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What is "marriage" and "divorce," according to the scriptures?

(Garth D. Wiebe, December 2014, edited April 2015*, May 2015)

Introduction and the problem

We declare the truth of God's Word with regard to forgiveness of sins, healing, deliverance, freedom from the curse, provision, and other things. We set people free from the traditions of men and the bondage and lies of the devil by declaring that God's Word is true, standing behind it, and not backing down.

We are "ministers of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18) in all these things. It is the same in the area of marriage.

What follows should be a game-changer for most people, given how steeped in the traditions of men the concepts of "marriage" and "divorce" are. It should serve to refute all the sayings of the liberal scholars and liberal theologians out there.

The problem is that even most professing Christians consider "marriage" to be a social contract, initiated by the proclamation of a religious clergyman, along with a "marriage license" from a secular (i.e. god-less) civil court, which then constitutes a "marriage," after which another proclamation from a secular (i.e. god-less) civil court (but, interestingly, not from a religious clergyman) is sufficient to "end" the "marriage." The Word of God is, in practice, made to be subject to the decrees of the religious clergyman and/or the secular (i.e. god-less) judge in a civil courtroom, driven by the desires of the man and the woman to do whatever they want.

Yet, it was not that way in the beginning. According to Gen 2:23-24, "the two become one flesh," where "one flesh" is according to the simple Word of God. Jesus said of this, "what God joins [aorist verb tense, fact, not act] together, let not man be separating [present verb tense, act]" (Matt 5:31-32, 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:2-3).

This stuff is simple. Since a man and a woman are not literally "one flesh" (obviously), then it is the Word of God (Gen 2:23-24) that makes them so. Do not make it more complicated, religious, or legalistic than that. It is not according to sexual union, or a ceremony, or the declaration of an ordained clergyman or judge, but according to the Word of God. It therefore remains for a person to either believe the Word of God or not. No civil judge in a secular court has the authority to invalidate the Word of God and separate "what God joins together" according to the declaration of His Word, let alone the advice of contemporary church clergy and counselors who today counsel men and women to "divorce" for a plethora of supposed "irreconcilable differences" and other claimed hardships, arising out of cases of hatred and bitterness between a man and woman for each other, and disregard for the Word of God.

Unfortunately, the issues have become muddied through the process of translating simple terms in the original languages of scripture into contemporary language terms that are identified with contemporary social traditions of men. This is the case with terms like "husband," "wife," "marriage," "divorce," "separation," and so on. These modern words make it easy for scripture to be re-framed and re-interpreted according to social traditions, instead of according to scripture.

The consequence is that, in this day and age, "marriage," as we call it, has now become so routinely defiled, polluted, and treated as such a frivolous, disposable thing, that you can look around you and see that even most professing Christians (yes, "most") have been married and divorced at least once, sometimes quite a few times, as people marry and divorce their way to self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-justification. What a mess we have.

"Husband" and "wife"

Now, let's make one thing clear to start: There is no word in either the Old Testament Hebrew or the New Testament Koine Greek for "husband" or "wife." The word used is "man" or "woman." A woman has a "man" and a man has a "woman," plain and simple.

It is not as if they were deprived of some important words, or that our language is superior to theirs. For thousands of years they could have invented those words if they wanted to, but didn't. So, that is the way it is. We ought not to add words to the scriptures, but rather, we ought to work with what the scriptures actually say.

The problem is that the traditional, selective re-interpretation by translators of the word "man" and "woman" as "husband" or "wife," respectively, gives rise to complications and confusion, as I will show later, as well as force-fitting it to conform to modern traditions of men, even as reflected in our modern language.

"Marriage"

The status of "being married," as we commonly refer to it today (i.e. "marital status"), is also not in the Koine Greek, for there the word "marry" or "marriage" refers to the act of marrying. A man "marries" and the woman is "marry-ized" as a result. After that, the man "has" a woman, and a woman "has" a man, as a fulfillment of Gen 2:24 ("the two become one flesh"). The words are the verb/verb/noun "γαμεω/γαμισκω/γαμος" (Strong's G1060/G1061/G1062, transliterated "gameo/gamisko/gamos," "marry/marry-ize/marriage"). The second verb, "marry-ize" is what we normally translate "give in marriage," the first verb referring to what the man does, and the second verb referring to what happens to the woman. The last noun form, "marriage," refers to the event, which we would normally call a "wedding," and is normally translated "wedding" where it occurs in the scriptures. There is a related verb "εκγαμιζω/εκγαμισκω" (Strong's G1547/G1548, "ek-gamizo/ek-gamisko"), which is just a slight variation, where "εκ" just means "out," forming the verb, literally, "out-marry-ize," which would normally be translated "give-out-in-marriage"). Since all these words represent a one-time event, something that happens, not a state of being, they can only either be true (if it happened) or not (if it did not happen). An event of the past cannot be changed, since the past is fixed.

This can be seen repeatedly in the New Testament and the Koine Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. As an additional point of language reference, in the Koine Greek (LXX) version of Tobit 8:19-20 and 10:7 (although not inspired scripture, since it is the apocrypha), it uses the above Greek noun for "marriage" (i.e. wedding), describing how the "marriage" (i.e. wedding) lasted fourteen days, and then the "marriage" (i.e. wedding) was completed. Another "marriage" (i.e. wedding) in Tobit 11:19 lasted seven days. It is not that they were "married," as we would say today, for "fourteen" or "seven" days. It was the wedding that lasted that long.

