What Does the Bible Really Say? — God Hates Divorce

By Danni Moss
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Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…

This verse is frequently translated “God hates divorce” and this is probably the single most often-quoted snippet in Christianity on the subject of divorce. “Everyone” knows that phrase and will tell you it’s in the Bible. Usually, the phrase is understood to mean, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.”

First off, let me state the obvious. The Bible doesn’t say, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” But could it possibly mean that? Since the Bible does not actually say this, it is a fair question to ask whether that is really what it means.

Again, stating the obvious, it is reasonable to assume that God “hates” divorce, in the sense that He doesn’t like it. He isn’t dumb and any thinking person hates divorce. It is painful and it is not the way God intended marriage to be. So, of course, He doesn’t like it.

But is it also correct to assume that “God hates divorce” means divorce is an abomination to Him and absolutely forbidden?

In Isaiah 50:1 and in Jeremiah 3:8 God specifically states that He divorced Israel. I have discussed this in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, III. It is important to remember that human marriage is symbolic of the spiritual reality, not the other way around. If anything, God’s example in marriage would carry more weight than the reverse.

Also, Ezra 10 tells of a time when God commanded the Israelite men to get divorces. I have discussed this passage in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, IV. How could God possibly command the Israelite men to divorce their wives if, in fact, “God hates divorce” means that divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden?

Then in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 Jesus gives a very specific exception clause when He answers the Pharisees’ questions regarding the allowance of divorce. Obviously, Jesus did not say that all divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden.

Let me ask another obvious question. Wouldn’t it have been easier for Jesus to just say, “God hates divorce” when probed by the Pharisees, if God meant that all divorce is an abomination and forbidden? But instead of quoting the definitive “God hates divorce” Jesus went into detail in an entirely different direction. Why did He do that if Malachi 2 establishes the primary precedent for God’s view of divorce?

In the church what we hear most of the time is “God hates divorce” – and yet, that statement is never reiterated in the New Testament – or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter. “God hates divorce” is the most repeated phrase in the church on the subject of divorce but appears only once in the Bible. Why is this true if this one phrase is of such profound significance?

Would it be logical to believe that the words of Jesus are probably the most accurate reflection of God’s heart on the subject of divorce, since He was directly asked for God’s perspective? So why did Jesus speak as He did? I have addressed Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce in response to the Pharisees in the article, What the Bible Really Says – Don’t Put Asunder. For the sake of not straying from the point of this article, I’m not going to go into it here. But what Jesus said was important – and He quite noticeably did not say “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian (or follower of God, since He was talking to the Pharisees) to be divorced.”

It is necessary for us, as believers, to understand this issue, since the phrase “God hates divorce” is commonly being used in the church in an unbiblical manner and the result is a great deal of harm. It may not seem like a big deal for those who have not been faced with divorce or with marriages in violation of the Word, but the inaccurate handling of the Word is being used to keep people in bondage and also to cause added condemnation and rejection to people whom God has neither condemned nor rejected. Additionally, there are many who say they aren’t condemning or rejecting – but the effect is virtually the same since it is putting a burden of “wrong” on the shoulders of people for whom God has not a single shred of approbation – even without condemnation or rejection.

So what is Malachi saying?

Let’s first take a look at how several translations handle Malachi 2:16. This is very revealing.

King James Version

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

New King James Version
“For the LORD God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the LORD of hosts.

“ Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”

New International Version

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.
So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

American Standard Version

For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covereth his garment with violence, saith Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Holman Christian Standard Bible

“If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

English Standard Version

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Now, let’s dig into this.

First of all, let me acknowledge that there are many people who believe the King James Version (1611 version specifically) is the only accurate translation. This version says God hates putting away. Without getting into any debate regarding the veracity of various translations, let me take this statement alone.

