Why did God allow Moses to give a bill of divorce?


#1

Matthew 19:7-8

7 They say to him: Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away? 8 He saith to them: Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

How does the Church explain this verse? Since God can’t contraditct Himself, why did He “allow” moses to give a bill of divorce?


#2

I don’t know of a set theological or doctrinal position concerning the status of the second marriages of old testament people who utilized the Moses bill of divorce.

Remember, those marriages were nonsacramental and not sacraments. Jesus elevated marriage to a sacrament.

What might the “hardness of heart” rationale mean? Maybe that if you grow up in a culture with such hard hearts, then marriage is only conceivable as dissoluble to the citizens of such a culture. So when they do marry, all they can consent to is what is conceivable in the culture, and that is a dissoluble marriage. Since they still need to marry, what is it that they contract? An indissoluble marriage? Well, maybe not, since they cannot consent to such. But they still have an imperfect sort of a marriage, and can enjoy its benefits.

So, perhaps Moses recognized such a situation and there was a matching law put in place. But this is not how it is supposed to be.

I am offering this opinion based on my reading of moral theology texts. As I stated, I don’t know of a solid doctrine about the status of those marriages in Moses’ time.

For more info, please see “Living a Christian Life” by Germain Grisez (volume 2 of his moral theology texts) pp590-595 check out the footnotes too.


#3

i think perhaps the concept of ‘hardness of heart’ might be related to the concept of ‘annullment’. due to the rebellious nature of Moses’s people, God allowed for divorce in the same way that the church allows for divorce today - if the first marriage is declared null.

perhaps the ‘first marriages’ were considered null in Moses’s day due to the hardness of the people’s hearts.

i think, though, that part of what Jesus was saying was 'Moses couldn’t give the ideal form of the law to his people, because they couldn’t take it. it was too much for them. so he gave them the closest thing to the ideal form of the law that they could swallow (pun intended - golden calf allusion).

when Jesus came, He told us the ‘ideal form’. we see this in His teachings - ‘you have heard it said… but i say…’ i think the ‘what i say’ part would be what God would have given Moses in the first place, had the people been less ‘stiff necked’ and rebellious.

the issue here is not ‘why a different teaching if God doesn’t change?’ the issue is ‘God gives us teachings that come near to absolute truth, as near as the recipient can understand and accept.’ this, i think, is contained in the idea of progressive revelation.


#4

[quote=jeffreedy789]i think perhaps the concept of ‘hardness of heart’ might be related to the concept of ‘annullment’. due to the rebellious nature of Moses’s people, God allowed for divorce in the same way that the church allows for divorce today - if the first marriage is declared null.

perhaps the ‘first marriages’ were considered null in Moses’s day due to the hardness of the people’s hearts.

[/quote]

Mt 19:3-10 sounds to me like Jesus wants to disallow whatever it was that Moses had allowed. If that is so, since the Church allows an anullment, then it would seem to be that what the Church allows is not whatever it was that Moses talked about (I am of course granting that the Church is doing what Jesus wants because it has the Holy Spirit, etc). That would make what Moses talked about an actual divorce.

In one place in the OT it is described that the husband hates his wife so he gives her the bill of divorce. Dt 21:3


#5

Yeah, if what jeffreedy says is correct about it being an invalid marriage to begin with then Jesus should never have had a problem with it.

[font=Arial]So, perhaps Moses recognized such a situation and there was a matching law put in place. But this is not how it is supposed to be.

So basically, just because God allowed it, doesn’t mean it was his will. Does that sound right?[/font]


#6

that’s what i would say.

think of it this way, if it helps. Jesus didn’t teach things contrary to the law of the OT, He taught things that completed that law. the teachings on divorce in the OT were a move in the direction of limiting divorce. Jesus completed it by saying that we should never divorce (caveats notwithstanding). the OT talked about an eye for an eye, moving towards peaceful resolution of violence (before eye for eye, it was often death for eye.) Jesus completed this by saying ‘don’t return evil for evil. if someone strikes one cheek, turn the other.’ the completion of the movement toward peaceful resolution.

