Questions From Readers
● A man divorces his wife on unscriptural grounds. After the divorce is granted it becomes known to the wife and the congregation that just before the divorce the man was guilty of adultery. Would such an act of adultery free either the man or the woman Scripturally to remarry?
In this case the crucial question, according to the Holy Scriptures, is, Who divorces whom, and on what grounds? Who has the right to divorce? According to the Scriptures the moral status of the husband does not serve as the determining factor that grants him the right to divorce his wife. To the contrary, the moral status of the one divorced is what determines the right of the divorcer to bring about the dissolution of the marriage ties. According to the inspired Scriptures it is the unclean marriage mate that is given the bill of divorce by the clean, unadulterous, innocent marriage mate. The language of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is unmistakable in this regard.
This Deuteronomic law was the one submitted to discussion by the Pharisees in Matthew 19:3-9. Jesus told the Pharisees that God had not given the first man Adam the right to divorce his wife Eve on any grounds. In reply the Pharisees referred to this Deuteronomic law by asking: “Why, then, did Moses prescribe giving a certificate of dismissal and divorcing her?” This Mosaic law specifically cites the uncleanness of the wife who was divorced, not any uncleanness of her husband, the divorcer. Jesus showed the proper respect for restrictions on the right to divorce the marriage mate when he said: “Moses, out of regard for your hardheartedness, made the concession to you of divorcing your wives, but such has not been the case from the beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except on the grounds of fornication and marries another commits adultery.” Since Jesus was here following up his reference to the Mosaic law, he was talking about a wife’s being divorced on grounds other than her fornication, her adultery, her uncleanness, not that of her husband. It was for this reason that Joseph of Nazareth thought of privately divorcing his fiancée, Mary, because he thought there was uncleanness in her; and only divine intervention prevented this divorce. So it is the guilty one that must be divorced. The guilty one is not the one who should do the divorcing.
The guilty one is not expected to incriminate himself and then on the basis of his own self-incrimination divorce the innocent marriage mate. The innocent marriage mate who incriminates the guilty one must do the divorcing. Hence, if the one divorced proves to be the innocent mate, then that innocent, unadulterous, divorced one is exposed to immorality. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:32: “Everyone divorcing his wife except on account of fornication makes her a subject for adultery, seeing that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” So the right of the clean, innocent, unadulterous marriage mate deserves protection, for which reason an unscriptural divorce of her is out of order. For very personal reasons a wife may choose to overlook the immorality of her husband, and may continue to give him the marriage due and receive the marriage due from him. Why? For the very reason that the marriage has not been dissolved by any adultery on the part of her husband. She has a legal and Scriptural right to keep living with him. She does not automatically become unclean by having further sex relations with him after his committing of adultery.
If an adulterous husband does not disclose his adultery to his innocent wife, but notifies her of his purpose to seek a divorce, then if she consents to this divorce without knowing of his adultery, but merely with the idea of being legally separated from him by mutual consent under law, then she enters into the divorce action with him on this basis. He procures the divorce with her consent and without her contesting. Thus they both agree to this divorce on an unscriptural basis, which does not free them for remarriage. All they want is to be free from each other, and that is what they get by the unscriptural but legal divorce. Both of them must take the consequences of this type of unscriptural divorce. This, of course, deprives her of the Scriptural authorization to remarry. However, the hypocritical, adulterous husband has tied himself up too, and whereas he has exposed her to adultery he may find it even harder for himself to resist post-divorce adultery than she does, inasmuch as he practiced adultery unknown to her before procuring the divorce. Just because of the ignorance of the wife the Christian congregation is not warranted in setting aside Jesus’ rule that a husband, if he really wishes to rid himself of his wife on a Scriptural basis, must do so by taking a divorce from her because of her uncleanness, her adultery. Otherwise, the husband, even if himself adulterous before the divorce, is not thereafter free to remarry; and she, even if she did legally remarry, enters thereby into adultery.
The divorcer, regardless of his own personal morality before the divorce, determines the grounds or terms of the divorce. If now the court grants the divorce on those terms, then the divorce applies on those terms and it carries to the divorcer the corresponding consequences.
What now if the innocent wife finds out after the divorce to which she consented, or in which she acquiesced, that her husband had committed adultery one or more times before the divorce, but had not informed her? This does not alter the situation. It does not entitle her to appeal for a reversal of the divorce decree, or to appeal for a change of the grounds of divorce so as to make those grounds Scriptural instead of unscriptural ones. It is true that since the divorce she now comes into possession of new knowledge regarding immorality on the part of her former legal husband before the divorce. However, she cannot bring this new knowledge to bear. It must be borne in mind that in the courts of the land when an appeal is made for the reversal of a decision by a lower court no new evidence or features may be introduced to the appeal court to bring such new evidence or features to bear upon the appeal court. Only the evidence already submitted and ruled upon by the lower court can be and is considered by the appeal court in arriving at its own decision. No reversal or cancellation of the decision of the lower court is allowed on the basis of any new evidence. This same limitation as to new evidence after a divorce applies also to the official representatives of a congregation when an innocent, divorced woman, a member of the congregation, brings to light before them the evidence of the adultery of her former legal husband, prior to the divorce.
