts, Moses gave a bill of divorcement if a man did not want his wife, but she did not meet the condition for divorce, adultery.
Therefore, the husband would give her a bill of divorcement to prove she was innocent of violating the Law.
If a man divorced his wife, the assumption or accusation could be he did so because she committed adultery. If a wife was divorced for adultery, the Law demanded she be put to death. A bill of divorcement was for the protection of the wife, and the children. (see “Holman Bible Dictionary,” pp 373)
Divorce and Remarriage
It is due to this lack of understanding that many churches today regarding divorce that many churches either rationalize it as if it were a minor sin, or the other side of the issue, where victims of divorce are discriminated by the very church that is meant to love them through these difficult times.
In a day when divorce is so easily and halfheartedly entered into, defying God’s design of this holy matrimony, it is unfathomable that this subject needs to be expounded upon; it is to our shame that this subject should even need be spoken about. (see footnote #3 for more information on Matthew 19:7-8 by Warren Wiersbe)
(SIDE NOTE: However, this is not to marginalize God’s mercy and grace to all of us, for we all are sinners, and it is God’s amazing love that transcends all of our sins. We may suffer through many consequences in life, I have personally harmed so many people, and confess my shameful self-centered sinful choices in life, but it is His blood that has redeemed us unto eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Abusing the Abused
Yet, today it is the other side of the coin I wish to address.
Where within certain Christian fellowships due to a lack of biblical context, victims of divorce are re-victimized by the very fellowship meant to love these poor brothers and sisters because of a distortion of the word of God – a distortion due to a lack of biblical context, based upon improper teaching or a lack of shepherding.
God’s word is very plain. If your spouse divorces you for any reason other than you committing adultery, that divorce is not sanctioned by God, and you are free to remarry in spite of their sinful behavior.
The following verses present the “escape clause” of those that are victims of divorce. (The comments in red brackets are my own)
Matthew 5:32 — “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
Mark 10:11 — “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.”
Mark 10:12 — “And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.”
Luke 16:18 — “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”
[The reason this is adultery in these 3 passages, and therefore causes adultery is that the exception is not listed. The exception being: “except for the cause of adultery.” Remarriage after divorce is legal if the exception is present, meaning the other spouse committed adultery which legalized the divorce, wherein the offended party could legally remarry. If the verse does not list the exception, then it is speaking about illegal divorce wherein remarriage leads to adultery because it is unlawful.]
The following passage by Paul concerning being single regarding full-time ministry, is another area of misunderstanding.
Paul here addresses the believing wife that leaves the unbelieving husband, in violation of the Torah, and God’s Will regarding marriage. If she does so she is not free to remarry, yet may be reconciled to her husband. The context of this passage is not to attempt to make the point if an individual is a victim of divorce they are not free to remarry. The context of this passage is that if one leaves the marriage illegally they are not free to remarry.
1 Corinthians 7:10-13 — “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart” [“illegally,” without the exception for divorce which is, “saving for the cause of fornication.” This means if she chooses to leave her husband illegally, she is not free to remarry – as seen in: 1 Co 7:15, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.,”] let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.”
13: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
14: And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
15: And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
16: The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
17: And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
18: Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. [The reason this is adultery is that the exception is not listed. The exception being: “except for the cause of adultery.” Remarriage after divorce is legal at the exception is present, meaning the other spouse committed adultery which legalized the divorce, wherein the offended party could legally remarry. If the verse does not list the exception, then it is speaking about illegal divorce.] 19: There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21: And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22: And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23: And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24: And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25: But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26: And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27: Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29: Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30: And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31: And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
31: It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
3: The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4: And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5: And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6: Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7: They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8: He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
10: His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
11: But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
12: For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Please be sure to read the #3 and #4 footnotes which are the Old Testament’s proof of what is stated, the evidence as found in God’s Word.
