“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

May One Divorce for Any Cause?

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 

Matthew 19:2-11, ESV

Good question, because it appears some were divorcing their wives for ‘any cause,’ which was supported by the rabbinical House/Beit of Hillel. This may have been a polarizing debate in the Jewish community with the House/Beit of Shammai, who held to the Torah view that it was not acceptable, unless, in the case of adultery. Yeshua apparently agreed with the Torah guidance, as well.  

We will look at the conversation that took place. 

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” ESV

This passage has the Pharisees bringing up the Torah (Law of Moses) and their interpretation of it. Yeshua proceeds to educate these supposed learned men of Torah on the Teaching of Divorce. 

Let us begin with their interpretation. Their interpretation was that a man can divorce his wife for any cause. Yet, the Torah teaches divorce was only permissible on certain and limited grounds. Yeshua is careful to say that it was only because of the hardness of their hearts that divorce, or a Get, ever made it into the Torah. 

According to the teachings of Moses/Torah there were only four permissible reasons.  We find them in Exodus 21:10-11.

10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money. KJV


Deuteronomy 24:1

24 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some (dabar) uncleanness (erwat) in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

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

The four reasons for a woman to divorce her husband are: if a husband denies her food, clothing, and conjugal rights; all of these are considered neglect, or abuse. If a marriage partner does not receive a form of love (intimacy), that is considered abuse. The fourth reason is if a husband finds some uncleanness in his wife, that is, she was not a virgin, or she committed adultery; he could give her a certificate of divorce.

The rabbis, by the time of Yeshua, developed an “Any Cause” divorce, and He disagreed with it. This can be found in Deuteronomy 24:1, in short: If he (husband) finds “something” indecent in her. That ‘something’ is the Hebrew word Dabar and it means ‘thing.’ The rabbis had made the one law in Deuteronomy 24 of ‘something indecent’ (fornication/adultery) into two laws. The ‘thing’ (davar) would be the first law and indecent the second law. The ‘thing’ led to ‘Any Cause’ divorce. One could get a divorce for a’ thing’ or a divorce because of a disgrace/indecent. 

Matthew 19:3, 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? 

Every cause in the verse above is not about adultery or fornication (sex before marriage). I should add that in the ancient past when a woman and a man decided to get married, they entered into a covenant/agreement together, and this would make her his wife; even though they would not consummate it for several months. If she would happen to be intimate with someone else, this would be considered adultery, because of the covenant they had entered into together.  Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees used the “Any Cause’ for their divorces. They divorced their wives over anything, like maybe, too many wrinkles, or the food was burnt, or she just became ill, etc. Jesus brings up the Torah, and male and female becoming one flesh; and what God joined together, let no man separate. 

The Pharisees ask: Why did Moses then write a Certificate of Divorce, and to put her away?  Yeshua responds that it was permitted because of the hardness of their hearts. Rabbis, elders, etc., in the past thought it compulsory to divorce the spouse who committed adultery. Some would apply pressure for a man to divorce his wife who had been unfaithful (notice, they did not apply the death penalty to the wife). Yeshua instructs that it was not compulsory, but divorce was permitted, because of the hardness of their hearts. One did not have to divorce his wife if she had been unfaithful—he could forgive her. 

There was no Bill of Divorcement for ‘Any Cause;’ only for neglect (no food, clothing), no love, and adultery. So, Yeshua is speaking to them that He knew of their having their ‘Any Cause’ divorces, and these divorces were invalid! What a ripple of shock that went through the Pharisees! 

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (Deuteronomy 24:1), and marries another, commits adultery. Matthew 19

The Pharisees ‘Any Cause’ divorces were invalid, and they were committing the unthinkable—adultery! No wonder some of the Pharisees were bitter and angry at Yeshua! He was calling them adulterers! And rightly so!

The NKJV has in Matthew 19:9-10

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another. Commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.

The wife they sent away for ‘Any Cause’ would also be committing adultery, because the divorce issued was not valid. 

This instruction was so astonishing that His disciples said to Him, If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry. Matthew 19:11

The Torah also gave the person who was not loved, and abused, the right to remarry as is stated in Exodus 21:10-11

 10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money. KJV

Also, see David Instone-Brewer’s YouTube teachings on Divorce and Remarriage

DIVORCE – JewishEncyclopedia.com