I’ve often heard that the rate of divorce in the US is about 50%, but I’ve discovered that statistics are hard to pin down. Some say the rate of divorce has dropped in the last decade and that as high as 70% of marriages make it to their 15th year. While that’s good, what about the 30% who don’t? And is it possible that the divorce rate is going down because many couples simply live together without marrying?
What does the Bible say about divorce? Is it allowable to divorce because we’re not happy or no longer in love? Is it OK if we’re unequally yoked? Are there even any biblical grounds for divorce?
Ezra 9 & 10
Biblical Grounds for Divorce
Marriage and Divorce when Unequally Yoked
59 years had passed since the completion of the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel. In these passages, the second group of former captives have returned led by Ezra. He has learned that the Jews who were already there, including many of the leaders, have taken pagan wives. This was strictly forbidden by the Law, had repeatedly led the people into idolatry, and had caused the nation to be taken into captivity. Yet, they had gone back to the same practices!
John MacArthur points out in his Daily Bible notes that even though there was a decision made that these wives as a whole were to be “put away”—that is divorced—each marriage was examined individually, probably to learn whether the wives had become believers. He also notes that other gentile women like Ruth and Rahab who had embraced faith in God were accepted and even included in the lineage of Christ.
So what about today? Can we divorce an unbelieving spouse? Matthew Henry in his commentary says, “As to being unequally yoked with unbelievers, such marriages, it is certain, are sinful, and ought not to be made; but now they are not null, as they were before the gospel did away the separation between Jews and Gentiles.”
2 Corinthians 6.14 says:
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
So while it is wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian, if a believer is already married to a non-believer, divorce is not an option in most circumstances.
So what does the Bible say about divorce? Is it ever allowable? Jay Adams, in his book Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, says, “Contrary to some opinions, the concept of divorce is biblical. The Bible recognizes and regulates divorce.”
When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, “being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly (Matt. 1.19). He was going to divorce her until an angel convinced him that she had not committed adultery. Continue reading