A Cry For Justice

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

Jesus did NOT say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood.

Jesus didn’t say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. In Deuteronomy 24, Moses didn’t say that hardness of heart is grounds for divorce, he only set limitations on the future conduct of men who chose to divorce their wives. That is the take-home message of this post.

In this series I am doing my best to help you untangle the knotty problem of how to understand what the Bible says about divorce. Part 1 presents the knotty problem. Part 2 dispels the mistaken idea that the meaning of particular words in scripture is the key to untying the knot.

In the series, some of the ideas I am elaborating on are ideas I presented in my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion (2008). I am hoping that this series will make some of the finer points in my book easier to understand.

Okay, let’s proceed…

A mother says to her child: “If you play out in the street in your best clothes and damage your clothes, or run in the puddles and come back with muddy shoes, or if you come home later than 5pm, then you will not be allowed to go to the party next weekend.”

She did not tell her child “You have to play in the street in your best clothes”. Nor did she say “I allow you to play in the street in your best clothes, and get your shoes muddy.” She mentioned the possible actions of the child, but did not actively condone or endorse them.

What the mother said to her child was an example of a conditional sentence. Here is another conditional sentence:

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (NKJ, bold emphasis mine)

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,
2when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife,
3 if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,
then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

The word “then” in verse 4 is the hinge to understanding this passage. Then and only then: only if the events in verses 1-3 have transpired does the law in verse 4 apply.

Verse 1 mentions a husband writing a certificate of divorce, giving it to his wife and putting her out of the house. But verse 1 does not actively condone or give leave to husbands to behave that way.

The first three verses of Deuteronomy 24 give the conditions under which the fourth verse applies. Verse 1 is part of the case-study narrative which sets out the circumstances under which the law in verse 4 applies.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 has been greatly misunderstood

Many professing Christians have the idea that Deuteronomy 24 is where Moses allowed divorce for hardness of heart. We’ve heard so many teachers and pastors assert this idea that we can easily accept it without questioning it. Teachers articulate this idea in many ways. Here are some of the ways you may have heard it articulated:

  • “Moses permitted divorce for hardness of heart.”
  • “Moses allowed divorce, but Jesus tightened the rules. Jesus said divorce is not allowed except for sexual unfaithfulness.”
  • “Jesus annulled the Mosaic concession about divorce.”
  • “Mosaic Law said that when a husband found ‘some uncleanness’ in his wife, he could divorce her.”

One reason why this idea is so embedded in people’s minds is that they have read the words “Moses commanded/ permitted divorce” in Matthew 19/ Mark 10.

Now dear reader, please pay attention. Who said that in the New Testament? It was the Pharisees!

Matthew 19:3-7 (NKJ)
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

Mark 10:1-4 (NKJ)
The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.

And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”

If you look at the two passages I just cited, you will see that in the Gospel of Matthew the Pharisees say Moses commanded (Gk entellō) to give a certificate of divorce. And in the Gospel of Mark, the Pharisees say Moses permitted (Gk epitrepō) divorce.

Should we just go along with the Pharisees, assuming they were right?

Jesus was enemies with the Pharisees. He tore strips off them for their hypocrisy and twisting of scripture. Surely we should be wary of assuming the Pharisees had got this right? — especially since they claimed two fairly different things: that God commanded divorce, and God permitted divorce. Hmm. Weasel words much? That is typical of Pharisees.

People assume that the Pharisees were right in claiming that Moses commanded/permitted to give a certificate of divorce, because they have misunderstood how Jesus rebutted the Pharisees.

Please look closely at how Jesus rebutted the Pharisees:

Matthew 19:8

He said to them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives. But from the beginning it was not so. (NMB)

He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (NKJ)

Jesus said Moses suffered/permitted divorce. That word is epitrepō. It has a range of meaning: suffered, tolerated, permitted, gave leave. It never means commanded.

What did Jesus mean when he said Moses suffered/permitted divorce?

I suffered my daughter exploring the large storm-water drains under the town we lived in (Ballarat) when she was a child. She told me she and her friends were exploring the drains.  I knew if I forbade her to explore the drains, she would just disobey and lie to me. (Hey, it’s fun to explore storm water drains when you are 10 or 11 years old and can stand up in drains which adults would have to bend over to walk inside.)

I responded to my daughter like this. I did not say, “I permit you to explore the drains.”  Rather, I warned her to never do it alone. I told her that if she and her friends explored the drains, they must always make sure to stick close together. And I told her to never do it if it had recently rained, or looked like it might rain soon. I took the approach of risk management and harm minimisation. Thankfully, she and her friends soon lost interest in that adventure. (!)

In a similar way, Moses suffered men divorcing their wives. Like the mother who said to her child “If you behave in such and such a way, you will not be allowed to go to the party next weekend,” Moses said to men “If you behave in such and such a way, and these events take place, you will not be allowed to do xyz.”

How do we know for sure that Jesus was not saying “Moses permitted divorce for hardness of heart”? Because Jesus told the Pharisees that Moses gave the precept in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 because of MEN’s hardness of heart. In my book and this blog post I explain that Jesus specifically implicates hardhearted husbands.

Mark 10:5 gives us vital insight into what Jesus meant

Mark 10:5

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” (NKJ)

And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. (KJV)

And Jesus answered and said to them, For the hardness of your hearts he wrote this precept for you. (NMB)

The word ‘precept’ used there is entolē. It means injunction, i.e. an authoritative prescription:—commandment, precept. The KJV translates it as commandment’ 69 times, and as precept twice.(link) I think that is pretty strong evidence that Jesus was referring to the LAW which Moses laid down in Deuteronomy verse 4, not the bit of pre-law narrative in verse 1.

Therefore, when Jesus told the Pharisees Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept, he was telling them that the reason Moses had to write Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was because some Israelite men (including these Pharisees) were treating their wives as objects they could discard and later pick up and reuse.