If, in fact, the King James Version is completely accurate, it is important to note that it does not say “God hates divorce.” It says God hates putting away. In the context of Malachi 2 it is clear God is directing His statements to men who have been unfaithful to their first wives and put them away in order to take heathen wives. God speaks repeatedly of their treachery. God’s focus is on their treachery – this is what He is condemning – not divorce.

This fact is the key to the entire passage. God’s eyes are not on the legal documents these men obtained. It is on their treacherous hearts. God condemns the treachery that led to the divorces – and this fact is plainly communicated in the context. These men “put away” their wives and divorced them. The putting away of their wives was a fact of their treacherous hearts, and it led to divorce. But the treachery of their hearts was the real problem.

Would God have said it was OK if they had mistreated their wives but had just taken second wives instead of divorcing their first ones? They were allowed to have multiple wives so taking additional wives would not have been a problem. However, the answer is still a resounding NO! In fact, this would still have left these men in the position of the men in Ezra, whom God commanded to divorce their heathen wives, thereby making it obvious His issue is not with divorce but with the heart condition of the people involved. In Malachi, His focus is on their treachery – not on the legal documents that resulted from the treachery.

Another substantive point to note about God’s viewpoint on the treachery of these men in Malachi 2 is that He treats the two treacherous acts as separate offenses. He condemns their treachery in taking heathen wives. Then He condemns their treachery in putting away their first wives. The two are both treacherous acts, separate and distinct from one another. This is an important detail because we need to remember that the second act was not treacherous because of the first, nor vice versa. Each was treacherous independently — two distinct violations.

In Malachi 2, the focus on these men’s treachery is directly reflected in what Jesus said when confronted by the Pharisees. The root problem in both places is the heart of putting asunder – not the legal document of divorce. Putting asunder is a direct violation of God’s original plan and instructions regarding marriage in Genesis. And putting asunder is something that happens in the heart long before a legal document is issued by a court.

With this understanding, we also see the Word is speaking a consistent message. The problem in Malachi 2 is the same as Jesus outlined in the New Testament. And we know God is consistent! He doesn’t change His mind here and there, being double-minded and condoning divorce in one place while condemning it in another.

All that said, there is more to be seen in these translations. Notice specifically the wording in the Holman Christian Standard Version and the English Standard Version.

Holman says, “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice…”

ESV says, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence…”

Why do these two translations use such significantly different verbiage here? This change makes a serious difference in the meaning of the passage – especially considering the frequency with which “God hates divorce” is quoted in the church.

Before getting into the particulars, I think it would bear noting the pedigree of these two translations. In looking into this issue I corresponded with Barbara Roberts, the author of the book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion. She has an entire chapter (Chapter 8 ) devoted to this phrase in Malachi 2.

In the course of our correspondence, Barbara said, “The ESV is heavily promoted by Crossway, which is a major publisher of complementarian material. The Holman Christian Standard version was produced by the Southern Baptist denomination. So would-be-objectors from the conservative ranks need to sit up and take note.” I found this point interesting, since these translations are supported by conservative Christianity, yet this pivotal passage has not been seriously visited by the church systems which promote the translations.

But, let’s get back to the variance demonstrated here. There is actually a specific reason for such a substantive disagreement. Barbara goes into it in detail in her book, with extensive footnote documentation. Without reprinting the entire chapter here (you really need to read the book; it is exceptional) let me quote one relevant part here:

In Malachi 2:16, the subject of the verb “hates” is not explicit: the Hebrew does not read “God hates” or “the husband hates.” All we know from the verb is that the person who hates is third person masculine singular (“he” or “one”), just like “covers.” It is certainly not the first person “I hate.”

Now we come to our main point. Most Bible translations have taken the subject of the first verb to be God (God hates) and thereby changed he hates to the first person I hate. This is unfaithful to the Hebrew text and it creates an awkward grammatical shift between I hate and he covers

Some translations try to overcome the grammatical disjunction between the different subjects of I hate…he covers by translating the passage as I hate divorce…it covers… We need not resort to such a solution. The subject of “hates” is third person, not first, and we should only depart from the plain sense of a text if compelled by something in the text. Nothing here compels such a departure.

