|Vol. 16 No. 5 May 2014||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
When John the Baptist told Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother Philip’s wife, were they living together or was Herodias divorced from Philip? If she was divorced why did John still refer to her as Philip’s wife?
The Jewish historian Josephus, who was nearly contemporary with John the Baptist and Herodias, and other reference works state that Herod and Herodias were married. Herodias divorced her husband Herod Philip, and Herod Antipas divorced his wife so that Herodias and Antipas could marry.
Mankind is obligated to abide by the law of God. God is not obligated to abide by man’s law. Despite mankind then or now calling “marriage” what God in the Bible calls “adultery,” such does not convert adultery into valid marriage. John the Baptist, representing God’s perspective, accused Herod Antipas and Herodias of adultery in spite of the recognition of their “marriage” by the law of the land as legal. Frankly, it is no different today. “For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her’” (Matthew 14:3-4 NKJV). The point is that mankind said the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias was “lawful,” but God through John the Baptist said their marriage was “not lawful.”
Louis Rushmore, Editor
In Ezekiel 44:22 priests were told not to take as a wife a widow or a divorced woman. What’s the teaching or the example in this passage? Was this command just to the priests? Could other men marry widows and divorced women? Why were divorced women put in the same context with the widows?
The cited passage reads, “They shall not take as wife a widow or a divorced woman, but take virgins of the descendants of the house of Israel, or widows of priests” (Ezekiel 44:22 NKJV). This is similar to divine regulation of Jewish priests (Leviticus 21:7) and high priests (Leviticus 21:13-14) found near the inception of the Jewish priesthood. Additional requirements imposed by God on the Jewish priests promoted a higher level of purity and holiness to distinguish them from the rest of the people. This higher standard also included regulation whom the priests could marry, which differed somewhat from divine regulation respecting non-priests.
Both divorced women and widows (except for “widows of priests”) did not meet the model of innocence or ceremonial purity that God desired to impress on the Jews respecting the distinction of holiness between the priests and the rest of the people. The widows of priests would have previously met the stipulation of innocence from their virginity until they had wed their priestly husbands.
There is no direct example in this Old Testament instruction applicable today under Christianity. However indirectly in principle, one could note especially for special servants of God today (e.g., ministers, elders, deacons, teachers) that the character of one’s spouse may help or hinder his area of service. The qualifications found in the New Testament for elders and deacons argue the same general concept.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
What is the teaching of Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Jeremiah 3:1; Hosea 11 and Ezekiel 23?
Note the parallel teachings recorded in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah.
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4 NKJV)
“They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 3:1 NKJV).
Old Testament instruction found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and Jeremiah 3:1 prohibited Israelites from marrying a second time to a spouse after which he had divorced her she had married to another man. Jeremiah 3:1 makes a subtle distinction between a second biblically permissible marriage (under Judaism) and adultery. Comparing His people to adulterers, God expressed His willingness to take the children of Israel back. Hosea 11 and Ezekiel 23 compare the idolatry of the Israelites to spiritual adultery.
The Old Testament restriction about remarrying a divorced spouse who afterward had married another person has not been reinstituted in the New Testament. The Old Testament references to the same do not have a direct application today since the Old Testament has been replaced with the New Testament (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). We, today, live under Christianity and are amenable to the New Testament (2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:15). Even under the Old Testament, Scripture says nothing by way of prohibition about a man who divorces his wife marrying her again if she has not married another man.
The array of passages in the inquiry do not have a bearing on New Testament teaching about marriage, divorce and remarriage. All we have that is obligatory or permissible regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage in the Christian Age is found exclusively in the New Testament. The only possible principle from those passages that we could apply correctly to the New Testament is the generality that God desires all men to repent rather than perish. Hence, His longsuffering with mankind lingers (2 Peter 3:9).