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Matthew 5:32 - what about abuse?

Postby Pree » Tue Feb 18, 2020 6:02 pm

Jesus prohibits divorce on all grounds EXCEPT sexual immorality. What about domestic abuse?

Passage in question: Matt 5:32

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

In other words, sexual immorality is the only legitimate grounds for divorce. But what about domestic abuse? Jesus seems to imply that even if the spouse is being abused physically, they are not permitted to divorce.

Re: Matthew 5:32 - what about abuse?

Postby jimwalton » Sat Nov 19, 2022 3:55 pm

The three provisions of food, clothing, and love were understood literally by the Jews. The wife was expected to cook and sew, while the husband provided food and materials, or money. They both had to provide the emotional support of marital love, though they could abstain from sex for short periods. Paul taught the same thing. He said that married couples owed each other love (1 Cor. 7.3-5) and material support (1 Cor. 7.33-34). He didn’t say that neglect of these rights was the basis of divorce because he didn’t need to—it was stated on the marriage certificate. Anyone who was neglected, in terms of emotional support or physical support, could legally claim a divorce.

Divorce for neglect included divorce for abuse, because this was extreme neglect. There was no question about that end of the spectrum of neglect. Putting together all of what the Bible says about divorce gives us a more clear picture as to the appropriate conditions for it:

  • Adultery (in Dt. 24.1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)
  • Emotional and physical neglect (in Ex. 21.10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Cor. 7)
  • Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Cor. 7)

Jewish couples listed these biblical grounds for divorce in their marriage vows. We reiterate them as love, honor, and keep and be faithful to each other. When these vows were broken, it threatened to break up the marriage. As in any broken contract, the wronged party had the right to say, “I forgive you; let’s carry on,” or, “I can’t go on, because this marriage is broken.”

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