It makes sense to maintain the same subject (the divorcing husband) for both verbs. Since 1868 at least eighteen scholars have said that “he hates…he covers” is the most faithful way to render the Hebrew, with “he” being the divorcing husband.

Just in the past couple days I heard a preacher whom I greatly respect say, “God doesn’t condemn divorcees; He condemns divorce.” This concept is quite common in the church. But in reality it is inaccurate. God got a divorce, He commanded people to get divorces, and Jesus gave a specific circumstance under which divorce was appropriate. So God cannot possibly be condemning divorce.

What God does condemn is treachery that results in divorce. God condemns putting away or putting asunder. There is a huge difference between the statement that “God condemns divorce” and “God condemns the treachery of putting asunder in marriage.”

While I do not have ill feelings toward the person who said this, knowing he is speaking out of a place where his paradigm of truth has never been challenged, this kind of teaching is causing a great deal of hurt in the body of Christ. It is necessary, I would even say vital, for this error to be corrected so that people in the church can be accepted and loved according to truth.

Here is the bottom line. No matter how you look at Malachi 2, it is critical to understand the passage neither states nor implies “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” This understanding is important because this passage is a lynchpin in church teaching on divorce and it is being persistently misused. And this misuse is causing significant pain and even alienation of believers who are victims of treachery in marriage and who most need the love and support of the church.

[In this article I have not addressed the subject of if/when Christians are allowed to divorce. I have addressed this elsewhere in other articles (see What Does God Really Say? Series What the Bible Says About Divorce, Series, and THE Biblical Grounds for Divorce) and will continue to write on the subject, since I have not yet covered every Scripture about it. The purpose of this piece is not to make any commentary on the parameters of divorce for Christians. My goal here is solely to explore the phrase “God hates divorce” in Malachi 2.]

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First Steps: Step One — Is the Word True?

By Danni Moss
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This is the second part of a multi-part series entitled How Can I Trust God After Marriage to a “Christian” Abuser?

Before you can even make the first step toward discovering whether you can trust God after being wounded in a “Christian” abusive marriage, you have to go all the way back to the most basic basics. Failure to go all the way back to the foundation and ensure it is secure, will ultimately make everything else you attempt to build on it unstable.

Right now, if you’re even asking the question, “how can I trust God…” the structure of your relationship with God has taken a profoundly deep hit. Just as if you had a physical building which had experienced a literal earthquake, you need to check your foundation and then evaluate everything outward from there.

So the first thing you have to determine for yourself is whether you believe the Word is true. And both this question and the answer to it are based on the bigger question – is God Who He says He is? The answer to that question, answers the other question. But both are important.

You may or may not have thought to actually verbalize the question of whether God is real or whether He is Who He says He is. But this is at the core of whether you can trust Him. If He is not Who He says He is, you cannot trust Him. If He is Who He says He is, you can trust Him because He says He is trustworthy. Whether you choose to trust Him is your personal choice, but whether or not He is trustworthy depends on His nature and character.

Psalms 62:8 Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Psalms 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Psalms 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

Isaiah 26:4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

Either God is Who He says He is, or He is a liar. That’s all there is to it. What good is a god who says he is one thing when he really is not? The Bible makes a lot of claims about Who God is. But just this one is enough.

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Is is true? Either it is all true or none of it is true because if any part is not true, God is a liar. So either all things have their being and existence through Him, or God is a liar. At the same time, this passage is a good example of how an inaccurate understanding of what the Word actually says can make it seem like the Word is not true.

People can make a couple erroneous assumptions about God based on this passage. First, people can assume it means God either causes or actively allows all the evil things that happen in the world, along with all the good. People can also assume this statement about God is not true since man has created many things that God did not create.

