Divorcing a "strange wife"

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Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby King_David » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:40 am

Tonight I ran across something I've never noticed before in the Bible. I always thought that God hated divorce, and I know that in Corinthians Paul said that believers married to unbelievers should stay married if possible...but in Ezra chapters 9 and 10 we have a "mass divorce" after the men are commanded to put away strange wives and their children.

"Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law." - Ezra 10:3

Did God command this, or did Ezra issue this commandment on his own? How far off the mark does a wife have to be, to be considered "strange"? And wouldn't it have made more sense for the men to have been commanded to retain custody of the children, for purposes of raising them "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord", rather than "putting them away" too?
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby bn2bnude » Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:05 am

Odd, I was listening to a new (first podcast) from someone I follow in a blog with and subconsciously pressed the reply.

So let's put Ezra into context.

  • Judah had been exiled for 70 at this point.
  • Those that were building the wall had returned from Persia with new wives (I believe I had heard this was a 1 month journey.
  • The new wives were not part of Israel and had their own set of gods that they worshipped.
  • Those that built the wall faced opposition from the people who had stayed (or been dropped off) in the land.
  • Part of Ezra's purpose was as High Priest which would likely have been to call the people to purity as well.
Ok, that is just an "off the cuff" list. I've not quite gotten to Ezra (Still reading about Solomon) this year.

Late last year I heard this same realization (I hadn't noticed this before either) from a little church in NC. You can listen here (they "do church" a little differently).

They are discussing the same question you ask, however. Did Ezra hear from God or did he do this on his own.

That is one of the tensions we find in scripture however. :)
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Bare_Truth » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:21 am

When it comes to divorce and the Bible, it is necessary to define terms and practices before one can even start to have a rational discussion.

For instance look at two scriptures.
Isa 50:
1 Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? .......

Mark 10:
4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement (Strongs 647), and to put her away.(Strongs 630).
Note that there are two steps in this process. We see these two steps yet today among orthodox Jews. An orthodox Jewish couple can get a divorce through the courts, but the woman is not allowed to remarry within the faith unless her former husband will issue her a "ghet". That ghet is simply a written statement that "You may marry whomsoever you will".

Now fast forward to 1611 and the King James Version translation
Matthew 5:
Mat 5:
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (Strongs 647):
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away (Strongs 630) his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Again we see the very same two words being used by Christ. A man might put his wife out of the house and reject her but under the law of Moses he was required to give her a "bill of divorcement" so that she could marry someone else.

In this light we can understand how it was that Christ could say that a man who "put away" his wife could cause her to commit adultery. Can anyone else cause you to steal? Can anyone else cause you to murder? Of course not! So then how can a former husband cause his former wife to commit adultery? In those times a woman without a household was destitute. So if she was kicked out by her former husband and took up with any man who would have her, if she did not have a bill of divorcement then that constituted adultery.

And when we read in Malachi about God's view of putting away:
Malachi 2:
15 ....... let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away (Strongs 7971): ......
We find that it is putting away that is the most trecherous treatment of a wife. The Hebrew word here is essentially the same as the Greek word used for putting away. While both the Hebrew and Greek words may imply divorce, their stronger senses are simply to get rid of. and in the Hebrew tradition are only part of the divorcement process.
*Strong's Hebrew*
7971 shalach shaw-lakh' a primitive root;
-- to send away, for, or out (in a great variety of applications):
-- cast (away, out),
-- forsake,
-- give (up),
-- leave,
-- let depart (down, go, loose),
-- push away,
-- put (away, forth, in, out),
-- send (away, forth, out),
-- shoot (forth, out),

*Strongs Greek*
630 apoluo ap-ol-oo'-o
-- to free fully, i.e.
-- release,
-- dismiss
-- let die,
-- (let) depart,
-- let go,
-- loose,
-- put (send) away,
-- release,
-- set at liberty.


Further we might notice that the marriages in question in Ezra were contracted contrary to the statutes handed down through moses commanding the Israelites not to make marriages with the people of the land.
Deuteronomy 7:
3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
4 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
So in that sense, this putting away of their wives would perhaps be better described by the current term "Annulment".
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Petros » Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:20 pm

I am [was?] divorced by her own request from Wee Coryl, who was in many ways wrong, and that by the grace of God who put together Herself and me.

And I do not think we need get too prtecise with the meaning of divorce, and worry about Ezra, or weasel about killing and the wars of thed Jews. God - thank God - is not compulsively humanly logically consistent, he is wshaty he is and does what he does and wipes up our messes.

But fact is facts, take what you like and pay for it, says God, and I was forced - married to Herself and knowing that God arranged it - had to acknowledge and repent marrying Wee Coryl and the eventual divorce that necssitated.
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby christian84 » Sat Nov 16, 2013 10:07 pm

Church is against divorce in principle, in the sense that divorce is not considered a normal and positive act by which individual life, social and religious believers to be helped in any way, but it is a negative act that causes many sufferings and shortcomings entire lives, viewed as a whole, meaning and profane aspect and as religious and individual aspect and social aspect.
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby bn2bnude » Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:15 pm

christian84 wrote:Church is against divorce in principle, in the sense that divorce is not considered a normal and positive act by which individual life, social and religious believers to be helped in any way, but it is a negative act that causes many sufferings and shortcomings entire lives, viewed as a whole, meaning and profane aspect and as religious and individual aspect and social aspect.


