Divorce: the Counter-Argument

August 6, 2021

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7).

The Pharisees just didn’t get it. They weren’t listening. They had their minds already made up on the matter. Anticipating that Jesus would counter their argument with Scripture, they were ready to quote the great prophet, lawgiver, and servant of God - Moses - as their prime authority. But Moses was not the prime authority in this or any other argument that involves the moral Law of God.

Jesus revealed to them that all creation, including marriage, is a plan and act of God. The fact that Moses, the servant of God, gave a certificate of divorce had no bearing on what God had ordained and executed. The Pharisees were so intent and insistent in defending their own moral standard for marriage (which was, in fact, divided between the liberal interpretation of Hillel and the conservative interpretation of Shammai), they didn’t even hear what Jesus was saying. 

“They were classic examples of the natural man looking for moral and spiritual loopholes to accommodate their sin” (John MacArthur). 

“. . . they objected that Moses had allowed such divorces, and if he had allowed them, they inferred that they could not be unlawful” (Albert Barnes). 

“It is not an unusual case for the impure and unholy to seek for a justification of their conduct from the law of God itself, and to wrest (manipulate) Scripture to their own destruction” (Adam Clarke).

Note the warped way in which the Pharisees manipulated the Scriptures. They appealed, as a counter argument, to the Law of Moses. The passage in which Moses mentions grounds for divorce is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. But that text does not ‘command’ divorce, it allows it on the basis of impurity or indecency. Even then, it was (and is) God’s plan and will that the marriage covenant remain intact while the husband and wife work out their differences in love for one another and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

“Lord Jesus, with the moral and spiritual carelessness that permeates most marriages today, even Christian marriages, I ask that You will renew our understanding of Your Word under the leadership of Your Holy Spirit so that we may teach others Your plan for their ultimate joy and fulfillment in relationship to their spouse and children. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”


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