What Does the Bible Really Say? — Don’t Put Asunder

By Danni Moss
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This is the second part of a series addressing the comments made on another post. A commenter using the ID of “Ancient” posted a series of verses intending to set us “women” straight on issues of marriage and abuse. In this article, I will address the second two verses used by Ancient. I wrote about the first of these in part in my previous article, What Does the Bible Really Say? — Wives Submit, but it also overlaps with the third verse, so I will be picking up with somewhat of a duplication, but also including additional commentary.

Ancient, on May 29th, 2009 at 8:24 pm said, in part:

Read the Word of the Lord, sisters:
…Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Mark 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder…

Once again, when Ancient quotes these verses he picks a couple nuggets out of their context and then misunderstands and misapplies them. Unfortunately, he didn’t come up with these ideas on his own. They are commonly taught in the church.

Gen. 2:24 starts with the word “therefore.” This is a conjunction that indicates this verse is part of a larger thought. So it cannot be separated from the rest. As before, let’s look at the context of Gen. 2:24.

Gen. 2:18-24
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

The only way to understand and interpret verse 24 is in light of the entire context of the marriage of Adam and Eve, which begins in verse 18. Verse 18 begins with God finding the first (and only) “fault” in creation. For the only time, God said, “it is not good.” He said it was not good that the human was alone, unlike all the rest of the creatures which were in male/female pairs. Each pair was a complete set. But the human wasn’t in a complete set. He was alone.

So God had Adam name all the creatures. While the text does not say God did this to show Adam his lack, it does say in verse 20 that while Adam named all the creatures “there was not found an help meet for him.” So evidently, God had a purpose in addition to Adam naming all the creatures. He also showed the man that all these creatures were in complete pair sets, and he was the only creation that was not in a complete pair set. There was not another creature like Adam that could be the other half of a whole pair.

Since, in the existing creation there was not a second half to the human “set,” God directly created Eve out of the body of Adam. Why did He do it that way? He could have just spoken into being another human to be the partner of Adam, just as He had done with the rest of creation. There had to be a reason why God did something different this time.

And Adam obviously got the point because he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” This is underscored in the New Testament where the Word says in I Cor. 11:8-11:

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

And again, the Word says to the husband in Eph. 5:25-33:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Even in the beginning with the creation of Eve from Adam, God was foretelling or foreshadowing the coming of Christ and His relationship with the church. And this relationship between husband and wife is supposed to be a picture of that. The way God ordained the marriage relationship, the husband is to view the wife as literally part of his body — she is completely one with him. She is not merely a partner, she is part of him, just as intrinsically as his eyes or his elbows, or his feet, or his hands, or his brain. She is not merely his partner, she is part of him.

Because the wife is literally to become part of the husband when they are joined, the husband must “leave” his lesser relationships; even his own parents and siblings are not part of his own body.

When he leaves all these other relationships he is to cleave to his wife. I talked about cleaving in more detail in the first article, so I won’t repeat it here. But in brief, to cleave means to absolutely and totally “stick to” and “conform to” the object of cleaving. If the wife is truly part of him he cannot help but cleave to her. If he grasps the significance of this one thing, it would answer all the questions about whether he is to rule or dominate his wife. But that is not the subject of this passage directly.

The way this is written, the Word indicates when the husband leaves his other relationships and cleaves to his wife, then they become one flesh. A marriage where this does not happen leaves the union in violation of the one-flesh relationship God ordained for marriage. And the responsibility for that violation is first, and primarily, on the husband (more on the wife’s part momentarily).

Now, let’s look at the connection of this passage to Mark 10:9. Mark 10:6-9 says,

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:9 says, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Interestingly, there is a qualification right there in this verse. It says what God has joined together, let not man put asunder. And the context describes a union joined together by God. It is this relationship where the man leaves his other relationships and cleaves to his wife so that they are one flesh.

Also, Mark 10:9 is in a context where Jesus directly referred to Gen. 2. We can’t take the single verse out of the context of the whole. The verses immediately before verse 9 indicate that Jesus’ statement describing the union of Adam and Eve is completely connected to “what therefore God has put together (like He did with Adam and Eve), let not man put asunder. We can’t just tell people not to put asunder, without taking into account the qualifications Jesus put in the same context — the marriage must be one God put together, like Adam and Eve’s union as described in Gen. 2.

We will come back to Mark because there is more to see in this context, but we need to take a little side trip and ask the question, does God put together every marriage union? Besides the fact that the whole context would suggest that a marriage that does not have these qualifications (husband leaving and cleaving) the marriage is not put together by God, the Word also gives us examples which support that conclusion.

If every marriage union were put together by God, God could not have instructed the Israelites to divorce their pagan wives in Ezra 10. Shechaniah spoke that the Israelites had trespassed against God by taking pagan wives. When Ezra, the priest, went to God for direction, he came back and told the men they must divorce their pagan wives. Now, if those marriages were joined by God, He would not have instructed them to divorce.

There is also an indication that a union put together by God can be broken, resulting in godly divorce. For this we have God’s example of his own divorce of Israel in Is. 50:1 and Jer. 3:8. Now how could God have divorced Israel if that union were still in line with the truth of the Word? God cannot violate His own Word. Apparently, it is possible for one of the partners to walk out of that one-flesh union, making that union no longer a godly one, and violate it to the point that a divorce is a godly choice.

Another thing we can infer from this connection is that a wife can violate the one-flesh relationship even if the husband does initiate and maintain it fully and correctly. God certainly was not the one who violated His relationship with Israel. But Israel’s spiritual adultery violated the one-flesh relationship she had with God, eventually resulting in God divorcing her.

In light of all this, the context of Mark 10 has much fuller meaning that is typically taught in church. The entire context is not limited to the portion quoted earlier. Here is the whole context including Mark 10:2-10:

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

The Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, thinking they could trick him. And Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. THEN Jesus went back to Gen. 2, concluding with “what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

God allowed divorce because people were violating His ordained plan for marriage and putting asunder marriages that He had put together. Jesus said these people’s hearts were hard. Whose hearts were hard? Those who violated God’s order for the marriage union, resulting in putting asunder. The “putting asunder” is indicated to be a cause of an effect. The “putting asunder” is not the cause – violation of God’s order in marriage is the cause.

We can infer this because God Himself divorced Israel and He instructed the Israelites to divorce their pagan wives – so the divorce itself was not the issue. The issue was the hard hearts which violated God’s order and creation of a real one-flesh marriage. If this were not the case, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to make the statement about hard hearts or reference the Gen. 2 passage. He could have just said divorce is wrong and been done with it. But, as He always did, Jesus went back to the root of the problem.

In the case of Adam and Eve, there was absolutely no question of whether God put them together as a completed pair. But we cannot assume that all other marriage unions meet the specifically stated (multiple times) qualifications for a God-ordained marriage union. A marriage which does not match what the Word describes, is not a godly marriage, regardless of whether both parties say they are Christians. Someone who is living in direct violation of God’s qualifications of a believer and follower of Christ is NOT a Christian, regardless of whether they have prayed a prayer, go to church, and can say all the right theological things to sound good. God says we are to judge by the fruit.

Now, to answer the obvious question or objection to what I just said, I want to clarify that just because a union is not one God has put together, does not automatically mean it is perfectly acceptable to divorce. The Word has directives for dealing with an unbelieving spouse. But that is the subject of other passages of Scripture – and for another day.

But what this does tell us is that a godly marriage should never be put asunder – and that is all it says. We cannot apply it more broadly than the Word does.

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