Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Quran and in the Bible

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

After dealing with MENJ’s appeal to Sura 4:130 and 2:229 in Part 1, we will now examine his attacks on the Bible. Scriptural quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible, unless stated otherwise.

Divorce according to the Old and New Testaments

MENJ makes these claims:

According to the missionary, the Bible allows divorce to take place "…only for sexual unfaithfulness. No man should divorce his wife for trivial reasons."

This was not how it was understood by the Jews and Christians as it was practiced in the past. In the Old Testament, a man could unilaterally dismiss his wife without any literal pronouncement. Hence, Abraham dismissed Hagar by a sheer act of will, seeing her off with what her shoulder could carry by way of bread and water (Genesis 22:14)[sic]. It was only long after the time of Jacob that limitations began to be imposed upon divorce which had, until that time, been a male perogative[sic]. Thus, the Deuteronomic law (24:1) demanded a "bill of divorcement" to be given by the husband. The law still permitted divorce at a husband’s whim and fancy[note these words] ("that she finds no favour in his eyes" 24:1), nevertheless, making it harder than it had been. [5]

Following the Exile, divorce was again very common but the ethical progress towards making divorce was more disapproved (and so less common). However, a bill of divorcement continued to be necessary, but was made much more easier to draw up and apply, hence prompting widespread abuse. Divorce required a statement that the husband has found some "uncleanness" in his wife. This gave Ezra-Nehemiah the opportunity to reinstate the practive[sic] of wife and child repudiation exemplified in the Biblical account by Abraham. "Uncleanness" was interpreted to enable the exclusivist, "ethnically cleansed" community they wanted. [6]

It is in fact this vage[sic] wording of the Deuteronomic law which gave rise to rabbinic controversies well adapted to Ezra’s racist pogram[sic]. By the time of Jesus, there were already two trends in the rabbinic tradition; one, following from the inspiration of the prophets, tended to interpret "uncleanness" in the sense of adultery or incapicating[sic] infirmity; the other, following Ezra, allowed any reason and interpreted "uncleanness" as an opportunity to find a more attractive woman. [7] We may note that Joseph considered putting Mary away, "privily" (Matthew 1:19)

Due to this widespread abuse of divorce, Jesus (P) made various pronouncements against it. In fact, Jesus (P) did not contribute to the legal debate about divorce; he rejected the debate and repudiated the law itself. In the Sermon on the Mount, he is reported to have said: "It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, le him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say unto you, that whosoever puts away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery" (Matthew 5: 31-32). The inevitable argument with the Pharisees is also reported in Matthew 19:3-12, where Jesus (P) boldly answered them (19:4-5), invariably concluding by repudiating divorce as contrary to God’s will, as an undoing of the bond He had instituted (19:6).

It is clear that if Christians are still obeying their New Testament or claim that they are following Jesus (P), they should not be talking about reconciliation after divorce, much less the proceedings of a divorce itself! Certainly, there are no two ways about it. It is either the Christians repudiate divorce in a marriage completely (as per the Jesus injunction) except on basis of adultery, or that they allow a divorce to take place but without any basis in the Bible apart from their own "common sense" civil laws in a secular system.


MENJ’s comments are brimming with logical fallacies and exegetical errors, which can be seen in three ways.

Do people or the Bible have final authority?

First, MENJ appeals to the practices of Jews and Christians as if this has any bearing on the biblical text. Apart from this being the fallacy of appealing to the masses (ad populum), one doesn’t judge the Holy Bible by the practices of the people, but one judges the people by the teachings of the Holy Bible. One shouldn’t be surprised about the contradictory and confusing traditions proffered by rabbis and scholars. After all, the Bible itself shows that for most of Israel’s history the masses went astray and nullified the Word of God (cf. Deuteronomy 31:14-29; Isaiah 1, 11; Ezekiel 1-11, 38-39; Hosea 11). And didn’t the Lord Jesus himself warn believers about the interpretation and hedges put around the Law by specific traditions?

"Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.’ He answered them, ‘And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, "Honor your father and your mother," and, "He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die." But you say, "If any one tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.’" So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."’" Matthew 15:1-9, cf. 23

Paul even warns us of deceptive human traditions:

"See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." Colossians 2:8-10

Ironically, so does the Quran (which holds authority only for MENJ, not for us)!

