Friday, December 22, 2006

Review of Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible I

I've mentioned David Instone-Brewer's book several times in previous blog posts. I had a chance to read it on a plane ride. I will go over the book's strengths and weaknesses in the next few posts. In summary he traces marriage, divorce, and remarriage starting from the OT through to the modern Christian church.

In the OT marriage is viewed as a contract between two parties by the Jews. He traces this concept from OT Bible verses and preserved documents from the late iron age. Breaking of that contract lead to loss of the dowry and divorce whereupon both parties were free to remarry. This is evident from Deuteronomy 24:1-4 which most Christians know well but also from Exodus 24:7-11 which describes the rights of a slave wife:

  • 7 "If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. 8 "If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. 9 "If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. 10 "If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. 11 "If he will not do these three {things} for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without {payment of} money.

In this Exodus passage it is clear that the slave-wife is to receive the same amount of food, clothing, and love and she did before the other wife appears in the family otherwise she was to go free. Instone-Brewer thinks that these basic rights in a marriage were reiterated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. That will be a future post.

Most Christians accept that repeated unrepented adultery and some would accept abandonment as grounds for biblical divorce. The now question remains as to whether Exodus 24:10-11 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was renounced by Jesus as he was questioned by the Pharisees in Matthew19:3-9, and in Mark 10:2-12? That also will be a future post.

Much of Instone-Brewer's thoughts on divorce in the OT are here.

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