A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Abuse, Marriage, Divorce, and the Gibeonites – What do You Think?

[July 5, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

I would not be at all surprised if some of our readers have heard the argument that God does not permit divorce for abuse because He required the Israelites of Joshua’s day to keep their covenant with the Gibeonites, even though the Gibeonites deceived them. Here is the story as found in Joshua 9. It is a bit lengthy, but please take the time to read it all so that you understand the background. Then, I invite our readers to comment on whether or not this Scripture requires abuse victims to remain in a marriage covenant with an abuser:

(Joshua 9:1-27  ESV)  (1)  As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this,  (2) they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.  (3) But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai,  (4) they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended,  (5) with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly.

(6) And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.”  (7) But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?”  (8) They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?”

(9) They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt,  (10) and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth.  (11) So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”‘  (12) Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly.  (13) These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.”  (14) So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.

(15) And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.  (16) At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them.  (17) And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim.  (18) But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders.  (19) But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them.

(20) This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.”  (21) And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them.  (22) Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us?  (23) Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.”  (24) They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you — so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing.  (25) And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.”  (26) So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them.  (27) But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose.

Later, in the days of Saul, we see that the Lord was still holding Israel to that covenant:

(2 Samuel 21:1-2  ESV)  (1) Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”  (2) So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah.

As I mentioned, this incident has been used to argue that covenants, such as a marriage covenant, are to remain unbroken, even if they were made with deception (as most if not all abusers do when they take their vows), and no matter what harm is being worked upon the victim of the abuser / deceiver.  Is this true? God, after all, did hold Israel to this covenant made with deception. Perhaps it really is His will that covenants are always to remain in effect even to our own harm?

What do you think? I await your insights and comments.

[July 5, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to July 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 5, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 5, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


  1. joepote01

    Yes, Israel made a covenant with the Gibeonites. That covenant was cut in opposition to God’s direction to Israel, and was based on deception. Yet Israel honored their covenant, and it is clear that God looked with favor upon Israel’s keeping of their covenant vows. God even made the sun stand still for the battle in which Israel came to the aid of their covenant partners.

    This story clearly demonstrates the power of covenant vows, even when entered into under deception. It also shows us much of God’s view of covenant, and the importance of keeping covenant vows.

    However, it is important to note that the Gibeonites kept their covenant vows to Israel. Yes, they used deception to persuade Israel to enter into covenant with them. However, once the covenant was cut, the Gibeonites kept their vows.

    This cannot be reasonably compared to an abuse situation where the abuser repeatedly and intentionally violates the covenant vows to love, honor, cherish, and forsake all others, choosing, instead, to use the covenant relationship as an opportunity to wound, dishonor, abuse, neglect, and enslave.

    For an Old Testament example of a covenant of abusive bondage, look at Israel and Egypt in the story of The Great Exodus. God redeemed Israel from their covenant of bondage to Egypt!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Good observations, Joe. Yes, the Gibeonites kept their covenant. Also, I find it interesting that their deception originally was actually based upon faith in the God of Israel. They feared Him, unlike the majority of their pagan neighbors who were gathering together to fight Israel. They acted with “cunning” and shrewdness. It is interesting that, in relation to this, the Lord Jesus told the parable of the shrewd servant:

      (Luke 16:8-9) (8) The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. (9) And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

      Perhaps Jesus had the Gibeonites in mind? At any rate, the Gibeonites, as you noted, were really in no way comparable to the motivation and tactics of the abuser who hard-heartedly and persistently violates the marriage covenant.

      • joepote01

        their deception originally was actually based upon faith in the God of Israel.

        Interesting! I’d never thought of it that way, but it’s true. They were convinced that the God of Israel was unstoppable, which is why they feared Him, which is why they deceived Israel into cutting a covenant with them.

        Maybe not the best approach, but at least their motivation was in the right direction. Also, they clearly respected both the power and sanctity of covenant.

  2. Anonymous

    As I mentioned, this incident has been used to argue that covenants, such as a marriage covenant, are to remain unbroken, even if they were made with deception (as most if not all abusers do when they take their vows), and no matter what harm is being worked upon the victim of the abuser / deceiver.

    The covenant was made with deception. That is the only similarity. There is no evidence that Israel would have been required to keep the covenant if it was to their harm. It says in verse 25 that the Gibeonites submitted themselves to the Israelites, asking them to do WHATEVER they thought was suitable to them. This is hardly the case with a perpetrator and a victim.

  3. When I left my first husband and began attending church and walking as a Christian for the first time in my life – I’d been born again years before, but got lost in the wilderness – I was told by a female assistant pastor that I couldn’t divorce my abusive husband. She gave, as her reason, this story about the Gibeonites, saying that no matter how much deception took place when the covenant was first entered into, God witnessed the formation of that covenant and expected His people to honour it, as shown by how he was angry at Saul for breaking that covenant centuries later.

    I was so convinced (and cowed) by this teaching that I gave up any notion of divorcing my husband. I set my mind to acclimatising myself to living in limbo (separated but not divorced) for the rest of my life. And when he made a profession of faith (phoney, I now realise) four years later, I ended up reconciling with him, only to suffer more abuse and have to separate again – which caused incredible anguish to our daughter.

    I now believe that God expected the Israelites to honour their covenant with the Gibeonites because the Gibeonites had NOT violated the covenant after it was made. Although they were dishonest in enticing the Israelites into the covenant, they did not violate it once made. Contrast this with an abuser. He (or she) violates their covenant promises over and over, despite all attempts to bring them to repentance and reformation.

    If, after the covenant had been made, the Gibeonites had repeatedly violated their agreement with the Israelites, God would not have been concerned about Saul disregarding the covenant promises, because the covenant would have already been broken by the Gibeonites.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks for the real-life illustration, Barbara. I would bet that there are quite a few others who have had the Gibeonite covenant thrown on them just as it was put upon you. Getting a handle on it now could save people a lot of pain and suffering in the future.

