When a man has taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes…
The Hebrew Law, "for the hardness of men's hearts," found it was necessary to "suffer" many things not approved of absolutely (Matthew 19:8). Divorce was one of these. It was permitted on grounds of strong personal dislike (ver. 3). The Law was inapplicable to adultery, that being judged a capital offense. While permitting divorce, Moses obviously aims at restricting it, and shows, by his modes of expression, how alien this rupture of the marriage bond is to the original institution. We may learn -
I. THAT THE RIGHT OF DIVORCE IS ONE TO BE STRICTLY GUARDED. Divorce, even where most justified, is a great evil. It is the rupture of a tie intended by the Creator to be indissoluble. Adultery warrants it, but it must be deemed not the least part of the evil that so unhappy a cause for the dissolution of marriage should exist. The revelations of the divorce courts are most injurious to public morality. Facilities for divorce, such as some advocate, would lead to serious mischiefs. Besides being wrong in principle, they would create inconstancy, lead to domestic unhappiness, inflict hardship on children, prevent efforts being made to mend matters by forbearance and. compliance. Frequent divorces blunt the sense of the sacredness of the marriage union, and so lead to licentiousness. "At the time when divorces were most frequent among the Romans marriages were most rare; and Augustus was obliged, by penal laws, to force men of fashion into the married state" (Hume). Moses restrains divorce thus far that he requires it to take place:
1. By means of a legal document.
2. For reason given.
3. He debars the man divorcing from remarrying the woman divorced if, in the interval, she has been married to another. The Christian law recognizes no legitimate ground of divorce save adultery (Matthew 5:32).
II. THAT RIGHT VIEWS ON DIVORCE ARE CONNECTED WITH A SENSE OF THE INHERENT SACREDNESS OF THE MARRIAGE RELATION. This is suggested by the terms employed in ver. 4. A husband is prohibited from remarrying his divorced wife if in the interval she has been the wife of another, and the ground given for the prohibition is that "she is defiled." But why "defiled?" The expression could not have been used had the first marriage been regarded as perfectly nullified by the legal divorce. The statement that a divorced woman, remarrying, is "defiled," implies that deep view of the marriage relation given in Genesis (Genesis 2:24), and reiterated by Christ (Matthew 19:3-10). And it will be found, in practice, that light views of the sacredness of the marriage relation invariably work in the direction of increasing facilities for divorce. "The skeptical party in France not long ago proposed to make marriage dissoluble at the pleasure of the parties whenever the woman had passed the age at which child-bearing was no longer to be expected" (R. H. Hutton, in Expositor, January, 1881). The writer just quoted ably argues that strict views on marriage, and divorce, are not possible, save under the sanction of a supersensual morality. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he has found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.