What Does The Bible Say About Divorce?

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A broken wedding ring

In today’s society, divorce is a common occurrence. Many people have experienced it or know someone who has. However, when it comes to divorce, what does the Bible say about it? This article aims to explore the concept of divorce in biblical times and shed light on the verses and teachings that address this sensitive topic.

Understanding the Concept of Divorce in Biblical Times

In order to grasp the biblical perspective on divorce, it is essential to understand the cultural and historical context of the times. Divorce in biblical times differed significantly from the practices and norms we see today.

The Old Testament and Divorce

In the Old Testament, divorce was permitted to some extent under certain circumstances. However, it is important to note that divorce was not divinely ordained but rather allowed due to the hardness of people’s hearts (Matthew 19:8).

During biblical times, marriage was considered a sacred covenant between a man and a woman. Divorce was seen as a last resort, a way to dissolve the marital bond when the relationship became irreparable. However, the reasons for divorce were limited and specific.

One of the circumstances under which divorce was permitted in the Old Testament was adultery. If a spouse committed adultery, it was seen as a violation of the marriage covenant, and divorce could be sought as a means of ending the union.

Additionally, in cases where a man found something indecent about his wife, he could issue a certificate of divorce and send her away (Deuteronomy 24:1). The exact meaning of “something indecent” is a subject of debate among scholars, but it is generally understood to refer to a serious violation of the marriage covenant.

The New Testament and Divorce

In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirms God’s original design for marriage as a lifelong commitment. He emphasizes the importance of upholding the sanctity of marriage and speaks against divorce, except in cases of adultery (Matthew 19:9).

Jesus’ teachings on divorce in the New Testament reflect a stricter stance compared to the allowances made in the Old Testament. He stresses that divorce should not be taken lightly and should only be considered in cases of marital unfaithfulness.

Jesus’ teachings on divorce were revolutionary for his time, as divorce was relatively common and accepted among the Jewish community. By emphasizing the permanence of marriage, Jesus aimed to restore the sanctity and significance of the marital bond.

It is important to note that while divorce is discouraged in the New Testament, it does not mean that individuals who have experienced divorce are condemned or excluded from God’s love and grace. The Bible teaches forgiveness, redemption, and the possibility of a fresh start.

In conclusion, understanding the concept of divorce in biblical times requires a comprehensive examination of the cultural and historical context. Divorce was permitted to some extent in the Old Testament, but Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament emphasized the significance of lifelong commitment in marriage. While divorce should be approached with caution, it is essential to remember that God’s love and grace extend to all, regardless of their marital status.

Biblical Verses Addressing Divorce

Verses from the Old Testament

The Old Testament houses several verses that touch upon the topic of divorce. These verses reflect the cultural practices and beliefs of the time.

The first verse we encounter is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In this passage, Moses outlines the procedure for obtaining a divorce. He states that if a man finds an “uncleanness” in his wife, he may write her a certificate of divorce and send her away. However, it is important to note that this passage does not promote divorce, but rather acknowledges its existence and provides a framework for managing it. It also addresses the issue of remarriage, stating that if a divorced woman marries another man and he divorces her or dies, she is not allowed to return to her first husband. This verse sheds light on the social and legal aspects of divorce in ancient Israel.

Another verse from the Old Testament that addresses divorce is Malachi 2:16. The prophet Malachi emphasizes God’s strong dislike for divorce and highlights the devastating consequences it can bring. He states, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence.” This verse emphasizes the importance of commitment and fidelity in marriage, and the negative impact that divorce can have on individuals and society as a whole. It serves as a reminder that divorce should not be taken lightly and should only be considered as a last resort.

Verses from the New Testament

The New Testament also addresses divorce and provides further insight into God’s perspective on this matter.

One of the key verses in the New Testament that addresses divorce is Matthew 5:31-32. In this passage, Jesus clarifies the seriousness of divorce, highlighting that divorcing a spouse without grounds for adultery can lead to sin. He states, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Jesus emphasizes the importance of faithfulness and commitment in marriage, discouraging divorce except in cases of infidelity.

