Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 30, 2001


This morning I want to talk about divorce, marriage, and relationships.

:1 because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement

uncleanness – ‘erva – shame, indecency, improper behaviour

God is saying to the Israelites that if a person found something that qualified as this “uncleanness”, that all they had to do was write down on a piece of paper “divorce”, and it was done.

This has been the subject of much controversy over the ages. Just what is the definition of “uncleanness”? What is allowable in divorce?

For some people, this is talking about marrying a woman who is not a virgin. They claim that the only allowable reason for divorce is when the other person was previously involved in premarital sex.

Actually this is a pretty serious issue.  But this was already dealt with in Deut. 22:13-21, and in that passage, God said that if a partner was found out to have been involved in premarital sex, that the result was not divorce, the result was that the person was to be put to death.  Pretty messy, huh?

In Jesus’ day, things had deteriorated to the point where this “uncleanness” could be just about anything. Burning the toast. Bad breath. You name it.


Put A Sock In It
A young couple decided to wed. As the big day approached, they grew apprehensive. Each had a problem they had never before shared with anyone, not even each other. The Groom-to-be, overcoming his fear, decided to ask his father for advice. “Father,” he said, “I am deeply concerned about the success of my marriage.” His father replied, “Don’t you love this girl?” “Oh yes, very much,” he said,” but you see, I have very smelly feet, and I’m afraid that my fiancé will be put off by them.” “No problem,” said dad, “all you have to do is wash your feet as often as possible, and always wear socks, even to bed.” Well, to him this seemed a workable solution. The bride-to-be, overcoming her fear, decided to take her problem up with her mom. “Mom,” she said, “When I wake up in the morning my breath is truly awful.” “Honey,” her mother consoled, “everyone has bad breath in the morning.” “No, you don’t understand, my morning breath is so bad, I’m afraid that my fiancé will not want to sleep in the same room with me.” Her mother said simply, “Try this. In the morning, get straight out of bed, and head for the kitchen and make breakfast. While the family is busy eating, move on to the bathroom and brush your teeth. The key is, not to say a word until you’ve brushed your teeth.” “I shouldn’t say good morning or anything?” the daughter asked. “Not a word,” her mother affirmed. “Well, it’s certainly worth a try,” she thought. The loving couple was finally married. Not forgetting the advice each had received, he with his perpetual socks and she with her morning silence, they managed quite well. That is, until about six months later. Shortly before dawn one morning, the husband wakes with a start to find that one of his socks had come off. Fearful of the consequences, he frantically searches the bed. This, of course, wakes his bride and without thinking, she asks, “What on earth are you doing?” “Good grief,” he replies, “you’ve swallowed my sock!”

We’ll talk about what this “uncleanness” is in a minute …

:2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.

In other words … remarry. When a divorce meets God’s requirements for divorce, it is allowable for a person to remarry. That’s the whole purpose behind divorce, to end the marriage and allow a person to remarry.

:4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife

If you’ve been divorced, remarried, and then divorced again, you were not to go back to the original spouse. God calls it an abomination.


God’s ideas about divorce

Jesus was questioned about these verses because of the strange opinions on divorce in His day:
(Mat 19:3-9 KJV) 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.
:6 What therefore God hath joined together ...
Jesus’ teaching on the divorce argument is based on Genesis 2. He quotes from –
(Gen 2:22-25 KJV)  And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. {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. {25} And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Jesus is saying that the model marriage is found in the first marriage, the one that God created.

In the “model marriage”, there was complete openness, they had no secrets from each other, they were both “naked and unashamed”.

In the first marriage, God made one man and one woman, not one man, one woman, and a spare just in case.  The two joined together and became “one flesh”.

If God has joined two people together into one flesh, then no human should be trying to split up what God has made.

In other words, Jesus is saying, “In the beginning, there was no divorce”.

God wants permanence in marriage.

God wants you to enter into marriage with the notion that there is “no way out”.  I’ve heard that Ruth Graham has said something like, “Being married to Billy, the word ‘divorce’ has never entered into our vocabulary.  Murder maybe, but never divorce”.

:7 Why did Moses then command ...
The Pharisees are responding to Jesus. If Jesus is saying there should be no divorce, then how come Moses gave permission for it? They are referring to our passage in Deut. 24.
:8 because of the hardness of your hearts
It was by way of concession that God, through Moses, allowed man a way out of a marriage. But originally, God intended man and woman to stay married.
Even today, God’s best is still for husband and wife to stay married.