  4. Tending Weeds

    I don’t understand, and I have questions about this. We are talking about the Gibeonites, the Israelites, and the Old Testament God of punishment and vindication. The same God who used fear to instill faith, and yet still sent His only Son to save our sorry hides. How can the old covenant be used as proof that marriage is and forever will be no matter what deceptions occur or when? Hasn’t Christ provided us with a different covenant, one of love, grace, and mercy?

    • Jeff Crippen

      TW – We do not agree that the account of the Gibeonites can correctly be applied to a marriage covenant in order to argue that divorce is prohibited no matter what. Unfortunately, this Scripture is often used by people to make that claim. That is what we want to refute in this article.

      Now, in regard to the God of the Old and New Covenants, it is vital that we understand He has not changed and never will. It is the unchanging character and being of God that makes all Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, applicable to us today. It is the covenants that differ, not God. And yet the two covenants are not totally unrelated and separate. The New Covenant grows out of the Old, and the Old is always pointing to the New. The Law of God remains unchanged in both covenants. It still has its holy demands and, apart from Christ, condemns the sinner. That is why we need Christ. He came and met perfectly the demands of the Law so that His perfect righteousness is assigned to all who trust and believe in Him. At the same time, our sins go to Him on the cross.

      But the Old Testament Scriptures are nevertheless very valuable and applicable to us today. 2 Tim 3:16 for example says that “all Scripture” is God’s Word and profitable for us, and that Scripture being referred to is the Old Testament, as the New Testament had not yet been written. 1 Corinthians 10 points to the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness and says that those things happened for our instruction. And when Jesus was asked about marriage and divorce, He immediately went right back to Genesis to tell us what God’s original and abiding intent for marriage was and is.

      So it isn’t enough to just say that the account of the Gibeonites took place in the Old Testament and therefore is not applicable to us. We must look for other reasons, as we have seen here in other comments. Namely, that the Gibeonites kept their end of the bargain. In fact, they actually made this covenant “deceptively and yet in faith” in the God of Israel and He honored that.

      • Tending Weeds

        I agree this isn’t a good example of why a covenant shouldn’t be broken. I’ve been mistaken about the OT as “the other God.” I’ll expand in the new post. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to ask questions and learn without, well, without my ex-husband’s usual, “you should already know this” and leaves it at that, response.

    • Dear Tending Weeds, thanks for asking your question! I’m sure some of our other readers will have puzzled over this question as well.

      [I have reposted TW’s question in new post here, as I think it will be of interest to many other readers.]

      T.W., I was helped very much when I read somewhere “There is continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments.”
      I don’t see the God of the Old Testament as a different God from the God of the New Testament. In the Old Testament, God gave people instructions, commandments, precepts, and case laws to act as guidelines for administering justice in the nation of Israel. Knowing that mankind had fallen into sin, He made provision for forgiveness of sin through the sacrificial system. Those who followed those provisions with repentance and faith were forgiven because, in those animal sacrifices, the ultimate sacrifice (Christ on the cross) was being represented. True believers, like David, looked forward by faith to the promised Messiah, and thereby found mercy and forgiveness from Yahweh.

      In the Old Testament God did not rule simply by fear, He ruled in just the same way He rules now. He set forth His commands and laws, His demand for righteousness and penalties for disobedience. He knew people would never in themselves measure up to His demand for righteousness, and He provided mercy and forgiveness for sins through faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. The people in the Old Testament heard many things about the coming Messiah, the holy one of David, the ‘prophet like me’ that Moses foretold, the righteous branch, the cut up carcasses that Abraham saw in his dream / vision; etc, etc. They knew that all these things pointed to ONE Messiah.

      In the New Testament God rules just the same way: He sets forth His demand for righteousness and warns of penalties for disobedience (chastisement, excommunication for those who have called themselves believers, and ultimately, Hell). He knows that people will never in themselves measure up to His demand for righteousness, and He provides mercy and forgiveness for sins through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. We see more clearly than the people in the Old Testament could, because they looked forward to Messiah, but because we look back on Jesus, we know much more about His life, and we have His teaching and the teaching of His apostles. But none of that teaching undoes or contradicts the ethical teaching in the Old Testament.

      There is still wisdom in fearing God today; fear of God was not just for Old Testament times. Those who don’t fear God today are lawless phoney believers, and it’s them who are doing so much damage in the church.

      • Tending Weeds

        There is most definitely still wisdom in fearing God today. False faith finds no place in His Kingdom.
        I’ve never taken the time to understand the differences between OT & NT God [missing words? missing phrase?] are not there, except that we, like you said, have hindsight, plus Christ as a Big Brother willing to go to our Father for us for our trespasses.
        I think. I’m still working on knowledge and confidence in my independent thinking.
        Thank you for the same reason I thanked Mr. Crippen.

  5. Tending Weeds

    Reading the passage again (then some more), I see the deception, and I see Joshua discovered the deception, confirmed it,and confronted the deceivers. The Gibeonites admitted and accepted their just punishment, a life of labor. The difference I perceive is admission of sin, request and acceptance of forgiveness, and readiness to remediate their behavior, something altogether impossible for the average abuser.
    As sinners we sin, God knows, and if we ask for forgiveness and repent, we have His grace and mercy. If we ask for forgiveness and re-sin, the deception stands, and God looses favor (I don’t know if that’s the right way to express that).
    I agree this passage isn’t a valid argument to keep an abused spouse in an abusive marriage since the abuser clearly isn’t going to admit, repent, or in any way ease the daily burdens of the abusee.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, very good observations. I would not be at all surprised that if you are around Christians who are in abusive relationships that you will hear stories of other Christians pulling this Gibeonite incident out to try to prove to the victim that she cannot divorce her abuser.

      • Tending Weeds

        I hope I am within hearing distance of this arguement, and I will share this post.

    • Tending Weeds, in what you wrote just above, you’ve shown yourself to be an excellent interpreter of the OT story. All strength to your arm, and I hope we hear more of your scriptural insights!

  6. Valerie

    I am resurrecting an old post here but I am wresting with this one today.

