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What Does the Bible Say About Divorce? A Religious Perspective

Wondering what does the Bible say about divorce? This article breaks down biblical teachings on divorce, including when it is allowed and its spiritual implications. Discover insights from key scriptures and teachings from Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

Key Takeaways

  • The Bible views marriage as a sacred covenant reflecting God’s divine purpose. It is meant to last until death and emphasizes unity, selfless love, and faithfulness.

  • Divorce is seen as a consequence of human sin and a breach of the marriage covenant, with biblical allowances for it primarily due to sexual immorality or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.

  • Despite allowances for divorce, the Bible advocates for forgiveness, reconciliation, and maintaining the sanctity of marriage wherever possible while also addressing the complexities of human relationships post-divorce.

Understanding Marriage from a Biblical Point of View

Marriage covenant and one flesh concept from the Bible

Viewed through a biblical lens, marriage transcends the realms of a mere social contract or a source of personal joy. It is a sacred covenant that reflects the image of the Lord God and fulfills His divine purpose. This lifelong commitment is designed to mirror the relationship between Christ and the Church, emphasizing selfless love, sacrifice, and unity.

The divine blueprint for marriage is unambiguous:

  • It signifies a union between a man and a woman, destined to endure till death do them part.

  • This union is meant to glorify God through the complementarity and oneness of the partners, ultimately becoming one flesh.

  • The creation of Adam and Eve serves as the model for all subsequent marriages, highlighting the importance of this divine institution.

Jesus himself underscored the seriousness of the marriage covenant. He pointed back to the original intent found in Genesis, where marriage was established without any provision for divorce. This reinforces the idea that marriage is a permanent bond, blessed by God and to be honored by all.

Recognizing the holiness of marriage unveils the reasons behind God’s disdain for divorce. Marriage vows made before God are not to be taken lightly, and any breach of this covenant is a grave matter. The Bible calls for marriages to be marked by faithfulness, love, and mutual respect, reflecting the divine relationship they symbolize.

Divorce as a Consequence of Sin

The Bible asserts that divorce doesn’t align with God’s initial plan for marriage. It is seen as a consequence of sin and a breach of the sacred relationship between spouses and God. Divorce is often a result of serious breaches, such as when one has committed adultery, highlighting the profound impact of such actions on the marriage covenant. This perspective highlights the gravity of divorce and its impact on the spiritual and communal fabric.

God’s disapproval of divorce stems from His own experience of betrayal by His people. When Israel turned away from their covenant relationship with God, it was akin to unfaithfulness in marriage. This betrayal brought immense pain, reflecting why God hates divorce so profoundly and why people should hate divorce as well.

Scriptures often draw parallels between marital infidelity and idolatry. Just as idolatry involves turning away from God to worship other gods, marital unfaithfulness signifies a breaking of the marriage covenant and a turning away from one’s spouse. The Old Testament laws on divorce were instituted to manage this human failure and maintain societal order.

Jesus underscored that Moses approved divorce because of people’s hardened hearts, not because it was ingrained in God’s original blueprint. This allowance was a response to human stubbornness and rebellion, underscoring the need for grace and forgiveness in the face of sin and reminding us that it was not the Lord who initiated this concession.

Biblical Grounds for Divorce

While the Bible maintains a high view of marriage, it does acknowledge certain conditions under which divorce is permissible. The Bible also states that a divorced woman commits adultery if she remarries, emphasizing the seriousness of the marriage covenant. These conditions are not to be taken lightly but are provided to address specific breaches of the marriage covenant.

Adultery or sexual immorality is cited as one of the chief reasons for divorce in the Bible. Jesus clearly states that divorce is permissible in such cases, recognizing the profound violation of trust and intimacy that adultery represents.

Another valid ground for divorce, as outlined by the Apostle Paul, is abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. In such cases, the believing partner is not bound to remain in the marriage, reflecting the complexity of human relationships and the need for peace and freedom in certain situations. Obtaining a certificate of divorce in these circumstances can provide closure and a sense of moving forward.

Adultery and Sexual Immorality

Jesus' teaching on divorce and adultery in the Bible

Adultery, including when individuals commit adultery, and sexual immorality are significant breaches of the marriage covenant, and the Bible permits divorce in these circumstances. The Bible also addresses the scenario where a woman commits adultery, further emphasizing the gravity of such actions. Jesus addresses this issue directly in Matthew 19:9, stating that anyone who divorces their spouse except for sexual immorality and marries another commits adultery.

This teaching is reiterated in Matthew 5:32, where Jesus emphasizes that divorcing one’s spouse for reasons other than sexual immorality, which includes engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage, leads to adultery if either party remarries. These passages highlight the severity of sexual sin and its impact on the sanctity of marriage.

The allowance for divorce in cases of sexual immorality recognizes the deep betrayal and emotional harm caused by such actions. It provides a way for the wronged spouse to seek a fresh start while maintaining the integrity of biblical teachings.

While divorce is permitted in these cases, it is not mandated. The Bible encourages forgiveness and reconciliation wherever possible, urging couples to seek healing and restoration even in the face of profound hurt, and only allows a man to divorces his wife except in certain circumstances.

Abandonment by an Unbelieving Spouse

Paul's teaching on abandonment by an unbelieving spouse in the Bible

1 Corinthians 7:12-15 recounts Apostle Paul’s advice on dealing with desertion by a non-believing partner. He advises that if the unbelieving partner chooses to leave, the believing spouse, whether a married woman or man, is not bound to their own husbands or wives in the marriage.

In such circumstances, Paul emphasizes that the believer is called to live in peace and is free to accept the separation. This teaching acknowledges the challenges that arise when one partner does not share the same faith and the difficulties that can accompany such a union.