However, a deeper look answers both concerns. This passage does not either state or imply God causes all the things created beings choose to do, or even all the natural tragedies that occur in a physical world scarred by the effects of fallen man — and we have to be certain not to confuse this point.

In Genesis 1:26-28 God very clearly gave mankind dominion and authority over the earth. He also created man with a freewill — which wouldn’t be free if He chose to supercede it, even though He is able to do so. And in Genesis 3, man used his freewill to surrender his dominion over the earth to Satan. This set in motion all the evil that exists in the earth, even including natural disasters, birth defects, and other things we typically consider “acts of God.” God doesn’t do these things. They are all the result of man’s choice to deviate from God’s perfect order in the beginning.

The other potential misunderstanding is regarding whether or not man has created things not created by God. Man has created the automobile, lightbulbs, in vitro fertilization and test-tube babies, animal cloning, etc. But in every single case, man has used what was created by God as his starting point. Man has created absolutely nothing from nothing at all. Everything man has made has come from what God has made. So everything that exists has its origin in God’s creation.

In this statement in Romans 11, the Word is declaring as fact that everything that exists has it’s origin in the creation by God, through the reality of Who He is, and it will ultimately all be for His glory. Eventually, even the worst of the worst evil doers will submit to Him and give Him glory. Ultimately, every horrible calamity will have a way to reflect God’s glory by how He can turn it — whether or not we ever understand or see it personally. But that does not mean God causes evil doers to do evil, or initiates or approves of calamitous circumstances.

The flip side of this is that the Word is full of affirmations that God’s thoughts and plans for His people are good ones and that He protects, defends, provides for, and blesses His children. These statements must be equally true. One does not negate the other – or God is a liar. So, even if we cannot understand it, and our reality appears to belie these statements, if we decide to believe God’s Word is true, we can have confidence that somehow these are true words and somehow we can experience that as reality in our lives. Any place our reality isn’t matching up to the Word, it is our reality that is faulty, not the Word.

Psalms 119:160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

Romans 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began…

The Word says it is all true. It says God cannot lie. So if it is not all true then God is a liar, and it is all a lie.

How big is God, really? If He is big enough to be God, He is bigger than we can understand and He is bigger than we need Him to be. He is big enough to mean exactly what He said when the Word says:

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

All things does not leave any room for anything that His divine power has not provided for us. Nothing.

You must carefully and thoroughly consider this question of whether God is Who He says He is and whether (as a result) the Word is true before you can get to a single answer in your life. He says His divine power has provided all things pertaining to life – but if you do not believe the Word is absolutely true and God is Who He says He is then you cannot believe His divine power has provided all things you need.

However, the opposite is equally true. If you do believe that God is Who He says He is, then you must accept that His divine power does make available to you everything you need for life. The question from that point is only – how do you access that provision with confidence. And the answer to that question is right there in that verse:

…through the knowledge of Him…

So that leads us to the question, “How can I know the truth about God, that provides me with all things I need pertaining to life?”

And that is the subject for the next part of this study.

When it comes right down to it, there is no way to tangibly prove whether the Word is true or whether God is Who He says He is. You will have to make a choice of faith. But faith is not just belief. Faith is an action word. Faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by action based on the belief. Faith steps out to the next steps, even without proof before hand. As you walk into the subsequent steps, God will prove Himself. But you won’t get that proof unless and until you take the steps of faith first.

What Does the Bible Really Say? — Husbands Won Without A Word

By Danni Moss
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This is the second part of two articles (in a longer series of articles), dealing directly with what I Peter 3:1-6 is intending for the behavior of wives. The first article addressed only the mistaken understanding that the word “likewise” implies that wives are to submit to disobedient and abusive husbands as slaves are to submit to harsh masters.

So, if this admonition to wives is not referring back to slaves being told to suffer for righteousness sake, how do we understand what it means when it says disobedient husbands may be won without a word, as they observe our meek and quiet spirit? What does it mean when it says we should obey like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord? Remember, we have to take away from our understanding of this context any presupposition that it is implying wives are to submit to harsh masters.

