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Scripture Reading: Matthew 19:3-9


Jesus is Questioned on Divorce

(Matthew 19:3-12)



1.  Matt. 19:3-12: The Pharisees test Jesus, while Jesus puts them all to the test, challenging His apostles to respect and follow God’s law on marriage.

2.  Focusing the issue:

  a.  Some brethren say Jesus was teaching Moses (Deut. 24:1). No; He taught marriage while explaining why Moses said what he said.

  b.  Some conclude divorce is allowed if they intend never to remarry. No; this views “putting away” (19:9) as a legal term (court action) instead of as the sinful sundering that it is (19:6).

    1)  The exception (“for the cause of fornication”) frees the innocent of sinful sundering and allows the innocent person to remarry.

    2)  Forbids sending away your spouse for reasons other than fornication, Matt. 5:32 (19:6).

3.  Matthew 19:3-12: Jesus exalts God-ordained marriage and extinguishes false views that destroy homes and holiness.


I.  QUESTION ONE: “IS IT LAWFUL FOR A MAN TO PUT AWAY HIS WIFE FOR EVERY CAUSE?” (kjv) Matt. 19:3 (apoluo: release, dismiss, send away; “divorce”, nasb, nkjv, esv)

  -The Answer: “No, because marriage is not to be sundered.” (19:4-6)

  A.  The Test: Shammai or Hillel?

    1.  “‘Is it lawful?’ revealed that they considered marriage and its dissolution a matter of legislation.” (Lenski)

    2.  Jews disputed over the cause of divorce in Deut. 24:1; Not whether God approved of divorce!

    3.  Pharisees assumed the right of divorce – wanted to dispute it cause(s).

      a.  Shammai, placed emphasis on “indecent,” took this to be sexual unfaithfulness (adultery).

          -Over-strict interpretation eliminated the death penalty (for adultery), Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10.

      b.  Hillel, broadened Deut. 24:1 to “any/every cause” and allowed divorce for such a trivial offense as burning her husband’s food.

          -Utterly lax view, allowing divorce for everything, thus eliminating the restraint of Deut. 24:1.

     4.  Essentially, Jesus said showed both were wrong, and that the Pharisees did not understand God’s original design of marriage (19:4-6).

  B.  The Answer: Marriage is a Creation Law and therefore is for Life, Matt. 19:4-6.

    1.  The creation of male and female (when He “made them at the beginning”) implies that God designed marriage, 19:4; Gen. 1:27. “By that creative act, marriage was instituted by God” (Lenski)

    2.  Additionally: “For this reason” – God said what marriage really is, Matt. 19:5; Gen. 2:24.

      a.  Primacy and permanency of marriage: Leave and cleave.

      b.  Jesus draws the conclusion in Matt. 19:6: “They are no longer two, but one flesh.”

  C.  Marriage (“one flesh” relation, God-approved) is Not to be Put Asunder, Matt. 19:6; 1 Cor. 7:10, 11.

    1.  chorizo: “Separate”, “to separate oneself, depart” (Vine); “to place room between” (Strong’s); cf. Rom. 8:35, 39.

    2.  “The implication is that any man who divides what God has thus by his own creation united into one, flies into the face of God and his will.” (Lenksi)

  D.  Applications for Us:

    1.  Marriage is for life, Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39. This affects choosing a mate and how we develop our relationship once married.

    2.  God’s will is not that people in scriptural marriages divorce; it is that marriages He joins are not sundered (separated).

    3.  God does not approve divorce for “any reason”; God hates divorce, Mal. 2:16.

       -Such as, a decision to “divorce but remain unmarried” violates Matt. 19:6; 5:32 and 1 Cor. 7:27.


II.  QUESTION TWO: “WHY THEN DID MOSES COMMAND A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE, AND TO PUT HER AWAY?” Matt. 19:7-9 (Question rests on a false supposition: Moses commanded divorce.)

    -“Even its substance dealt only with the legal procedure followed in the release of a wife; a divorce certificate had to be given.” (Lenski, emp. mine)

  A.  Moses Gave Permission to Put Away Wives Within God-Given Parameters, 19:8.

    1.  LOM limited the reason for divorce: Some uncleanness in her” (KJV, NKJV), Deut. 24:1.

      a.  “Some unseemly thing” (ASV); some indecency” (NASV); something indecent” (NIV).