Under normal circumstances, you are right.

Much of the divorce is not under normal circumstances, however.

My MIL was divorced when her husband drank his paycheck and the only way to keep hold of it was to garnish his wages. She didn't remarry because she promised the priest she would not.

I had a friend who as verbally and mentally abused during most of her marriage. It finally got to a point where divorce was the only way to change the situation. I lost touch with her but the threat of divorce didn't bring a good end as she found someone else.

I have a friend who's husband cheated on her. She was able to reconcile but the divorce proceedings had started. Had he not agreed to therapy it probably would have continued.

The list goes on as we are really a broken people. Sometimes divorce is the only answer to protect one or more of the parties involved
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Petros » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:30 am

And there is de facto divorce even where not de jure. Passing lightly over an ancestor who married and raised a family in one state conveniently [not of course for all parties] forgetting about the wife and kiddieds he had in another, we may instance mein Papa, who discovered certain incompatibilities, minimized home time, eschewed increasingly over time family life, had least one son not part of our family, and then moved out when Mama got sick, communicarting with the family only to request assistance and gripe. Check Matthew 19:8
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Bare_Truth » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:02 pm

It seems to me that this strip has drifted a bit in a critical way. The original post was directed at a specific issue. Namely divorce in the case where their is a religious incompatability as a root issue (though perhaps not the only issue).

The case presented as the impetus for the strip was the "mass divorce" of Ezra 9 & 10. If you read this case it is obvious that the Jews in who had returned to the nation of Judah, were about to be culturally, ethnically and religiously assimilated and the Jewish nation would cease to be an identifiable entity.

Lawyers like to say, "Hard cases make bad law", by which they mean that an exceptional case often has factors that rarely occur and if one tries to use a suitable settlement of such a "hard case" as a precedent, then in cases that do not have all those issues, the result is likely to be a bad decision.

That being said, if the Ezra 9 & 10 case is looked at more broadly as being a cultural and religious mismatch, it should be a warning to all Christians.

Speaking a bit more broadly than just marriage but definitely inclusive of marrage Paul commanded in 2Cor 6:14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers:...." So don't marry when there are significant religious differences. And the same would apply to business arrangements etc. If there, -- is going to be, -- might be, -- sort of could be, a conflict with your partner, it is a deal breaker. You can depend on Satan to work to exploit it! So Paul's command here is relevant to avoiding the development of a situation on a personal scale that is parallel to the Ezra 9 & 10 case.

Because of the growing of the church in apostolic times, and possibly even unfortunate cases which might arise in various ways that could result in a religious mismatch, Paul also provided instruction in
1Cor 7:
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
15 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.
In this he provided protection for the sanctity of marriage by enjoining the Christian not to use a religious difference as grounds to break a working marriage in situations where the unbeliving spouse was willing to make the marriage work and was not crushing the Christian spouse with his/her unchristian behavior. But obviously, based on the 2Cor 6 instructions this situation should not come about by the Christian making a religious mismatched marriage. This would more likely be a case of one spouse changing religion.

There is a related case which some do not always notice, and this we should be aware of! That is the case based on:
1Tim 5:
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

This passage can come into consideration in cases of divorce, but is often not noticed because of a quirk of the King James translation. The word "infidel" in this passage is Strong's # 571 apistos, which means litterally "Not Believing" and "without Christian Faith". This is identically the same word translated as "unbeliving" and "believeth not" In the 1Cor 7 passage above. So if such a Christian is now declared as "Worse than" an "apistos" for abandoment/ nonsupport it may be considered reasonable that despite any nominal claim to "Christianity" of the offending spouse, their Christian mate can still divorce them.

Now some denominations can get (if I may use the term) pretty "knuckle headed" about terms like "depart" and "divorce". I think it pretty clear that "divorce means DIVORCE" ! That is to say that the offended spouse is permitted to start over in another marriage. Otherwise what would be the point of leaving such a marriage? I arrive at this view from the old testament example, that with a proper bill of divorcement, a Jewish woman was free to remarry; and Paul's statement in 1Cor 7:15 "... A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: ..., where the word translated "bondage" is Strong's # 1402 douloo, which means "to enslave".

So as to the "strange wife (or husband) issue in matters of divorce, I understand this to mean for us today, "Intractable conflict" over religion which we are commanded to avoid in making a marriage, but when it explicitly occurs divorce with remarriage is permitted. Likewise, in spite of protestations to the contrary, when one spouse is clearly and intractably by their actions denying the faith, particularly by literal abandonment, the 1 Cor 7 rules still apply. But never should the matter be dealt with lightly.

