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 Vol. 2, No. 10                                        Page 18                                                October, 2000

Since You AskedImage

Separation or Divorce
Due to Abuse

I have read some of your essay on the Firm Foundation website on this topic, and agree with you that divorce is permitted only for adultery. There is one thing you did not address. You mention the Bible limits separation, as well as adultery. I don't dispute that. But what you did not address is how to solve certain marital situations in light of those limitations. For example, what if a woman is living with a violent man who has beaten her and abused her children? Or who is a drunkard or dope addict who might physically harm them? What is the Scriptural answer to that? I believe we would agree that she is not to put her children in physical danger of harm from a crazed husband. But--if divorce and separation are both limited, how does she deal with such a situation? Yes, she can have the man jailed--and he'll eventually get out, and may come to kill her and her children. So how is this resolved without long-term (or possibly permanent) separation? I am not disputing your conclusions--just saying there are situations where physical danger to a woman and/or her children could be involved, and I need a Scriptural answer on how to deal with that. ~ P.W. Williams

"Long-term separation" and divorce are equally irrelevant to considerations whereby a woman and her children might realize some sort of protection, especially from a husband and father who may be determined to harm his family. There is no difference between any length of separation or divorce as a deterrent. An abusive spouse who once released from 'jail' and who proceeds to injure or kill his wife will not be hindered by a restraining order, even if it is associated with legal separation or divorce. Any emotional appeal, then, to separation or divorce as a deterrent is fallacious. It also is not a biblical remedy to reason that somehow separation or divorce offers that kind of protection from an abusive spouse. Let's look at the situation from another perspective.

Sin results whenever a divorce occurs. God hates "putting away" (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 5:32). Every divorce is attributable to the sin of at least one and often both spouses. Inspiration does note, though, that there are occasions when divorce occurs wherein one of the parties is innocent and not guilty of the sin of divorce. Jesus taught that the spouse who puts away his or her spouse for committing adultery is innocent of the divorce and may remarry an eligible candidate later (Matthew 19:9). The apostle Paul additionally taught that the spouse who is deserted due to no fault of his or hers is innocent of the divorce, though remarriage is not stated as an option (1 Corinthians 7:15). Further, by inspiration, Paul authorized temporary separation with caution on a conditional basis, namely: (1) the separation ought to be brief, (2) the reason for the separation ought to be for a religious purpose, and (3) the separation must be by mutual consent (1 Corinthians 7:5).

As implied in the former paragraph, biblically speaking, the words "divorce" and "separation" are fundamentally related. The Greek word apoluo appears as "put away" and "divorced" in Matthew 5:32. In Matthew 1:19; 19:3, 7-9; Mark 10:2, 4, 11-12; Luke 16:18 apoluo also appears as 'put away.'  The Greek word apostasion refers to divorce and appears as "a writing of divorcement" in Matthew 5:31; 19:7 and Mark 10:4. It amounts to a certificate of divorce. Still another Greek word used for divorce in the New Testament is chorizo. It is translated "depart" (1 Corinthians 7:15) and "put asunder" (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). The Greek word lusis sometimes means loosing a marriage or divorce (1 Corinthians 7:27). The Greek word aphiemi is used of divorce, translated "put away" and "leave" in 1 Corinthians 7:11, 13. Hence, several Greek words referring to divorce and variously translated into English are used in the New Testament to refer to various stages of marital estrangement. Biblically, divorce transpires when a couple separates irrespective of whether they pursue the matter to a legal "divorce" (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

The foregoing establishes the principles that (1) biblically there is often little difference between separation and divorce, and (2) God favorably recognizes the divorce or separation of the innocent spouse. However, long-term separation, irrespective of whether it is legally considered a divorce (and even short-term separation outside of the permission tendered in 1 Corinthians 7:5), is hated by God, is sinful and leads to the further sin of adultery. It is also established above that one or both spouses are guilty of sin whenever a divorce or separation occurs (excepting the circumstance of 1 Corinthians 7:5). Then, is the wife who separates from or divorces an abusive husband and father to her children an innocent party before God? Who is guilty for that separation or divorce?