In Deuteronomy 24, Moses did not specify grounds for divorce. God, using Moses as his servant messenger, took the harm minimisation approach:–  Some men will hardheartedly divorce their wives, but these men MUST NOT remarry the woman they had divorced if she had married another man and that marriage had ended.

Mosaic law had other provisions that were designed to protect women from domestic abuse. One is found in Deuteronomy 21:10-14; I go into that in chapter 6 of my book. Another is in Exodus 21:7-11 and you can read about that here.

Jewish religious leaders have always seen the passage in Exodus 21 as giving grounds for divorce when a husband was abusing his wife. I argue in my book (following David Instone-Brewer) that both Deut 21 and Ex 21 mean God approves of divorce in cases of spouse abuse.

Analogies from scripture

God tolerates the actions of fallen men, but that does not mean he approves of those actions.

Before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, God had given Adam and Eve tremendous liberty and ease. The garden had an abundance of fruit bearing trees. Adam and Eve could pick and eat fruit without having to labour hard for their sustenance, so long as they refrained from eating the fruit of one particular tree in the garden. Because they had never sinned and did not at that stage have any bias towards sin, it would have been easy for them to obey that simple commandment.

After they fell, God did not destroy them immediately as punishment for their offense. God showed mercy on their now-fallen nature. In His compassion and longsuffering, God imposed certain penalties and restrictions on them. One of the penalties He imposed on Adam was alienation from the ground, the earth from which Adam was made and from which he previously drew sustenance without having to labour hard.

In a similar way, God tolerated Cain’s evil attitude while Cain was nursing resentment against his brother Abel. God could have caused the earth to instantly swallow up Cain for that evil attitude, but instead He compassionately gave Cain counsel on how to avoid temptation. After Cain had willfully ignored God’s counsel and killed Abel, God allowed Cain to continue living, albeit with restrictions and penalties. One of the penalties was that Cain would be a wanderer, alienated from the earth, and the ground would no longer yield to him its strength (Gen 4:12).

In a similar way, the Mosaic Law shows that God tolerates a man divorcing his wife, but God imposes a restriction when a man divorces his wife. He cannot remarry her after she’d been married to another man and that marriage of hers had terminated. Deuteronomy 24:4 spells out the restriction God imposed on such men: her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife…for that is an abomination before the LORD.

Deuteronomy 24:4 also spells out the penalty if men disobey this law: such conduct will bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance. The land will be cursed by this sin. The sin of these self-serving men will affect the whole nation and its people.

I hope this explanation of mine has helped you understand in what sense Moses permitted divorce in Deuteronomy 24. He tolerated men divorcing their wives; but he did not give them leave to do so. Moses did not specify legitimate grounds for divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Additional reasons why Deuteronomy 24:1-4 been so misunderstood

The King James Version (1611) gave the impression that Deuteronomy 24 verse 1 lays down a law. Here is how the KJV rendered Deuteronomy 24:1-2.

1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.

By using the words “then let him” in verse 1, it makes verse 1 sound like a law. It gave the sense of authorising the husband to give his wife a certificate of divorce and end the marriage if he found her repugnant. This made verse 2 sound like a second law: once the woman was given a divorce certificate she was allowed to marry another man if she so wished.

Rather than following suit with the KJV, many modern translations have correctly given the impression that verse 1 and 2 are only part of the pre-law narrative to the law in verse 4. The NKJ example which I quoted earlier does this correctly. As does the Good News version:

1 Suppose a man marries a woman and later decides that he doesn’t want her, because he finds something about her that he doesn’t like. So he writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home.
2 Then suppose she marries another man, 3 and he also decides that he doesn’t want her, so he also writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home. Or suppose her second husband dies.
4 In either case, her first husband is not to marry her again; he is to consider her defiled. If he married her again, it would be offensive to the Lord. You are not to commit such a terrible sin in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

For other examples of modern translations that correctly give the sense that verses 1-3 are the conditions for the law in verse 4, check out the passage in the NASB, ESV, NIV, GW, NCV, NIRV, NRSV, RSV, ISR, JPS, NABRE.

While there is much I don’t like about Jay Adams the founder of Nouthetic Counseling (he lacked understanding of trauma and interpersonal abuse), he did affirm that verse 1 is not a law in and of itself. He cited the Berkeley translation of the passage:

When a man has married a wife and comes to dislike her, having found something improper in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and putting it into her hand, sends her from his house, and she goes off and becomes the wife of another, and her second husband, likewise comes to hate her and also gives her a bill of divorce and sends her away, or if the second husband dies, in such case, the man who first divorced her must not take her again, for she has been defiled; such practice is abhorrent to the LORD, and you must not bring such guilt upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you for your heritage.
quoted in “Marriage Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible,” Jay E. Adams, (Zondervan 1980), 61. (Bold emphasis mine).

Adams emphasised that Deut 24:1-3 sets out the circumstances in which God forbids a man remarrying a woman he has divorced.

Fortunately, all commentators agree on this change.  Argumentation for it can be found in most standard commentaries.

Note: in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, there is no command to divorce, no criteria for determining what is a valid or invalid divorce, nor even a requirement to give a bill of divorce. (Moses mentioned the proper legal process with its three steps not to institute the process, or even to insist upon it, but rather to make clear that what he is speaking about is a genuine divorce proceeding.)

Thus,

  1. Deuteronomy 24 merely recognises divorce as a existing legal process that it regulates.
  2. Deuteronomy 24 does not institute or even allow divorce for a cause other than fornication.
  3. Deuteronomy 24 does not encourage easy divorce; indeed the whole point of the four verses in question is to forestall hasty action by making it impossible to rectify the situation when divorce and remarriage to another has taken place. [i.e., making it impossible for the first husband to take his wife back]
    – “Marriage Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible,” Jay E. Adams, 62 (bold emphasis mine)

In 1980, Jay Adams was able to say that “all commentators agree” that the KJV was wrong in conveying the idea that verse 1 is a law condoning men divorcing their wives when they found them objectionable.