And, surely, among them is a party who twist their tongues while reciting the Book that you may think it to be part of the Book, while it is not part of the Book. And they say `It is from ALLAH;' while it is not from ALLAH; and they utter a lie against ALLAH while they know. S. 3:78 Sher Ali

Of those who are Jews (there are those who) alter words from their places and say: We have heard and we disobey and: Hear, may you not be made to hear! and: Raina, distorting (the word) with their tongues and taunting about religion; and if they had said (instead): We have heard and we obey, and hearken, and Unzurna it would have been better for them and more upright; but Allah has cursed them on account of their unbelief, so they do not believe but a little. O you who have been given the Book! believe that which We have revealed, verifying what you have, before We alter faces then turn them on their backs, or curse them as We cursed the violators of the Sabbath, and the command of Allah shall be executed. S. 4:46-47 Shakir

Thus, it doesn’t at all come as a surprise that there were various traditions and interpretations of the Hebrew Bible (as well as the New Testament Scriptures), many of which were (and are) blatantly wrong. Every tradition and interpretation, even those that some may pass off as divine in origin, must be analyzed to see if they are in accord with a proper and sound examination of God’s true Word, the Holy Bible, not the other way around. MENJ has it all mixed up.

Did Abraham really divorce Hagar?

Second, MENJ has obviously not the read the biblical passages which he cites but is simply passing off some information from a book which he has read. For instance, he mentions Abraham sending Hagar away in Genesis 22:14 (which should be 21:14) and deduces from this that divorce was easy, that a person could divorce his spouse for any reason whatsoever without even having to pronounce it. Here is what that particular text actually says in context:

"And the child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.’ And the thing WAS VERY DISPLEASING TO ABRAHAM on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the lad and because OF YOUR SLAVE WOMAN; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, ‘Let me not look upon the death of the child.’ And as she sat over against him, the child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt." Genesis 21:8-21

The text shows that Abraham was displeased about Sarah’s request to put Hagar and her son aside, and it took God to convince him to do so since he promised to be with Ishmael to bless and protect him.

More importantly, the verses say absolutely nothing about Abraham divorcing Hagar since she isn’t even reckoned as his wife, but as his slave woman. So how can he divorce someone who wasn’t even his wife? In fact, if a divorce was initiated, it wasn’t Abraham who initiated it, but Sarah! So much for MENJ’s claim that women had no say in the area of divorce during this period.

Moreover, does MENJ really want to use this text from Genesis to attack the biblical teaching? We sure hope not, in light of what his own Muslim sources say about this matter:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:
The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers… (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583)

Narrated Ibn Abbas:
When Abraham had differences with his wife), (because of her jealousy of Hajar, Ishmael's mother), he took Ishmael and his mother and went away. They had a water-skin with them containing some water, Ishmael's mother used to drink water from the water-skin so that her milk would increase for her child. When Abraham reached Mecca, he made her sit under a tree and afterwards returned home. Ishmael’s mother followed him, and when they reached Kada’, she called him from behind, "O Abraham! To whom are you leaving us?" He replied, "(I am leaving you) to Allah’s (Care)." She said, "I am satisfied to be with Allah."… (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 584)

For more on Hagar’s status please consult the following articles:

What are the Biblical reasons for divorce?

Thirdly, the assertion that the Old Testament, specifically Deuteronomy 24:1, is so vague that it led to rabbinic controversies is partly correct, but not because of any insurmountable lack of clarity or vagueness in the wording of the Hebrew regarding the legitimate grounds for divorce. Divorce can be enacted when the spouse has committed a very heinous offense or crime. MENJ conveniently quoted only a part of Deuteronomy 24:1 and misleadingly states that the text allows a man to dismiss his wife solely for any whim or fancy. Here is what the text really says:

"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 bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter husband dislikes her and writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring guilt upon the land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance." Deuteronomy 24:1-4

The unfavorable thing that the man must find in order to validly divorce his wife has to be directly related to something indecent. The word for indecency, ‘ervah, is used throughout the Scriptures in reference to a person’s nakedness, specifically in connection to sexual immorality:

"None of you shall approach any one near of kin to him to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or born abroad. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or of your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father, since she is your sister. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's near kinswoman. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is your mother's near kinswoman. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son's wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; she is your brother's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are your near kinswomen; it is wickedness. And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is yet alive. You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness." Leviticus 18:6-19

The same Scriptures provide some examples of what makes a woman indecent:

"And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the people of Israel, If any man's wife goes astray and acts unfaithfully against him, if a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her, since she was not taken in the act; and if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him, and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself; or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him, and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself; then the man shall bring his wife to the priest, and bring the offering required of her, a tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a cereal offering of jealousy, a cereal offering of remembrance, bringing iniquity to remembrance. And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD; and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and unbind the hair of the woman's head, and place in her hands the cereal offering of remembrance, which is the cereal offering of jealousy. And in his hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness, while you were under your husband's authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband's authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, then’ (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) ‘the LORD make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell; may this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your body swell and your thigh fall away.’ And the woman shall say, ‘Amen, Amen.’ Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and wash them off into the water of bitterness; and he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain. And the priest shall take the cereal offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the cereal offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar; and the priest shall take a handful of the cereal offering, as its memorial portion, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has acted unfaithfully against her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her body shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children. This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, though under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, or when the spirit of jealousy comes upon a man and he is jealous of his wife; then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.’" Numbers 5:6-31