1. “All the counsel of God” ~ “the whole counsel of God“ (Acts 20:27)
“Counsel” is the Greek word: boule (βουλή) fem. noun. Will, purpose, intention as the result of reflection; counsel, decree, aim or estimation as it denotes deliberation and reflection; the assembly of the council. In Mod. Gr., parliament is called βουλή . Distinguished from thélēma (G2307) which stands also for the commanding and executing will of God. The will (boulḗ) of God refers only to God’s own purpose. Thélēma signifies the will urging on to action, while boulḗ, the counsel preceding the resolve, signifies the decision. Therefore, Eph_1:11 should be translated “according to the decision [or plan] of His will” (a.t.). The apostle not only gives prominence to the absolute freedom of the decision of the divine will, but calls attention to the saving plan lying at the basis of the saving will as it manifests itself. In some instances boulḗ and thélēma are perfectly syn. Boulḗ is also used to denote the divine decree concerning redemption
2. Half-truths of Satan
3. Marriage & Divorce (by Warren Wiersbe)
The Mosaic Law of Divorce (Mat_19:7-8)
Like many people who “argue religion,” these Pharisees were not interested in discovering truth. They were interested only in defending themselves and what they believed. This was why they asked about the Jewish law of divorce recorded in Deu_24:1-4.
I suggest you read this important passage in the New American Standard Bible to distinguish the tenses of the verbs. This translation makes it clear that Moses gave only one commandment: The divorced wife could not return to her first husband if she was put away by a second husband. Moses did not command divorce; he permitted it. He commanded that the husband give his ex-wife a legal bill of divorcement. But the wife could not return to her first husband after being remarried and divorced.
What a wise law this was. To begin with, the husband would think twice before hastily putting away his wife, since he could not get her back again. Furthermore, it would have taken time to find a scribe (not everyone could write legal documents), and during that time the two estranged people might have been reconciled. The Pharisees were interpreting Moses’ Law as though it were a commandment. Jesus made it clear that Moses was only giving permission for divorce.
But what did Moses mean by some uncleanness in her? The Hebrew means “some matter of nakedness,” but this need not refer to sexual sin. That phrase is the equivalent of “some shameful thing” (see Gen_2:25; Gen_3:7, Gen_3:10). It is the interpretation of this phrase that divided the two schools of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai, famous first-century Jewish scholars. Hillel took a very lax view and said that the husband could divorce his wife for almost any reason, while Shammai took the stricter view and said Moses was speaking only about sexual sin. No matter which side Jesus took, He would surely offend somebody.
There were several laws of marriage given to the Jews, and we must examine them in order to get some perspective. For example, if a man married a woman and discovered that she was not a virgin, he could expose her sin and have her stoned (Deu_22:13-21). Of course, he had to have proof; and if he did not, he was fined and had to live with the woman all of his life. This law was as much a protection to the woman as to the man.
If a man suspected his wife of unfaithfulness, he followed the procedure outlined in Num_5:11. We cannot follow that procedure today (which certainly included elements of divine judgment) since there is no priesthood or tabernacle.
Remember that the Law of Moses demanded the death penalty for those who committed adultery (Lev_20:10; Deu_22:22). Our Lord’s enemies appealed to this law when they tried to trap Him (Joh_8:1). While we have no record in the Old Testament that anyone was stoned for committing adultery, this was the divine law. The experience of Joseph (Mat_1:18-25) indicates that the Jews used divorce rather than stoning in dealing with an adulterous wife.
Why did God command that the adulterer or adulteress be stoned to death? Certainly as an example to warn the people, for adultery undermines the very fabric of society and the home. There must be commitment in marriage, and faithfulness to each other and to God, if there is to be stability in society and in the church. God had to preserve Israel because the promised Saviour would come through that nation. God opposed divorce in Israel because it weakened the nation and threatened the birth of the Messiah (see Mal_2:10-16).
But there was another reason for capital punishment: This left the other party free to marry again. Death breaks the marriage bond, since marriage is a physical union (Rom_7:1-3). It was important that families be continued in Israel that they might protect their inheritance (Num_36:1-13).