Perhaps Adams didn’t appreciate how hard it is to dislodge the idea that verse 1 is a stand-alone law.

The idea that God laid down a law in verse 1 is VERY hard to dislodge.

Sadly, people still tend to think that Deut 24:1 was a law which positively permitted and condoned divorce.

The King James Version had a massive impact because it was the dominant English translation for centuries. The mistaken idea that verse 1 is a law has been passed on from teacher to teacher and scholar to scholar so often that very few people think to question it.

It is disappointing that some modern Bible translations and commentators continue to follow the KJV in giving the sense that verse 1 is a law which positively authorised a husband divorcing his wife when he was displeased with her (perceiving her as odious or obnoxious).

One modern translation which does this is CSB. Here is how the CSB renders verse 1:

If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house. [emphasis added]

‘He may’ can convey that it might happen: the husband might decide to divorce his wife just like he might decide to go fishing this weekend, or stay at home and watch his favourite team’s game. But ‘he may’ can also convey that God says it’s okay for the man to divorce his wife if he finds her objectionable. So which is it? The CSB translation is not helpful because the English word ‘may’ can mean so many things.

Walter Callison, whose book I do NOT recommend, says verses 1-2 are a law (Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love, 2002, Kindle location 137). Callison is very muddled and confused about lots of things. He is one of the authors who claims that word meanings are the key to untangling the knotty passages about divorce – a mistaken idea which I challenged in Part 2 of this series. Callison’s book is being recommended by domestic abuse advocates, which saddens me.

***

This is part 3 of  4-part series. Other parts of this series:

Part 1  The tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce.

Part 2  The Bible uses different words for divorce but they all mean legal divorce. Those who tell you otherwise are mistaken.

Part 4  The Jewish divorce certificate gave women the right to remarry, but some men used it rule over women .

Related posts

True or False? “Jesus speaks of divorce being permissible, and his reason for such is that our hearts can be hard.”

What about Divorce? — an FAQ page on this website. It lists our most significant posts about divorce.

39 Comments

  1. Starlight

    Thank you Barb for your thorough studies and clarification that you make available to us. I appreciate and respect your hard work. It is so helpful and reduces the guilt imposed on so many who have had to divorce through circumstances not of our making!

  2. Kimberly

    I am not understanding why God gives that kind of power to the man to decide whether a woman is displeasing or not? It seems harsh toward the wife to never know if her husband will “disapprove” of her. Wouldn’t that cause a wife to walk on eggshells and fear his displeasure thus contorting herself into what her husband demands of her?

    • Hi Kimberly, God does not give men the right to use that kind of power. It is fallen men who choose, in their selfishness and wickedness, to use that kind of power. Moses is not saying God authorises men to do that. Moses is only narrating that some men do that.

      Does that make it clearer?
      Please write back with another comment if you want more clarification. And thanks very much for asking.

    • There are many stories (narratives) in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, where men did the wrong thing. One example is Abram telling his wife Sarai to say she was his sister… which led to Pharoah taking Sarai to be a part of his harem. It was wrong of Abram to do that. Abram wasn’t trusting God, he was motivated by selfishness and cowardice.

      God did not authorise Abram to commit that sin. The Bible simple narrates how Abram sinned.

      It’s the same with the way Moses narrates in Deut 24 how some men were dismissing their wives because they perceived them objectionable.

    • It is helpful to remember that the world was fully under the curse of Genesis 3:17. The law was never intended to do away with the curse, but simply to minimize the abuses of it. So God did not give the man the right to “find uncleanness”, he simply acknowledges that men indeed will do that – but they cannot do it lawlessly.

      Christ came to do away with that curse, and when he takes it away, the command is “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church”.

      That command was in shadow in the old, but not fully realized until Christ came.

      • Hi Sam, thanks for your comment. 🙂

        When you say, “That command was in shadow in the old, but not fully realized until Christ came” — which command are you referring to?

      • The command of Paul, the husbands should love their wives. It’s hidden in Shadow in the seventh commandment, and clarified after Christ did away with the curse

      • Thanks Sam.

      • Helovesme

        Thanks for that comment Pastor, and the question and answer from Kimberly, too. They helped immensely.

        I did not grow up in a Christian home, but divorce was rarely talked about, and my impression is that it was disapproved of as well. I grew up in a pretty conservative, tradition-based home, similar to a “religious” upbringing, even if it was not a Christian one.

        It gave me the impression that it’s taboo to ask about a family’s private affairs. It seemed like bad manners to go down that road.

        Believe me, things got even MORE confusing when I became a believer as a young woman. It’s not that divorce didn’t exist (it’s clearly spoken of in the Word!).

        So here are my impressions, and bear in mind that even asking or bringing up what is or isn’t a Biblical divorce seemed just as taboo as when I was a child. I think it made people uncomfortable. Bringing it up doesn’t seem to advance the Gospel of covenant and commitment.

        The focus seemed to be on how to build up a Christ-like marriage. Bringing up divorce might defeat that purpose. It’s injecting a “negative vibe” into something as precious and powerful as Biblical marriage.

        If we started teaching young Christians that there IS a “way out” of an abusive or adulterous marriage, wouldn’t married couples just go down that road right away, instead of opting to work hard on a relationship that has a chance of succeeding?

        Well, if someone is just looking for so-called Biblical permission to get out of a marriage, I would doubt that that person was very serious about the marriage in the first place. I would say that person’s heart is not in the right place to invest the real work it takes to have a relationship with someone.