As an interesting aside (although not authoritative, since it is a modern usage), the biological term "gamete" comes from the above Greek root word. A "gamete" is a cell that fuses with another cell during fertilization in organisms that sexually reproduce. Once this happens, "the two become one" and can never again be divided into their original parts. I find this to be an apt analogy. It is also fitting, since the man and the woman produce biological children by this process, each of whose flesh can no longer be divided, either.

Again, "marriage" in the scriptures refers to the act of marrying, not the modern concept of "marital status."

As an example of where the word is not used, consider Rom 7:2. A popular English translation will render it as follows:

"...by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive..." (NIV'78)

But the word "married" is not the actual word used.

If it were the case that Strong's G1060/G1061/G1062, "γαμεω/γαμισκω/γαμος," had meant "marital status" as it does today, then it could have been used in Rom 7:2, which in this case would be inflected (spelled) γεγαμισκομενη ("gegamiskomene," verb participle, perfect tense, passive voice, third person, nominative case, feminine gender, singular number, "having-been-marry-ized"). If that were the case, Rom 7:2 would cite a "having-been-marry-ized" or, as we would say, "having-been-given-in-marriage woman" ("γεγαμισκομενη γυνη").

"...by law a having-been-given-in-marriage woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive..." (incorrect)

But that word was not used, though the passage is referring to how long a married woman's "marriage" is binding (as long as the man is alive). The word used was "υπανδρος" (Strong's G5220, "[h]upandros"). This word is a combination of "υπ" (Strong's G5259 "[h]up/[h]upo"), which means "under" (we get the English prefix "hypo-" from this), and "ανδρος" (Strong's G435, "andros"), which means "man." So the word just means "under-man," and the phrase "υπανδρος γυνη" ("[h]up-andros gune") means an "under-man woman." Obviously this is awkward in English, not to mention a socially and politically risky translation.

Therefore, a literal translation renders Rom 7:2 as follows:

"...by law an under-man woman is bound to her man as long as he is alive..." (correct)

This may violate a number of traditions of men, but the meaning is simple and straightforward.

In the Old Testament Septuagint Greek you can find another word, "γαμβρος" ("gambros"), which refers to a man (the gender, as inflected, is masculine) related by marriage. The several instances refer to either a father-in-law or a son-in-law. In one place in the New Testament, Matt 22:24, the verb επιγαμβρευω (Strong's G1918, "epi-gambreuo," adding επι, Strong's G1909, "epi," meaning "upon") occurs, where the Sadducees talk about how in the Law of Moses (Deut 25:5) a man is to "marry" the widow of a brother who dies, which I suppose would cause him to become a "husband-in-law," though we have no such term today. (In Deut 25:5, the Hebrew and LXX Greek words are both "take;" the Greek word "marry" is not used even in the Koine Greek Septuagint translation of this verse.)

Since the noun γαμος (Strong's G1062, "gamos") refers to "marriage" as an event (i.e. "wedding"), it cannot be used as "marital status," as we say today. But it is interesting that the negative of that word, the noun αγαμος (Strong's G22, "a-gamos") meaning "without-marriage" (i.e. "without a wedding") is used in the New Testament. It is used four times in 1 Cor 7, referring to those who have not wed. Note that it is a noun, not an adjective (i.e. noun, as in the "unwed," not adjective, as in an "unwed" person). Even in English, if I were to refer to "the wedding," that would only refer to an event; however, if I said "the 'without wedding,'" that could not refer to a non-event, since nobody ever refers to nothing as something, but rather something or someone that lacked something, in this case a marriage (i.e. "wedding").

There is an occurrence of an adjective "marriage," which is γαμικον ("gamikon"), in 3 Maccabees 4:6, but that describes a "marriage" chamber (i.e. bridal chamber) that had just been entered by young women, before a tragedy occurred that ruined the wedding festivities. So, again it refers to something having to do with the wedding as an event, not the modern concept of "marital status."

In one place, 4 Maccabees 2:11, the noun γαμετην ("gameten") is used. It speaks of the [philia, i.e. fondness] love for one's "married" (i.e. a "married" woman, since it is feminine gender) that should not be greater than one's duty to the Law of Moses. This might be the one word that might be legitimately translated "wife," found in an apocryphal book that is not in the Bible. But given that such a word can be found in the Koine Greek, note its absence from the inspired Word of God! Yet, again, considering all the aforementioned points, it is obviously referring to a person who you "married," not "marital status," as is spoken of today.

In the Old Testament Hebrew, there is no word for "marry" or "marriage" at all. Translators take the liberty of translating "marry" from more common Hebrew words, such as the word "take."

There are words for "bride/bridegroom" (νυμφη/νυμφιος, Strong's G3565/G3566, "numphe/numphios") in the Koine Greek, but that refers to the participants in the act of wedding, the role they play in it.

There are words for "bride/bridegroom" (Strong's H3618/H2860, "חתן/כּלּה") in the Hebrew, but that again refers to the participants in the act of wedding, the roles they play in it. The best literal translation of those two words is actually "daughter-in-law" and "son-in-law."

