Divorce in the Old Testament
What does the Bible say about divorce, in the Old Testament? The only OT passage to define and quantify the “rules” for divorce is Deut. 24:1-4.
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath 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.
And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;
Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
God allowed divorce and established perameters for it. Mark 10:5 says God allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts – we’ll get into that in more depth later. But first, I just want to dig into this passage to see what God said about divorce.
Basically, the reasons for a man getting divorced were open-ended. If his wife displeased him, he could divorce her. However, it doesn’t seem likely that men were not abandoning their wives before this time.
The biggest thing this accomplished, I think, is found in the second half of verse one. If his wife displeased him, the husband could not just abandon his wife. He had to give her a bill of divorcement and send her out of his house. He could not keep her and use her as a slave. He could not abandon her without protection or provision. He had to give her a bill of divorcement.
Prior to God establishing guidelines for divorce, women who were being mistreated had no recourse. In a culture where women were chattel, a woman who did not have the protection and provision of a man was free game. She would be taken and used by whomever wanted her. She had no way to feed, clothe or house herself other than to sell herself.
Once the husband had divorced his wife, she was free to remarry (verse 2). There was no negative implications toward her, no charges of adultery. She was free to remarry. This was for her protection. Divorce was allowed to protect the victims.
The only limitation given in God’s original rules for divorce was that the husband and wife married first could not remarry each other if either of them married someone else. According to this passage, this – remarriage of two people who had subsequently married others – was an abomination to God; not divorce and not remarriage.