        I feel like I’m in kindergarten. I took a long time to read this post in pieces, so that I could try to absorb as much as possible. You simply can’t look at the Word to back up what you want to do, or not do.

        These parts really, really stood out to me:

        “God tolerates the actions of fallen men, but that does not mean he approves of those actions.”

        “Note: in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, there is no command to divorce, no criteria for determining what is a valid or invalid divorce, nor even a requirement to give a bill of divorce. (Moses mentioned the proper legal process with its three steps not to institute the process, or even to insist upon it, but rather to make clear that what he is speaking about is a genuine divorce proceeding.)”

        “Therefore, when Jesus told the Pharisees Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept, he was telling them that the reason Moses had to write Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was because some Israelite men (including these Pharisees) were treating their wives as objects they could discard and later pick up and reuse. ”

        “In a similar way, Moses suffered men divorcing their wives. Like the mother who said to her child “If you behave in such and such a way, you will not be allowed to go to the party next weekend,” Moses said to men “If you behave in such and such a way, and these events take place, you will not be allowed to do xyz.”

        “How do we know for sure that Jesus was not saying “Moses permitted divorce for hardness of heart”? Because Jesus told the Pharisees that Moses gave the precept in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 because of MEN’s hardness of heart. In my book and this blog post I explain that Jesus specifically implicates hardhearted husbands.”

        Great job, Barb!

      • Thank you Helovesme — thank you for ploughing through my post and telling me what parts stood out to you. 🙂 🙂 🙂

        I have missed you! I hope you are doing okay.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you! I’m going to move onto your next post tomorrow I hope: Logic and Authority.

        I’m learning a lot and trying to pick up on more as I (try to) read through the comments and gather in what others have gone through.

        It’s worth the time because the readers and commentators here have so much to offer.

  3. Finding Answers

    From the original post “The first three verses of Deuteronomy 24 give the conditions under which the fourth verse applies. Verse 1 is part of the case-study narrative which sets out the circumstances under which the law in verse 4 applies.”

    I’ve spent the day pondering today’s post, and thinking of other Biblical examples of case law.

    And in the secular system, lawyers often cite case law to provide a reason for why the position they are taking is valid. These lawyers cite the reference case, not the individual sentences in the case.

    I am not a Biblical scholar, nor am I trained in secular law. I DO understand the concept of conditional statements, in both their use and their misuse. And the misuse of conditional statements ALWAYS leads to error.

  4. The difficulty is the interpretation of the string of verbs. The first one “when a man takes a wife” is obviously the condition – it is imperfect. What follows is a string of perfect verbs with a vav consecutive attached – long story short, it adds the idea of sequence to the first verb – making them all conditional, and in a sequence. In other words, I believe, Barb, that you are right. It isn’t exactly black and white, for sometimes a vav perfect can be used as the apodosis – which is how the King James took it. The problem is that EVERY verb is the vav perfect, so why is this one alone the apodosis?

    Anyway, in verse 4 the verb clause “the former husband shall not take her again” is back to the imperfect, so I believe that it is intended to be the apodosis. That seems to me to fit the grammar, and most modern translators agree.

    I know this was technical, but I just wanted to say that the Hebrew grammar can certainly be interpreted that way, and to me it is the most likely translation.

    The condition (if) is in the first verb, and carried on in a sequence through verse 3, and the “then” is in verse 4.

    • Sam, thank you so so much for saying this. I really appreciate it. I know it is a technical explanation, but it confirms what I have said… and it confirms the way most modern translations render that passage.

      Bless you for your contribution to the blog. 🙂

    • Finding Answers

      Sam and Barb,

      Thank you both SO much for adding this technical discussion. I’m omitting a whole ton of unnecessary personal details, but I wanted to let you know your ongoing discussions on this post led me to insight into my own faulty logic on a completely different topic.

      FWIW, I have learned why I’ve been unable to forgive myself for a lifetime of abuse.

      • “I have learned why I’ve been unable to forgive myself for a lifetime of abuse.”

        That is huge!

      • Kind of Anonymous

        Finding Answers, your comment about learning why you couldn’t forgive yourself for a lifetime of abuse caught my attention. If it would not be uncomfortable to describe I’d certainly be interested in understanding what the block was in your thinking, as I suspect I have a similar blockage. But if it feels too raw or anything else uncomfortable to share, I understand.

      • Finding Answers

        Kind of Anonymous,

        I’ll do the best I can to put into words what I pictured in my mind as a logical fallacy, though I cannot structure it to finish with “Ergo” or “Q.E.D.” or whatever.

        I KNOW in the academic, “head” stuff sense, the meaning of forgiveness.

        I FELT (note the past tense!) in the heart sense, I could never repent enough for all the abuse done to me.

        Yet I FELT / FEEL the Holy Spirit in my heart (and believe me, sometimes He can FEEL emphatic!).

        Typically, abusers do NOT repent, so they would NOT have the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

        I HAVE repented of my past sins / DO repent my present sins when convicted by the Holy Spirit.

        If abusers typically do not repent, then I am not an abuser.

        And if God (through Christ) has forgiven me, then it is not logical for me to not forgive myself.

        Like Barb’s post reference to a knotty problem / tangle of electrical cords (earlier in this series), I needed to untangle / untwist / separate salvation from my abusers’ condemnations.

        I don’t know if this helps you, Kind of Anonymous, though perhaps it provides an alternate way to approach your own dilemma.

      • Helovesme

        Finding Answers thanks for that reply, using the verbs and whatnot.

        I had a hard time following Pastor’s comment (no fault of his) about the string of verbs. Your comment helped give a bit of perspective.

        The verbs, denoting action, you used—and highlighting them, was brilliant.

        Words like “divorce, forgiveness, abuse” are very strong and powerful words. Sometimes they are used as verbs, sometimes used as a matter of description:

        Example: He abused me. Verb. I lived a life of abuse. Description.