Moses’s peeps couldn’t bear what Jesus later taught. so Moses had to give them a step in the right direction. a baby step, if you will. does that make sense? it’s not an opposite. they are both steps in the direction of responsible and charitable living.


#7

Just wondering. Before this bill of divorce was handed out, i’m assuming there weren’t any divorce. So this would not seem to be a step in the right direction but a baby step away. I’m not really a Old Testament buff so i’m kind of assuming this. Am I way off with this understanding?


#8

[quote=Des]Just wondering. Before this bill of divorce was handed out, i’m assuming there weren’t any divorce. So this would not seem to be a step in the right direction but a baby step away. I’m not really a Old Testament buff so i’m kind of assuming this. Am I way off with this understanding?
[/quote]

I don’t have the historical background to answer you. It could be that what Moses did was to see the current practice of divorce all around and then make some specific regulations of it, like, you have to give the lady a nice piece of paper instead of just giving her the boot. This would be a tightening up of the practice of divorce.

There are other laws in the Torah like you can’t ever divorce the lady if you falsely proclaim that she wasn’t a virgin when you married her. Also, if you rape a young virgin and then marry her as a result, you can’t divorce her. These seem designed to be less lenient rather than more.

I suppose it all depends on what the Israelites had been doing before Moses came along. If they were divorcing, then the Law was a baby improvement. My bible dictionary does not seem to know of any sources telling us their divorce rates. Mesopotamia had divorce, though (nearby culture).

Surely it is a baby step back from the behavior of Adam and Eve, who as far as I know, never divorced.


#9

Because they were so unteachable then. That is what Jesus says in the New Testament, when questioned about Divorce.

Blessings


#10

Annulments are different from divorce: the church declares the marriage never happened; nal and void, i think you can get these after a divorce nowadays if your spouse withheld important knowledge about themselves that would have made you not marry them had you known about it before the marriage happened or something like that but it's not the same as divorce.

What God puts together no man can separate. An annulment just says the marriage never took place in the first place but I think I also remember our priest saying that it wouldn't make the children be considered bastards and/or maybe it was sex during marriage would not be considered a sin after the annulment [that might be because they didn't have sex with the intention of disobeying God? there might be a better reason] or something like that if the parents got an annulment. (a really really long time ago one of our priests gave a homily on annulments (he is one of the people who reviews annulment requests))

Marriage is undissolvable if it actually took place. I don't know the exact requirements for getting an annulment you'd have to look that up somewhere else through I'm pretty sure if you are forced into a marriage by threats of violence and force against your will the catholic church will consider your marriage annulled if you decide to apply for annulment because you didn't willingly enter into that covenant with God and the cruel guy.

Divorce is different because it doesn't say the marriage never really happened it's sort of like: now I'm removing you from my home and presence because I can't stand you and hate you so much and/or don't want you in my presence. Hardness of heart = meanness to someone, dislike, ununderstanding and softness of heart is like openness, love, understanding, generosity and kindness.


#11

[quote="Des, post:1, topic:9922"]
Matthew 19:7-8

7 They say to him: Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away? 8 He saith to them: Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

How does the Church explain this verse? Since God can't contraditct Himself, why did He "allow" moses to give a bill of divorce?

[/quote]

No need to wonder here. Jesus answered the question clearly. Take a look at the parallel passage in the Gospel of Mark 10:2-12
"Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. 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 SEND her AWAY.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. “But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” "

In verse 5 Jesus makes it clear that Moses wrote the commandment because of the hardness of their hearts - Moses wrote them a law, that they THOUGHT gave them what they wanted. But Jesus showed that God's word even BEFORE the law (Genesis) clearly defined God's natural and proper order - that He joined together a man and wife. Therefore divorce (and remarriage) is adultery, a clear commandment (one of the 10 from the very finger of God), so therefore God is clear: no divorce.