Even when there’s been unfaithfulness in a marriage, God would rather have the offending party confess and repent, and the offended party to forgive, rather than for divorce.

But if a person just can’t handle the unfaithfulness, God understands, and allows for divorce.
:9 except it be for fornication
Biblical reasons for divorce and remarriage:

Here Jesus states one of the Biblical reasons for divorce.

1. Immorality (fornication)

Jesus is saying that God allows for divorce when “fornication” (porneia) is involved.  Porneia is defined as simply any kind of sex outside of marriage.  Any.  We could call it “sexual immorality”.

I believe Jesus is defining what should be meant as the “uncleanness” in Deut.24:1. He has defined it as sexual immorality.

2. Abandonment

I do believe there is one other possible justification for divorce and remarriage, and that is abandonment.

(1 Cor 7:15 KJV) But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

Some see a strict interpretation here, where the person leaving has to be an unbeliever.

But some see even a spouse that calls himself a Christian, but is acting like an unbeliever, as a reason for divorce.  In other words, if a husband is continually physically abusive, a woman might have grounds for divorce.  Personally, you won’t find me arguing with that kind of reasoning.  I would agree.

:9 whosoever shall put away his wife, except ...
So what do I do if I’ve been divorced and remarried, and it wasn’t for Biblical reasons?  Have I committed adultery?


1. Confess your sin to God.

Admit to God that you’ve blown it. Ask God to forgive you.

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

2. Stay with your current spouse!

According to Deut.24:1-4, it would be an abomination for you to go back to your former spouse now.

(1 Cor 7:20 KJV) Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

Stay in the condition you’re in when God calls you!

So why can’t I just divorce my spouse, get remarried, confess my sin, and go on like everyone else?

God doesn’t want you to commit sin.

When you commit sin, it’s like pounding a nail into a piece of wood. When you ask for forgiveness, God pulls out the nail. But the hole is still there.

There are always consequences to sin.

God would much rather you stay with your spouse, learn to love him/her like you should, and avoid the much greater pain of divorce.

Also, you’ll most likely find many of the same problems in your next marriage, because you’re still in the picture!

Changing spouses is no guarantee of happiness, but it is a guarantee of a lot of pain.

What if I’m separated from my spouse, or divorced for the wrong reasons, but neither of us are remarried?

Hold out for your marriage until:

1 ) The other spouse remarries, which would end the possibility of you marrying them again.

2) It is clear they’ve abandoned you and have no plans to come back.

But even with this, be careful that pay attention to the leading of the Lord.  I have known people who had a sense from the Lord that their spouse would eventually one day come back, and they kept praying and waiting until the day it happened.  For some, God will let you know that it’s over and it’s time to move on.  These aren’t things that people can tell you, I think these are things that God can tell you.


Maintaining a good marriage

Frankly, I don’t want you to come away from today thinking that the message was entitled, “How to have a divorce”.  I don’t think that does anyone any good.  I’d rather we entitle the message, “How to be married”.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re married or not, the things I want to share are vital to any relationship you might have with another person.  Four things.



(Eph 5:21-24 KJV)  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. {22} Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. {23} For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. {24} Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Even though the subject of submission is aimed mainly at the wife, there is a sense in which we all need to pay attention to this principle of relating to others.  Paul said that we are all to be submitting ourselves to each other (Eph. 5:21).
submithupotasso – to arrange under, to subject one’s self, obey; to yield to one’s admonition or advice
Submission is not a matter of whether or not you are superior or inferior, it is simply a matter of order.  A general and a colonel are both equal in God’s sight, but in running an army, a colonel needs to pay attention to what a general says.
(1 Pet 3:1 KJV)  Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (better translation, “behavior”) of the wives;
Peter is saying that even if your husband is an absolute idiot, a wife needs to learn to submit.  Why?  Because it will win him over.

I believe that a wife that learns to practice godly submission will help her husband to grow into a strong leader.

I have this feeling that most ladies are much better at making decisions than their husbands.  Sometimes a woman can jump in and make all the decisions for the family.  But God’s desire is for your husband to learn to be strong, responsible, and decisive.  And sometimes a man can only learn that if he is allowed to make mistakes.  Let him be a leader.  Help him grow to be the strong man that God wants him to be.