"Divorce"

There is also no word for "divorce," as we have in the English language, and the modern legal concept of "divorce" is absent from the scriptures. To attempt to undo "what God joins together" is to attempt to undo the Word of God ("they become one flesh"). You can't undo the Word of God, so you won't find such a concept in the scriptures. Men only invalidate the Word of God by the traditions of men. Certainly, a secular judge in a secular courtroom does not have authority to invalidate the Word of God!

In various places in English translations, you may see the word "divorce," but translators are just taking the liberty of translating that from a variety of other, more general words that don't by themselves mean "divorce." Here again, translators re-frame the original text to fit their contemporary culture, contemporary social practices, and associated language.

If there were a word that could have been used to describe a legal, biblical, "divorce" in the scriptures, it would be the word used in that same verse previously cited: Rom 7:2

"...by law an under-man woman is bound to her man as long as he is alive. Yet if the man should die, she is κατηργηται from the law of the man."

The word "κατηργηται" (Strong's G2673, "katergeo," inflected "katergetai" here) means "release," "abolish," "nullify," or "discard." Since it describes a woman being released from a man upon his death, you might expect the word to be used with regard to being released from a man due to "divorce," if there was such a concept. But it is not used anywhere elsewhere in the context of what we call "marriage."

Note also that it is the "law of the man" that she is "released" from, not the law of "marriage" since, again, "marriage" refers to the act of marrying, not the modern concept of "marital status." The "law of the man" is recited by, literally, the man Adam in Gen 2:23, who declared that the woman was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," which is the reason, or cause, as it states, for the Word of God declaring what we call "marriage" in the next verse, Gen 2:24 ("...the two become one flesh...").

In the Koine Greek, it would also be easy and straightforward to construct the opposite of the verb "marry" simply by adding the negative prefix α- or perhaps "αντι-" ("anti-") to the verb γαμεω ("marry") to form a verb meaning "un-marry," the negative of "marry," which is essentially what we would today call a "divorce." No such word or usage exists in the Bible, even though such ad hoc language constructions are freely used in the Koine Greek language in ad hoc ways.

Jesus did not say "What God has married (γεγαμεκε) let no man un-marry (αντιγαμησατω)," or "Those who have married (γεγαμεκασι) let no man un-marry (αντιγαμησατω)." There is no such word or concept as "un-marry."

There is a word "αποστασια" (Strong's G646, G647, "apo-stasia," literally "off-standing," from which we get the English word "apostasy"). For example, some were saying that Paul taught "apostasy from Moses" in Acts 21:21, and in 2 Thess 2:3 we are told that the "apostasy" comes first before the Day of the Lord. That is the Koine Greek term used in connection with Deut 24:1-4, where there was a scenario mentioned in the Law of Moses talking about "if" a man should write a certificate of "αποστασιον" and send his woman away, "then".... But it was never granting legitimacy to such an action; the Pharisees at the time of Jesus read into the scriptures what was not there, reciting a tradition of men. Moses did not "command" or "direct" anyone to "divorce" anyone, or to write any such "certificate" in the first place, or to send a woman away.

If you read the text of Deut 24:1-4, you will see that it was written to disallow the man from "marrying" the woman twice (although there is no Hebrew word for "marry;" the word used is "take" in both verse 1 and verse 4, which is either Hebrew לְקַחְתָּ֜הּ/יִקַּ֥ח (Strong's H3947), or LXX Greek λαβη/λαβειν (Strong's G2983). Obviously, you cannot go back and "marry" a person who you already "married" if there is no such thing as reversing a "marriage." To "marry" again would be to deny what the Word of God said in the first place: "the two become one flesh" is irreversible. On top of that, such a "marriage" would be the case of a man "marrying" a "married" woman, in the case that the second man should likewise send the woman away. On top of that, such a "marriage" would be the case of a man "marrying" an adulteress since, according to the words of Jesus, the second "marriage" with the second man caused her to become an adulteress. To marry an adulteress would be to marry a "defiled" woman, which is something the Law of Moses is specifically prohibiting here. Finally, the original man would then be committing adultery against the second man, if he was still alive.

You see how simple this all really is to understand. It is not complicated at all.

The corresponding Hebrew word used in Deut 24:1-4 that is usually translated "divorce" is כּריתוּת (Strong's H3748, "krithth"). These words occur in only two other places in the Old Testament, Isa 50:1, and Jer 3:8, where God speaks of Israel and Judah backsliding. These two passages illuminate Deut 24:1-4 as pointing to the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. But we know that God has not rejected Israel, even to this day (Rom 11, Rev 7, etc.)

Other than those four instances that αποστασιον/כּריתוּת is used in the Old Testament Hebrew or Koine Greek Septuagint translation (Deut 24:1,3, Isa 50:1, Jer 3:8), there are only generic words used concerning a man "loosing-off" or "sending away" his woman, in most cases using the word απολυω (Strong's G630, "apo-luo," "off-loose,"), which just means to dismiss or release something or someone in a general sense (not necessarily one's man or woman, and not necessarily even a person). For example, in Acts 13:3, after fasting and prayer, the disciples at Antioch "off-loosed" (i.e. dismissed) the newly-commissioned Paul and Barnabas and sent them on their way. You could certainly never say that they were "divorcing" them! And in Matt 1:19, Joseph is intending to "loose-off" Mary, whom he was only engaged to, and had not yet married. You cannot "divorce" a person whom you have not married, even by the modern definition of "divorce"!*

So there is no way, either in the Old Testament or the New Testament, to "divorce," as we would say, what we today refer to as a "marriage."

