Divorce and the Law—Part 2

(De 21:10) When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,
(De 21:11) And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
(De 21:12) Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
(De 21:13) And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.
(De 21:14)Darby And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go according to her desire; but thou shalt in no wise sell her for money; thou shalt not treat her as a slave, because thou hast humbled her.

In De 21:14, since the woman was free to choose where to go, the implication is that she did not want to stay with the man. If the woman did not want to be with him, the man could not delight in her. Thus, since she wanted to leave, this verse deals with a woman divorcing her husband. Now, assuming that for some reason the man no longer liked her but she did not want to leave, he could not divorce her. Indeed, according to this verse, if he divorced her, he was supposed to let her go wherever she wished. Therefore, if she wanted to stay with him, the man could not send her some other place. Thus, he could not send her away unless she herself wanted to divorce him. We can conclude that De 21:14 is not about a man divorcing his wife but about a wife divorcing her husband and the man letting her go.

(De 22:13) If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,
(De 22:14) And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:
(De 22:15) Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:
(De 22:16) And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
(De 22:17) And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
(De 22:18) And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;
(De 22:19)Darby and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath caused an evil name to be spread abroad against a virgin in Israel. And she shall remain his wife: he may not put her away all his days.

As indicated in De 22:20-21, if the matter was true, the woman had to be executed. However, it is interesting that the law did not permit divorce not even in the extreme case in which a husband would slander his wife on this matter. We read that "she shall remain his wife: he may not put her away all his days" (De 22:19). But why would a husband slander his wife like this? There is no passage in the law stating that a husband may divorce his wife if he hates her. A husband might have hoped that by means of such slander he could become separated from his wife.

(De 22:28) If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
(De 22:29) Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

The text at the end of De 22:19 and De 22:29 emphasizes that just as in a normal marriage, the man was not allowed to divorce the woman.

The following remarks consider other Old Testament passages related to divorce.

(Hos 1:2) The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.
(Hos 1:3) So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.

At some point Hosea and his wife were parted. If Hosea divorced her, he could have done it by means of De 24:1, because she was an adulteress (Hos 3:1).However, it may be that she wanted to leave Hosea. In the following passage, the Lord asks Hosea to restore the marriage.

(Hos 3:1) Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.
(Hos 3:2) So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:
(Hos 3:3) And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.

In Hos 3:1, "beloved of her friend" is a translation of אהבת רע. A more straightforward translation would be "loving evil". (For a similar translation, see אהבת רע מטוב in Ps 52:3.) This would help explain why Hosea could be reunited with his wife. She was not remarried, and thus De 24:2-4 did not apply.

(2Sa 3:14) And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul's son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines.
(2Sa 3:15) And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.
(2Sa 3:16) And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.

It is possible to identify a few reasons for which De 24:2-4 did not apply to this situation. First, David never divorced Michal. Second, most likely, the decision that Michal should remarry was taken by her father Saul. He was giving his daughters in marriage to whoever he wished (1Sa 18:17-21). Now, as indicated in the first part of the article, the word "defiled" in De 24:4 refers to the condition of a woman who has chosen another man instead of living by herself or trying to be reconciled to her husband. Michal does not fit De 24:4 if it was not her choice to marry another man.

(Mlc 2:13) And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.
(Mlc 2:14) Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
(Mlc 2:15) And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

The following translation of Mlc 2:15 is closer to the Hebrew text: "And no one does it and has a remnant of the Spirit. And what is the One seeking? Children of God. So guard yourselves in your spirit and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth". The beginning of the verse is translated similarly in the NET. Now, Mlc 2:15 states that one will not break faith with his wife by following the Holy Spirit. Therefore we read "So guard yourselves in your spirit" twice, first in Mlc 2:15 and then in Mlc 2:16. One could be mislead in thinking that it is God's will to break faith with his wife. This passage makes it very clear that this is not his will.

(Mlc 2:16)ESV "For the man who hates and divorces, 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."

Other translations of Mlc 2:16 have the statement "I hate divorce" at the beginning of the verse. Since God hates sin, it is obvious that God hates also divorce, as long as it is sinful. Now, the translation above of Mlc 2:16 is close to the Hebrew text. This translation corresponds also to the way the Septuagint interprets the Hebrew text. Note that Mlc 2:16 states that one who divorces because he no longer likes his wife (that is, because he hates her) covers his garment with violence. This describes his aspect in the eyes of God and the reason why God does not accept his offerings (Mlc 2:13). Now, the Hebrew word for "violence" can be understood also as denoting wrongdoing, as in Ge 16:5.

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