        When they are used as verbs, the impact is especially strong.

        Example: I divorced him. Verb. I am a divorced person. Description.

        When it comes to forgiveness for being abused, we might say there was no need for that, right? But for me personally (and perhaps this might resonate with you)—-a lifetime of abuse has led to a lifetime of problems. Though I am NOT guilty of what was done to me, I feel a massive amount of guilt for the baggage it has caused me. And that baggage has no doubt affected people around me, and people that I tried to relate to. Abuse almost always [affects] far more people than we can imagine.

        I wonder if it’s all right to inject just a bit of secular history here. In America, we do have provisions to impeach a sitting president. We are “permitted” to take such action (a sitting president was not above the law), but by no means should it be done lightly. An entire country of people will be affected by such actions. So it’s a big deal. Don’t be frivolous about it.

        Those that wrote our laws might have understood our capacity for sin, and the real temptation and ability to abuse power. By no means were we commanded to impeach a leader, but it was understood that it was permitted.

        There are lots of arguments as to what might or might not constitute grounds for impeachment. Just as there still seems to be a lot of confusion and subjectivity when it comes to grounds for divorce.

        Even the mere WORD “impeachment” can get people riled up, just as a discussion point. Just as the mere word “divorce” can get Christians very riled up.

        By the way, I came to understand that impeachment, while drastic, was far more benign than the usual way that leaders were ousted back then: by assassination, brute force or mutiny. In impeachment, that leader is still alive, and leaves the office in disgrace—but far more preferable than being murdered.

        We hear of so many horrible cases where a spouse will murder their spouse in order to be rid of them. The reasons vary, of course—but basically, it’s abuse of power in the worst possible sense.

        Barb would be best to let me know if I’m reading her post right. And bear with me, again—-think of me as though I am in kindergarten! I freely admit my naivete:

        We would prefer that a spouse choose to divorce their spouse, rather than take their life in order to be free of them. It is not a picnic to reject a spouse, and for that spouse to be rejected—-but the other options are far more dire and deadly.

        One thing I am picking up on (this isn’t included in this post) is how many people are affected when certain actions are taken. I am not from a divorced family, but my husband is. I cannot even begin to explain how much it has affected me, and our marriage. That is another reason I might throw out there in that being permitted to do something is NOT the same thing as being commanded. Bear in mind that a divorce has a tendency to affect far many more people than just the couple themselves.

        And I think Barb pinpointed the hardness of hearts for husbands for a very good reason. A very non male bashing reason: men tended to freely be given the power in those days. It really was a man’s world, and women had to learn how to live and survive in it.

        There was no “single female empowerment” type slogans in those days! For a woman to be put away, sent away and rejected by her spouse would leave her unprotected in a very male oriented, male favoring world.

        No wonder God noticed that a man’s hardness of heart is nothing to be approving of, but He understood that it was a real possibility. I think again, that is why He made sure to protect such women from being “picked up and put down” by such men. If you’re going to divorce her, you will pay a price as well. She is not coming back to you, ever—–and don’t you dare try to reclaim her once you’ve rejected her.

      • Hi Helovesme, I’d like to just clarify one thing. In your last paragraph, about contemptuous husbands, you said, “If you’re going to divorce her, you will pay a price as well. She is not coming back to you, ever—–and don’t you dare try to reclaim her once you’ve rejected her.

        Actually, this passage in Deuteronomy does not stop the woman remarrying the man who had divorced her as long as she has NOT had a second marriage.

        Only if she chooses to marry a second man after the first husband divorced her, does that seal her (legally prevent her) from returning to the first husband.

        I hope this clarifies things.

      • HeLovesMe

        Yes it does, thanks for the clarification. I did miss that part. It’s a bit confusing at times.

      • Helovesme

        Yes, thank you for that clarification. I didn’t catch that—like I said I feel like I’m in the infant stage in all of this. Thanks for the patience and correction.

        [Not quite a duplicate of Helovesme’s earlier gracious comment, but a clarification. 🙂 🙂 Reaching Out.]

      • Finding Answers

        Helovesme commented “…..And that baggage has no doubt affected people around me, and people that I tried to relate to. Abuse almost always [affects] far more people than we can imagine.”

        ^That, although the baggage did not stem from guilt, but from the aftereffects of abuse.

      • Helovesme

        Finding Answers, yes absolutely—thanks for the distinction. The aftereffects of abuse is more precise.

        For me, however, guilt WAS an aftereffect of my abuse. This isn’t true for everyone I’m sure. I carried around a lot of misplaced guilt, not to mention feeling like a failure, a weakling, and an overall loser.

        Sorry for the harsh words in describing myself. Way harsh, but that was my reality. I still struggle in plenty of ways, and still in those areas—it’s really hard to shake off something that insists on clinging to you. So much so that it’s become a part of who you are, even as you desperately try to get rid of it.

        Long, long ago I remember a fellow believer, while praying for me—observing that certain negative and useless things (stemming from my abuse is what I think he was referencing) had almost become like my friends. They clung to me and I clung to them.

        I can’t recall his exact words, but it was shocking to hear (not to mention embarrassing) but so accurately put. They were nothing but dead weight, but I stubbornly kept them close to me.

        A person who has lived in slavery all their life has no idea how to live as a free person. Slavery is evil and wrong, but at least it’s familiar. Even the fear is familiar, although distasteful.

        Slavery drains the life out of you and robs you of anything real and substantial, but again—-the alternative also comes with consequences.

        Getting rid of all that dead weight meant I would be accountable to live in freedom—which comes with real responsibilities. Now I must use the freedom of choice to choose Christ, and learn to live in faith. I remember feeling quite intimidated by that. Was it better to cling to fear and stay locked in the familiar? Or was I just trying to avoid clinging to Him, out of the separate (but unfamiliar) fear of living in faith?