         1)  “Offensiveness, shamefulness; disgrace” (Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Davidson, 789).

         2)  “Nudity, lit. ... or fig. (disgrace, blemish):--nakedness, shame, unclean (-ness)” (Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, Strong, 91).

         3)  “A thing offensive”; “Nakedness, disgracefulness” (Young’s Analytical Concordance, 1012).

         4)  Some immodest or indecent behavior” (Dictionary of the Bible, Hastings, III:275).

      b.  Use of the word:

         1)  Of human excrement uncovered in the camp (disgrace before God), Deut. 23:14.

         2)  Of “nakedness” in both literal (Lev. 18:6) and figurative senses (Isa. 47:3; Ezek. 16:8).

      c.  Uncleanness: Shameful indecency (immorality) SHORT OF ADULTERY.

         1)  Adulteress was to be put to death, Deut. 22:22.

         2)  Uncleanness could include lewd, lascivious behavior (cf. suggestive, seductive, vulgar, immodest conduct).

    2.  Other conditions restricted divorce and deterred its proliferation, Deut. 24:2-4.

      a.  Certificate of divorce: Legal attestation to the separation and freedom to remarry.

      b.  Not allowed to return to first husband upon subsequent divorce and death.

  B.  The Reason for this Permission was the Hardness of their Hearts, Matt. 19:8.

    1.  But, “from the beginning it was not so”.

      a.  Permission to put away wives was not “from the beginning”.

      b.  Permission was never commanded.

    2.  The practice was regulated because their hardened hearts toward marriage, women and self-restraint from sin.

  C.  Moses Made a Concession due to Hard Hearts, but Jesus Ended Moses’ Temporary Permission and Applied His Authority, Matt. 19:8-9.

    1.  Jesus did not preach Moses; He nailed the LOM to cross!

    2.  Chart: Moses and Jesus



Fornicator put away by death penalty

(Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10)

Fornicator may be sent away and may not remarry another (Matt. 5:32; 19:9)

Man permitted to put away his wife for conduct short of fornication (Deut. 24:1)

Man not permitted to put away wife for conduct short of fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:6)

Woman put away (for cause other than fornication) not said to be in adultery if she married another (Deut. 24:2)

Woman put away for a cause other than fornication is in adultery if she marries another (Matt. 5:32; Rom. 7:2-3)

Man she married was not said to be in adultery (Deut. 24:2-3)

Man she marries is said to be in adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9)

First husband barred from ever taking her back after she remarried

First husband not barred from ever taking her back if she remarries (repentance: 1 Cor. 7:11)

    3.  One reason (cause) for sending away a spouse: The reason of fornication, Matt. 19:9.

        -Frees the innocent one to remarry; All other remarriages are adultery. Explained in Rom. 7:2-3.

  D.  Applications for Us:

    1.  Many reasons to end a marriage was not sanctioned of Moses, and are not sanctioned by Christ.

    2.  Divorce without remarriage is not commanded or permitted by Jesus.



  A.  The Disciples were Reluctant to Give Up the Jewish Ease of Ending a Marriage, 19:10.

    1.  Appeal to human emotion and earthly wisdom to blunt the force of what Jesus said.

    2.  “Celibacy must be better than marriage!”

    3.  Emotional arguments that attempt to go around God’s word are always false.

  B.  Truth is Unchanged by our Emotions or by the Difficulty of Obeying It, Matt. 19:11-12.

    1.  “This saying”: The origin of marriage (19:4), the permanence of marriage (19:5-6), and the exception to marriage (19:9).

    2.  Yield to God’s truth about marriage, do not sunder God-joined marriages, and make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to please God.



1.  Jesus elevated marriage to the holy plane God ordained it to occupy at creation: One flesh for life.

2.  Sundering what God has joined together is a great sin. Matt. 19:6

3.  Jesus silenced the Pharisees and exhorted His disciples.

4.  Do not look for ways to end your God-approved marriage; enhance it with unwavering commitment to receive and follow Christ’s word about it.




By: Joe R. Price

Posted: January 16, 2014