Maybe you're wondering why God would allow such a thing to have occurred (Moses giving them an apparent "OK" when God is clear it's NOT OK)?

Perhaps you haven't read the scriptures thoroughly.

God commanded Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. But after Abraham does all that God commands, God stops him and says "“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Gen 22:12) and He further explains Himself to Abraham and us when He says "“I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Gen 22:16-18)

We could look further to the testing of Moses, of David, of Joseph, of Daniel, of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, of Paul, of so many others whom the Lord called to a special purpose.

This was an obvious test. This was an opportunity for the people to choose. To choose between what the new law seemed to allow - or what God wanted them to do. Would they give in to their desires, or stand firm in their God?

We all have the same choices today:
[LIST]
*]The world says divorce and remarriage are OK - and how many in Christendom follow after that which appeals to their hard hearts and lustful desires instead of what God commands about marriage?
*]The world says that homosexuality is not only OK, but good and should be taught to everyone so they can make the choice for themselves - and how many in Christendom follow after what appeals to their hard hearts and lustful desires instead of what God commands about homosexuality?
*]The world says that abortion is OK, and that it's a woman's body and she should choose whether that "fetus" is allowed to infringe on her freedoms - and how many in Christendom follow after their hard hearts and support "Pro Choice" and "Women's Reproductive Rights" instead of what God commands about harm to "little ones" and murder?
*](the list can go on, sadly)
[/LIST]

Now, as then, the legal system allows one - God commands the opposite. Which is the right one to choose?

""If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."" (Joshua 24:15)

Which will you choose?


2 Cor 11:31


#12

"Why did God allow Moses to give a bill of divorce?" For the same reason that God allowed Moses to get married twice.


#13

As part of my Lenten devotions I've been reading the weekly audiences that make up John Paul II's "Theology of the Body." The first several weekly audiences touch upon this very subject and are excellent reading for anybody interested.

In it he argues that the indissolubility of marriage is the one thing that did not change in man's relationship with God after the fall from before the fall. He focuses on the 2nd creation story (saying that chronologically it's much older than the preceeding one) and talks about how Eve was created from Adam as a suitable partner and mate. Because they are both from one flesh they share a bond that cannot be broken or changed.

When Jesus answers the Pharisees, JPII argues, he is hearkening back to this original position and saying what was intended all along. Divorce was something convenient for the Israelites at the time, but was never part of God's plan. So Jesus was calling them back to something original and that was always intended by God.

ChadS


#14

That is exactly what Jesus was doing - restoring the Father’s original plan.

It is suggested that some of the Israelite men were having their wives killed in order to remarry another woman. - This may be the hardness of their heart that Jesus was referring to. Moses conceded by allowing a certificate of divorce as it was a “lesser evil.” Apparently, taking Israel out of Egypt was easier than taking Egypt out of Israel.

Another point, annulment is not the same as divorce. Divorce is not in God’s vocabulary - He simply doesn’t allow it and the Church stands by that. An Annulment is stating that the “marriage” was never a valid marriage in the first place. The Church does not claim infallibility in granting annulments, but neither does it grant them lightly. There must be grave reasons (duress - forced, undisclosed previous marriage, etc). Sadly, many are uninformed on the two terms and their total dissimilarity.

God Bless,
CSJ


#15

[quote="CSJ, post:14, topic:9922"]
That is exactly what Jesus was doing - restoring the Father's original plan.

[/quote]

True, but so much more to it than that!


#16

[quote="JohnVIII, post:15, topic:9922"]
True, but so much more to it than that!

[/quote]

I'm curious, how can there be more to it than restoring the Father's original plan. Perhaps I'm missing something but I thought that would be enough.