        Didn’t mean to respond to this length. Kind of just spilled out of me!

  5. To say that “hardness of heart” is grounds for divorce would be strange indeed, if it meant that a man could rely on his own hardness of heart (that is, his own sin) to put his wife away. Hardly! Jesus is in fact saying here that it is NOT a legitimate or rightful thing to do:

    NMB (In Matthew): “Then they said to him, Why did Moses direct to give a testimonial of divorce and to put her away? He said to them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives. But from the beginning it was not so. I say therefore to you, whoever puts away his wife (unless it be for fornication) and marries another, breaks wedlock. And whoever marries her who is divorced, commits adultery.”

    But Jesus said, “it was not so from the beginning” – in other words, this hardheartedness and sending the wife away, is wrong, and is not the way God ordained it.

    Hardheartedness does not give rights to the hardhearted person. But it does have consequences, which leads to coping strategies. I see divorce here as a “coping strategy.” But the sin remains, so if the man remarries (unless he had just cause to put the wife away), he breaks wedlock.

    • Thanks Ruth, I agree with you that a man’s hardheartedness does not give him the right to break wedlock.

      And I like the William Tyndale’s wording ‘wedlock’ in that passage.

      The English versions which use the term ‘adultery’ in that verse are not linguistically wrong (the Greek word often means adultery) but Tyndale’s word ‘wedlock’ is better, IMO, because it suggests the covenant of marriage. So, to break wedlock is to break the marriage covenant. And as victims of domestic abuse know, the marriage covenant can be broken in more ways than just the sexual sin adultery.

      However, I think that Jesus was meaning more than just “It is wrong for men to hard-heartedly divorce their wives.” I think he was saying that a man who does that is not allowed to remarry the women he divorced, after she has been married to someone else.

      In regards to what you said here:
      “Hardheartedness does not give rights to the hardhearted person. But it does have consequences, which leads to coping strategies. I see divorce here as a “coping strategy.”

      I gather you don’t think that divorce is a coping strategy for hardhearted men who hate their wives. So how is divorce a ‘coping strategy’?

      I know that divorce is a way that victims of abuse, adultery and desertion can cope with the fact that their spouse has broken the covenant. The victim can get a divorce: the divorce certificate certifies that the marriage is dead. And the victim can then move on which includes remarrying if they so wish.

      But if you have time, can you please explain or amplify what you mean by divorce being a ‘coping mechanism’ in this passage of Deuteronomy 24?

      • Ruth M Davis

        I wasn’t intending to make any kind of exhaustive response. Of course Jesus was saying a lot more than that divorcing a wife is wrong. The point is, his comments were predicated on the assumption that a hardhearted husband putting away a wife (except for fornication) is wrong, therefore the assertion that “hardheartedness is grounds for divorce” must be wrong – at least, for the husband.

        Divorce is in the realm of civil law, which is concerned (among other things) to “cope” or provide mechanisms for dealing with relations between people by establishing laws or guidelines, providing remedies, setting standards for restitution, and such like. The laws around divorce fall into that realm.

      • Thanks for clarifying, Ruth. 🙂

  6. Kind of Anonymous

    I wonder too if perhaps hard heartedness itself is in fact, referring to men who are hateful and abusive? Somehow, Nabal comes to mind. It would seem then, that if hardheartedness is not merely a loss of interest, but a description of a man whose regular stance is one of contempt towards his wife, then being forbidden to take her back would speak to his decision making process being based on the whim of his hard contemptuous heart. His wife would then be of value when it suits him and worthless when it suits him. If this is in fact the case with the hard heartedness Jesus speaks of, then such a man would likely subject his wife to the changing of his whims towards her again, so forbidden this guy from taking his wife back protects the wife from further abusive and degrading treatment.

    • Spot on, KoA. That is exactly how I see it and how I explain it in my book.

      It is very clear that in Mark 10 Jesus is specifically nailing HUSBANDS for their hardness of heart.

      Of course, not all husbands are like that. But Jesus is nailing the ones who are.

      The commentators spend so much time focusing on the phrase ‘some uncleanness’ in verse one, trying to explain what that means, arguing back and forth about whether it does or does not equate to the word Jesus uses in Matthew 19:9 which is variously translated as adultery/ sexual immorality/ breaks wedlock/ etc. Commentators put that under that microscope. But they seldom talk about verse 3 which describes the second husband who hates his wife. Hates is a very strong word and no one disputes that it is the correct translation of that word in v 3. But most people prefer to just pass it over or brush it off lightly, as if it is not that significant. Sweep it under the rug or pretend you didn’t see it… like people tend to do with domestic abuse.

      The husband who hates his wife in verse 3 is confirmation that this passage – Deuteronomy 24:1-4 – is focusing on the sin of men whose regular stance is one of contempt towards their wives.

    • Helovesme

      That was amazing Kind Of Anonymous. Those observations were fantastic.

      I especially liked this part: “if hardheartedness is not merely a loss of interest, but a description of a man whose regular stance is one of contempt towards his wife.”

      I think it’s becoming more and more normalized to treat persons in terms of being resourceful, not in terms of being related to. It truly is a form of contempt, as you described.

      “His wife would then be of value when it suits him and worthless when it suits him.” Love that as well.

      Without a doubt, I agree with you about protecting the wife from further abuse and contempt (as you said at the end), by making it clear that a husband can’t just come and go in her life as he pleases.

      I also wonder if it’s a way to protect a wife from herself. It would not be unusual if a wife felt a strong pull to take her her husband back:,wanting to give him another chance, choosing to believe his lies about being a changed man, desperately wanting to be loved and possibly even missing him when he left.

