The Biblical Option Of Divorce -- By: Catherine Clark Kroeger

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 13:4 (Fall 1999)
Article: The Biblical Option Of Divorce
Author: Catherine Clark Kroeger


The Biblical Option Of Divorce

Catherine Clark Kroeger

Catherine Kroeger is President Emerita of CBE and adjunct professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. She is author of many books, including I Suffer Not a Woman and Women, Abuse and the Bible.

When we tell a woman that the Lord hates divorce, why do we fail to add that the same verse declares God’s hatred of violence?

“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering his wife with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. “So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” (Mal 2:16, NIV)

Why don’t we tell abused women that Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things that the Lord hates: “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who stirs up dissension among people”? Why do we compel a woman to remain in a marriage characterized by these evils? All too often the preservation of marriage has been established as the highest good, even when human life is at stake. This is not what the Bible advocates.

The Marriage Covenant

Marriage was given to bind together a man and woman as one flesh in enduring union (Gen 2:24; Eph 5:31). Much in the Bible is said to safeguard the bonds of matrimony (Ex 20:14; Lev 20:10; Dt 5:18; 22:22) and to affirm the strength of permanent marriage (Pr 2:16-17; 5:15-20; 12:4; 18:22). Marriage involved a private covenant within the larger context of God’s covenant with Israel.

At Mount Sinai the people of Israel agreed to a covenant by which God would set them apart from all the nations of the earth. They were to demonstrate to the rest of humanity what it meant to serve the true and living God as his dedicated people. In return, God promised to bless them and to be their God.

As a stipulation of the covenant between God and Israel, the believing community promised not to give their daughters in marriage to those of alien faith nor to take for their sons those who did not worship the Lord (Ex 34:16). This was a promise not only to God but to the entire faith community. To...

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