Is It Lawful For Man To Divorce For Any Reason?

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

Unlike what is popularly misunderstood and connived, adultery itself is not a valid ground for divorce according to biblical perspective. We have a case in point here; Hosea and Gomer. Hosea stands in God’s stead and Gomer represents Israel in this story. Israel turned denigrated, corrupt, immoral and idolaters. They disobeyed Yahweh and worshipped Baal. God was displeased. Yahweh’s intimacy to Israel is always compared to the relationship between husband and wife because there is no better form of intimate relationship on earth. “Your maker is your husband; the Lord of hosts is his name,” Is 54:5, Ezek 16:8. God told Hosea to marry an adulterous woman. He married Gomer, an adulterous woman. Hosea loved her. She bore him three children. Again she deserted him and turned to adultery, 2:2. Hosea loved her so much that he went out and purchased her paying the price of a slave, forgave her and gently admonished her not turn again to whoredom. He did all these as God revealed him to do, the sole purpose being, to teach Israel a lesson that despite their repeated infidelity God did not abandon them and God is willing to forgive and reinstate if repented. Some scholars believe this truly happened to Hosea, because of certain historic references in the book. I think it is allegorical presentation to show how God Yahweh loved Israel unconditionally despite their repeated infidelity. Prophet Hosea lived in a time when the nation was materially prosperous. Where material prosperity is on the rise morality is on the decline. Thus immorality, adultery and violence grew to epidemic proportion. Rabbis so liberally interpreted the Mosaic Law that caused divorce increase in divorce. People became too selfish that they neglected the virtue of forgiveness. It was this deteriorating trend that Hosea resolutely withstood permeating a pragmatic lesson of forgiveness even in the face of extreme infidelity to contain immorality and divorce. He relentlessly rebuked their moral corruption. If God is forgiving and longsuffering so should the people too.

However this does not give clean chit to those who are infidels to the spouses. Jeremiah chapter 3 clarifies that there is chance of reinstatement in case of true repentance. Hosea forgave Gomer subject to a condition that Gomer would not go back again to the unchaste life. The lesson is; remorse would lead to forgiveness and spouses could heal the rupture and again enjoy good companionship. Didn’t Jesus say, “Go and sin no more?” Change of attitude is imperative.

Anchoring on the verses that describe God as husband, Isaiah 54:5, “I sent her away and gave her a bill of divorce,” Jer 3:8, etc liberal thinkers say, ‘If God allowed divorce why man cannot divorce?’ God strongly denounced faithlessness to the wife of youth. “I hate divorce,” Malachi 2:14-15. If God hates divorce why He gave bill of divorce? Are these contradictory? Jay Adams misquotes, “Joseph (a just man) was not condemned for determining to divorce Mary,” “Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage” Page 23. What he forgets is; God did not approve what Joseph determined, instead cleared him off the doubt. Joseph is just because he did not determine to put Mary to ridicule and death. The relationship of God with Israel is equated to husband and wife relationship to show the intensity of relationship and to demonstrate the indissolubility in that relation. But there are differences; God by very nature is above all human limitations. God is Spirit, not made of material. Man is made of both earth and Spirit of God. God cannot sin or lie or be unholy. Man can reach higher realm of divine or stoop down to earth according to what he thinks. God is infinite and cannot be contained in space and time. Man is finite and confined to time and space. God has neither sex nor desire of flesh. Man has desires of flesh. God cannot be tempted. Man is liable to temptation; he is already in fallen state, and the list goes on. Therefore, God being husband or God giving a divorce bill or tolerating certain reasons for divorce, etc need be taken in the pragmatic sense to uphold moral and ethical values for safety of the weaker sex and good of society. These are so written in figurative language so that man could easily relate and understand how God feels when human relationships crumble due to sin. For example, recently, a wife of 17 years was caught in adultery. Husband placed camera and caught her red-handed. He obtained court order to evict her. Police came to serve the order. She, as nothing ever happened, called parish priest. Incidentally, this family is very religious and very active in the parish. The parish priest responded quickly, without knowing all the facts, tried to pacify the husband, pleaded with him to reconcile, give another chance, etc. The husband then asked this question to the priest “Acha, what will you do if you see your wife lying in your bed with another man?” The priest retreated. No wife or husband having self-esteem could face without losing equilibrium and or be silent spectator in such an unfortunate event. That is human nature because he is made of flesh. Church fathers deplored adultery and never justified divorce but they differentiated human frailty from God’s immutability and recognized certain valid reasons for divorce. Hudaya Canon 8:5 recognizes 7 reasons that allow divorce, “(1) adultery, (2) black magic, (3) unbelief, (4) forbidden relationship, (5) celibacy, (6) slavery, and (7) infirmities that are detestable and prevent sexual union. Infirmities that prevent sexual union are further clarified, 2 for men, (1) being eunuch, (2) mutation of sex organ and 2 for women, (1) absence or deformity to vagina, (2) venereal disease (boil). There are 3 detestable and common to men and women, (1) leprosy, (2) elephantiasis and (3) demon possessed. Also included, (1) incurable foul-smell from mouth and armpits and (2) involuntary excretion are reasons for divorce. Canon at no point commands or justifies divorce but only recognizes its existence. In all probabilities uncleanness or indecency referred in Deut 24:1 are these things. Ancients derided exposing or discussing sex which is why there is vagueness whenever they mention such matters; see Gen 38:9. However, pertinently most of these reasons are now redundant because they are curable with the aid of advanced medical and cosmetic science. Church fathers (Synod) have authority to amend, add or delete canonical conditions as the Holy Spirit inspire them to ameliorate the suffering of the faithful. We cannot in these situations equate God with humanity for He is Spirit, not flesh. Protestant scholars seem to ignore this disparity in a rush to justify divorce.

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