    I am working on a Kay Arthur Bible study on covenants and today I opened to a lesson on covenant marriage. Her teaching uses the interpretation of “God hates divorce” and draws conclusions accordingly. She did not touch on abuse but rather discussed divorce in general (she herself has been divorced so she scolds herself as well). She said that those who have already divorced need to know the truth of what God says about it. I was devastated as I have a lot of respect for Kay and considered her to have a wealth of accurate knowledge of Scripture.

    This got me thinking about the Gibeonite covenant and how seriously God took it. As I was studying this again today I read a comment elsewhere that stated that one party breaking the covenant does not nullify the covenant. This would be true of a contract but not a covenant. We obviously have no way of knowing what the outcome would be if the Gibeonites acted treacherously with Israel.

    I maintain that being released from an abusive marriage seems to accurately reflect the heart of the God I know throughout the rest of Scripture and thus the translation which reads “A man who hates his wife…” [Paraphrase of Malachi 2:16] rather than translating it as God speaking as the one who hates. At face value I would agree God hates divorce….it certainly isn’t something Holy God shrugs His shoulders at. However I maintain that it is consistent with Scripture to say He hates emotional and physical violence against another person even more. He hates what LEADS to divorce. I DO believe God takes covenants seriously which is why He has righteous anger at those who violate it. The question remains what the people on the other side of the covenant are to do when the covenant has been broken and abuse has taken place.

    Ironically my covenant partner refused to wear his wedding ring – the symbol of the marriage covenant – not long after the honeymoon….despite my tears of begging him to reconsider. He didn’t need to wear it he said. Yes, I guess he felt even at that time the ring had no purpose or value to him. He was telling me the truth 20 years ago.

    • joepote01


      Barbara has a very good post on the topic of Malachi 2:16 here: God hates divorce? Not always.

      Also, I posted just this week on this same topic, on my blog: Biblical Word Play [Internet Archive link]

      In regard to the example of the Gibeonites, although they entered the covenant under deception, they kept the covenant once it had been entered into. They did not violate the covenant vows after having made them.

      A better example of a godly approach to dealing with repeated violations of covenant vows is Jeremiah 3:8 where God said:

      And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.

      And lest anyone try to convince you that the divorce wasn’t really or didn’t really stick because God returned Israel to the promised land, it’s not true. In this passage, God was clearly addressing the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. He clearly states that He divorced the Kingdom of Israel, but not the Kingdom of Judah.

      Israel was composed of the ten northern tribes, while Judah was composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom were dispersed among the nations and are now referred to as the ten lost tribes of Israel. The tribe of Judah (called Jews as an abbreviation for Judah) were returned to Palestine and are the ancestors of modern-day Jews.

      Faced with a repeatedly faithless covenant partner, the action God chose as appropriate was divorce. And since God never acts outside His perfect will, we can be confident that divorce was His perfect will for that situation.

      Sometimes, divorce is the most godly course of action for a given situation.

      I am praying for you, this afternoon. God bless!

      • Valerie

        Thanks Joe, I actually had read both of those posts previously and noted something new today. The word translated divorce- more strictly translated putting out/away- is the same word form as when Noah put out the dove in the ark.

        All of this confusion has led me to study God’s Holy Word more in depth, so to that end I will rejoice in the emotional agony as I wrestle through it all. I know that I need to prepare myself to go out into the world when my divorce is final to live amongst other “divorce haters” and will need to defend myself with more than just feelings. God’s Word is the final say on all things!

      • Faced with a repeatedly faithless covenant partner, the action God chose as appropriate was divorce. And since God never acts outside His perfect will, we can be confident that divorce was His perfect will for that situation.

        I’m sharing this on our FB page, Joe!

        It cannot be said too many times. 🙂

      • joepote01

        Valerie –

        Ah! You must be the same Valerie that left a comment on my blog, the other day. I didn’t immediately make the connection. 🙂

        I’m glad to see you’re digging in and studying God’s heart on these important topics.

        The Old Testament uses two verbs that are translated as divorce, shalach (put away) and garash (drive out). I think it’s significant that both of these verbs are used in Exodus 6:1 when God is describing to Moses how He will redeem Israel from Egypt.

        More on this here, if you’re looking for more reading: The Great Divorce [Internet Archive link] 😉

        Blessings to you, as you continue to study God’s word!

      • joepote01

        Barbara —

        I agree that the Bible makes no distinction between a covenant and a contract. However, I do see a distinction between the biblical understanding of covenant and our modern understanding of a legal contract.

        From a legality standpoint, in terms of how a dispute would be decided before a judge, I don’t suppose there is any significant difference, and I absolutely agree with your statements regarding recourse when the covenant vows are willfully violated. However, I see a relational difference between a biblical covenant and a modern contract.

        In modern society, legal contracts are often made with large corporations and / or complete strangers, with a heavy reliance on legal language and legal recourse. The process frequently involves the advice of attorneys hired to pick through the verbiage looking for loopholes or tricky clauses. In fact, the documents are often written in language that only an attorney can truly understand. Signing such a contract has little to do with trusting the individual. Rather the trust is being placed in the enforceability of the legal document and the advice of an attorney.

        As best I can tell, the biblical cultures had no concept of a legal contract of this sort. A biblical covenant includes a legal contract, but also relies heavily on a relationship of mutual trust between the two individuals entering into the covenant.

        Most modern contracts are light on relationship and heavy on legal enforceability. Biblical covenants are light on legal enforceablity and heavy on relationship.

        Or so it seems to me….

    • Valerie,
      Those who say that there is a difference between a covenant and a contract are just plain wrong. I don’t mean to offend you when saying this; I am just wanting to help by dispelling a false notion that you seem to have, a false notion that gives occasion for a lot of confusion and spiritual abuse being piled on victims of abuse.