Paul’s guidance provides a compassionate approach to a complex situation, allowing the believing husband to move forward without the burden of an unreciprocated commitment. It underscores the importance of peace and freedom in the believer’s life.

The principle of not being ‘bound’ in such cases highlights the balance between upholding the sanctity of marriage and recognizing the realities of human relationships and faith differences.

The Role of Hardness of Heart

Jesus employs the concept of ‘hardness of heart’ to elucidate why divorce laws were enacted initially. It refers to unresponsive stubbornness and rebellion, both towards God and fellow humans. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus mentions that Moses allowed divorce due to the hardness of people’s hearts, indicating that this was not part of God’s original design for marriage. This concession was made to manage the consequences of human weakness and rebellion.

The allowance of divorce due to hardness of heart serves as a rebuke, highlighting the necessity of such laws due to human stubbornness. It parallels other divine concessions in the Bible, such as Israel’s request for a human king, reflecting the challenges of adhering to God’s ideal in a fallen world.

Reconciliation and Repentance

Even post-divorce, the Bible strongly advocates for reconciliation and repentance. It encourages individuals to seek forgiveness and to work towards rebuilding trust and restoring relationships whenever possible. Forgiveness is a crucial component of the healing process, preventing bitterness and resentment from taking root. True forgiveness involves letting go of past hurts and opening the door to potential reconciliation, though it does not negate the need for accountability and repentance.

Open and honest communication with a former spouse can pave the way for resolving conflicts and fostering understanding. This, coupled with prayer and seeking God’s guidance, can lead to genuine reconciliation and peace. For those who divorce without biblical grounds, the Bible commands confession and repentance, offering a path to restoration and spiritual renewal.

What Happens After Divorce? Understanding Why God Hates Divorce

Permissibility of remarriage after divorce in the Bible

Post-divorce, the Bible offers advice on the notion of remarriage. The Bible also mentions that a woman is released from the law of marriage when her husband dies, distinguishing this from divorce. Jesus permits remarriage if the divorce occurred due to adultery, recognizing the profound breach of the marriage covenant. The Apostle Paul also allows remarriage if a believer is deserted by an unbelieving spouse, reflecting the need for peace and freedom in such circumstances. These provisions highlight the Bible’s balance between upholding the sanctity of marriage and addressing the complexities of human relationships.

However, unbiblical remarriage is considered a sin, though it is not beyond God’s grace and forgiveness. The church plays a supportive role, offering counsel and guidance to those who divorce on biblical grounds, helping them navigate the post-divorce landscape.

Finding Healing and Peace Post-Divorce

Post-divorce, it is vital for a divorced woman to seek healing and peace for emotional and spiritual wellness. Seeking professional counseling or pastoral guidance can provide the support and insight needed during this challenging time.

Support from friends, family, and spiritual leaders can offer emotional stability and help individuals rebuild their lives. Embracing a new beginning after divorce can lead to personal growth, healthier relationships, and new opportunities.

Engaging in self-care and reducing stress levels are essential steps to improve overall physical health and well-being. These practices help individuals move forward with resilience and hope.

Key Bible Verses on Divorce

Key Bible verses on divorce and marriage

Several key verses in the Bible address the subject of divorce. When considering what the Bible say about divorce, Matthew 19:3-9 elaborates on Jesus’ view, stating that divorce should only occur in the case of sexual immorality and emphasizing the sanctity and permanence of marriage.

In Mark 10:2-12, Jesus reiterates that divorcing and marrying another person is considered adultery, reinforcing the lifelong commitment of marriage. Malachi 2:16 expresses God’s disapproval of divorce, describing it as an act of violence against one’s spouse and reflecting the seriousness of the marriage covenant.

Luke 16:18 suggests that divorcing and remarrying equates to committing adultery, while Matthew 5:31-32 addresses the narrow conditions under which divorce is permitted. These verses highlight the importance of upholding the sanctity of marriage.


In summary, the Bible presents a high view of marriage as a sacred and lifelong covenant. Divorce is seen as a consequence of sin, with specific grounds for its permissibility being adultery and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.

The role of hardness of heart explains the allowance of divorce laws, highlighting human weakness and rebellion. Reconciliation and repentance are encouraged, emphasizing the importance of forgiveness and rebuilding trust.

After a divorce, the Bible provides guidance on remarriage and finding healing and peace. Key Bible verses reinforce the sanctity of marriage and the narrow conditions under which divorce is permitted. Reflecting on these teachings can help individuals navigate the complexities of marriage and divorce with faith and wisdom.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Bible say about divorce?

The Bible generally disapproves of divorce but allows it in cases of adultery or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.

Are there any circumstances under which remarriage is allowed after divorce?

Remarriage is allowed after divorce if it occurred due to adultery or if a believer is deserted by an unbelieving spouse. This is supported by the Bible’s teachings.

How does the Bible view unfaithfulness in marriage?

The Bible views unfaithfulness in marriage as a serious breach of the marriage covenant, equating it with idolatry and allowing permissible divorce in the case of adultery or sexual immorality.

What role does forgiveness play in the process of reconciliation after divorce?

Forgiveness is crucial for emotional and spiritual healing after divorce. It prevents bitterness and resentment, paving the way for potential reconciliation and peace.

How can someone find healing and peace after a divorce according to the Bible?

To find healing and peace after a divorce according to the Bible, seek professional counseling, support from loved ones, engage in self-care, and find new opportunities for personal growth. These steps can help in the process of healing and finding peace post-divorce.

Charles M. Green is Certified as a California Family Law Specialist through the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California. He has worked extensively in both financial accounting fields and as a litigation attorney specializing in Family Law Cases. He is also diversely experienced in a number of other legal practice areas of importance to individuals, families, and businesses.

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