"If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and then spurns her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings an evil name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her the tokens of virginity,’ then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the tokens of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate; and the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to wife, and he spurns her; and lo, he has made shameful charges against her, saying, "I did not find in your daughter the tokens of virginity." And yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him; and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. But if the thing is true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you." Deuteronomy 22:13-21

Notice that in these specific examples the grounds for which a woman could be divorced is sexual immorality.

Therefore, one can make a strong case that this is what indecency means in Deuteronomy 24:1. There is even support for this interpretation from Jewish sources:

"The School of Shammai say a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, as it is said, ‘…because he has found in her indecency in a matter.’ But the School of Hillel say he may divorce her even if she burns his food, as it is said, ‘…because he has found in her indecency in a matter." (Mishna: Gittin 9:10)

As anyone reading the Deuteronomy text can see, Hillel’s interpretation is way off, whereas Shammai’s position is supported by the way the word is used elsewhere in reference to sexual immorality.

Which interpretation does Jesus endorse?

It is, therefore, not surprising that the Lord Jesus settled on the side of Shammai:

"Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from 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 they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.’" Matthew 19:1-9

Jesus’ exegesis demonstrates (at least for the Christian) that Shammai’s understanding was correct, and that Deuteronomy 24:1 is clearly stating that unchastity is the ground for divorce, or at least one legitimate basis for it.

MENJ’s own source agrees with this point of ours:

By the time of Jesus, there were already two trends in the rabbinic tradition; ONE, FOLLOWING FROM THE INSPIRATION OF THE PROPHETS, tended to interpret "uncleanness" in the sense of adultery or incapicating[sic] infirmity; the other, following Ezra, allowed any reason and interpreted "uncleanness" as an opportunity to find a more attractive woman. [7] (Underline and capital emphasis ours)

So the above source recognizes that the prophets taught that indecency, or uncleanness, meant adultery! Lord Jesus willing, we will have more to say about Ezra in the Appendix.

How strong a reason is indecency for divorce?

In fact, one can even make a strong case that this indecency or uncleanness may be the only legitimate grounds that the OT gave for divorce. For instance, God rebukes the Israelites for dealing unfaithfully with their wives:

"And this again you do. You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. You ask, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, TO WHOM YOU HAVE BEEN FAITHLESS, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be FAITHLESS to the wife of his youth. FOR I HATE DIVORCE, says the LORD the God of Israel, and covering one's garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be FAITHLESS." Malachi 2:13-16

The word rendered faithless, bagad, is used in reference to a person who is sexually immoral, someone who has defiled his/her marital union through improper sexual behaviour:

"My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a harlot is a deep pit; an adventuress is a narrow well. She lies in wait like a robber and increases the FAITHLESS among men." Proverbs 23:26-28

"The LORD said to me in the days of King Josi'ah: ‘Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the harlot? And I thought, "After she has done all this she will return to me"; but she did not return, and her FALSE sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her FALSE sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the harlot. Because harlotry was so light to her, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, says the LORD.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than FALSE Judah. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, "Return, faithless Israel, says the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the LORD; I will not be angry for ever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, says the LORD. Return, O faithless children, says the LORD; for I am your master (Hebrew- baal, "husband"); I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion… In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage. I thought how I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beauteous of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Surely, as a FAITHLESS wife leaves her husband, so have you been FAITHLESS to me, O house of Israel, says the LORD. A voice on the bare heights is heard, the weeping and pleading of Israel's sons, because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the LORD their God. Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness. ‘Behold, we come to thee; for thou art the LORD our God.’"’" Jeremiah 3:6-14, 19-22

"Judah has been FAITHLESS, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god." Malachi 2:11

What we can gather from the foregoing is that Malachi is addressing certain men who had divorced their wives and who evidently remarried. We know that God wasn’t rebuking them for taking on additional wives, or for committing adultery, since polygyny was permitted (though Jesus later teaches us that the model in the Garden of Eden—one man and one woman—is the ideal). And the text specifically mentions God hating divorce. Why would God mention divorce if these men hadn’t actually divorced their wives?

Basically this implies that God was not pleased and did not recognize the divorce of these Israelite men since they didn’t have legitimate reasons for leaving their wives. In other words, because these men had no legitimate grounds for divorcing their wives God reckoned their subsequent marriages as acts of sexual immorality.