We must note one final fact before leaving this section: The divorce that Moses permitted in Deu_24:1-22 actually severed the original marriage relationship. God permitted the woman to marry again, and her second marriage was not considered adulterous. The second man she married was called a “husband” and not an adulterer. This explains how the woman of Samaria could have had five husbands, and yet be living with a man not her husband (Joh_4:16-18). Apparently all five of those marriages had been legal and scriptural.
This means that scriptural divorce does sever the marriage relationship. Man cannot break this relationship by his laws, but God can break it. The same God who gives the laws that join people together can also give laws to put them asunder. God can do it, but man cannot.
Finally, Jesus made it clear that this Mosaic Law of divorce was a concession on God’s part. God’s original law of marriage left no room for divorce, but that law was laid down before man had sinned. Rather than have two people living together in constant conflict, with one or both of them seeking fulfillment elsewhere and thus commit sin, God permitted divorce. This divorce included the right to remarriage. The Pharisees did not ask about remarriage, for this was no problem. They accepted the fact that the parties would seek other mates, and this was allowed by Moses.
Our Lord’s Law of Marriage (Mat_19:9-12; Mat_5:31-32)
When Jesus said “And I say unto you,” He was claiming to be God; for only God can establish or alter the laws of marriage. He declared that marriage was a permanent union that could only be broken by sexual sin. The word fornication in the New Testament covers many kinds of sexual sins. The definition of fornication as “sexual sin between two unmarried persons” would not apply here, for Jesus was talking about married persons. Are we to believe that the 23,000 men who committed fornication under the enticement of Baalam (Num_25:1-18) were all unmarried men? Was the admonition of Act_15:20, Act_15:29 sent only to single church members?
Marriage is a permanent physical union that can be broken only by a physical cause: death or sexual sin. (I would take it that homosexuality and bestiality would qualify.) Man cannot break the union, but God can. Under the Old Testament Law, the sinner was stoned to death. But the church today does not bear the sword (Rom_13:1-4). Were adultery and fornication more serious under the Law than the same sins are today? Of course not! If anything, such sins are even worse today in the light of the full revelation of God’s grace and holiness that we now have in Jesus Christ.
The conclusion seems to be that divorce in the New Testament is the equivalent of death in the Old Testament: It permitted the innocent party freedom to remarry.
Notice that our Lord’s new law of marriage and divorce was based on the three previous laws. From the Edenic Law He took the principle that marriage was a physical union that could only be broken by a physical cause, and that only God could permit the breaking of the union. From the seventh commandment He took the principle that sexual sin did indeed break the marriage union. From the Mosaic Law of divorce He took the principle that God could ordain divorce and effectively break the marriage union, and that the freed party could remarry and not be guilty of adultery.
Our Lord’s teaching is that there is only one scriptural basis for divorce, and that is sexual sin (fornication). If two people are divorced on any other basis, and marry other mates, they are committing adultery.
Jesus did not teach that the offended mate had to get a divorce. Certainly there can be forgiveness, patient healing, and a restoration of the broken relationship. This would be the Christian approach to the problem. But, sad to say, because of the hardness of our hearts, it is sometimes impossible to heal the wounds and save the marriage. Divorce is the final option, not the first option.
Happy marriages are not accidents. They are the result of commitment, love, mutual understanding, sacrifice, and hard work. If a husband and wife are fulfilling their marriage vows, they will enjoy a growing relationship that will satisfy them and keep them true to each other. Except for the possibility of sudden temptation, no husband or wife would think of a relationship with another person, so long as their relationship at home is growing and satisfying. And the pure love of a husband or wife is a great protection against even sudden temptation.
The disciples’ response to Christ’s teaching showed that they disagreed with Him. “If there is no way to get out of a bad marriage, then you are better off staying single!” was their argument. Jesus did not want them to consider divorce as an “out” because then they would not have a serious attitude toward marriage.