      In the Bible, the word “covenant” has the same meaning as “contract”. We see this exemplified in the many instances in the Old Testament where a ruler of a dominant nation made a covenant with a vassal state, or a king made a covenant with his own people. Here is what David Instone-Brewer says about this:

      As originally written [in the Bible], there was no distinction between “covenant” and “contract”. There is only one word [in Biblical Hebrew] for both and there is no reason to believe that this word represented more than one type of agreement. This applies not only to the OT use of the term “covenant” but also to its use in the NT and beyond into the Church Fathers. Throughout this period, the term “covenant” meant a contract that could be broken if either side reneged on their half of the agreement. In the New Testament and beyond, there was also a second, entirely separate meaning of “covenant” as the “New Covenant” (i.e., New Testament). This [the second meaning] developed alongside the traditional meaning of covenant as contract.

      The theological [the second] meaning of “covenant” is an agreement that a faithful person would not break even if the partner to whom that person is in covenant breaks the stipulations of the covenant. This new meaning of “covenant” is based on the covenantal relationship between God and his people in the later prophets and the New Testament. In the later prophets, God promised that he would keep his side of the agreement whether or not his people kept theirs. God would be faithful even if his people were faithless. This irrevocable covenant was portrayed in Ezekiel 36-37 and Jeremiah 31 as a “new covenant”. This is different to every other type of covenant found in the ancient Near East or in the Old Testament. It is this difference that made the “new covenant” so special.
      Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context [*Affiliate link], David Instone-Brewer, p. 17.

      I talk about this in my book as well. I discuss how the New Covenant is an unconditional covenant — God will save those who have saving faith in Jesus, even although we sin and battle with the flesh and are never going to be perfect while we are still awaiting our redemption in the new heavens and new earth that God has promised.

      Therefore we can see that there are two classes of covenant: unconditional, and conditional.
      An unconditional covenant is a unilateral covenant.
      A conditional covenant is a bilateral covenant.

      The New Covenant is unilateral and unconditional: God will keep His side even though we fall short. Moreover, the New Covenant is unique and extraordinary in that there is one condition: our repentance; but that condition is met by God (!) who gives us conviction of sin and reveals Christ to us, giving us the new birth and bringing us into the New Covenant, the Kingdom of God, with all its blessings of adoption, justification and redemption. He does this out of His sheer grace and loving kindness towards us which He lavished upon us in Christ Jesus. The New Covenant is the only unconditional covenant in the universe.

      All other covenants — all interpersonal covenants between human beings, or between nation states or institutions and groups of people — are not unconditional. They are conditional covenants, they are bilateral covenants, and they are no different from contracts. When one party to the covenant reneges on the terms, the other party is at liberty to walk away and declare the covenant void because of the other party has reneged.

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
      • joepote01

        Barbara — my above comment about differences between biblical covenants and modern contracts should have gone here. Sorry about that…. 😦

  7. Don Johnson

    On the sacrificial system in the Mosaic covenant, it never took away sin, this is a common misunderstanding.

    (Heb 10:4) For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

    • Yes Don, under the Mosaic covenant, sin was only taken away by faith: faith in the coming promised Messiah. The sacrificial system showed in typological form the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who was to come. Those who sacrificed bulls and goats under the old system did not obtain forgiveness for their sins merely by going through the outward motions prescribed. They had to have faith, and for them it was a forward-looking faith. (1 Peter 1:10-12)

      • Don Johnson

        Even before the Mosaic covenant, sin is always addressed by believing in God’s promises as they have been revealed to you. This is how Abraham was declared righteous. Walter Kaiser has some books on this “The Promise Plan of God” is one.

  8. Valerie

    Thanks Barbara,

    • Valerie

      I actually haven’t taken the position that I agree with the writer who made the distinction between covenant and contract. I just note the rebuttals because I know I will have to have an answer if I am faced with this.

      I am trying to be open to whatever God reveals His truth to be regarding all these arguments. When something makes my gut turn I am trying to make the distinction whether it is churning due to conviction or if it is due to hearing false doctrine. After years of being abused and lied to I have a deep need for validation but I don’t want to take that need to the extent of only hearing what my itching ears want to hear. I know I have a propensity toward that with the invalidation heaped upon me by so many people.

      I deeply appreciate this website that has given people like me an alternative to the legalism that has been spoon fed to many like me in the Christian community. I thank the good people here who have inspired me to dig deeper into the Truth of God’s Word!! 🙂

      • joepote01

        I am trying to be open to whatever God reveals His truth to be regarding all these arguments.


        Blessings to you, Valerie, as you seek His truth!

  9. Don Johnson

    A covenant where only one party makes vows is called a promise covenant or just a promise. A covenant where both parties make vows is what is normally thought of as a covenant. In a marriage covenant, both spouses make vows. Breaking a covenant vow is called breaking a covenant and allows for the covenant to be terminated by the other party; it also allows for the covenant to remain in effect, it is not required to be terminated.

    As noted in the story of the Gibeonites, deception can be involved before a covenant is made, this does not allow a covenant to be terminated, only breaking a covenant vow allows it to be terminated. Terminating a covenant without a breakage of covenant vows by the other party is itself a violation of the covenant.

  10. Gary W

    Let me suggest that marriage is not a covenant. It is a relationship.

    I cannot think of any Scripture where it says marriage is a covenant, nor that it is to be entered by means of covenant. Rather, Scripture shows us that marriage consists of the forming of a one flesh relationship through the sexual act.

    If anybody can point to Scripture that says Marriage results from covenant, in the sense of exchanging vows, I will likely need to withdraw my thesis. However, if my thesis stands, certain conclusions would seem to follow:

    1) If marriage is relationship rather than covenant, then if one party breaks the relationship by whatever means, the marriage relationship is over. All that remains is for the a document certifying to the end of the relationship to be issued, a task that is reserved to the courts under our laws.

    2) It may be that, when churches encourage the exchange of vows, they are causing us to sin:

    And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:36-37 ESV)

    But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12 ESV)

    Where vows have actually been exchanged, however Biblical or un-Biblical, it must surely be understood that they are conditioned on mutual faithfulness. After all, the covenant blessings of Deuteronomy 28 were, conditioned on faithful obedience to God’s commands; and curses were the promised (and later realized) consequence of unfaithfulness.