Must adulterers always be executed?

Now MENJ, or someone else, may object to our case on the grounds that adulterers and adulteresses were to be killed according to the Law:

"If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." Leviticus 20:10

"If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall purge the evil from Israel. If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you." Deuteronomy 22:22-24

Yet Deuteronomy 24:1-4 speaks of what happens when the divorcee gets remarried to another man. Wouldn’t this rule out the possibility that indecency in Deuteronomy 24:1 refers to a wife being sexually unchaste since she would have been killed and therefore not capable of remarrying?

Not at all, since we find plenty of biblical precedence showing that it wasn’t mandatory that adulterers and adulteresses be put to death. Notice, for instance, what God commands his prophet Hosea:

"The word of the LORD that came to Hose'a the son of Be-e'ri, in the days of Uzzi'ah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezeki'ah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jerobo'am the son of Jo'ash, king of Israel. When the LORD first spoke through Hose'a, the LORD said to Hose'a, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the LORD.’" Hosea 1:1-2

Later on, God commands Hosea to take back his wife despite her adultery:

"And the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’ For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days." Hosea 3:1-5

The story of David and Bathsheba is another example of this principle. Although they did what was reprehensible and heinous in the sight of God, and therefore deserved to die, God did not kill them but chose to grant them forgiveness after disciplining them severely:

"And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him.’ Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, ‘As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’ Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man. Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, "I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uri'ah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uri'ah the Hittite to be your wife." Thus says the LORD, "Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun."’ David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.’" 2 Samuel 12:1-13

David even prayed to be forgiven, which would make no sense if the Law didn’t grant adulterers, murders, et al. the possibility for forgiveness:

"To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance. O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise. For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on thy altar." Psalm 51:1-19

Then there is the story of Joseph and Mary. After discovering that Mary was pregnant, Joseph decided to divorce her secretly:

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man (dikaios) and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’" Matthew 1:18-21

Joseph is described as being just, a term used for one who is morally upright and who observes God’s Law:

"In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari'ah, of the division of Abi'jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous (dikaioi) before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Luke 1:5-6

If the Law did not allow for the forgiveness and restoration of an adulterer or adulteress, or permitted a person from quietly divorcing an unfaithful spouse without needing to inform the Jewish eldership of the sin, then Joseph would have been anything but just in failing to inform the ruling council about Mary’s alleged unfaithfulness.

In light of the foregoing, we can make the inference that Deuteronomy 24:1 is establishing the principle that a person could quietly divorce his adulteress wife as an act of mercy with the hopes that God would perhaps lead her to repentance.

More importantly, even if one were to reject our exegesis, this one thing would still be certain. Deuteronomy 24:1 clearly establishes the fact that the wife must have done something very heinous, very offensive, in order for a divorce to take place. The man couldn’t simply divorce his wife "for any whim or fancy" (MENJ’s words).

Must a divorce necessarily occur after adultery?

Just because adultery has occurred doesn’t necessarily mean that a person HAD TO divorce his/her spouse. A person could(can) waive the right of divorce by forgiving and keeping the unfaithful partner. The Lord God himself sets the example for this in his dealings with Israel:

"Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer." Isaiah 54:1-8 – cf. Jeremiah 3; Ezekiel 16, 23

God is willing to take adulterous Israel back, setting a precedence for men and women to be reconciled in cases where they would want to get back together and forgive their partner’s marital unfaithfulness.

The beloved Apostle Paul says essentially the same thing:

"To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife." 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Basically this indicates that separated or divorced couples should be reconciled, otherwise they would need to remain single, showing how serious and important marriage is to God.


Therefore, Paul’s Spirit-guided counsel in 1 Corinthians and the example of God in the Old Testament contrast with the alleged "unparalleled justice" in Sura 2:230. Before reconciliation of the original divorced couple can take place, the Quranic verse clearly and unambiguously requires that this divorced wife marry someone else, have sex with him, and then he must divorce her. Only then can she be reconciled with her first husband. This ruling is too strange to merit any further comment. Its meaning is clear the way it is written. The God of the Bible, however, allows unimpeded and unhindered reconciliation of the couple after a divorce.

Also, couples in the Christian community should not divorce for trivial reasons. Jesus said only for indecency or uncleanness or sexual unfaithfulness. This agrees completely with Deuteronomy 24:1, and his ruling tightens up trivial reasons for divorce. This protected women, since they were the ones who had to leave in order to go back to their father’s household.

What these biblical commands and restrictions show is that one can’t simply jump into marriage speedily without deep reflection on the seriousness and consequences of matrimony.

The next part presents an analysis of the Quranic data regarding the issue of divorce as well as Muhammad's example and teaching on this matter.

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