Given the above observations, consider the following scripture in a modern English translation, and you will see the problem with taking liberties with the original text. In a modern English translation, Jesus is quoted as saying,

"But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress..." (Matt 5:32, NIV'78)

But now let's take the "divorce," the "wife," and the "marital unfaithfulness" translation interpretations away, and try this again:

"But I tell you that anyone who looses off his woman, except for πορνεια, causes her to become an adulteress..."

Now we see that what Jesus said begins to get simpler in principle. And it gets even simpler. Let's examine that hot-button clause with the word πορνεια ("porneia") in it.

The term πορνεια (Strong's G4202, "porneia") and related words (G4202-G4205) refer to sexual immorality, fornication, prostitution, and the like.

Given that Jesus is addressing and speaking of the individual committing the act (or the intention of his heart), then the clause naturally refers to the one committing (or intending to commit) the act, not the other person (i.e., not the "woman").

Hence, you see that the whole focus changes to the man being spoken about by Jesus and becomes elegantly simple. A man should not "loose off" his woman, unless it is the case that he is having immoral (extramarital) relations with the woman, in which case he obviously should "loose off" the woman!

In other words, Matt 5:32 teaches that if you married the woman, then sending her away would cause her to become an adulteress, but if you didn't marry her, then you are having immoral relations with her and you should send her away!

If you do not understand this, go back and read it again. It is important!

Again, you see that the simplicity of all this is ruined when the translator takes the liberty of translating the word for "woman" as "wife," which then causes him and any modern reader to envision the modern concept of "divorce" and, therefore, "marital unfaithfulness" as cause for it.

So, the whole "grounds for divorce" debate dissolves. Jesus is our prototype "minister of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18), not a minister of "excuses" or "exceptions" to invalidate the Word of God declared in Gen 2:24 ("the two become one flesh"), or to absolve people from the Word of God. There are no "grounds for divorce" in the scriptures because there is no such thing as "divorce" in the scriptures to create "grounds" for in the first place. How can you debate about the morality and ethics of a concept which does not exist?

Secular courts may issue certificates of "marriage" and "divorce" for regulating legal matters having to do with property ownership, inheritance rights, parental rights, child support, and so on, but that is their business, secular legal matters that the civil authorities are concerned with, not spiritual ones.

At this point you can see that the modern terms "ex-wife" and "ex-husband" become nonsensical terms from the Bible's point of view. First of all, since there is no word in the Hebrew or Greek for "wife" or "husband," the terms would have to be rendered "ex-woman" and "ex-man," which would not work in either language. Again, since there is no reversing the fact that one did marry (meaning the past event), and there is no reversing the Word of God ("the two become one flesh"), it is impossible to have an "ex-wife" or an "ex-husband," according to the scriptures.

"Separation"

The other word used is χωριζω (Strong's G5563, "chorizo") which literally means to create a space (i.e. "space-ize" something), derived from the noun/verb χωρα/χωρεω (Strong's G5561/G5562, "chora/choreo") which is "space." The modern word "separate" is appropriate here. This is the word used in "what God joins together, let not man be separating" (Matt 19:6, Mark 10:9), as well as several times in 1 Cor 7. But it also is used more generically, with regard to separating any one thing from another, and not just with regard to a man and a woman.

But, if there is a "separation" (i.e. a "space") between a man and a woman, as we would term it today, this does not nullify "what God joins together." Again, that is because a man and a woman are "one flesh" according to the Word of God, not according to how close their physical, fleshly bodies are to each other. There is no distance in the realm of truth; the astronauts who walked on the moon, over 238,900 miles away from the women they married, were as much "one flesh" with them there on the moon as they were in their beds with them back on earth in their homes.

In 1 Cor 7, the advice is not to even separate, but if the unbeliever leaves, what can you do? And it says "unbeliever." A "believer" would not separate because the "believer" "believes" the Word of God; the problem with the "unbeliever" is that the "unbeliever" doesn't "believe" the Word of God, so the "unbeliever" will have no regard for it. Yet, since "separation" does not nullify the Word of God ("the two become one flesh") then this explains why, in such a case, you must not marry again. Because a man who does so then has multiple "women" and a woman who does so has multiple "men."

Only death, or else the second coming of Jesus, can legitimately end the bond of earthly "marriage." That is a brutally simple concept as well: If part of the "flesh" dies, it is no longer treated as a living part of the original "flesh." It is cut off from the body. It is disposed of, in an earthly, fleshly sense. Also, earthly "marriage" ends because it is an earthly thing that points to Christ and his bride; at the consummation of the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:7-9) the old, earthly things will pass away, and become a thing of the past (like the Law of Moses already has).