There are some very interesting things to note in this passage. I Peter 3:1 says, “…if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (life) of the wives…” I have always heard this taught to mean if a husband disobeys the Word of God he may be won without the words of his wife but instead by her manner of living.

This understanding is grammatically inaccurate. It is not clearly indicated whether the “word” here is the Word of God or the word of the wife – but one thing we can know for sure, both times “word” is used in the same sentence, without any distinction made, they must both mean the same thing.

So either this verse means that the husbands are disobeying the Word of God and may be won without the Word of God by observing the lives of their wives OR the verse means that the husbands are disobedient to the word of their wives and may be won without the word of their wives by watching the lives of their wives. You can’t slice and dice, and mix and match when the verse doesn’t give clear reason to do so.

It could make sense that this is talking about husbands “disobeying” the word of their wife, if by disobeying it means “acting contrary to.” In other words, if the wife has asked for the husband to do something (obviously this would be something in agreement with the Word) and he refuses, she shouldn’t continue to nag.

However, it seems to make more sense if it is talking about the husbands being disobedient to the Word of God. But if this is the correct way to understand the first half of the statement, we must interpret the second half in agreement with the first half. That means the second half of the statement is not saying wives are to be silent. It is saying that the example of the wife should be such that she is a living, breathing expression of the Word, and as such, the disobedient husband can be won back into agreement with the Word of God by watching the behavior of his wife.

This does not disagree with the rest of the passage, either. When the Word talks about a meek and quiet spirit, it does not mean the wife must be silent and never say anything about either the issue at hand or any other subject. If we take out of consideration the idea that this verse said “without a word” to the wife, then we have to take it out of consideration altogether! So this passage never says the wife is not to say anything about her husband’s choices.

From Strong’s Concordance:

Meek – humble
Quiet – undisturbed, peaceable

So a meek and quiet spirit is one which does not rise up in pride or self-seeking, even if offended. Nor is it one that doesn’t speak. It is humble and peaceful. That is all we can read into the statement about a meek and quiet spirit. To imply it means anything more than that is to add to what the Word says.

The fact that this does not mean a wife should not speak out to her husband is, in fact, underscored by the use the Sarah as an example. In Genesis we are given several examples of times when Sarah spoke out to Abraham, and he listened to her. Obviously, this was an understood part of their relationship. But, since she is used as an example here, it is evident that she did so with respect.

We also must look at the word “obey” in this passage. The English language uses the word “obey” twice – first talking about the husbands who disobey, then talking about Sarah’s obedience. However, these are not the same word.

In referencing the behavior of husbands, the Greek uses the word apeitheo which means “to disbelieve (wilfully and perversely):–not believe, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving.” So the husbands in questions are willfully disobedient to the Word and to God.

In referencing Sarah’s behavior, which is being held up as an example for all godly wives, the Greek uses the word hupakouo which is a combination of two words meaning literally “to hear under (as a subordinate), i.e. to listen attentively.” By deliberately using a different word for obedience in such close proximity to the other Greek word, it would seem that strict, absolute, unquestioning obedience is not the intended meaning of this word. Instead, it implies a behavior which would be consistent with that meek and quiet spirit – a heart that is attentive to the needs and desires of the husband. God does not command wives to obey their husbands to the exclusion of obeying Him. We have one God – and it is not our husband. Where his desires demand direct disobedience of God, we have to obey the higher authority.

We also can remember the larger context referenced in the previous article about this passage – submitting to the ordinances of man. During the time of Sarah’s marriage to Abraham women did not have the legal right to do anything other than submit like slaves. But the picture we have of Abraham and Sarah’s relationship indicates he did not treat her like a slave. Twice he asked her to put herself in danger to protect his own skin. And she did it.

