Analysis of Matthew 19:1-12

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

7″Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Analysis

Jesus acknowledges that not everyone will be able to accept His teaching on divorce.  This does not make it an optional command and that people are excused from following it if they don’t like it.  Instead He is confirming that it exists and that people will continue to divorce because their hearts are hard.

At the time, a man could divorce his wife for any trivial reason, even something such as burning the toast.  Jesus explains that divorce is not God’s will but had been allowed in the law of Moses because of the hardness of people’s hearts.

There are a few lessons from what Jesus says and at least two from what He doesn’t say.  The first is that someone who initiates a divorce and then remarries is guilty of adultery.

The second lesson is a tricky exception to the rule of divorce.  The Greek word that is translated as marital unfaithfulness is porneia.  No one knows the exact meaning of this word although it is understood to be similar to fornication or adultery.  It is the root word where we get the word pornography.  Marital unfaithfulness is grounds for divorce according to Jesus, assuming that this is precisely what porneia means.

What is not said is if a person who has a legitimate reason for a divorce can then remarry.  This topic is discussed under “Is infidelity grounds for divorce?” and “Should I get remarried?

While a person who initiates the divorce is told not to remarry because it is adultery, the fate of the divorcee is not mentioned.  Are they allowed to get remarried because they were not at fault for the divorce?  Jesus addresses this partly in Matthew 5:31-32 and it is discussed here under the topic “Should I get remarried?

Other passages concerning divorce

Malachi 2:13-16

1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 39

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