In the mean time, Jesus says in Matt 19:6 and Mark 10:8-9

και εσονται οι δυο εις σαρκα μιαν ωστε ουκετι εισιν δυο αλλα μια σαρξ
ο ουν ο θεος συνεζευξεν ανθρωπος μη χωριζετω

kai esontai oi duo eis sarka mian oste ouketi eisin duo alla mia sarx
o oun o theos sunezeuxen anthropos me chorizeto

and will-be the two into flesh one so-that not-still are-being two but one flesh
which then the God together-yokes man no let-be-separating

An interesting word, usually translated "join," is συνεζευξεν (Strong's G4801, inflected "sunezeuxen"), which is a compound of συν (Strong's G4862, "sun"), which means "together," and εζευξεν (Strong's G2201, inflected "ezeuxen"), which is an inflection of the word ζευγος (Strong's G2201, "zeugos") or ζυγος (Strong's G2218, "zugos"), which means "yoke." So the compound is "together-yoke" or "couple." ζυγος is the word from which we get the English scientific term "zygote." A "zygote" is a cell formed when two gamete cells are joined in sexual reproduction. Once the "gametes" fuse into a "zygote," "the two become one" and can never again be separated into their original parts. Again, although a modern scientific definition cannot be construed as having any Biblical authority, I find this to be an apt analogy and fitting to illustrate the point.

The point is that the "together-yoked" or "coupled" man and woman must not be separated. In the statement of Jesus, the imperative mood of the verb is used (χωριζετω). It is in the third person (English only has the imperative mood in the second person, addressing an implied "you"), so this is why it is a best-effort attempt in English to translate it "let (not) be separating."

Notice what Jesus did not say. He did not say "let man not be un-joining (or un-together-yoking, or un-coupling). He did not say, as I pointed out previously, "let man not be un-marrying (αντιγαμησατω)." He did not say, "let man not be releasing/abolishing/nullifying," which would have been the verb mentioned previously, καταργετω, (Strong's G2673, conjugated as present tense, imperative mood, active voice, third person, singular number, "katargeto"), or "let man not release/abolish/nullify," which would have been the same verb καταργησατω (same, except aorist tense, "katargesato").

So in summary, Jesus did not say "let not man un-join," nor "let not man un-marry," nor "let not man release/abolish/nullify." Jesus said "let not man be separating." This affirms again that there is no such talk, or even evidence of any thought of the modern concept of "divorce" or "annulment" in what Jesus said. The prohibition is against "separating."

In this last point, obviously we are not talking about physical separation, as if even men walking on the moon 238,900 miles from the women they married would have any bearing on the issue. The issue is that there should be no "separation" with regard to the fact that the man and the woman are "one flesh" in God's sight.

Matt 19:6 and Mark 10:8-9 are routinely nullified by all marriage-divorce behavior. As I mentioned near the beginning of this article, the established practice is for a "marriage" to be performed by a religious clergyman in a religious church ceremony. Yet, the "divorce" is always performed by a secular (i.e. godless) judge in a secular (i.e. godless) courtroom ceremony, without involving the religious clergyman. The hypocrisy of the scenario is lost on people to compartmentalized thinking. Why doesn't the married couple go back to the religious clergyman to seek a "divorce" in a church ceremony? And why isn't the religious clergyman seen to have any authority to bring "dissolution" to the "marriage," but yet the secular (i.e. godless) judge is seen as having the greater authority over the "marriage"? Yet 1 Cor 6:1-6 addresses the very problem of believers bringing disputes to secular judges, and that within the context of discussing sexual immorality (1 Cor 5 and 6) and marriage (1 Cor 7).

Polygamy

Again, there is no legitimacy for "divorce," because there is really no legitimacy to invalidating the Word of God ("they become one flesh"). Since "one flesh" is based on the Word of God, you can't undo it. A man might take more "women" in marriage, and women might be given in marriage to more "men," making a mess of things, but you can't undo what God declares in his Word ("the two become one flesh").

Even in the Old Testament, we see certain men marrying multiple women. These men did not "divorce" any women. They just acquired more women. Today we look back at that ancient history and call it "polygamy." I say "what 'we' call 'polygamy,'" because in reality, since there is no way to "divorce," today's divorcees who have married again are actually "polygamists." But ironically, "polygamy" in ancient biblical times was morally preferable to today's marriage-divorce behavior, because back then those men did not deny that they were bound by the Word of God to all those women that they had married. How ironic that "polygamy" is today considered taboo, but today's marriage-divorce behavior is not!

It is not as if polygamy was ever a good thing. Again, it was not that way at the beginning. Gen 2:23-24 defines "the two become one flesh" as being between a man and his woman, singular. However, people like Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, and David had multiple women, yet were not under condemnation by God for it. What God condemns is unfaithfulness.

Wives and concubines

Many people in the Old Testament had concubines. If this is interpreted according to modern traditions of marriage, then the concubines must be viewed as immoral relationships, maybe even "sex slaves," because they aren't really "wives."

But remember that there is no word for "wife" in either the Old Testament Hebrew or the New Testament Koine Greek. Applying the modern traditions of marriage to translation causes problems again. This can be seen clearly in Gen 25:1

"Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah." (NIV'78)

But wait! Four verses down, in verse 5 and 6 it says,

"Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. (NIV'78)

Abraham had a total of three women, Sarai (renamed "Sarah"), Hagar (Sarah's maid), and Keturah. Sarah is indisputably what people today would call his "wife." That leaves two other women, and "concubines" in verse 6 above is indisputably plural in number in the original text.

This is easy arithmetic. All three of them were his "women," and Hagar and Keturah were concubines.

Therefore, Gen 25:1 should be translated with the actual word used in the original text: "woman."

"Now Abraham took another woman, whose name was Keturah."

Verses 5 and 6 also illustrates the difference: The concubine is still a man's "woman," but is of a lower class status, such that there is no inheritance granted through her by her man.