      I’m of the belief that love is an action, a choice, a very deliberate and determined effort. I reject that love is solely emotional, in the sense that it is controlling you, not the other way around. I certainly believe that love certainly DOES involve emotion, but it is much more than that. However, the emotional element can feel (and is) quite powerful.

      I don’t think emotion and logic necessarily oppose one other. They work together in order to maintain a balance, to aim for and achieve self-control, to be able to make wise and thoughtful judgement calls.

      But love is not necessarily “linear.” It can be and feel quite complicated, and even cause confusion in one’s mind (why do I want to take him back when he has shown such contempt for me?)

      So I wonder if the Lord, knowing very well what we are like, put provisions in place to not only protect wives from husbands, but also for protection from themselves.

      I’ve had people try to come in and out of my life at their whim. In non romantic relationships, but important ones nonetheless. For the most part, I took them back, but sadly they weren’t interested in anything solid, stable and two sided.

      It’s incredibly humiliating and hurtful to be treated as such. Especially when you chose to give them multiple chances. You chose to trust them, sometimes against your better judgment (and sometimes not)—-but it backfired.

      However, I am 100% of the belief that IF you trust someone that chose to abuse it, you have nothing to be ashamed of. The humiliation might remain, but it will hopefully not ruin your life.

      Keep in mind that while you chose to trust someone you should not have, the other person chose to abuse that trust that they obviously did not deserve to be given to them.

      The question should not be: how could you trust such a person again? Why didn’t you learn your lesson the first time (or multiple times)? What kind of person has such a soft, easily manipulated heart?

      The question should be: what kind of a person abuses the trust of another person? Multiple times, even. What kind a person has such a hard, conscience seared attitude?

  7. Kind of Anonymous

    Hi Finding Answers, thank you for responding to my question. I think I get your meaning but if I have not, please feel free to correct it, I can be kind of “duh” sometimes. It sounds like some kind of fused identity thing where we take on the guilt of the abuser. It seems like a coping mechanism to protect oneself although it makes no sense to me. I have heard various specialists discourse on how kids wind up being fused with their abusers and will even protect and side with an abusive parent and would rather be a bad kid than have a bad parent. Perhaps it protects us from having to face the pain of the whole thing and whatever truths connect to that situation? Just thinking aloud, as I am no where near out of the fog yet.

    I have had the same dilemma as far as extending mercy or grace to myself . If what happened to me happened to someone else, I would rush to help and extend compassion, saying that they are not bad but rather the one who did this and took no responsibility is bad. I would see them as a traumatized child who needed help. Yet when it was me, I could not grant myself even the tiniest mercy nor did I feel I deserved it. Oddly I protected and guarded the feeling of worthelessness, blame and responsibility and in a strange way I seemed to think this had something to do with being honest and righteous! I don’t get it, at least not yet. There seem to be elements of somehow, by taking on the responsibility, taking on the identity as well. Perhaps there is not much difference between the two in practical experience.

    This clearly bears musing on and I am going to think and pray on it . But thank you for sharing what you know of this, I appreciate the iron sharpening iron thing very much.

    • Finding Answers

      Kind of Anonymous,

      For me, it WAS a fused identity, but not by my choice, whether consciously or subconsciously. The extreme abuse I experienced from the day I was born almost completely re-programmed my mind, hence my constant reference to the “not me” voices in my head. The “not me” voices in my head are those of all those who have abused me, especially my “dad”. As Don Hennessy writes, it’s similar to being invaded / colonized by a “virus”. You can read more about Don’s reference to this in the following ACFJ blog post:

      https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2018/03/01/for-professionals-who-work-in-domesic-abuse-dv/

      I can’t speak for why other children might / might not side with an abusive parent, not only because I am not an expert in that field, but because there are WAY too many variables to consider to come to a set conclusion.

      Perhaps, you, too, have many more variables then are covered in “standard texts / teachings”.

    • Helovesme

      KOA sorry to post a long quote from you but I liked it so much I hope it’s okay to use in this comment:

      “If what happened to me happened to someone else, I would rush to help and extend compassion, saying that they are not bad but rather the one who did this and took no responsibility is bad. I would see them as a traumatized child who needed help. Yet when it was me, I could not grant myself even the tiniest mercy nor did I feel I deserved it. Oddly I protected and guarded the feeling of worthelessness, blame and responsibility and in a strange way I seemed to think this had something to do with being honest and righteous! ”

      This is fairly up my alley. It resonated with me so much because I too have wondered what the heck my problem is—-showing others mercy, but being merciless towards myself.

      As you also said: this is a work in progress. And I also very much agree that we process things differently.

      But here is just ONE of the reasons why I believe I was so hard on myself (and still am), but so much more compassionate to others (which I still try to be!):

      One of the “themes” I see running through the testimonies of victims is that their abuser or attacker never took responsibility for their actions. This understandably pains us in a particular way, because usually the victim is unfairly blamed, when they have no reason to feel guilty for the choices of others.

      When the abuser is not held accountable for what rightly belongs to them, my mind (for some reason) told me that “the blame has to go somewhere. It can’t just sit there, passive and patient while you wait and hope the abuser will face up to his or her responsibilities. It’s too powerful too potent to just remain silent and submissive. So I guess I have to take it on, and that’s somewhat easy to do because in one way or another, I was told it was my fault”

      There is something quite freeing when you are told (or you finally realize it yourself) that you are NOT responsible. Stop hanging that stone around your neck. Why did you believe that you were to blame exactly? How, exactly, did you come to that conclusion?

      When I first met the Lord, and beforehand when I was seeking Him—-one of the biggest things I realized is that owning up to your own sins is one of the biggest steps in becoming born again. You have to accept that responsibility, but thankfully the One that is convicting you in one breath, is ready to forgive you in the next.

