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Back to the start

Updated: May 9, 2023

Welcome to our blog series on divorce and the Bible! Today, we're looking back to the very beginning in order to see what the Bible has to say about this topic, starting with Genesis and Exodus. While Jesus and Paul's teachings on divorce are widely discussed, it's important to keep in mind that they were interpreting the Old Testament.

This is part 3 in the series - if you want to check out the earlier posts just click the links:

Confused about divorce graphic

The Bible is made up of 66 books and is seen as inspired by God, providing us with guidance, encouragement, and correction in our thoughts and behavior. However, it can be easy to misunderstand the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament and how the Bible should guide our spiritual lives.

It's crucial to understand that the Bible is not just a book of laws and rules, but also contains underlying principles that shape our spiritual lives. (See post # 2 in this series for more on that) For example, the law in the Old Testament that requires farmers to leave the edges of their fields for the poor to reap reflects the principle of compassion. The goal of every rule in the Bible is to know God and help us grow closer in our relationship with Him.

As Christians, we accept God's invitation to be a part of the story of human redemption. God is a loving father who gives commands out of love, not a despot. As we grow in our faith, we should move from following specific rules to understanding the deeper principles behind the rules. As we do this, we naturally become more and more like God. Sometimes this is referred to as becoming more Christ-like. Other people may describe it as exhibiting the heart of our Father.

When it comes to the relationship between the Hebrew Bible and the New Covenant, it's important to consider the context and progressive revelation of God's will for the human race. We are in a later stage of the story and should aim to understand both the laws and principles in the Bible and how they relate to each other.

Starting with Genesis Chapter 2, Verse 24, we see the story of God creating the first man and woman and bringing them together in marriage. This passage shows us that God created and blessed marriage, marriage wasn't just a natural or social phenomenon. However, the rest of Genesis doesn't talk much about marriage and doesn't use words like "permanent" or "sacred". This may reflect the cultural attitudes towards marriage in the ancient near east, where polygamy was common.

The Old Testament does address the issue of adultery, which is prohibited by the seventh commandment: "You shall not commit adultery." This commandment applies to all people and refers to breaking faith with one's spouse, especially in regard to sexual fidelity. Adultery was considered a serious sin and was punished by death in some cases. On the other hand, fornication, or premarital sex, was considered a less serious offense.

The first recorded instance of divorce in the Bible is mentioned in Exodus, Chapter 21, verses 10-11. This passage refers to Sarah asking Abraham to cast out Hagar, his wife at the time. God told Abraham to follow Sarah's demands, as it was through Isaac that the offspring would be named. Exodus provides regulations regarding the treatment of slaves, including divorce, stating that a wife who is a slave must be released without payment.

According to Instone Brewer, this passage can help us understand the legal basis of marriage in the ancient Near East. Marriage was an agreement between two parties that included requirements and penalties for not fulfilling those requirements. A bride price and dowry were typical for a marriage, with the dowry representing the daughter's share of the family estate.

In conclusion, it's important to consider both the laws and principles in the Bible and understand the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament as we strive to live our lives according to God's will.

Make sure to come back for future posts in this series as we continue to delve deeper into what the Bible has to say about divorce and remarriage.

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