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What Does the Bible Say About..Divorce and Remarriage?

Keep up the good work!!! Great website. I have been studying marriage and divorce and have talked with other brethren and of course get varying opinions. The question is if A divorces B but B didn’t want the divorce and had been a Godly mate, would B have the right to remarry if A marries again? Some say yes and some say no. What I have heard from some is that B is the put away person period and doesn’t have a right to remarry. Others say B would have the right. Have you encountered this among other brethren? Just wanted your thoughts.


My thoughts don’t mean a whole lot, compared to what the Bible says. But here goes, including what the Bible says.

First of all, I feel that the word “remarry” implies marrying the same person again. I prefer phrasing it as marrying another, but I understand that the common use of the word in the church may be a convenient shorthand.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put 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 5:32)
“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

Some say that the last clauses in those passages are not in the earliest known manuscripts. Others say that what Jesus said only applies to the Jews. A third view is that “her that is put away (or divorced)” is one who is divorced for fornications. On the face of it, a woman who is divorced by a husband does not have a right to marry another man. (She does have the right to remarry the husband, if he has not married another in between.)

Consider, though, that under the Law of Moses a woman could not divorce a man. If she asked for a divorce, the rabbis say he must give her one. But she can’t divorce him. In many modern societies a woman may divorce a man. Does this mean that she can only marry someone else if she initiates the divorce, but not if he did so? And if she divorced him for any reason other than “fornications,” (Jesus used the plural) and then finds out that he was guilty of fornications, does the original reason for the divorce prevent her from now claiming that she should have the right to marry another? Or can she say that since he was guilty and she didn’t know it, now that she is aware of it she has that right?

Another question is: In the passages above, who is the one who committed fornications, the man who is divorcing her, or the woman who is divorced? That is, is he divorcing her because of his fornications and he wants out of the marriage to marry his mistress, or is it because she committed fornications? If the former, then it makes sense that if he divorced her but she was innocent then she would no longer be an adulteress. If the latter, then all she has to do is commit multiple fornications in order to get free to marry her boyfriend without sinning. This doesn’t sound quite proper.

Another possibility is that the “fornications” are pre-marital. Then Jesus would be saying that any divorce, other than one because the marriage was under the false pretences that she was a virgin, would be wrong.

Add to all this what Paul says. “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:12-15) Paul says that a woman whose husband leaves her because she became a Christian is no longer bound by marriage. Is this an additional condition under which divorce is acceptable? Is this different than what Jesus taught? Or is what Jesus said to be understood as only one case among others?

In other words, this is a sticky wicket that will probably never be resolved. The one thing I do know about the whole matter is that God is forgiving. He can forgive adultery. That isn’t a license to sin without compunction, but is a comfort to those who may find themselves unsure of whether they are in violation of these passages or not.