Being under the fig tree is a Hebrew idiom for peace, the Messianic Kingdom
"Is Matthew 5.32 and 19.3-9 correct? I want to explain it to a divorced friend." (Pete)
The area of divorce can be a difficult issue to understand if one does not have a proper biblical foundation to understand it with, so I will try to give a balanced view based on my understanding of the scri ptures and where Yeshua and Paul were coming from.
The basis for their view can be found in Deut 24.1-4.
The word for "uncleanliness" in verse one is "ervah" and it means improper behavior and can be translated "indecency" in other versions but it does not mean adultery or any uncleanliness found in Lev.18, those were punishable by death, so a divorce wasn’t needed.
The word used here means anything that made life together impossible because that would lead to cruelty and abuse.
Exodus 21.10-11 gives other reasons for a divorce that clarifies what this word can mean. If a husband marries a woman, he cannot reduce her food, her clothing or conjugal rights.
He must support her.
If he doesn’t, she can initiate a divorce if she is not supported by the husband. Deut 21.14 says that cannot mistreat his wife.
So, with that back-round a divorce can be initiated if life together becomes impossible due to various, very serious reasons.
Adultery was punishable by death, not a divorce.
So, what is going on in the verses you cited?
Yeshua is freeing up Deut 24.1-4 from all the false interpretations of the Pharisees from the School of Hillel, who was very liberal on divorce.
Yeshua says that if you divorce someone for any other reason than the "ervah" of Deut 24.1 causes her to commit adultery ("Moichao" in Greek) because that is not a biblical divorce.
The word in Greek for fornication is "porneia," where we get pornography from in English and as you can see they are two different words and it is the Greek equivelant to the Hebrew "ervah" of Deut 24.1 and complements it exactly.
What he is saying is if you divorce someone in order to marry someone else, that is adultery.
That was a big problem in the First Century because people were abusing the meaning of the word "ervah" and stretching it to mean if she burned the toast, or did trivial offenses that displeased the other you could divorce her/him.
To divorce someone for that was just adultery covered up by a divorce. Another school of Pharisees called the School of Shammai disagreed with the Pharisees of the school of Hillel and agreed with the interpretation Yeshua gave on it.
The common people, for the most part, agreed with what the Pharisees from Hillel taught because it was to their advantage and more expedient and Yeshua was giving what God had originally intended through Moses, which sided with what the school of Shammai was saying.
Divorce and remarriage was always permissible if done for scri ptural reasons.
In Matt 19.3-9 it comes up again.
The debate there is not over the right to remarry, all the rabbi’s agreed that you could.
The argument was over the legal grounds for the divorce.
Divorce, war, slavery was never God’s plan "from the beginning" because it does not reflect His perfect character as stated in 19.4 but it was "allowed" because of the hardness of our hearts (19.8) and so He gives the boundaries for doing it the right way.
Again, in 19.8, Yeshua says that you cannot divorce in order to remarry someone else, it had to be for biblical reasons already stated in the Torah, and those have already been cited above.
We don’t stone people today for adultery, but that breaks the marriage covenant completely and that would be a biblical reason today. Non-support, any type of abuse(emotional, physical, chemical) that makes life impossible, loss of conjugal rights are other reasons but there are many more.
That’s why God uses the word "ervah" because it can cover so many areas that can make life impossible, and it’s Greek equivalent is "porneia." Unfortunately, some English translations translate "porneia" as "adultery" and it gives the wrong interpretation to what Yeshua is really saying. H
e is addressing some of the wrong interpretations of "ervah" done by the Pharisees, especially from the School of Hillel, who clashed with the Pharisees from the school of Shammai over this matter and He clarifies God’s intention through Moses, which happened to be more consistent with how the school of Shammai interpreted it than the school of Hillel. Now, Paul was trained in the School of Hillel because his teacher Gamaliel, Hillel’s grandson. He had to change his view on divorce and you see it in 1Cor 7 where he is teaching the Corinthians about what to do in their domestic situations.
We know he taught the Torah concepts because he tells them in 1 Cor 11.1-2 that he wanted them to "hold fast to the traditions "he taught them. The word for traditions in Greek is "paradosis" which means the Jewish traditions that were biblical, as found in the scri ptures, and the only scri ptures that exixted at that time was the Old Testament, or " Tanak" which is an acrynym fot Torah ( 5 bks of Moses), Nevi’im (prophets) and Ketuvim(writings).
Now, these Corinthians were well versed in the pagan culture of Greece and Rome and were getting divorces for many of the same reasons the Jews were, only worse. In 1 Cor 7.10-11 he says that it is not his opinion "but the Lords" (which means it’s found in the scri ptures-Deut 24.1-4, Exodus 21.10-11 for a start) that the wife should not leave her husband for trivial , un scri ptural reasons , and if she has, she can’t remarry or else she needs to be reconciled to her husband.
This is not referring to a wife who has biblical, legal grounds for a divorce but to one who just abandoned her husband for her own, selfish reasons not sanctioned by the scri ptures. This verse is taken out of context by those not understanding all of the scri ptures. Remember, Paul is a trained rabbi who was an expert in Jewish hermeneutical interpretation and would have all the scri ptures relating to divorce in mind when writing this.
Remember, he said it wasn’t his opinion, but the Lord’s in v10. In verse 39 he gives another reason to remarry and that is the case of one spouse dies, and he was telling the Corinthians in that case you can also remarry. So, divorce and remarriage is permissible in the scri ptures in all cases where the marriage cannot go on due to some of the reasons already given, but it is not limited to only those mentioned.
This should only be entered into with much prayer and sound biblical counsel that is founded on the principles God already has laid down in the Torah because that is what Yeshua and Paul used as the basis for their instruction in the verses you cited.
I know this doesn’t even scratch the surface of this difficult subject, but I hope this will help you counsel your friend who may be struggling with a lot of guilt piled on her by people who misunderstand what God has said.
She doesn’t need that kind of guilt because a divorce is difficult to deal with emotionally even when it is necessary. If I can help her further, tell her to contact me as soon as possible.