Another verse that sheds light on divorce is 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. In this passage, the apostle Paul instructs believers who are married not to seek a divorce. He states, “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” Paul encourages couples to work through their differences and strive for reconciliation rather than resorting to divorce. This verse highlights the importance of commitment and perseverance in marriage.

These verses from the New Testament provide further guidance and insight into God’s perspective on divorce. They emphasize the sanctity of marriage and the importance of maintaining strong, faithful relationships. While divorce is acknowledged as a reality, the biblical teachings encourage couples to prioritize reconciliation and work towards resolving conflicts rather than seeking divorce as the first option.

Jesus Christ’s Teachings on Divorce

Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, shared profound teachings regarding the sanctity of marriage and the implications of divorce. His teachings shed light on the importance of commitment, love, and faithfulness within the sacred bond of marriage.

The Sermon on the Mount

Within the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses divorce, highlighting that divorce should be avoided except in cases of marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:31-32). In this powerful sermon, Jesus emphasizes the significance of honoring the covenant of marriage and the devastating consequences of betraying that commitment.

Jesus’s teachings on divorce within the Sermon on the Mount serve as a reminder that marriage is not to be taken lightly. He urges individuals to approach the institution of marriage with reverence and to strive for unity and harmony in their relationships.

Jesus’s Conversations on Divorce

Throughout his ministry, Jesus engaged in conversations about divorce. These interactions provided further clarity on his perspective and the importance of commitment within marriage (Mark 10:1-12, Luke 16:18).

One notable conversation Jesus had on divorce was with a group of Pharisees who sought to test him. They asked whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus responded by pointing them back to the beginning, to the creation of man and woman, emphasizing that God intended for marriage to be a lifelong commitment (Mark 10:2-9).

Jesus’s response highlights the divine intention for marriage and the sacredness of the marital bond. He emphasizes that divorce should not be taken lightly and that it goes against God’s original plan for humanity.

Furthermore, Jesus’s conversations on divorce demonstrate his compassion and understanding toward those who have experienced the pain and brokenness of divorce. He offers hope, healing, and restoration to those who have been through such difficulties, reminding them of God’s unfailing love and grace.

As we reflect on Jesus’s teachings on divorce, we are reminded of the importance of cherishing and nurturing our marriages. His teachings call us to recommit ourselves to the vows we have made, to seek forgiveness and reconciliation when conflicts arise, and to build strong and healthy relationships based on love, trust, and selflessness.

Apostle Paul’s Perspective on Divorce

Apostle Paul, in his letters to the Corinthians and Romans, offers guidance on divorce and marriage.

Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians

In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul addresses the issue of divorce between a believer and an unbeliever. He advises that if the unbelieving spouse wants to separate, the believer is not bound.

Paul’s Advice to the Romans

In Romans 7:2-3, Paul compares marriage to a lifelong commitment. He emphasizes that a person is bound to their spouse until death and that pursuing divorce during their lifetime is considered adultery.

Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible

Besides discussing divorce, the Bible also delves into the topic of remarriage.

Biblical Conditions for Remarriage

  1. Matthew 19:9 – Jesus states that anyone who divorces their spouse, except for cases of adultery, and marries another commits adultery. This verse suggests that remarriage after divorce is only permissible in cases where adultery has occurred.
  2. 1 Corinthians 7:39 – Paul advises widows to remarry, but they must marry a believer. This verse highlights the importance of faith compatibility in remarriage.

The Controversy of Remarriage

The topic of remarriage after divorce remains a contentious issue within the Christian community. Different interpretations and beliefs exist among theologians and denominations.


Understanding what the Bible says about divorce requires careful examination of biblical verses, cultural contexts, and the teachings of Jesus and Paul. It is important to approach this topic with sensitivity, recognizing the complexities that surround divorce and remarriage in today’s society. Ultimately, the Bible portrays marriage as a sacred covenant, and while divorce is allowed under certain circumstances, it should not be taken lightly.


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