Are we to conclude that the Bible does not contain all the fine print disclaimers about causes for divorce?
Have you ever wondered, “Does the Bible contain all the fine print disclaimers about causes for divorce?” That is, do we have all of the reasons for divorce in the Bible? This question is a dangerous one. Why is the question dangerous? Because the question can lead to a person doing what is right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25 says,
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NASB)
Yet, it is a very good question, as long as we are in submission to God. The answer to the question, “Do we have all of the reasons for divorce in the Bible?” is, “Yes!”
An important starting point is Malachi 2:16. It tells us that God hates divorce.
“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:16 (NASB)
While some other Bibles translate this verse differently, the NASB and the new Legacy Standard Bible (LSB), have provided the best translation. That is, God hates divorce. Yet, He allows it in certain situations. Jesus said that divorce is allowed because of the hardness of man’s heart (Matthew 19:7-8). So, that is the starting point. God does not like divorce.
Now if we assume that God allows divorce (something that He hates) for some reason that is not stated in the Bible, how would we decide which reasons qualify? Some have said that God allows divorce for three or four reasons. Also, there have been many different reasons that women and men think are good reasons. But there are only two clear reasons given in the Scripture for a biblical divorce.
But is it possible there are some other reasons for divorce that have God’s approval? The Pharisees had their list of reasons for divorce. Then Jesus said, “But I say to you . . . ”
“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32 (NASB)
Then He limited all of those reasons down to one—adultery. Later the Holy Spirit moved Paul to add another reason, after the Holy Spirit had begun to indwell all believers.
Now if we added another reason, would we not be like the Pharisees who created their own list of reasons for divorce? Or, do we have the authority of Christ or an apostle to add to the Bible a new reason? The answer is No!
We must remember that God hates divorce. Therefore, the reasons for divorce are very limited. Why would God give us a smorgasbord of reasons? Scripture only gives us two clear reasons for divorce – adultery and an unbelieving partner who files for the divorce. Those are the only reasons that we know God clearly approves.
So, if we do add another reason that is not approved by God, He will not be pleased with us. Even worse God may punish those who believe there are other reasons that allow divorce. God may even punish the individual(s) who add to His two clear reasons for divorce. Further, we do not have the authority of Christ or an apostle to add any other reasons. That means God may punish us for adding to Scripture. See Revelation 22:18-19 and 1 Timothy 4:1-2. So, there are only two reasons that we confidently say are biblical reasons – adultery and an unbelieving partner who files for a divorce.
Suggested Links:When and Why God Permits Divorce
Why does God hate divorce if He allows it?
Biblical Divorce and Remarriage
When Should A Spouse Flee?