In Mat_19:12, Jesus made it clear that each man (and woman) must consider God’s will concerning marriage. Some people should not get married because of physical or emotional problems from birth. Others should not get married because of their responsibilities in society; they have been “made eunuchs by man.” An only child who must care for aged parents might be an example of this category. Some, like the Apostle Paul, stay single that they might better serve the Lord (1Co_7:7).
It is fitting that our Lord’s teaching about marriage should be followed by His blessing of the children for children are the happy heritage of those who are married. Jesus did not look on the children as a curse or a burden. “Two shall become one flesh” is fulfilled in the birth of children, and the love of the parents is deepened and matured as it is shared with others in the home.
The parents brought the children to Jesus that He might bless them. There is no thought here of baptism or even of salvation. Children who have not reached the age of accountability (Isa_7:16) are surely covered by the death of Christ (Rom_5:17-21). Children are born sinners (Psa_51:5); but if they die before they are accountable, they are regenerated and taken to heaven (2Sa_12:23; Psa_23:6).
The children were certainly privileged to have Jesus take them in His arms and pray for them. Our practice of baby dedication today seeks to follow this example. How happy those children are whose parents are married in the will of God, and who are seeking to obey God, and who bring them to Jesus for His blessing. (Warren Wiersbe)
4. DIVORCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. Subordinate Position of Woman:
Woman, among the Hebrews, as among most nations of antiquity, occupied a subordinate position. Though the Hebrew wife and mother was treated with more consideration than her sister in other lands, even in other Semitic countries, her position nevertheless was one of inferiority and subjection. The marriage relation from the standpoint of Hebrew legislation was looked upon very largely as a business affair, a mere question of property. A wife, nevertheless, was, indeed, in most homes in Israel, the husband’s “most valued possession.” And yet while this is true, the husband was unconditionally and unreservedly the head of the family in all domestic relations. His rights and prerogatives were manifest on every side. Nowhere is this more evident than in the matter of divorce. According to the laws of Moses a husband, under certain circumstances, might divorce his wife; on the other hand, if at all possible, it was certainly very difficult for a wife to put away her husband. Unfortunately a double standard of morality in matters pertaining to the sexes is, at least, as old as Moses (see Exodus 7-11).
2. Law of Divorce:
The Old Testament law concerning divorce, apparently quite clear, is recorded most fully in Deuteronomy 24:1. A perusal of the commentaries will, nevertheless, convince anyone that there are difficulties of interpretation. The careful reader will notice that the renderings of the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) differ materially. the King James Version reads in the second part of Deuteronomy 24:1:
“then let him write a bill,” etc., the Revised Version (British and American) has “that he shall write,” etc., while the Hebrew original has neither “then” nor “that,” but the simple conjunction “and.” There is certainly no command in the words of Moses, but, on the other hand, a clear purpose to render the proceeding more difficult in the case of the husband. Moses’ aim was “to regulate and thus to mitigate an evil which he could not extirpate.” The evident purpose was, as far as possible, to favor the wife, and to protect her against an unceremonious expulsion from her home and children.
3. Marriage a Legal Contract:
As already suggested, marriage among the Hebrews, as among most Orientals, was more a legal contract than the result of love or affection. It would be, however, a great mistake to assume that deep love was not often present, for at all times the domestic relations of the Hebrew married couple have compared most favorably with those of any other people, ancient or modern. In its last analysis it was, nevertheless, a business transaction. The husband or his family had, as a rule, to pay a certain dowry to the parents or guardians of the betrothed before the marriage was consummated. A wife thus acquired could easily be regarded as a piece of property, which, without great difficulty, could be disposed of in case the husband, for any reason, were disposed to rid himself of an uncongenial companion and willing to forfeit the mohar which he had paid for his wife. The advantage was always with the husband, and yet a wife was not utterly helpless, for she, too, though practically without legal rights, could make herself so intolerably burdensome and hateful in the home that almost any husband would gladly avail himself of his prerogatives and write her a bill of divorcement. Thus, though a wife could not divorce her husband, she could force him to divorce her.
