Remarriage--A Point of Law
Mar 25, 2009
Earlier this month I talked about divorce and remarriage. I need to clarify a point of law that may be important for those that it affects today. In Deut. 24 we see that a man must divorce his wife (i.e., give her a written bill of divorce) before he can lawfully send her out of the house. Verse 2 then allows her to remarry. Paul confirms this in 1 Cor. 7:27, 28,
"Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you should marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin should marry, she has not sinned."
The context shows that Paul was speaking of two things: (1) people married to non-believers, and (2) being single is better than being married in times of persecution. Paul's advice is that if the unbelieving spouse is willing to live with you, "do not seek to be released" from the marriage. Secondly, if you are "released," it is better to be single with persecution abounding. But if you marry, it is not a sin.
The point I want to make, however, is found in Deut. 24:3 and 4, which says,
"And if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce or puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance."
There are a number of factors that need explanation here. First is the question of her being "defiled" by the second marriage. This wording has been used to show that God's allowance of remarriage was actually allowing her to be "defiled." In other words, God allowed it, but it was still a sin; hence, the people were so immoral that God decided to legalize sin.
Obviously, I object to this view. If sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), and the law gives us the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20), then I see no reason to interpret the remarriage law as an exception.
The word "defiled" has more than one shade of meaning, just as the word "circumcision" does. Any fruit-bearing tree under 4 years old was said to be "uncircumcised to you" (Lev. 19:23, KJV). The NASB translates it "forbidden," but the King James Version is actually correct in a literal sense. It has to do with pruning the tree.
The word "defiled" is usually a word having to do with ceremonial uncleanness, rather than a moral issue as such. If something is "defiled" to you, it means that you are not allowed to touch it. An earthen vessel could be defiled if it touched a dead body, and so that vessel would have to be broken and thrown away. But the vessel was not guilty of any moral crime.
We, too, are earthen vessels. A woman who is remarried is not allowed to be reclaimed by her former husband, even if her second husband dies or divorces her in a lawful manner. She is "defiled" from a legal perspective, because he had no lawful right to take her. He had no right to make that decision.
But here now is the point I want to refine further. The intent of the law was to protect the woman from an ex-husband. The writ of divorce was mandated to protect her against a jealous ex-husband who might deny that he divorced her and so accuse her and her second husband with adultery.
Secondly, verse 3 was not meant to prohibit her from remarrying her former husband. It was to establish the fact that the former husband has no right to claim her as his wife, even after her second husband dies or divorces her. Note the wording in the law:
then her former husband, who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife.
It is a prohibition that is placed upon the man, not the woman. Once again, this is a law for her protection. What is left UNSAID is whether the woman in question is allowed to remarry him if she so desires. It does NOT say, "they are prohibited from remarrying." It says that the man cannot TAKE her. For instance, let us say that she is an unbeliever, and that she does something that causes her first husband to divorce her. Let us say that he divorces her in a lawful manner, and she then remarries another who is more like her--that is, an unbeliever.
Then let us say that she has a profound conversion. Her second husband does not like this, so he divorces her. She is now like a different person, and she realizes that she made a mistake. The question is this: Could she legally remarry her former husband?
Frankly, the law does not rule one way or another on this. It only says that the former husband has no lawful right to lay claim to her. We may assume, of course, that this is a total ban on remarrying one's former spouse, but that is an assumption that goes beyond the actual wording in the law.
Yet consider this. God married Israel at Mount Sinai. God later divorced Israel (Jer. 3:8), and she remarried false gods (golden calves). What happens if she repents and is divorced from those false gods. Can she remarry her former spouse? According to Hosea, YES. Hosea's harlot wife was redeemed and brought back to his house (Hos. 3:2). In fact, this was after the prophecy in 2:20 that God would betroth Israel once again.
Like most situations, there is more than one law in operation in this. I have seen for many years that death ends marriage contracts, and that Jesus died in order to end the Old Covenant marriage contract. His resurrection as "a new creation" meant that in the eyes of the law, He was a different person and thus eligible to remarry her.
But this is simply another path to take in understanding the divine plan. By the other way of looking at it, Jesus' ex-wife has remarried false gods. The revelation in 2001 has indicated that true Israel has divorced those false gods and has accepted a marriage proposal from Jesus Christ once again. Of course, this is something that has been seen prophetically, but it is not yet an earthly reality. It will not become an earthly reality until the great repentance takes place.
There are layers of meaning and various applications, of course, which can make this a complex situation. But the bottom line is that the hypothetical woman in my example above is Israel. By this view, it shows that Jesus (her ex-husband) is prohibited by the law from laying claim to her, even after she has been divorced from her second husband, the Golden Calf. By law, she has been given the right to decide whether she wants to remarry Jesus or not.
That is why we advocate that people everywhere decide that they want Jesus Christ to be not only the King of Kings, but also a Husband.
Dr. Stephen Jones