These incidents are not directly referenced in this passage so we cannot assume they are intended to be examples of good choices. But at the same time, in the culture of the day, Sarah had little choice to anything otherwise. And in her desire to protect her husband’s life, she may well have been willing to sacrifice herself.

That would not have made adultery an acceptable option, however. Ungodliness is still ungodliness, as we do not get a pass on our sin choices. Given the fact that the ordinances of man give us more choices in our culture, we cannot just expect God to miraculously step in and rescue us from our choices, like He did for Sarah. We do need to follow her example of not being afraid, but we must do so within the context of also obeying the ordinances of man and the law of God.

It is also important to note before leaving this passage, that it does not say that a disobedient husband will be won. It says the disobedient husband may be won. So to teach that all a wife has to do is blindly submit and her husband will eventually turn to God, is a huge untruth. God addresses a process for dealing with a persistently unrepentant sinner in the church and for marriage to an unbeliever (disobedient is defined as unbelieving), so there is recourse beyond this passage if a husband should persist in gross disobedience to the Word.

When the church teaches women to obey their disobedient husbands absolutely, in silence, and without question, they are teaching in violation of the direct context of this passage (submitting to the ordinances of man) and are putting women in a hopeless dichotomy. How do we absolutely obey a man who demands that we violate the Word? This cannot be. That is a demand of idolatry and one we cannot obey.

On the other hand, it is possible to “hear under, listen attentively” with a meek and quiet spirit to the heart of a disobedient husband. We can do good to those who despitefully use us. We can remain in peace even though he agitates for discord and strife. We can walk in the power of the Spirit (which includes the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, meekness, self-control, etc.) regardless of the behavior of the disobedient husband. In so doing, our lives will be that living, breathing expression of the Word of God, by which the disobedient husband may be won. This does not demand that we obey him by committing unrighteousness, since to do so would be direct violation of the immediate context (submitting to the ordinances of man) and the law of God which forbids idolatry.

What Does the Bible Really Say? — Wives Submit Like Slaves?

By Danni Moss
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One passage in the Word that seems a conundrum for wives in an abusive marriage is I Peter 3:1-6.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

There are three issues in this passage in I Peter which appear to consign wives to remaining in an abusive marriage. First is the fact that this passage starts with the word “likewise.” When we look back in the context, it appears this “likewise” is stating that women are to submit like the Word tells servants to submit, even to wicked or harsh masters. Second is the specific statement that wives should be in subjection even to husbands who are being disobedient. Third is the comparison with Sara, whom the Word says obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. In this article, I am only addressing the first of these three. I will address the other two in a separate article.

First, let’s take a look at the word “likewise.” If we look at the Word honestly, we have to see that the entire context begins in I Peter 2:13 and continues through I Peter 3:7. This entire section deals with submission and authority. It is wrong to conclude that the “likewise” of I Peter 3:1 is directly referring to I Peter 2:18, where servants are admonished to submit to harsh masters. The entire context is much more broad than this sole application.

I Peter 2:13 starts by saying that we – believers – are to submit to every ordinance of man. Throughout the remainder of this section which continues through I Peter 3:7, Peter goes on to enumerate all the different ways believers are to submit.

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Peter puts a qualifier on this entire passage right at the beginning of this passage. He says submit to every ordinance of man. So this entire context must also be evaluated in light of how the existing ordinances of man would have influenced each of the specific examples evaluated by Peter.

For instance, in the part about slaves, if we were to take the Word at bare face value, we could assume we have the right as Christians to own slaves. Now, obviously, saying this seems utterly ludicrous – because in our culture we consider the ownership of slaves to be morally repugnant. In our society, owning slaves is a violation of this passage, even though ownership of slaves appears to be an assumed right in these verses. The reason we know owning slaves is a violation of God’s Word, based solely on this passage, is because it would be a violation of the ordinances of man in our society. Slave ownership is illegal.