The problem repeats itself in 1 Kings 11:1-4. The English translations say that King Solomon had "700 wives" and "300 concubines," and "his wives led him astray." If we are to take this at face value, then none of the 300 concubines led him astray, only the wives. But again, the word is "women," not "wives." There's an additional word you will see in the Bible text, usually translated "princesses," or "royal," or "of royal birth," describing what is translated "wives." Eliminating the word "wives," we have,

"Solomon loved many foreign women...700 women royal/princesses and 300 concubines, and his women turned his heart astray..."

Again, the scripture becomes simple. And again, this does not make polygamy or the class status of concubines right. But God did not condemn these men for either. What God condemns is unfaithfulness.

Fidelity (faithfulness)

Unfaithfulness is addressed by many scriptures, such as Malachi 2:

"13 This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth." (NASB'95)

Of course, the word translated above as "wife" in the NASB is "woman." And, no, the next verse does not have the word "divorce" in it, either. The popular modern English translation "'I hate divorce,' says the Lord" is not what it says. It is in the third person ("he"), not the first person ("I"), and the verb is "send away" (שׁלח, Strong's H7971, or LXX εξαποστελω, Strong's G1821, "ex-apostelo"), referring to the man sending away the woman (we would say "wife") of his youth. You should recognize that Greek word, for it is the word we get "apostle" from. For example, the apostle Paul is the "apostle Paul" because, as he says, God said to him, using that same word, "Go! For I am εξαποστελω ("ex-apo-stelo," literally, "out-off-sending") you to the nations" (Acts 22:21). God certainly didn't "divorce" the apostle Paul by doing so!

Despite its sentimental pulpit appeal, Mal 2:16 cannot have God saying "I hate divorce" if there is no such thing as "divorce" to begin with, besides the fact that the pronoun in the first person, "I," is not in the text, nor is it implied. So people should stop saying that God said that. In Mal 2:16 it speaks of the man who "hates" sending away the woman of his youth, yet he covers his wrong with his garment; rather, he should not be "treacherous" (with the woman, the "wife," of his youth).

The Samaritan woman at the well, and her men

Let's look at another example: The Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus in John 4, discussing the "men" she had. Watch the verb tenses:

[17] Answers [αποκριθη, aorist tense] the woman and says [ειπεν, aorist tense] "I-am-having [εχω, present tense] no man." Jesus is-saying [λεγει, present tense] to her, "You-say [ειπας, aorist tense] well that 'I-am-having [εχω, present tense] no man,'

[18] for five men you-have [εσχες, aorist tense] and whom now you-are-having [εχεις, present tense] is [εστιν, present tense] not your man. Truthful this you-have-spoken [ειρηκας, perfect tense]."

Modern translations have Jesus telling her, "you have had five husbands" at the start of verse 18, but there are two problems with that. The first is, again, that there is no such word "husband." The second problem is that "you have had" would have had to have been in the "perfect" verb tense (specifying an action that has been completed), which would have had to have been spelled "εσχηκας," if that was the case. But it wasn't spelled that way, so that wasn't the verb tense used. The verb tense is aorist. The aorist tense ("εσχες") is time indefinite, meaning "timeless," stating the fact of something, rather than the act (see this post for more detailed discussion of this). (And, Koine Greek does not have a "past tense.")

So, you see that she really "has" five men (i.e. she has married five men, i.e. she has "five husbands," as we would say), and the man she is now "having" is not her man (i.e. he is unmarried or belongs to another woman, making her presently engaging in adultery, fornication, or prostitution). It does not say that she "divorced and re-married" multiple times; that is a modern concept, not a biblical one, besides the fact that Jesus didn't either say or imply that.

Elders/overseers

Another example would be 1 Tim 3:2 and Tit 1:6, where an elder/overseer is "to be a man of one woman." The simplicity of this should now be obvious, as well as the higher standard that goes along with it. It simply says that he should be a man "of one woman" ("μιας γυναικος" = "mias gunaikos" = "of-one [genitive case] woman [genitive case]). It doesn't really matter what the "status" is of all the women that a man "has." He is only supposed to be a man "of one woman." (Obviously, since he is to set an example by his life for others, the less mature, to follow.)

Jesus and his bride

Jesus is a one-woman man (the woman is his bride, the εκκλησια, the out-called, traditionally translated the "church"), and we, his bride, are a one-man bride (the bridegroom being Jesus). Jesus didn't seek out his bride out of self-gratification, he is not going to abandon his bride for another, and we, his bride, are not going to seek another man, apart from Jesus. Ever. That is the model, according to Eph 5:22-33 and elsewhere in scriptures. Earthly marriage is only a temporal thing (until death ends its covenant, Matt 22:23-33, Luke 20:27-40, Rom 7:2-3).

The advantage of abstaining from marriage

Now, given the advice of 1 Cor 7, why not not marry in the first place, and avoid that bond altogether, choosing instead to focus wholeheartedly on being devoted fully to our "one man" Jesus Christ and producing spiritual children through discipleship? The time is short, and we need to be focused on the Kingdom of God, not earthly things or the affairs of this world, with its passions and desires.