      However, it was (and is still) a mess of knots to try to untangle where I had sins that were mine to be forgiven of, and sins where I had no reason to be forgiven for, because I had done nothing wrong.

      Never, ever accept blame for something that He is not convicting you of. This is where I was particularly hard on myself. I was very clouded when I tried to turn the lens towards myself, so I couldn’t easily see where I was wrong, and where I had been wrong.

      I was MUCH less clouded when I turned the lens onto others. Ironically, they too probably had a hard time turning the lens towards themselves—-and an outsider’s perspective may have helped them see what was so hard for them to see on their own.

      I think Barb once mentioned that abuse victims tend to be “conditioned” to blame themselves, to believe the lies of an abuser, and to accept that the abuser is not at fault for anything.

      With all that going on, it’s more than understandable that there is a battle between the Holy Spirit, who claims there is no condemnation from Him, and the lies of the abuser, who claims that there is nothing BUT condemnation from Him.

  8. Kind of Anonymous

    Hi Finding Answers,
    Yes, the fact of many variables adds confusion to the mix and defies a clear cut one size fits all definition, I agree. It would certainly be easier if there were such a thing! I find such examples give clues as to what may be going on, but by no means answer all for me. Specific enough to be helpful, general enough to be of limited use I guess is my experience. For a long time I had no language or lexicon of concepts and meanings that would even have helped me make sense of the meaning of things in my world or my own response to them. Church was no help either because everyone often talked as if evil families were unusual and most Christians came from Christian homes and real Christians didn’t suffer from such things as depression or trauma.

    The fused identity idea, and it not being by choice esp. when one is very young and pre verbal, makes sense. Your description made me think of how, in times past, people would speak of an assault on a lady by saying “He forced HIMSELF on her”. She had no choice in the matter at all. It was his doing. How much more so, when we are speaking of a child whose sense of who they are is still just beginning to form. I think that language of one person forcing one’s self on another captures the literal truth of what happens when one person violates the being of another regardless of what method they use to do so. That the imprint of their abusive identity would be keenly felt makes total sense. ((( )))

    I will read the link you shared, thank you. I am interested in if Don Hennessy says anything about the voices thing because I too have experienced mental voices and it started after an incident of family violence which I thought was my fault as I had a part in what occurred.

    • Finding Answers

      Kind of Anonymous,

      I don’t know if Don Hennessy says anything about hearing voices. My knowledge comes from the many secular sources I researched some time prior to my walls crumbling and joining the ACFJ community.

      FWIW, most of the world (secular and non-secular) mislabels many of those who hear voices with some kind of label, without asking if the individual has had one or more traumatic experiences. Not everyone who is traumatized in some fashion will hear voices, yet others do and can recognize the voice of their abuser(s). I remember reading other ACFJ commenters commenting on hearing the voice of their abuser, oftentimes in reference to their abuser quoting from the Bible / Scripture.

      And now that I think about it, is hearing an abuser’s voice really any different than hearing the squeal of tires or hearing shattering glass or whatever was heard during a traumatic experience?

      • Kind of Anonymous

        Re: hearing an abuser’s voice, no I don’t think that would be different but rather part of the whole picture of what was happening. There are certain sounds that used to enrage me and then one day I realized there was a connection to past abuse. Everyone thought I was being rather intolerant and even I wondered why this particular sound made me want to come across the table and attack the person making it. I had no idea I was actually angry about what happened to me either, as most of that existed somewhat outside conscious recall.

        I read the post link you sent me. This man has obviously seen it all up close and in great detail. Thank you.

    • Helovesme

      KOA love this:

      “Church was no help either because everyone often talked as if evil families were unusual and most Christians came from Christian homes and real Christians didn’t suffer from such things as depression or trauma.”

      Sorry I feel like I am gushing, but I really mean it—well said again.

      I had a hard time (still do) when I first came to Christ because of what you wrote. The families around me weren’t all cookie cutter, but mine seemed to be in a different arena in terms of dysfunction.

      I was part of a college Christian group. We tried to share our stories with one another, but we had little to no real understanding about depression and/or trauma. We were quite young, but again—we were quite limited in what was really going on around us or within us.

      I sometimes think it’s not because we didn’t WANT to help one another, we just had no idea how to. But, as you brought up, I do believe there was some real denial going on.

      And I also think that depression or admitting trauma comes across as “anti-faith.” There is a stigma attached to it. How can a person with the faith to move mountains be taken down by something that is more reflective of the world (mental issues or illness? Hasn’t Christ set us free, and free indeed? Aren’t we more than conquerors? Conquer whatever is trying to bring you down—-in faith, of course.

      It would take some time to take down those ridiculous statements, but bottom line is that there is no shame in admitting you are not invincible. And frankly, it may be good old fashioned pride, not a lack of faith—-that is keeping a wounded person from admitting they are wounded.

  9. The KJV was not the first English bible to render verse one wrongly.

    The Geneva Bible (which came out decades before the KJV) got verse one wrong. This is particularly interesting because, from the research which Ruth Magnusson Davis is doing which she will publish in her upcoming book The Story of the Matthew Bible Part 2, the Geneva Bible heavily emphasised the authority and entitlement of church leaders — all of whom were men in those days.

    Here is the Geneva Bible’s translation. The spelling is odd to us because it is Early Modern English.

    When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, if so be shee finde no fauour in his eyes, because hee hath espyed some filthinesse in her, then let him write her a bill of diuorcement, and put it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, and gone her way, and marrie with an other man, 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a letter of diuorcement, and put it in her hand, and send her out of his house, or if the latter man die which tooke her to wife: 4 Then her first husband, which sent her away, may not take her againe to be his wife, after that she is defiled: for that is abomination in the sight of the Lord, and thou shalt not cause the land to sinne, which the Lord thy God doeth giue thee to inherite.
    (link) [bold added by me]

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