    Once again: Marriage is not a covenant. It is a relationship.

    • joepote01

      I’m sure there are other Scriptures that discuss marriage in explicit covenant terms, but the passage that first comes to mind is Malachi 2:14 where God is condemning treacherous abuse of the marriage covenant:

      ….Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. [NASB1995]

      • Gary W

        Well, that would seem to put the lie to my thesis. But I’m not going to fully concede the point just yet. According to Brown-Driver-Briggs the Hebrew word translated covenant can have the sense of alliance, including an alliance of friendship as well as an alliance of marriage. The NET Bible translation of Malachi 2:14 is:

        Yet you ask, “Why?” The LORD is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young, to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion and wife by law.

        Interestingly, the NET Bible study note indicates there is no explicit reference to marriage vows in the OT, though the note’s author asserts that such vows or agreements must have existed. Personally, I am rather suspicious when theologians begin advocating their inferences with words like “must.”

        I would be very interested if you can think of any other verses that might apply.

      • I just wrote a comment and then realised I’d made an error in the comment, so I’ve sent it to trash.

      • Gary W

        Thanks, Joe. As I just noted an a comment deposited elsewhere, I’m thinking I need to read Barbara’s book, as well as Instone-Brewer. In the meantime, let me suggest that cultural practice, whether OT or NT, is not to be viewed as normative. That would leave us having to sanction polygamy (OT) and slavery (OT and NT), for example.

        I note your statement at 4:19 this morning that:

        Biblical covenant is all about relationship.

        We seem to be arriving at the same place, albeit by different paths. By whatever route we arrive at the centrality of relationship, it appears we both would say that an abused spouse is not bound to her abuser.

      • joepote01

        Gary –

        If I recall correctly, David Instone-Brewer provides several written examples of marriage vows from both OT and NT cultures and time periods.

        The fact that a certificate of divorce was required (or expected, depending on how you wnat to look at it) demonstrates that the marriage was legally binding…a covenant. Otherwise, it would not have required a legal document to be dissolved.

        They weren’t just shacking up until one party decided to leave. They were legally wed as husband and wife…bound by covenant.

      • joepote01

        Gary –

        Absolutely agree that an abused spouse is not bound to the abuser!

        Deuteronomy 25 provides in-depth discussion on redemption from covenants that have become bondage. This concept of redemption is a central theme of scripture.

        God sent Moses, not to require the Israelites to remain in bondage to Pharaoh, but to redeem and deliver them from bondage to Egypt.

        Jesus came, not to require us to remain in the kingdom of darkness, but to redeem and deliver us from the kingdom of darkness.

        For His children who are ensnared in covenants that have become bondage, God provides redemption and deliverance. In the case of a marriage covenant, that redemption is called divorce.

        Here is a recent post I did on this topic, that you might enjoy reading: Deliver Us [Internet Archive link]

      • joepote01

        Oh, and Gary, while you’re finding books to read on the topic, let me recommend the one that best expresses my personal perspective: So You are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce… [*Affiliate link] 😉

        Blessings to you!

        *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
    • joepote01

      Also, from a biblical perspective, significant relationships are almost always covenant based. There are many examples of this, but we can see a quick illustration from this same passage in Malachi 2.

      Malachi 2:8 illustrates that the relationship between the priests and God was based on God’s covenant relationship with their ancestor, Levi. “But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of hosts.”

      And in Malachi 2:10 God rebukes them for treachery against their fellow Israelites on the basis that since they are all in covenant with God (based on the inherited covenant their ancestors entered into with God), they are therefore all brothers. “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?”

      There are many other examples. These just came to mind first, because I happen to have recently published a blog post discussing this chapter.

      From a biblical perspective, covenants and significant relationships tend to go hand-in-hand.

    • The Bible says that marriage is a covenant, but it only says this in one verse: Malachi 2:14.

      The ESV study Bible article on “Biblical Ethics / Marriage” only cites that one verse to support its contention that marriage is a covenant. If there had been more verses it could have cited for that assertion, I’m sure the editors of the ESV would have cited them, since those editors are so complementarian for the most part, and we all know that complementarianism has a tendency to put marriage on a pedestal.

    • Scripture shows us that marriage consists of the forming of a one flesh relationship through the sexual act. If anybody can point to Scripture that says Marriage results from covenant, in the sense of exchanging vows . . .

      I think we need to parse this carefully. I agree that marriage involves the of the forming of a one flesh relationship through the sexual act (leaving aside the rare instances where sexual intercourse is physically impossible). But all sexual intercourse forms a one flesh relationship, even fornication and intercourse with a prostitute:

      Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” (1 Corinthians 6:16 ESV)

      So marriage is not made by just the sexual act alone. Marriage seems to also involve some kind of public awareness, witness and condonation of the couple’s union. That witness and condonation does not always in the Bible involve vows or promises being made by the two parties. But there seems always to be some kind of undertakings or promises made, even if only by the couples’ two respective families of origin. For example:

      Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. (Gen. 24:67).

      Although it sounds like Isaac and Rebecca did not exchange vows and it was just the sex that made them married, their union had been arranged and coordinated between their two families, and in that pre-arranging process we can infer that there were implicit if not explicit promises or undertakings made. Maybe not precisely and solely between Isaac and Rebecca, but certainly with Isaac and Rebecca’s assent.

      Of course, we can’t always deduce law from narrative, but we can make reasonable inferences from narrative about how God views ethics, especially when the actions of the protagonists are not condemned by scripture. In Isaac and Rebecca’s case, the husband and wive had sex without, so far as we know, ceremonially exchanging vows with public witnesses. Clearly, the customs at that time regarding marriage were somewhat different from our own. But it also seems pretty clear that this passage shows us that our custom, our formal vow-exchanging ceremony, is not tightly prescribed in the Bible, not nearly as tightly prescribed as the wooden marriage-idolatrists would have us think.

      Nevertheless, the Bible does seem to require some kind of undertakings to be made between the parties, and some kind of public witness and condonation of those undertakings.