It is natural to desire that we and others remain "safe and sound" (Luke 15:27). Jesus himself escaped those who would harm him during his ministry (Luke 4:28-29; John 10:39). Paul and Barnabas fled from Iconium to avoid physical persecution (Acts 14:5-6); often, Paul was unable to escape and was sorely mistreated and nearly died (Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, 33). Later, the apostle Paul was mindful of the "health" of his shipmates on their ill-fated voyage to Rome (Acts 27:34, 44). Additionally, by common observation, the human quest for self-preservation is matter-of-factly ascribed as an innate part of humanity -- that is, put there by God. Therefore, it appears that it is religiously correct to pursue self-preservation (or the preservation of others, Acts 9:29-30; 17:10-14) as long as one can do so without otherwise violating God's law.

Therefore, it is a matter of self-preservation (or the preservation of others, e.g., children) and the wife is innocent of the divorce when she separates or divorces from her abusive husband. Yet, separation or divorce on the basis of self-preservation (or the physical well-being of one's children) does not carry with it the right of a subsequent marriage to someone else later. (However, the abusive spouse may multiply his sins to include adultery, at which time Matthew 19:9 would be effective for a truly innocent spouse, as the passage would likewise be effective were desertion to be followed by adultery.) Further, the weight of sin for the divorce or separation of a wife from her husband, for the physical well-being of herself and her children, rests on the spouse who is abusive or providing an otherwise dangerous environment for the occupants of the home (e.g., abuse derived from drugs, alcohol, etc.; dangers to life and health owing to other criminal behavior; and prohibition to practice Christianity, 1 Corinthians 7:15).

Biblically, the wife who leaves her husband to protect herself or her children from physical abuse is no less innocent than the wife who is innocent because of divorce due to her husband's adultery or the wife who is innocent of divorce when deserted by her husband. However, only in the case of spousal adultery does Scripture grant the innocent spouse the permission to marry another eligible candidate later.

Image Image Origin of the Races

Brother Rushmore, I am looking for some information concerning the son's of Noah (Shem, Ham & Japheth) as being the "Father" of the Asian, African, and Caucasian races. Also, the Tower of Babel and the different languages may have been discussed. I'm not sure where I read this article or how valid it may be. My question is: did this article come from your website . . . Thanks for continuing the fine articles on your Website. I look forward to reading them each month. It is good thing that you do. Sincerely & Yours in the Faith, Ted Janney

At this time, two articles in the Gospel Gazette Online archives pertain to race as it affects matrimony. They are:

The first of the two mentions the Tower of Babel and notes that though the biblical text says nothing about race there, that would have been an opportune time for God to assign variations of skin pigments to accompany the confusion of speech. Both would have served the same purpose and complemented each other. One, though, cannot pose an argument based on what the Scriptures do not say. The second article referenced above supposes that the races and differences in skin pigments occurred slowly and naturally through intermarriage and the corresponding differences evidenced and combined in offspring. Therefore, the stark contrasts apparent today between some races (including skin color) may have been less remarkable, for instance, in Moses' day. At least, today one can easily discern the results of intermarriage between people within races and between races that materially affect the way offspring appear (facial features, makeup of the hair, physique, skin color, etc.). Therefore, it is quite possible that the development of the various races is solely attributable to the gene pool available amongst those in the various regions of the planet respectively who intermarried prior to contemporary mobility.

According to the Book of Genesis, following the universal flood of Noah's day, his sons and their wives repopulated the earth.

After the Flood the earth was re-peopled by the descendants of Noah, "the sons of Japheth" (Gen. 10:2), "the sons of Ham" (6), and "the sons of Shem" (22). It is important to notice that modern ethnological science, reasoning from a careful analysis of facts, has arrived at the conclusion that there is a three-fold division of the human family, corresponding in a remarkable way with the great ethnological chapter of the book of Genesis (10). [Easton, M. G., M. A. D. D., Easton's Bible Dictionary, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1996.]

From biblical references and extra-biblical information, it appears that Japheth's descendants populated Europe and Asia. "He was the progenitor of many tribes inhabiting the east of Europe and the north of Asia (Gen. 10:25)." [Ibid.] Ham's descendants inhabited Africa, Arabia and the Fertile Crescent (including Palestine, Assyria and Babylon). Shem's descendants populated the Fertile Crescent and Asia Minor (including Mesopotamia and Syria) surrounded by Ham's Descendants on the south, east and west and Japheth's descendants on the north. Ham's descendants initially spread more quickly and further than the other two sons' posterity did, followed by Japheth's descendants.

Copyright 2000 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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