Marital Idolatry, part 1






(This is the first of a three-part series; here are the links to part 2 and part 3.)

Recently, someone reminded me of Mark 2:27, in which Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees, had asked Jesus why His disciples didn’t follow the Sabbath regulations, and Jesus told them that the Sabbath regs that they had instituted were not the Law of God, and that God’s command of the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around.

One person tried to object, saying that the laws of God were God’s revelation of His character, and that in giving the Sabbath law, He was making requirements for man to follow in order to be in line with God’s righteous character, not doing something for man’s benefit. It seems to me that this man is rather small-minded: why can’t it be both?

Yes, God’s laws ARE a revelation of His character, and I have no qualms in agreeing with the guy’s statement. However, God’s laws are also the gift of guidelines for us, telling us the best way we can live our lives. And so, the Law of the Sabbath IS for man, just as Jesus said.

Man-Made Laws

During the time of Jesus, the Pharisees taught so many man-manufactured regulations as God’s Law. In Matt. 23:4, Jesus said that the Pharisees “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” The Sabbath “laws” were a good example of Jesus’ statement, as they introduced many restrictions on what people could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. There were Pharisaical laws even down to dictating how far someone could walk on the Sabbath. After all, that’s the reason Jesus said, in the next chapter, “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.” If you, as a Jew, had to do any fleeing on the Sabbath, you could only flee so far, according the the Pharisees.

With their bad teaching and over-burdensome regulations, the Pharisees distorted the Sabbath to the point that it neither was a revelation of God nor a guideline for the benefit of man. Instead, it was just another cross on which to nail men with bad teaching.

The same thing is going on today, in the area of marriage. The church has made the institution of marriage into an idol, and a cross on which to crucify suffering brothers and sisters. Not only has the church made marriage an idol, but with both bad teaching, misinterpretation of scriptures, and even failure to instruct, it has failed to give christians proper preparation for marriage, and given false counsel once brothers and sisters have entered into marriage.

“God Hates Divorce!” Erm…

I’m going to write about this over the next few posts, but I want to give one example to get you thinking. We all know that “God hates divorce”, right? It’s right there in Mal. 2:16:

“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, (NASB)

Up until four years ago, I was adamant: God hates divorce!!! I knew that for a fact! But then, I started reading articles, and blog posts, and first-hand accounts of brothers and sisters who were in misery in their marriages. And I began to read, study and think about marriage as an institution. I read posts of people, writers, who had other ideas. And to my surprise, I found out that maybe the “accepted” translation of Mal. 2:16 was wrong. I found that other translations have a different wording (these are taken from the Bible Hub website):

  • “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD…: (ESV)
  • “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD God… (Holman)
  • He that rejects her, sending her away, said the LORD (Jubilee)
  • When thou shalt hate her put her away, saith the Lord (Douay)
  • “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD (NIV)

What? The NIV said that? That last one threw me; for I had been using the NIV for years, and I didn’t remember that wording. But there it was on the Bible Hub website: “The man who hates and divorces his wife”. So I looked up Mal. 2:16 on the Bible Study Tools website, and found the reading I remembered:

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God (NIV)

Wait a minute!!! Two websites have two different readings? For the same translation of the Bible? What gives? I did some checking, and I found that Bible Study Tools uses the ’84 NIV and Bible Hub uses the 2011 version. In fact, at the bottom of the Bible Hub page, this alternative reading is given in a footnote to v. 16:

Or “I hate divorce,” says the Lord

So modern scholarship demonstrates that an adamant declaration, “God hates divorce”, is not a viable position.

As I said, “more to come.”



Filed under Marriage, Marriage & Sexuality

6 responses to “Marital Idolatry, part 1

  1. OK, I have learnt something. I always took it that “God hates divorce” period, but now after reading different versions of the Bible I see that there are as many translations. However, from my mortal mind, I still believe that God hates divorce but accepts it if one is being abused. I have a friend who stuck to her husband even though he beat her and she had to be resuscitated at the hospital a couple of times. In this case, I believe one should divorce the abuser and not wait to be killed.


  2. Pingback: Marital Idolatry, part 3 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  3. Pingback: Marital Idolatry, part 2 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  4. Pingback: Divorce: Scarlet Letter or Valid Option? | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  5. Pingback: Is Your Marriage A Parlor? | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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