      • Gary W

        “Nevertheless, the Bible does seem to require some kind of undertakings to be made between the parties, and some kind of public witness and condonation of those undertakings.”

        Yes, it is in the nature of God designed and ordained marriage that the parties enter mutually reciprocal public undertakings, with mutual faithfulness being foundational. Yet I suggest that it is important to observe that such undertakings are inherent in the very nature of marriage. They find their force and effect in the will of God and not in an exchange of vows. These mutual undertakings are in no way dependent upon an exchange of vows–they exist with or without such an exchange. Perhaps weddings should be conducted in a manner so that it is more clear that the couple are embracing what God has established as opposed to some sort of mere covenant or contractual undertaking by and between humans.

        The only glue that effectively holds a marriage together is agape love. If marriage is viewed as being founded on an exchange of vows, the glue that attempts to hold it together is law. Unlike agape love, law enables one party to manipulate and coerce the other.

        One reason such distinctions are important is that if marriage is seen as being founded on covenant vows rather than on the all-wise design of God, one party can break the covenant while, perversely, demanding that the faultless party remain faithful to and bound by their vows–and this with the support of all too many churches. If marriage is viewed as a union in which God Himself has joined the husband and wife, it is plain that if one spouse is unfaithful–whether as to intimate relations, the provision of material and emotional support, etc.–they have broken that union. There is no longer a marriage union, and the faultless party is free to leave, or expel, the other.

      • “The only glue that effectively holds a marriage together is agape love. If marriage is viewed as being founded on an exchange of vows, the glue that attempts to hold it together is law. Unlike agape love, law enables one party to manipulate and coerce the other.”

        What a great paragraph Gary!

  11. Summer2

    Actually, the ref. in Malachi repeatedly is to the covenant of Levi or cov. of the fathers. It does not reference back to any other covenant such as a separate marriage cov. The context of the whole book is significant. Which strengthens the horror of the treachery as wife of youth is also part of the covenant of Levi or fathers not just a ‘mere’ foreigner. 1:11 & 14 distinguish between Gentile and the Lord’s and failure to reverence the Lord on the part of His people. Then 2:2, 4, 5, 8, 10. Also 2:11 contrasts foreign wife with 14 wife of same people / cov. of Levi. treachery all thru’ the chapters on the part of His people. Cov. mentioned again 3:1, 3, 7. End of 3 & ch. 4 distinguish obed. versus those who don’t reverence. (This was supposed to go under JP1).

    • Summer2

      In Re JP1. Biblical relationships are not almost always covenant based. Nowhere are covenants between apostles or deacons or church members, etc. etc. referred to in NT said to be covenants. A person is not in one union with their significant friends or significant parents or significant siblings. Saying significant Relationships are always covenants undoes everything Barb’s book carefully spelled out. Not to mention trivializing significant relationships to mere contracts. One might say covenants are almost always significant Relationships but not vice versa.

      • joepote01

        In regard to church leaders, assuming they are Christians, they are all in covenant with Christ and are therefore brothers and sisters in Christ…because of their common covenant with Christ. It is a covenant based relationship.

        I did NOT say that significant relationships are ALWAYS covenants. I said that in the cultures of the Bible significant relationships were ALMOST always covenant based.

  12. Friend of Victim

    Good point Gary W. Also, Summer2’s point is well taken that the dialogue in Malachi is about the covenant between God and His People. They broke their Covenant with God when they took foreign wives. I have to disagree that from a Biblical perspective, significant relationships are almost always covenant based. I am a single person with many significant relationships (family and friends), and I don’t think any of them are unbiblical. 🙂 A covenant is a contract protecting parties that may or may not be in close relationship (e.g. Laban and Jacob were not exactly close friends when they made their covenant. They did not trust each other.)

    Usually, a covenant is between equal parties. Unfortunately, as an effect of the fall of man (not God’s design / intent), women in Biblical times were treated as property not equals. (I am so glad that Jesus came and showed that He (God) values women as equal with men!) The closest thing I can come to a marriage covenant or ceremony in the Bible was not between a bride and groom, but between Boaz and Ruth’s nearest male relative and Ruth was only part of a property transaction with inheritance implications. It was a transaction made between men, sealed by the giving of a sandal.

    Gilbert Bilzekian, points out in his book, “Beyond Sex Roles, What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family” that we even conduct our wedding ceremonies in contradiction to Genesis 2:24:

    For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife: and they shall become one flesh. NASB1995

    Our ceremonies have the groom standing put in front of the altar, while the bride comes to him with her parents giving her away. (i.e. She is leaving her parents and joining him!)

    One final comment:

    It just occurred to me that the Bible never talks about a marriage certificate, only a divorce certificate. (As Barbara pointed out in her book, this provided protection for the wife who was discarded by her husband.) Perhaps this fact is significant?

    • I think the whole business of certificates for marriage (or for divorce) comes down to the customs of a given society, rather than any prescription in the Bible.

      It does not seem to me that the Bible prescribes certificates for either marriage or divorce. The places in the OT which mention divorce certificates seem to me to all be referring to the certificate as simply a cultural custom, not a divine prescription for how divorce was to be conducted. The Hebrew peoples seem to have worked out that it made sense and helped keep things stable and manageable if divorce certificates were issued. It clarified things. A divorce certificate made it clear that a) the husband could not use that woman for sex any more, b) any children born to her after 9 months after the divorce were not his responsibility, c) she was free to marry another man without being liable to the charge of adultery!

      Point c) being the most important point, I would say.

      A society that does not have something cut and dried like a divorce certificate to show that a marriage has ended, is going to have all sorts of complicated ethical dilemmas that are hard to untangle. The legitimacy of offspring. The duties and responsibilities and liberties of the two adult parties (the original husband and wife). The way other adults in the community can treat and relate to these two parties: are they free to be courted for marriage, or are they not? etc. All this is made a lot more straightforward if you have a cut and dried system for making it clear when a marriage is over.

      But it would not have to be a certificate. It could be some other thing. I guess.

