Is divorce ever permitted in the Bible?
God’s intention with marriage is that a man and woman should be joined together and become ‘one flesh’ for life.
Genesis 2:23 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. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Under the Law of Moses, the marriage bond was broken when the husband gave his wife a bill (Hebrew ‘cepher’ literally a writing) of divorcement.
Deuteronomy 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
To send her out of the marital home to return to her father’s house was to ‘put her away’. She was then free to marry another man.
The grounds for divorce ‘found some uncleanness in her’ were vague. Some liked to believe that they could divorce their wives for any trifling reason. They put this question to Jesus intending to draw him into controversy.
Matthew 19:3 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.
‘Put asunder’ is the translation of the Greek ‘chorizo’ which means ‘to separate’. In marriage a couple are ‘joined together’. In divorce a couple are ‘separated’.
A Godly man having married a wife will remain with her, recognising the truth of the proverb:
Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
Marriage vows are not meant to be broken. In practice all men are not Godly, therefore divorce was permitted under the Law.
Matthew 19:7 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.
Under the New Covenant in Christ, marriage is intended to represent that of Christ and his bride (the church), a bond which will not be broken.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 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. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 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. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
I hope you find this helpful.