You are not sinning if you choose to marry, assuming you have not already married, or else assuming your man or woman, as the case may be, has died. If you can't control your passions towards someone of the opposite sex that you have morally legitimate interest in, then it is better to marry than to burn with desire (see 1 Cor 7 again). But, such "burning desire" is your choice to indulge your mind, body, hormones, and sensuality. Jesus also spoke against illegitimate desire and intentions; it therefore follows that just because you have a "burning desire," that does not, in itself, make it right. And why be self-deceived into thinking that even a legitimate marriage will fundamentally bring you happiness, or make you more devoted to Jesus, when the scriptures say, categorically, that it will to some degree draw you away into earthly marital concerns (1 Cor 7)?

Instead, renew your mind to think only the things of the Word of God and the Kingdom of God, so that you can think clearly with a sound mind about these things.

There are teachings out there that exalt "marriage" as being a spiritually fulfilling thing to be sought after. This is not the teaching of the New Testament, either. Read 1 Cor 7 again.

What to do about all your women (or men)

Now, I realize that this will cause some to question whether they should go back and cohabit with, and have intimate relations with all their men or women that they have married. What does the Bible say about that? Again, the Bible advocates and speaks about fidelity, not sexual gratification or living arrangements. A bit of common sense will cause one to realize that, since there is no reversing the events of the past (such as marriage), you should endeavor to live a life as much as possible beyond reproach, and that you should not live your life according to the passions of the flesh. Christ-like fidelity is one thing; sexual gratification and living arrangements are quite another. Polygamy and promiscuity do not present a right image of the relationship between Christ and his bride.

Solomon had a thousand women. You know that he could not have been interacting with that many women on a daily basis, and each of these women could have only slept with him one night every three years, assuming they were treated equitably. The Bible does not talk about these details, however, nor condemn him for having a thousand women (although it does not condone it, either). The Bible tells of how the problem was that these were foreign women who led him astray to the worship of foreign Gods. This was the same Solomon who wrote most of the book of Proverbs, with its lengthy exhortations about avoiding adultery and prostitution.

"Saving marriages"

You can use these truths to "save marriages," as the modern saying would go, although you now know that such a phrase ("save marriages") is an oxymoron. You can speak truth and life into couples who have married, and with simplicity use the Word of God to destroy the traditions of men that would separate them from that divine bond. If marriage is an irrevocable event, according to the scriptures, and there is no such thing as "divorce," then the Word of God is simple. "Divorce" is just devil-talk, so you treat it as you would any other lie that would contradict the Word of God. It is not an option to consider if the option does not exist in the first place.

The devil has been in the business of posing the proposition, "Did God really say...?" (Gen 3:1) since the days of the Garden of Eden, getting men to question the Word of God, contradict it, and agree with him instead. "Divorce" is one of those devil-inspired concepts that is in complete contradiction to the Word of God.

There are more socially/politically/feminist-incorrect things that could be discussed here. If you do a serious, open-minded, honest study, you will see that the situation between a man and a woman, and their roles in marriage, is indeed biased. The first woman (Eve) comes from the first man (Adam); the first woman (Eve) is given to the man (Adam) in marriage (by God). A man "marries," whereas a woman is "given in marriage." Literally, the word, as spelled, means she is "marry-ized." Even the phrase "given in marriage" is stretching the plain sense of the word, since the words "given in" are not actually in the spelling of the word. A man "leaves his father and mother and is united with his woman, and the two become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). It is not "a woman leaves her father and mother...." Nor is a man "given in marriage" to a woman. We say that a woman is "given in marriage" because she belongs to her father until he "gives her away," and then she gets "marry-ized" as he "marries" her. You may not like that, but that's Bible, as in book of Genesis, not 20th century feminism. A married woman cannot be "given away" by her man (her "husband") either, obviously, since "they become one flesh" according to the declaration of the Word of God.

Genesis 2:20-22 declares, in the context of Adam naming the animals, that the man Adam did not find a "helper" "complement" or "counterpart" for himself. So, God formed the woman out of the man, unlike how the rest of the animals were created. The woman, being from the man's body, belonged to the man, God gave her to him after forming her from that basis, and it is affirmed according to Adam's own words ("...bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman...") in terms of the principle of dominion, not the other way around. The man has dominion over the woman, and together they have dominion over everything else on the earth. This is before the fall of man, is not a "curse" (such that Jesus could ever be said to reverse it), and is the reason explicitly cited by the much-hated problem scriptures about the propriety of a woman's behavior in the New Testament (1 Cor 11:8-10, 1 Cor 14:34, 1 Tim 2:13-14, 1 Pet 3:5-6) that people want to brush off as being outdated according to the culture of the times or some tradition of men. Even the "seduction" of the woman by the devil, as cited in 1 Tim 2:14, happened in time immediately prior to the actual fall of man; the "one man" was responsible for the fall of man, according to Rom 5:12, because he hearkened to the voice of his woman (Gen 3:17), instead of to the voice of God (Gen 2:17).

So, beyond the issues of "marriage" and "divorce," modern culture and traditions have removed themselves from biblical perspective concerning the positional roles of men and women with respect to each other to such an extent that it is hard now for anyone to conceive of how the Bible depicts these matters. Modern society has become too brainwashed to the traditions of men to think clearly on the subject. Essentially, the Word of God itself is brushed off as "outdated" and "irrelevant" to the status quo, and the status quo is embraced in its stead. Sadly, this is mostly true in christendom and churchianity as well.