      There is a widespread view in Christendom that God ordained and commanded the divorce certificate in Deuteronomy 24:1. That is one of the many misunderstandings I tried to dispel in my book. Sigh. I had so many misunderstandings to dispel, and I think that a lot of what I’ve said has not yet sunk in, even for those who have read my book. That is not to disparage my readers: but I know my book is a hard read, and it is tightly argued, and there were so many notions I rebutted that it is hard for my readers to take it all in. Re-calibrating one’s thinking on this stuff takes persistence and repetition for it all to sink in. That is certainly what I found for myself, when writing it. And it took me three years of hard labour and much research and pondering and cogitation to work out what I thought was the best way to rightly divide all the scriptures that deal with divorce.

      Correction, not all the scriptures: I did not address the Jeremiah passages which refer to God divorcing Israel. I only addressed the scriptures that deal with human to human divorce.

      • Deut 24:1 (ESV)

        When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house,

        and he writes —— it’s pre-law narrative.
        It’s not let him write —— which would make it a commandment, a law that must be followed.

        The only law in this passage is in verse four. Verse one is not a commandment. It is just part of the narrative-description of the complicated case for which verse four lays down the law:– he MUST NOT take his wife back after he had divorced her and she had remarried and that second marriage had terminated.

        Talk about one’s tongue stumbling over one’s bootstraps! It’s hard to convey that case-law accurately. Moses did it very very well, but most people have misunderstood what Moses wrote. And the misunderstanding was in large part caused by the early translations of verse one which incorrectly gave the idea that Moses commanded the divorce certificate.

        This business of correcting all the misunderstandings of scripture: it’s like digging oneself out of a deep pit. Move one shovel-load of soil, and the soil caves in and falls back again in another place. Gah!

        No wonder we victims of abuse have felt like we are buried in the mire!

      • Gary W

        Not sure what to make of it, but it seems the ESV rendering of Deuteronomy 24:1 is out of sync with other translations.

        KJV reads:

        …let him write her a bill of divorcement…


        …he shall write her a bill of divorcement…

        and NET:

        …he may draw up a divorce document…

        NIV and NASB [NASB1995] are similar to ESV. Jesus appears to accept the Pharisees’ quoting of Deut 24:1 as:

        …”Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matthew 19:7 ESV)

        I suspect that a permanency view of marriage has been written into ESV, and maybe even into NIV and NASB [NASB1995]. Probably I should read your book, along with Instone-Brewer, before trying to take this any further. In the meantime, I’m confused.

      • Yes Gary, if you read my book you will find I talk about the translation of Deut. 24:1 and whether the certificate was prescribed or just described. Instone-Brewer doesn’t deal with it, if I remember rightly. Jay Adams dealt with the translation issue for that verse quite well, and I quoted from him in my book.

    • joepote01

      Sorry, I guess I was unclear in referring to biblical relationships. I meant to say that within the cultures of both the Old and New Testaments significant relationships were almost always covenant based. I did not intend to infer that there is anything unbiblical about a relationship that is not covenant based.

      Laban and Jacob may not have been close, but their relationship was certainly significant, and the oath of covenant is what kept it as peacable as it was.

      In the New Testament, all true believers in Christ are in covenant with Christ, and are, therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ. Our relationship with fellow believers is a covenant based relationship.

      Even the NT admonition to not be unequally yoked to an unbeliever is all about covenant and avoiding entering covenants that would conflict with our relationship with our covenant partner, Jesus Christ.

  13. joepote01

    Adding to what I said earlier about covenants in the biblical cultures being grounded in relationship while modern contracts are grounded in legal enforceability, let me give two specific examples.

    Ruth cut a covenant with Naomi, and Jonathan cut a covenant with David. It both these cases,the sole purpose of the covenant was relationship. There was no other reason for the covenant to exist other than relationship.

    If we try to compare these covenants to modern legal contracts, it just doesn’t work. Nowhere in modern western society (apart from marriage) do we see people saying, “Hey, I really like you. Let’s draw up a contract of friendship between us.”

    Modern contracts are all about legal enforceability.

    Biblical covenant is all about relationship.

    • Joe, I think your observation that:

      modern contracts are all about legal enforceability


      biblical covenant is all about relationship”

      —is an accurate way of pinpointing how in our modern usage of those two words, we see a distinct difference between those two words.

      And simplistic Christian teachers have pushed that ‘difference’ so much that it is almost as if they’ve taught us to think of all contracts as bad, — cold, calculating things; and all covenants as good — holy and warm and honourable things. And then they’ve used that false dichotomy to guilt victims of marital abuse by telling them that “Marriage is a covenant, so you must not think about your spouse’s failures to live up to the promises he or she made to love and protect you! And if you complain about your spouse’s bad behaviour, then you are treating marriage like a contract, and it’s not a contract, it’s a covenant!” That, dear readers, is garbage. It’s an argument based on a false dichotomy and an ignorance of the biblical languages and culture.

      That false dichotomy is incredibly damaging and false-guilt-inducing to victims of marital abuse.

      As I understand him, Instone-Brewer with all his scholarly understanding of the biblical languages and the social contexts of the eras over which the Bible was written, is telling us modern people that in Biblical days and in the days of the Church Fathers, the word ‘covenant’ (except when it was the use in that special phrase ‘New Covenant’) had a semantic range that included what we in our modern day call a ‘contract’. In other words, when the Bible and the Church Fathers used the word ‘covenant’, they included the idea of contractual terms — undertakings / promises that the parties made to each other, and either implicitly or explicitly, they included penalties for reneging on the terms. Whether or not the terms and penalties were spelled out, uttered by way of vow or promise, documented, or certified, or whether they were simply understood in an unspoken way between the parties, those terms existed.

      In our day, we see an example of unspoken terms and penalties in applications of common law. Even though the owner of the manor in an English estate has not signed any contract with the villagers who live around his estate, he is expected to allow them right of way (footpath) across his land, by common law and ancient custom. And when the villagers make use of that right of way, they are expected to do so without damaging the lord of the manor’s property or livestock. So contracts are not always about signed documents or explicitly stated terms. They can be implicit but very real nevertheless. Another example is the implicit expectation that an aging parent has that their children will look after them in their dotage. In healthy families, that is kind of like a contract, the terms and promises of which were implicitly established when the parent was raising their children all those years ago.