4. Divorce Applicable Only to Wives:
The following words of Professor Israel Abrahams, Cambridge, England, before “the Divorce Commission” (London, November 21, 1910), are to the point:
“In all such cases where the wife was concerned as the moving party she could only demand that her husband should divorce her. The divorce was always from first to last, in Jewish law, the husband’s act.” The common term used in the Bible for divorce is shilluach ‘ishshah, “the sending away of a wife” (Deuteronomy 22:19,29). We never read of “the sending away of a husband.” The feminine participle, gerushah, “the woman thrust out,” is the term applied to a divorced woman. The masculine form is not found.
5. Process and Exceptions:
The Mosaic law apparently, on the side of the husband, made it as difficult as possible for him to secure a divorce. No man could unceremoniously and capriciously dismiss his wife without the semblance of a trial. In case one became dissatisfied with his wife,
(1) he had to write her a \BILL OF DIVORCEMENT\ (which see) drawn up by some constituted legal authority and in due legal form. In the very nature of the case, such a tribunal would use moral suasion to induce an adjustment; and, failing in this, would see to it that the law in the case, whatever it might be, would be upheld.
(2) Such a bill or decree must be placed in the hand of the divorced wife.
(3) She must be forced to leave the premises of her former husband. Divorce was denied two classes of husbands:
(1) The man who had falsely accused his wife of antenuptial infidelity (Deuteronomy 22:13), and
(2) a person who had seduced a virgin (Deuteronomy 22:28). In addition, a heavy penalty had to be paid to the father of such damsels.
It is probable that a divorced wife who had not contracted a second marriage or had been guilty of adultery might be reunited to her husband. But in case she had married the second time she was forever barred from returning to her first husband, even if the second husband had divorced her or had died (Deuteronomy 24:3). Such a law would serve as an obstacle to hasty divorces. Divorces from the earliest times were common among the Hebrews. All rabbis agree that a separation, though not desirable, was quite lawful. The only source of dispute among them was as to what constituted a valid reason or just cause.
6. Grounds of Divorce (Doubtful Meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1):
The language in Deuteronomy 24:1 has always been in dispute. The Hebrew words, `erwath dabhar, on which a correct interpretation depends, are not easy of solution, though many exegetes, influenced possibly by some preconceived notion, pass over them quite flippantly. The phrase troubled the Jewish rabbis of olden times, as it does Jewish and Christian commentators and translators in our day. the King James Version renders the two words, “some uncleanness,” and in the margin, “matter of nakedness.” The latter, though a literal translation of the Hebrew, is quite unintelligible. the Revised Version (British and American) and the American Standard
Revised Version both have:
“some unseemly thing.” Professor Driver translates the same words “some indecency.” The German the Revised Version (British and American) (Kautzsch) has “etwas Widerwartiges” (“something repulsive”). We know of no modern version which makes `erwath dabhar the equivalent of fornication or adultery. And, indeed, in the very nature of the case, we are forced to make the words apply to a minor fault or crime, for, by the Mosaic law, the penalty for adultery was death (Deuteronomy 22:20). It is, however, a question whether the extreme penalty was ever enforced. It is well known that at, and some time before, the time of our Saviour, there were two schools among the Jewish rabbis, that of Shammai and that of Hillel. Shammai and his followers maintained that ‘erwath dabhar signified nothing less than unchastity or adultery, and argued that only this crime justified a man in divorcing his wife. Hillel and his disciples went to the other extreme. They placed great stress upon the words, “if she find no favor in his eyes” immediately preceding `erwath dabhar (Deuteronomy 24:1), and contended that divorce should be granted for the flimsiest reason: such as the spoiling of a dish either by burning or careless seasoning. Some of the rabbis boldly taught that a man had a perfect right to dismiss his wife, if he found another woman whom he liked better, or who was more beautiful (Mishnah, GiTTin, 14 10). Here are some other specifications taken from the same book: “The following women may be divorced: She who violates the Law of Moses, e. g. causes her husband to eat food which has not been tithed . . . She who vows, but does not keep her vows . . . She who goes out on the street with her hair loose, or spins in the street, or converses (flirts) with any man, or is a noisy woman. What is a noisy woman? It is one who speaks in her own house so loud that the neighbors may hear her.” It would be easy to extend the list, for the Mishna and rabbinic writings are full of such laws.