This issue also feeds into modern "marital problems" because you now have the man and the woman trying to assume equal dominion over each other in the marital relationship. "In Christ" each has dominion over all else apart from themselves without discrimination (Gal 3:26-29), and especially over the devil, but in earthly matters of the present age the man has dominion over the woman (1 Cor 11:3-16, Eph 5:22-24, Col 3:18, 1 Tim 2:11-15, 1 Pet 3:5-6, etc.) Some fling the Gal 3:28 "there is no male or female" around as if gender is done away with on account of the Kingdom of God. If so, then they may as well call for the dissolution of all earthly marriages, since no one now "married" on earth will be "married" in heaven in the age to come ("your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," right?), or they may as well endorse homosexual marriages for Christians, since "there is no male or female." You cannot have it both ways.

But this also is simple. Again, the man has dominion over the woman; together, both have dominion over everything else on earth. In Christ there are only "sons of God." There is no such thing as a "daughter of God" in the scriptures. All women in Christ are "sons of God" with authority over the earth and the devil, and co-laborers with their men, in Christ, whom they both submit to.

Armed with all this information from the Word of God, you are in a position to speak the truth and set people free from the lies of the devil. In truth, nobody is having "marital problems." How can you have a problem with a "marriage" if it is an event of the past that is irreversible? The married couples don't even have "relationship problems," because their "relationship" as a married couple is that they are "one flesh," because they got married. What a married man and woman have are problems with their fleshly attitudes and desires, which can be dealt with as any other problem in the flesh, which is to put the flesh to death and live according to the Spirit, expressing the kind of love that puts another's interests and welfare above one's own.

The woman should submit to her man "in the Lord." By "in the Lord," it should be obvious that the Lord is the head of the man, and is a higher authority, so the woman must obey the higher authority if ever the lower authority can be shown by the Word of God to contradict the higher one. Otherwise, she is without excuse. And the man is to love his woman as Christ loves his bride, the out-called. We use Christ and his bride as a model for earthly "marriage" so that the earthly "marriage" can be a reflection and foreshadow to the unbelieving, a tangible example of Christ and his bride.

Unlike the animals, which do not marry and have no God-given dominion between the male and female, other than by instinct or brute force, God created only the man, Adam, because he was created in the image and likeness of God. He did not create a man and a woman, and that is because there is only one God, not gods, as if there were a God and a co-equal Goddess. The woman was then formed out of the man and named by the man. But the whole scenario is but a type and foreshadow. It is really Jesus who leaves his Father (God) and his mother (Mary), and is united to his bride, his out-called, and they become one flesh. The "one flesh" bride takes the man's name, the name of Jesus, who takes the Father's name (not his mother Mary's name), making us children of God, albeit adopted children. It is all a foreshadow and reflection of the heavenly things. The man first loves his bride, as Christ first loved us. Christ is Lord over his out-called, as a man is lord over his woman, yet loves her and offers up his life for her. The bride, his out-called, submits to Christ (her man). These roles do not reverse. The bride is not lord over Christ (her man), nor does she offer up her life to redeem him from anything.

The principles of dominion also provide the way out for the woman who faces the potential for any kind of abuse from her man, so that "submission" does not imply "bondage" or "victimization." It is very tempting for a woman to assume the role of a "victim," instead of her role as a "liberator" who sets others free. Since "there is no male or female" in Christ (Gal 3:28), then the woman has dominion over any and all demonic agents that may try to afflict or control her man. She can then use her authority in Christ to evict the devil and demand that the devil leave him alone. As a "son of God," she is as much a liberator as any man, setting people free, loosing them from bondage to the devil. She is not a "victim" in Christ. None of us are, or at least we should not be. The choice people make is to by faith take the role of a "victim" or that of a "liberator." They must choose. The "believer" speaks only the Word of God, speaks only "reconciliation," "faith," "victory," and such things, refusing to accept lies and curses from the devil, and does not use the weapons of this world to do so.

And what God joins together (Christ and his bride, his out-called) let no man be separating.

"For I have been persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor sovereignties nor powers nor what has stood nor what is coming nor height nor depth nor any different creation shall empower itself to separate [χωρισαι, "chorisai"] us from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord of us." (Rom 8:38-39)

We say this about "marriage."

With thoughts of "marital status" and "divorce" out of the way, and considering propriety in the relationship, reconciliation is truly possible, when one accepts the Word of God for what it says, and refuses to give place to any alternative.

Marriage to Christ

Eph 5:22-33 describes the concept of marriage with Christ and his bride, the out-called, who we "in Christ" are. It is not that we have some sort of contractual arrangement with Jesus that man can dissolve or nullify. It is what "God has joined together," and "let man not be separating" it. We leave our earthly heritage, are joined to Christ, and we "become one flesh." "We are members of his body" (Eph 5:30). If you properly understand earthly marriage, then this leads to a proper understanding of Christ and his bride. Conversely, if you understand the "great mystery" (Eph 5:32) of Christ and his bride, then this leads to a proper understanding of earthly marriage. The inverse and contrapositive propositions apply as well: A lack of understanding of earthly marriage will negatively affect one's understanding of the relationship between Christ and his bride, and a lack of understanding of the relationship between Christ and his bride will negatively affect one's understanding of earthly marriage.*

*[Matt 1:19 reference and last paragraph added 4/3/2015]
[last several paragraphs to the "Separation" section added 5/1/2015, "ex-wife"/"ex-husband" paragraph to "Divorce" section added 5/7/2015]

No copyrightI grant this work to the public domain.