So, no matter what these verses seem to say to slaves, no slave in the United States should submit to a harsh master – because no one should be a slave in this country. If someone was enslaved in this country (and it does happen) that person should not submit to his master, but should escape at the first opportunity because slavery is illegal – it is against the ordinances of man – in this country. For such a person to obey what appears to be the clear meaning of the Word (submit to a harsh master), would in fact be a violation of the entire point of the passage, which is that we are to submit to every ordinance of man.

Another reason we know that the point of this passage is not that slaves should always submit to harsh masters is because of what the Word says in I Cor. 7:21 —

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

The Word must be understood in light of the whole. This verse in I Cor. 7 indicates that if a slave has the legal opportunity to become free, he should take it. So God cannot possibly mean that slaves must always remain in submission to abusive masters in I Peter 2. The verses in I Peter 2 have to be understood in light of the qualification Peter put on the passage — submit to every ordinance of man.

Now, on to the section about wives. To assume that the word “likewise” at the beginning of I Peter 3:1 is referring back to slaves submitting to harsh masters is inaccurate. In actual fact, “likewise” makes it clear that the teaching about wives is another example of submitting to every ordinance of man – the point of the whole context. That is the grammatically correct evaluation of the passage.

This can also be supported by the fact that the word “likewise” also starts the verse about husbands.

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

If “likewise” for wives is pointing to the teaching about slaves, then we would have to assume the same about husbands. But it makes no sense whatsoever to apply this to the verse about husbands – where there is no stated or implied command to submit to a harsh or disobedient wife. Yet, it does make sense to understand the word “likewise” ties the admonition to husbands back to the premise of the whole passage – submitting to every ordinance of man.

Again, as we did with the part about slaves, we must look at this passage to wives in light of the point of the context – submitting to every ordinance of man. At the time this was written, wives had less rights than slaves. Slaves at least had the option of buying their freedom or being set free by their owners. Wives had no such alternative. During this time, a wife had no legal (ordinances of man) recourse if she were faced with a disobedient husband. Wives might run away, but they would be returned to their husband if found because a wife was legally owned by her husband. So, this teaching is describing what a wife must do to submit to the ordinances of man regarding marriage, as those ordinances existed at the time this was written.

However, the ordinances of man are not the same in the United States today. And here is an example of why this distinction is critical. Women are taught by the church to submit to their husbands regardless of their husbands’ behavior. They are taught that this is literally submitting to God and to do otherwise is disobedience to God.

However, the result is that women in abusive homes are being required to disobey the ordinances of man to “obey” the assumed meaning of I Peter 3:1-6. A wife is legally responsible for the protection and wellbeing of her children. That includes not just protecting them from physical battery, but also protecting their emotional and social welfare. A wife can be legally prosecuted for allowing her children to continue in an abusive environment.

It is also against the ordinances of man in the United States for a husband to batter his wife – which includes more than just using his fists on her. It is against the ordinances of man for a husband to rape his wife – and this happens often in abusive marriages. A woman who enables her husband to violate the ordinances of man, even in his treatment of her, is herself violating the ordinances of man and God’s direct Word because God says to submit to the ordinances of man and He also is against those who afflict others.

The ordinances of man in the United States give wives recourse not to remain in danger under a husband who is disobeying the ordinances of man. Since the point of this passage is about submitting to the ordinances of man, it is more accurate to understand that the behavior of wives when dealing with an abusive spouse would be different than it was when this was written. To submit to the ordinances of man, a woman in the United States today may be required by God to remove herself and her children from the hands of an abuser. This is the more accurate understanding of the meaning of the entire context of this passage.

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

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

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.