      I know this is a digression. Sorry if I’ve wasted people’s time. I guess I’m trying to loosen up our thinking about the terms ‘contract’ and ‘covenant’, so that we don’t just see the two words through our personal narrow cultural time-bound lens.

      • joepote01

        Yes, I absolutely agree that biblical era covenant and modern contracts both include terms and conditions (whether spelled out or understood) and that violation of the terms and conditions by either party breaks the covenant or contract.

        And, yes, I also agree that the differences between biblical era covenant and modern contract has more to do with cultural differences than with legal differences. In many ways, the hand-shake agreements of a couple of generations ago, where a lifelong business partnership could be founded on nothing more than a verbal agreement and a handshake had more in common with the biblical era covenant than with our modern legal contracts.

        And, yes, I agree with your statements about the false dichotomy.

        In fact, those who appeal to this false dichotomy as a basis for requiring an abused spouse to quietly accept abuse without consequences or boundaries have a VERY poor understanding of biblical covenant. By taking such a stance, they themselves are legalistically treating the marriage covenant as a cold stark legal contract that has nothing to do with relationship.

        I would further say this plays directly into the typical abuser mindset. As has been illustrated well in the recent post on “the list,” abusers completely gloss over the whole concept of relationship trying to turn the marriage into a cold contract which they can weasel out of by exploiting loopholes, “Which one of the rules did I break?” while holding their spouse accountable to the very covenant they have violated. They give lavish gifts in an attempt to “buy” forgiveness, trust and loyalty, while offering none of these in return. These are the exact people of whom Malachi was speaking when he said:

        “This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
        [Malachi 2:13-14 NASB1995]

        And this same abuser mindset….this notion that one can violate the covenant vows and neglect any sense of covenant relationship while still expecting to be able to find protection in the covenant….this is what Jesus was speaking to when He said:

        “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:21-23) [NASB1995 Emphasis original.]

        To me, it is the relational component of covenant that makes abuse….dealing treacherously against a covenant partner….such a horrible horrible sin. Bad enough that one should treat another human being with total disregard for their well-being….how much worse when that person is their covenant partner to whom they have sworn a sacred vow to love, honor, cherish and protect!

        And it’s not a waste to discuss these things, Barbara. Learning to see biblical truths from another perspective helps us all to better understand and better see God’s heart.

        Thank you for sharing your perspective and allowing me to share mine.

        Blessings to you! 🙂

      • joepote01


        Just a quick note to tell you that, this morning, I got a dose of what you have described…and now have a better understanding of the issue you were attempting to address, here.

        A guy on another blog expressed a “no divorce for any reason” perspective, which I pointed out as being unbiblical, with appropriate references.

        He started spouting off (in a very authoritative manner) about the differences between covenants and contracts. He had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, and the ideas of covenant he as spouting have no basis in the biblical text. Nevertheless, he was somehow very covinced of his wrong notions.

        Thanks for helping me understand the issues in dealing with some of these false teachings. Your discussions here helped me to be better prepared for the discussions this morning.

        Belssings to you!

      • Thanks Joe. I’m very encouraged. 🙂

    • Summer2

      JP1. Your last post and statement ‘Biblical Cov. is all about relationship ‘ is opposite of what you said earlier when you wrote ‘almost all significant relationships are covenant based’ which was not accurate. One can say covenants are a subset of relationships but not relationships a subset of covenants. Further you have not checked references or rather lack thereof to refs to covenants as a term in the NT again which I specified above. And if you continue to try and maintain the false subset of relationships under covenants you invalidate the entire premises under which BR and Instone-Brewer and in some respects Crippen’s book are based. Almost all significant relationships are not covenant based only the reverse almost all covenants are significant Relationships.

      • Don Johnson

        Each book of the Bible assumes the cultural context of the original audience, if you try to read it without that cultural context, it is essentially certain you will make mistakes. It is true that the Bible does not contain the details of a wedding ceremony, it simply assumes it as a part of the culture of the original audience. But one can see references to such a wedding ceremony in Gen 2 and Eze 16.

        The prot doctrine of sola scriptura does not mean solo scriptura.

      • joepote01

        Clearly, your understanding of covenant relationships differs substantially from mine.

        Blessings to you, Summer2!

  14. Don Johnson

    A Jewish divorce needed to go thru a Jewish court, so there were legal aspects to the covenant that are like a contract today. The one aspect of a covenant is that it has emotional content, this is not necessarily true today for a contract. The covenant sets the minimum expectations of the relationship, but it certainly does not express all of the relationship. The divorce certificate was a blessing from God, one can see this when contrasting a Jewish divorce with a cert to another ANE divorce without one. The first husband in the latter case could come back and claim his wife, so the Jewish divorce cert. said he could not do that, she could either marry another or stay unmarried.

    • The one aspect of a covenant is that it has emotional content, this is not necessarily true today for a contract.

      Thanks for that, Don. Good point.

    • … one can see this when contrasting a Jewish divorce with a cert to another ANE divorce without one. The first husband in the latter case could come back and claim his wife, so the Jewish divorce cert. said he could not do that, she could either marry another or stay unmarried.

      Can you give us the reference for that please Don? I may have read it before but have forgotten it.

      • Don Johnson

        My books are packed as I moved, but I am almost certain it was in DIB’s main book on divorce. If not there, then his teachings on his website.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yes, DIB made reference to that in “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible”, p. 28:

        The reference in Deuteronomy 24:1 to a divorce certificate is unique in ancient Near Eastern sources. Nowhere outside Judaism is there any reference to a divorce certificate or any other document that would be taken away by every divorced woman.

        He then has a footnote that is too long to quote, that pertains to dowries. A sort of dowry receipt, I guess.

      • Thanks BIT 🙂

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