My presentation here only addresses the "strange spouse" issues and does not delve into the grounds of adultery/perversion mentioned by Jesus. I think the case can be made that the only acceptable grounds for a Christian to divorce fall into the 3 general categories of:
-- Fraud in contracting the marriage
-- All manner of sexual improprieties
-- Abandonment
The "strange spouse" issue is a special sub case of the Abandonment category in which the family structure is destroyed by what are at root the intractable religious differences. Had the "strange wives" of men of Judah converted whole heartedly to the God of Israel as Ruth had, It probably would have been unnecessary to have the mass divorce. It was not as Ruth told Naomi in
Ruth 1:16
-- "whither thou goest, I will go; and
-- where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
-- thy people shall be my people, and
-- thy God my God:"
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby jochanaan » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:56 pm

Have we all forgotten Hosea, who God actually commanded to "take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms"? Here the LORD wanted an object lesson for Israel. I can only imagine how much spiritual pain the prophet must have suffered just for obeying His command--yet it is a beautiful picture of how much God loves His people (whether physical Israel or "spiritual Israel").

This case alone suggests that "Be ye not unequally yoked..." is not "the unforgivable sin" that some people suggest. :)

(One of my family tried to use the Ezra/Nehemiah passage in a discussion with me as forbidding interracial marriage! But I quoted Galatians 3:28 right back to him, expanding it to mean "neither black nor white.")
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby natman » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:58 pm

Replying to the OP, King David,

As God's anointed priest, I believe that Ezra was speaking precisely the words that God inspired him to speak to the Israelites.

However, I also believe that the decree was for that specific case, specifically to those Israelites who were to go back into the Promised Land soon and for the purpose of not desecrating the consecrated ground or mixing in foreign gods into the Jewish faith. This was the same reason why God instructed the Israelites to kill all men, women and children in Canaan. The Canaanites had worshiped false gods, going so far as to offer they young to be burned alive on the alter to Balak. By killing everyone, there would be no longing for past gods.

In the New Testament, as Christians, we are warned not to become married to someone who is not already "Christian". And, if we ourselves become Christians after we get married, not to seek divorce from our non-believing spouse and to live in peace with them as much as we are able. However, if they leave (divorce) us, then we are no longer bound to them.
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Bare_Truth » Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:59 pm

jochanaan wrote:....One of my family tried to use the Ezra/Nehemiah passage in a discussion with me as forbidding interracial marriage!
In this context what is probably more important may be
Amos 3:
3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
My point being when a marriage is to cross cultural or sub-cultural lines, the partcipants need to examine closely and/or be counseled closely about what those issues could cause. Doing so, could help avoid a rough road or tragic outcome.

The degree to which these things can be a factor was really brought home to me while teaching in North Dakota. I was looking down a long hallway and saw one of the young women students approaching. She looked typically "american teenage student" except for one thing, she was obviously ethnically oriental. I struck up a conversation with her and even more of her "americaness" poured forth. It turns out that she was adopted from Korea as an infant. Placed alongside any of the other oriental students the differences were stunning. If she were to marry any of the typical oriental students we had, there would be strains in such a marriage that would not be expected if she married any of the typical american guys.

Culture means far more to compatibility than race. As we are indirectly warned from scripture, Christianity is definitely a strong subcultural difference when one of the two is an "unbeliever".
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Petros » Tue Nov 19, 2013 2:45 am

Of course [or it would be of course if you had a list of a tenth of what I have seen] I appreciate the shipwreck awaiting couples with irreconcilable differences in background, values, personality, language, old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. This is why most cultures have had participation from elders who have seen and understood what can work.

But I have known excellent marriages with heavy differences - like for example a Belgian priest and a Nigerian woman. God is the one who knows who is and who is not a meet help, a "soul mate" - which often involves not similarity but complementarity [who wants to marry himself transgendered?], and which often is unclear to us, because God is looking at how it ends up, not simply where you are now.
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Bare_Truth » Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:11 am

Petros wrote: ...... I appreciate the shipwreck awaiting couples with irreconcilable differences in..... old Uncle Tom Cobley
Who is this uncle and what does this mean????

Petros wrote: This is why most cultures have had participation from elders who have seen and understood what can work.
The flaw there is when the elders make the marriage for their own interest and alliances rather than for the interests of the "would-be-weds". The king forcing the marriage for the sake of an alliance, can really suck and lead to fornication in the form of mistresses and clandestine lovers. Can we not see this in the case of prince Charles and Lady Diane, and the heart break and corruption that brought.
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Re: Divorcing a "strange wife"

Postby Petros » Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:30 am

A: Simplest way is to refer you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Tom_Cobley

B. But of course. NO human assemblage - from the best-laid plans of the family to the most holy church - is immune to the fallennesses of humanitgy.

But here and now the idiotically young and woefully inexperienced couple without access to counsel which in the worst of human assemblages may be appropriate, and it takes its toll.
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