Deuteronomy 24:1–4—Is Moses’ teaching on divorce contrary to the teaching of Jesus and Paul?

Problem: According to Deuteronomy 24:1–4, a man was allowed to divorce his wife if he had found her to be unfaithful. However, according to the teaching of Jesus in Mark 10:1–12, and the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10–16, it seems that a man is not permitted to divorce his wife and remarry. Is the teaching in Deuteronomy contrary to the teaching of Jesus and Paul?

Solution: It would be a mistake to assume that the statements of Moses here gave divine sanction to divorce. The passage presents a hypothetical situation which was likely to happen among the people. It simply says that if a man divorces his wife because of some uncleanness in her, and if she remarries, and if her new husband dies or divorces her, it is unlawful for the first husband to take her back. This is not a sanction of divorce. Rather, it is an acknowledgement of the fact of divorce and the implementation of regulation concerning remarriage.

As Jesus said in Mark 10:5, Moses allowed divorce and gave the people this precept because of the hardness of their hearts, but this is not God’s ideal. God’s ideal for marriage was that there be a lifetime commitment between husband and wife. There is no contradiction here between Moses’ teaching and the teaching of Jesus and Paul. Moses simply recognizes the fact of divorce, while Jesus and Paul present God’s ideal for marriage, as it was from the beginning.

See All Problems

This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.