Many people say a person can divorce according to what they say is mentioned in Matt. 19:3-9, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Many people say this passage is referring to both adultery and fornication. Many who want to divorce their former spouse and marry another person, say the above passage gives an “exception clause” to sanction divorce when there is adultery (the proper Greek word is fornication, as used in the KJV). However, if that is the case, that poses a major contradiction to what is stated in Rom. 7:1-3, “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” It seems that Matt. 19:3-9, and Rom. 7:1-3 are in contradiction, because Romans states the woman is bound by God’s law to the husband as long as he is alive. There is no “exception clause;” God still considers them married. If she remarries another man, when her husband is still alive, God calls her an adulteress; that makes the man an adulterer. According to this passage, both of them are now living in adultery. 1 Cor. 7:39 also states, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” So how do we Biblically rectify the passages in Matthew with Romans 7:1-3 and 1 Cor. 7:39 without twisting the scriptures? This is of paramount importance.
Many Jews recognize a very important marriage concept, and that is of “betrothal.” When a woman accepted the man’s proposal, she and the man were considered married. Joseph was espoused to Mary; espoused is the same thing as betrothed. The betrothal period typically often extended through the end of the wedding celebration, which usually took place about 1-year later. The husband would build his house (during the betrothal period) for his wife- which usually was an extension of his parents house. The betrothal period ended at the consummating of their sexual union (their first time). If the man found out she had committed fornication, he could Biblically divorce her at that point; the nuptial cloth (explained in next paragraph), would not have any blood. Her hymen would have been pierced previously from a sexual union. Betrothal did not originate as a Jewish Custom, but is based on the Word of God.
This is referred to in Deut. 22:13-19, “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 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 (not a virgin): 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: 16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 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. 18 And they shall spread the cloth (the betrothal cloth) before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; 19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.”
The Bible states that “the tokens of the damsel’s virginity” (we could call it the nuptial cloth) being stained with blood- her hymen being pierced after the betrothed couple had sexual union (at the wedding marriage ceremony) would be given to her parents as evidence that their daughter was a virgin. Then if the man wanted to divorce her at some time in the future, the parents would show proof of their daughter’s virginity; Biblically, the man could never divorce her. However, if the man found out she was not a virgin, because the cloth did not have any blood on it, he could divorce her. This is what Jesus was referring to in Matt. 19:9. Also, if the man discovered she was pregnant, before their sexual union, he could put her away (divorce) her. This was the case with Joseph and Mary, as he thought she had committed fornication, being pregnant (but not from him). Joseph understood from God’s law in Deut. 22:13-19 that divorce was permitted under this condition. Matt. 1:18-19 states, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused (betrothed) to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away (divorce) privily.” What Jesus is stating in the passage of Matthew 19 about fornication, is in reference to the betrothal period.
Not all Jews accepted this, “Matt 19:7, “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” Jesus further expounds in the next 2-verses of 8-9, “He saith unto them, Moses (not God) because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication (during betrothal), and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” God states in 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.” After the sexual union, the man cleaves (no divorce takes place) to his wife, and they are one flesh.
What Jesus is explaining in Matt. 19. is referring that at the end of the wedding ceremony when the man and the woman had sexual union for the first time and discovered she had committed fornication, then he could Biblically divorce her. Fornication (or any other reason) at a later time is not a valid Biblical reason for divorce, they are bound until death- they are one flesh. Therefore, Rom. 7:1-3 are in harmony to the passage of Matt. 19:3-9. If the betrothal matter is discarded and not understood, then the related passages in Genesis, Deuteronomy, Matthew and Romans appear to be in contradiction. When Matt. 19:3-9 are properly understood, the so-called “exception clause,” is a very strong reason against divorce to those whose spouse is still alive, even when there has been adultery. That is why Rom. 7:1-3, and 1 Cor. 7:39 state as long as the husband is alive. Marriage is a covenant, and a covenant is Biblically binding unto death. Therefore, Matt. 19:3-9, Rom. 7:1-3 and 1 Cor. 7:39 are in complete agreement. There are other scriptures that show when a person marries another person whose spouse is alive, that Jesus calls it adultery- Mt. 5:32, Mk. 10:11-12, and Lk. 16:18. You should see that the Bible calls remarriage when the original covenant spouse is still alive is adultery; the woman and man would be adulterers. More Bible scriptures will be provided in the following pages.