Your husband needs to hear your ideas, but he needs to learn to value them on his own.  Sometimes that means that he will need to be allowed to fall on his face without being beaten up by you in the process.
The true test of submission is when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do.  It’s not hard to submit to someone when all they ever ask you to do is what you really want to do anyway.  It’s difficult when they ask you to do something you don’t want to do.
As I mentioned earlier, the principle of submission is a difficult one to swallow.  We all want to take control of our own lives.  We are afraid to yield any control to another individual.  But sometimes submission is exactly what we need to be doing.  Sometimes we become refined through submission.  Sometimes the organization we’re a part of will grow stronger when we learn to submit to those in authority over us.



(Eph 5:25-27 KJV)  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.
Again, even though this is mainly directed at men, we are all to learn to love each other this way.
(John 13:34 KJV)  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
This is an unconditional love
God doesn’t love us because we deserve to be loved; God has loved us despite who we are.

(Rom 5:8 KJV)  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

In our relationships, we must come to the place that we choose to love the other person.  We make a choice to place value on the other person despite how “worthy” they are of our love.
This is a sacrificial love
Jesus’ love for the church was demonstrated when He hung on a cross and died in our place, paying for our sins.

The Bible says that mankind has a major problem in relating with God because of their sin.  The Bible says that our sin separates us from God.  And the Bible says that the only way to remove that sin, is for justice to be done, someone has to pay the price.  And the Bible says that the wages of sin, the price is death.  Because God does not want us to have to pay that price and spend eternity in hell, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and take upon Himself the penalty for the sins of the world.  Jesus laid down an immortal, eternal life, to pay for an infinite amount of sins.  And now God has offered to us His forgiveness for free, completely paid for by the death of Jesus on the cross.

God offers to us this free forgiveness, and all that is required of us is that we be willing to accept His free gift.  Like any present you might receive for your birthday, the gift is of no value to you unless you receive the gift and open the package.  You must open your heart to Jesus and receive His forgiveness.

In our relationships, we too need to learn to love each other with a love that is willing to sacrifice everything for the other person.  When a relationship is only based on what you “get” from it, the relationship is doomed.  God’s desire is that our relationships are based on what we are willing to “give” to the other person.
This is a beautifying love
When we as believers begin to allow Jesus to love us, we will find that He will wash us in the water of His Word.  This happens when we open our Bibles and learn more about Him, finding out more about His love, finding out more about His plan for our lives, finding out more of what He’s like.
In our relationships, we can wash each other in our words.

Our words can build up or tear down.

(Prov 12:18 NASB)  There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.

When we are treating each other properly, demonstrated not only by what we say but also by what we do, the other person will grow and flourish.  They will become more beautiful.  The spots and wrinkles will go away.



(Eph 4:25 KJV)  Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
(Eph 4:29 KJV)  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
corruptsapros – rotten, putrefied; corrupted by one and no longer fit for use, worn out; of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless
Sometimes the way we talk to each other is pretty rotten.  Sometimes we end up speaking purely out of emotion and we do a lousy job of communicating what we’re really needing to say.
One of the biggest areas of blunder in our communication comes when we assume that we totally understand what the other person is trying to tell us.
(Prov 18:13 KJV)  He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

I’ll bet that 50% of our arguments could be resolved easily and quickly if we would just take the time to find out what the other person is really trying to say.

How do we do that?

One way is to use four little words, “I heard you say”. 

Here’s how it works – next time your wife or husband says something that ticks you off, instead of responding by yelling at them, ask yourself, “Is there a possibility that I’ve misunderstood them?”  Then say to them, “Honey, I’m not sure here, but I heard you say that …”  You might be surprised to find out that you heard wrong.



(Eph 4:31-32 KJV)  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: {32} And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
For years I’ve agreed with Norm Wright who wrote a book entitled “Communication, Key to Your Marriage”.  I do believe that good communication is important in a marriage.  I do believe that many of the arguments we have are probably nothing more than miscommunication.  But I believe there’s an even greater danger to your relationship than miscommunication.  I believe the biggest killer of relationships is unforgiveness.
It’s inevitable that we’ll get mad at each other.  It’s inevitable that we’ll hurt each other.  But we don’t have to take that hurt and turn it into a grudge.  We need to let it go.
(Luke 7:36-48 KJV)  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. {37} And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, {38} And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. {39} Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. {40} And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. {41} There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. {42} And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? {43} Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. {44} And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. {45} Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. {46} My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. {47} Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. {48} And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
Much forgiveness brings much love.
It works this way in your relationship with the Lord.  The more you are aware and receive God’s complete forgiveness for your sins, the greater love you will find in your heart for Jesus.
It works this way in our relationships with each other.  When there are grudges and bitterness, love dwindles.  Where there is much forgiveness, complete and total, there is much love.