From what has been said, it is clear that adultery was not the only valid reason for divorce. Besides, the word adultery had a peculiar significance in Jewish law, which recognized polygamy and concubinage as legitimate. Thus a Hebrew might have two or more wives or concubines, and might have intercourse with a slave or bondwoman, even if married, without being guilty of the crime of adultery (Leviticus 19:20), for adultery, according to Jewish law, was possible only when a man dishonored the “free wife” of a Hebrew (Leviticus 20:10).
Divorcement, Bill of:
This expression, found in Deuteronomy 24:1,3; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8 is the translation of the Hebrew cepher kerithuth. The two words, literally rendered, signify a document or book of cutting off, i.e. a certificate of divorce given by a husband to a wife, so as to afford her the opportunity or privilege of marrying another man. The Hebrew term is rendered by the Septuagint biblion apostasion. This is also found in the New Testament (Mark 10:4). Matthew 5:31 has “writing of divorcement” in English Versions of the Bible, but Matthew 19:7 the King James Version has “writing,” while the Revised Version (British and American) and the American Standard Revised Version have “bill.” The certificate of divorce is called geT, plural giTTin, in the Talmud. There is an entire chapter devoted to the subjects in the Mishna It is not positively known when the custom of writing bills of divorcement commenced, but there are references to such documents in the earliest Hebrew legislation. The fact that Joseph had in mind the putting away of his espoused wife, Mary, without the formality of a bill or at least of a public procedure proves that a decree was not regarded as absolutely necessary (
Matthew 1:19). The following was the usual form of a decree:
On the ____ day of the week ____ in the month ____ in the year ____ from the beginning of the world, according to the common computation in the province of ____ I ____ the son of ____ by whatever name I may be known, of the town of ____ with entire consent of mind, and without any constraint, have divorced, dismissed and expelled thee ____ daughter of____by whatever name thou art called, of the town who hast been my wife hitherto; But now I have dismissed thee ____ the daughter of ____ by whatever name thou art called, of the town of ____ so as to be free at thy own disposal, to marry whomsoever thou pleasest, without hindrance from anyone, from this day for ever. Thou art therefore free for anyone (who would marry thee). Let this be thy bill of divorce from me, a writing of separation and expulsion, according to the law of Moses and Israel. ____ , the son of ____ , witness
The Hebrew prophets regarded Yahweh not only as the father and king of the chosen people, and thus entitled to perfect obedience and loyalty on their part, but they conceived of Him as a husband married to Israel. Isaiah, speaking to his nation, says:
“For thy Maker is thy husband; Yahweh of hosts is his name” (54:5). Jeremiah too makes use of similar language in the following: “Return, O backsliding children, saith Yahweh; for I am a husband unto you” (3:14). It is perfectly natural that New Testament writers should have regarded Christ’s relation to His church under the same figure. Paul in 2Co says: “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (11:2); see also Matthew 9:15; John 3:29; Revelation 19:7. Any unfaithfulness or sin on the part of Israel was regarded as spiritual adultery, which necessarily broke off the spiritual ties, and divorced the nation from God (Isaiah 1:21; Ezekiel 16:22;Revelation 2:22). See also \MARRIAGE\.
Amram, Jewish Law of Divorce according to the Bible and Talmud, London, 1897; Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, London, 1896; Mackie, Bible Manners and Customs, London, 1898; The Mishna, Translated into English, De Sola and Raphall, London, 1843; Benzinger, Hebraische Archdalogie, Freiburg, 1894; Nowack, Lehrbuch der hebraischen Archdologie, 1894.
W. W. Davies (Taken from: http://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/divorce-in-the-old-testament.html)