ChadS


#17

I am going to repost what I posted in another thread with some additions specific to this topic:

There is not just one covenant in the Old Testament. This is an important starting point in understanding why the Deutoronomic Covenant is so defective. There was the covenant with Adam, with Noah, then with Abraham, then with Moses, then with Moses again and the Levites, then one last time in Deuteronomy. Each time, the people of God screwed up BIG TIME, and the covenants became more and more defective to allow for the "hardness of [their] hearts." Moses made concessions to the weaknesses of the Israelites. The Israelities, after all, were no better than any other nomadic tribe at the time. That is, they were deprave savages living in harsh conditions. If Moses did not allow for divorce, it could have been the case that husbands would clandestinely murder their wives. This is why the Deuteronomic Covenant, i.e., the covenant in effect up until the establishment of the New Israel (us), is so harsh and defective. It allowed for things like divorce, total warfare, harems, and chattel slavery. It was also full of penitential laws, many of which strike us as odd prohibitions and injunctions. The Jews needed to atone for all the times they broke their pact with God. Finally, the laws, in being so odd, set apart the Jews from other peoples in the land so as to prevent them from falling (yet again) into idolatry.

Now, it is not clear to me yet whether these concessions were made by Moses or by God. If the latter, this does not mean God is contradicting Himself. He is merely tolerating what He otherwise would not tolerate, and only for the time being. Think of an unruly child you are trying to raise. You provisionally accept his misbehavior (because he is young and does not know better) while at the same time guiding him into maturity.


#18

[quote="ChadS, post:16, topic:9922"]
I'm curious, how can there be more to it than restoring the Father's original plan. Perhaps I'm missing something but I thought that would be enough.

ChadS

[/quote]

In the Resurrection we will not be a restoration of Eden, the Resurrection will be superior to the Garden. In a way there was no "original plan", for the Man and the Woman were created with the full foreknowledge of the Father that they shall fall, and their Redeemer was from "the foundation of the Earth" ordained for their Salvation even before they choose the path of disobedience.

At least the Eastern Fathers have taught that that a man who has sinned and then repents is greater than a man who never sins in the first place. Therefore Love and Forgiveness is the true path to Righteousness. A so-called "perfect marriage" likewise is something that not even Adam could hold on to, but the New Marriage, which is based on repentance that leads to Christ, is actually superior to the "perfect marriage" of the first Man and first Woman.


#19

[quote="JohnVIII, post:18, topic:9922"]
In the Resurrection we will not be a restoration of Eden, the Resurrection will be superior to the Garden. In a way there was no "original plan", for the Man and the Woman were created with the full foreknowledge of the Father that they shall fall, and their Redeemer was from "the foundation of the Earth" ordained for their Salvation even before they choose the path of disobedience.

At least the Eastern Fathers have taught that that a man who has sinned and then repents is greater than a man who never sins in the first place. Therefore Love and Forgiveness is the true path to Righteousness. A so-called "perfect marriage" likewise is something that not even Adam could hold on to, but the New Marriage, which is based on repentance that leads to Christ, is actually superior to the "perfect marriage" of the first Man and first Woman.

[/quote]

That makes sense. Thank you, I should've thought of that.

ChadS


#20

[quote="JohnVIII, post:18, topic:9922"]
In the Resurrection we will not be a restoration of Eden, the Resurrection will be superior to the Garden. In a way there was no "original plan", for the Man and the Woman were created with the full foreknowledge of the Father that they shall fall, and their Redeemer was from "the foundation of the Earth" ordained for their Salvation even before they choose the path of disobedience.

At least the Eastern Fathers have taught that that a man who has sinned and then repents is greater than a man who never sins in the first place. Therefore Love and Forgiveness is the true path to Righteousness. A so-called "perfect marriage" likewise is something that not even Adam could hold on to, but the New Marriage, which is based on repentance that leads to Christ, is actually superior to the "perfect marriage" of the first Man and first Woman.

[/quote]

Well put. In light of Christ's redemption & victory over death, we are better off than if Adam & Eve had never sinned in that we have the opportunity to repent. Our choice to repent and submit to God despite our own concupiscence is our response to Christ's total dying to self. In our limited way, we reflect (if only vaguely) the work of Christ.

Hence why St. Augustine cited, "O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer." God allowed a great evil so that He might bring about a greater good.

God Bless,
CSJ


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