Only immorality after the divorce by either, or both of the divorced parties, would give force and effect to the legal divorce so as to bring about real dissolution of the marriage ties according to the Scriptures. Immoral sex relations after a divorce on unscriptural grounds adds something, not toward reversing the divorce decision on unscriptural grounds, but to confirm the divorce and to make it more far-reaching. By post-divorce adultery something new has been introduced that did not appear at the time of the suit for divorce when the terms for the divorce action were set by the divorcer with the consent or acquiescence of the divorcee. Thus a new factor has been added since the divorce to validate, not cancel, the divorce decision. This is true even if it is the divorcer himself that commits the adultery after the divorce.
Adultery before divorce does not dissolve the marriage tie of itself. Sex relations may continue between the legally married even after such pre-divorce adultery. Up until the step is decided upon and taken in suing for divorce all sex relations between the legally married couple after the unfaithful husband had committed adultery would offset the adultery as being a ground for divorce action to be taken against the adulterous mate.
However, the divorcer by his post-divorce adultery introduces an effective element into the situation, an element that he himself had not relied upon beforehand when he applied for the divorce against his innocent wife. He now brings adultery to bear upon the matter even though this adultery is on his own part. By his post-divorce adultery he now puts into the hands of the innocent, divorced wife something Scripturally valid that she may hold and apply against the divorcer. Under the circumstances she does not now need to file for a divorce suit inasmuch as there is already a legal divorce in effect that has separated them according to the law. But now the adultery element does make the separation Scriptural and really effects the dissolution of all marriage bonds, and this before God and his Christian congregation as well as before the law of the land. In regard to the unscriptural divorce this effect was not the case previous to such divorce forasmuch as the woman was still the adulterous mate’s wife by reason of the then still-existing legal marriage.
In this case where the Christian congregation was not privately advised beforehand of any other basic ground for the divorce, any really Scriptural ground underlying the divorce suit, a divorce must be held to the terms of the divorce upon which the divorcer sued. A divorce sticks, on its own grounds, not on some imaginary possibility of what might have been done on the basis of fuller knowledge. Hence no retroactive action may be allowed beyond what the divorce grounds actually are by stipulation, for the purpose of adjusting the scope and effect of the divorce to agree with additional knowledge or discovery of incriminating evidence. This strict holding to the divorce terms prevents any collusion being carried on by the divorced couple who might agree to trump up something valid that might free them or rid them of the tight restrictions upon them due to the unscripturalness of their divorce.
The hard consequences of the unscriptural divorce bear just as heavily upon the divorcer as upon the divorcee. Therefore the hard consequences of an unscriptural divorce should stand as a warning to any prospective divorcer so that he will consider first the limitations and restrictions and dangers that would result from his unscriptural course to his own self as well as to his innocent marriage mate. It is not the prerogative or obligation of the Christian congregation to relieve the divorced couple of the hard consequences of their unscriptural divorce. In its tendency toward mercy the Christian congregation must not go beyond what is written in God’s Word and attempt a reversal of the situation by doing something that it is not authorized to do. A man that forces an unscriptural divorce through becomes very responsible toward the innocent, undeserving mate inasmuch as he makes the post-divorce life and course of her very hard with respect to morality. If the innocent divorcee goes bad, the Christian congregation is not primarily responsible for not sanctioning her remarriage before the death or post-divorce adultery of her ex-husband. The self-seeking divorcer is the responsible one, according to the Scriptures. All that the Christian congregation can do legitimately is to help her to grow straight morally as a Christian by extending to her all the spiritual help possible.
Because of his adultery, unrepented of before the divorce, the unfaithful husband could be disfellowshiped by the Christian congregation of which he may be a baptized member. By concealing his adultery from wife and congregation he may postpone his disfellowshipment for a time. If in addition to his concealed adultery he undertakes to divorce his innocent wife, then he shows that he has not repented of his adultery. Neither does he have his wife’s forgiveness for it. Hence he must be disfellowshiped by the congregation when the facts of the matter become known. To the wrong that he has committed against his wife by the adultery that he has concealed from her he hardheartedly adds injury by suing for divorce from her in her innocence. For his moral uncleanness, of which his hypocritical, unloving course shows he has not repented, he must be disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation on the basis of the evidence laid before the congregation’s judicial committee.
● What is the meaning of Job 19:26? In the King James Version it reads the opposite of the way it does in the American Standard Version; the one saying, “Yet in my flesh shall I see God,” and the other, “Then without my flesh shall I see God.”—J.G., U.S.A.
The New World Translation of Job 19:26 reads: “Yet reduced in my flesh I shall behold God.” Under footnote b it gives two alternate renderings: “Yet out of my flesh,” and, “Yet apart from my flesh.” The American Standard Version, which reads “without my flesh,” has a footnote reading, “Yet from my flesh shall I see God.”
Why these differences in translations and the presence of the footnotes? These are no doubt due to the ambiguity of the Hebrew text. However, the thought seems to be that Job, when so wasted away as to be merely skin and bones, and thus practically “without flesh,” or “reduced in my flesh,” would “see” God. Job cannot be accused of here speaking ill-advisedly, as some would have it, but rather prophetically. He himself did later “see” God by seeing the manifestation of his power, by hearing his voice by means of the Word or Logos, and by having the eyes of his understanding opened to see the truth about God. Because of this he could say: “In hearsay I have heard about you, but now my own eye does see you.”—Job 42:5.
Not that faithful Job himself literally saw Jehovah God, for God plainly told Moses: “You are not able to see my face, because no man may see me and yet live.” The apostle John testified to the same effect, saying: “No man has seen God at any time.” “At no time has anyone beheld God.”—Ex. 33:20; John 1:18; 1 John 4:12.