Is It Lawful For Man To Divorce For Any Reason?

Written By: on Sep 18th, 2009 and filed under Columns.

“Cleave:” this word is carefully employed to express indissolubility of marriage union. It deserves a close study. “Man shall cleave unto his wife,” Gen 2:24, ASV. The word “cleave” is archaic usage that means stick fast together, be faithful, etc. “Cleave” has another meaning too, “to separate using blunt force.” Blunt force is necessary because it is stuck together so fast that ordinary force is insufficient to separate. And in such an unnatural event disfigurement and pangs of breakage are sure effects. For easy understanding I would say “glued together” with the intention of not separating any time. When we glue together two materials, say paper, with the aid of adhesive the sticking effect remains for the rest of its life. Material thus stuck together with the aid of an adhesive cannot be separated without causing damage and disfigurement. The adhesive element in the spousal relationship is pure love imbedded in between. Without the aid of an external force such as sin separation is impossible. Separation will cause disfigurement of both personalities and offspring, if any, when separated. Some versions say, ‘cling together,’ “patticherum” (Malayalam). This would also mean the same, “hold tight, resist separation.” These import the underlying factor, that is, inseparable unity of the spouses. Therefore it is clear that divorce was conceived neither in the mind of the creator nor in the mind of Moses who compiled creation account. Jesus by asserting, “It was not so in the beginning” repudiated forever legality of divorce. Clement of Alexandria said, “The Son only confirms what the Father has instituted.”

Deut 24:1: But the Pharisees were determined to corner Jesus. They asked, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?” They were quoting Deuteronomy chapter 24:1, which says, “When a man has taken a wife (meaning new marriage) and married her and it comes to pass that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has 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.” Peseetha rendering is more explicit, it says, “A man marries a woman and after he lay with her found in her something repugnant and feels ill of her he may write a bill of divorcement and give it in her hand and send her away.” The context is undoubtedly new marriage and the spouses coming together for the first time. It is not applicable to an ill-will developed for any reason at a later stage in married life. Protestant thinkers based on this verse generalize without giving credit to the context and treat it a sanction of divorce like the Rabbis of Jesus’ days. Here is another sinister snare. Had Jesus said Moses was right the burden of proof which school of thought he belonged to rested with him and on the contrary, it was blasphemous for a Jew to question authority of Moses. They could easily disgrace him as Jewish law breaker.

“Found in her something repugnant:” This portion has been variously translated, to suit to one’s own interpretation; e.g. “uncleanness,” KJV, “indecency,” Catholic, “something bad,” New Century. Scholars say “Erwath dabar” is the Hebrew word, literally meaning “something of nakedness.” The vagueness implied in the word has given rise to various loose interpretations and abuses. Since the same word is used in Deuteronomy 23:14, “Thy camp shall be holy that He sees no ‘unclean’ thing in thee and turn away from thee.” Genital discharge and excretion are the two kinds deemed “uncleanness” in the camp which God detests according to verses 9-13. This is more a hygiene issue rather than moral. Commentators unanimously agree that the uncleanness mentioned here has nothing to do with adultery. “Uncleanness” since literally means “nakedness of a thing,” I consider it something which was not revealed before marriage and factually came to light after spouses came together. It was easy to hide infirmities because women on those days covered their skin including face fully. What Moses envisaged here is not sexual immorality because adultery was punishable with death. It should have been a physical defect namely, lunacy, leprosy, or the like where normal functions of a spouse were in jeopardy. The condition, “found some uncleanness in her,” makes the ground of writing bill of divorcement harder. “It is not a divorce law as the “vulgate mistranslates it” but a stipulation that the husband who divorces his wife may not take her back after she has remarried,” says Jerome. Sufficient safeguard we see in this condition against divorce on flimsy reasons. Not only valid reason but also proper manner was necessary. When he had given the bill of divorce she was free to go and live as she chose. Was it equal to a protection order? Moses did not newly introduce divorce but regulated what then existed. In the pragmatic sense, considering the fact that there was no freedom to women, they were nothing more than a commodity at the sole discretion of husband/father, this was necessary for their health and well-being. When husband and wife live in sin they loose the grace of God and what remains between them is only animal instinct. The spouses who lost grace are susceptible to all sorts of vile namely; infidelity, ill-temper, quarrel, violence, abuse etc that worsen the relationship. It would be hazardous for the weaker sex to cohabitate with the wicked spouse. In such situation divorce is the lesser evil. So Moses by stipulating a condition to write a bill of divorcement and hand it to the wife was not only an innovation but also a safeguard to the wife who lost favor in the sight of her wicked husband.

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