Limiting the Bread Jesus Offers

A friend sent me this devotional from Daughters of Promise Devotional, from Christine Wyrtzen. I got permission to reprint it here because it is so good.

~~~

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:66-67

What caused the crowd following Jesus to turn away and leave? Jesus words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. They were content to eat the bread He offered as long as it was physical provision. When hungry, they eagerly consumed the loaves and fishes. As soon as the subject turned to spiritual food, their interest faded. The concept was too radical; the cost too high.

Today, I can be equally limiting. I can pray for the miraculous provision necessary to pay an overdue bill but reject the bread that promises to expose, then heal, my anger. I will embrace bread for the body but reject bread for the soul. Yesterday while in prayer, Jesus spoke to me about my life’s story, and I felt the Spirit ask me the question, “Where would you still like to be changed? How would you like for your story to be different a year from now?” I’m still thinking about that and will be prayerfully carving out an answer.

Whatever landscape Jesus touches changes. I would be shortsighted if I only desired His effect in the physical and not the spiritual. I can ask Him to bring peace to my home but forfeit the opportunity for Him to bring peace to the tormented places in my mind. I can ask Him to bring healing to my body but still live in want of the inner healing of my deepest childhood wound. I can ask for Him to provide the next meal for my family yet fail to eat the sumptuous spiritual meal He has prepared for the renovation of my soul.

Following Jesus is to embrace all of His teachings. While He will allow me to pray for superficial things and give me the choice on whether or not to go deep, the only one who loses when I choose superficiality is me. At the end of my life, I don’t want my testimony to sound like this. “In 1989, I prayed and Jesus miraculously provided the money I needed to pay my electric bill.” Rather, I pray that this story will be told. “I was once afraid of everything, unsure of myself, and played it safe. I ate of the bread of life and over the course of my lifetime, He changed me completely.”

I don’t want to go away, like the crowd. Your questions are hard, Your bread sometimes threathens the places where I’m comfortable, but I eat of You today. I am hungry. Amen

The Invisible Holocaust in Our Church

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

I just finished reading a book which is as profound as it is powerful. I honestly have no good words.

This book is so important to the church as an organization and to every individual who claims to be a Christian, a simple review is not adequate. EVERY believer, and I do mean EVERY believer, needs to read this book.

If you discovered there was a secret holocaust happening in our country, and no one appeared to want to admit it was going on, what would you do? You know what? I think just about everyone in the US finds the German holocaust appalling. We think that if that happened in our country, we would all stand up against it. It would be too horrific to contemplate tolerating or turning a blind eye. We think we would be the heroes to stand against the colossal outrage.

But we look on the history of the Holocaust through the eyes of after-sight. The fact of the matter is we would choose to turn a blind eye, give up our neighbors and friends to the Gestapo, and sign up to volunteer for the German army.

No? You think not? I’ll bet everyone who reads this will think there is no way they would participate in such behavior.

BUT THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS DOING JUST THAT. And, no, I am not exaggerating.

I am not intending to minimize the realities of the Holocaust of World War II. But, for all that, it lasted for a limited period of time. There was an end of the atrocities. The world rose up against tyranny and murder and sacrificed to stop it. And we all know that those who lives were personally touched by the Holocaust have lived with permanent scars that live on to this very day. We both acknowledge and continue in horror at the realities of what happened 70 years ago.

But there is a holocaust happening in the Christian church – and we are turning a blind eye. Yes, there IS a holocaust going on in churches all around this country, and around the world. Don’t believe me?

I don’t think the numbers equal the German holocaust yet, but at the rate it’s going they will get there because it is raging almost unchecked. And it certainly qualifies by definition:

Holocaust:

  • a great or complete devastation or destruction, esp. by fire.
  • a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
  • (usually initial capital letter ) the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually prec. by the).
  • any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.

Yes, there IS a “great or complete devastation or destruction” and “mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life” – and it is happening in church, a lot of people – especially church leaders – know about it, and people are either turning a blind eye or actively participating in the destruction.

If you think I’m exaggerating, and I’m sure you do, then you should try to prove me wrong. Do you dare? This Little Light, by Christa Brown tells the story. If you can read this book and not be deeply affected, I cannot imagine how.

I will be reviewing excerpts from this book over time so you can get a taste of just what I mean.