When questioned about divorce, Jesus refers to the Mosaic law and explains why God allowed divorce certificates in the first place.

Mark 10:2-9 ESV And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The certificate of divorce reference is, I'm assuming, from Deuteronomy 24.

This seems like an unusual thing for God to do: to explicitly allow something because of Israel's stubbornness. Certainly God hates divorce as much as other relational sins but he didn't tell Moses to give allowances for other things like fighting or idolatry.

Why would God permit a certificate of divorce because of Israel's stubbornness and not allow certificates for other wrongs? What makes divorce worthy of this? Is there additional context or statements regarding this in the bible?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about God's motives.
    – Flimzy
    May 22, 2015 at 14:08
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    The NT verse clearly says Moses gave this commandment. The OT verse doesn't say anything (that I saw) like "thus says the LORD". I'm interested to hear why you say this command was given by God.
    – lars
    May 22, 2015 at 15:28
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    @lars Because God allowed it to be part of the Mosaic law. Moses may have written it, but the law as a whole is from God.
    – LCIII
    May 22, 2015 at 15:56
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    In agreement with @lars, I suggest there is great significance in the words of both the Pharisees and Jesus, particularly the words "Moses allowed" and "he [viz., Moses] wrote you this commandment," respectively. Ultimately, of course, "Moses' commands" came from God, but the clear teaching of Scripture is that "indecency" (e.g., fornication of a woman with a man who is not her husband prior to marrying the husband) is a forgivable offense which does not REQUIRE divorce. A husband's unwillingness to forgive an indecency says more about the husband's hardness of heart than his bride's indecency May 22, 2015 at 19:00
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    I really like this question... but I don't think it's a good fit for this site. Ask on a forum, then send me the link if you please. May 23, 2015 at 5:41

9 Answers 9


The translation is not accurate. Original Greek says "is it lawful for a man to dismiss his wife?" Not divorce. The Pharisees would never ask "is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" as it is very clearly stated in Torah that it is (Deu. 24). Rather the question is about a man leaving his wife through separation alone. They ask Jesus why did Moses permit both divorce AND separation. Moses permitted separation, but Jesus reminded them that in separation you continue married and anything you do with another partner is considered adultery. The greek word in question is apoluo ap-ol-oo'-o from Strong's G575 and G3089 meaning; to free fully, i.e. (literally) relieve, release, dismiss (reflexively, depart), or (figuratively) let die, pardon or (specially) divorce. It is used many times throughout the New Testament such as when Pilate wanted to APOLUO Jesus (Luk. 23:20), meaning let him go, not divorce him. Or Acts 28:18 when Paul is talking about being let go by the Romans, not divorced by them. Apoluo is referring to being separated from, while bill of divorce refers to a legal divorce of marriage. –

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    Welcome to the site. We're glad you're here. Do you have a source for this information? The community here prefers that if your answer includes nuances of a translation that you include the Greek and Hebrew words in question with accepted definitions.
    – user3961
    Jun 3, 2015 at 13:09
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    Ok. Thank you. The greek word in question is apoluo ap-ol-oo'-o from Strong's G575 and G3089 meaning; to free fully, i.e. (literally) relieve, release, dismiss (reflexively, depart), or (figuratively) let die, pardon or (specially) divorce. It is used many times throughout the New Testament such as when Pilate wanted to APOLUO Jesus (Luk. 23:20), meaning let him go, not divorce him. Or Acts 28:18 when Paul is talking about being let go by the Romans, not divorced by them. Apoluo is referring to being separated from, while bill of divorce refers to a legal divorce of marriage. Jun 3, 2015 at 21:31
  • You can click edit below and to the left of your post to add that into the original answer. +1 in advance.
    – user3961
    Jun 3, 2015 at 22:30

Given that we know the damage that divorce can have, its not hard for us to imagine why God would be against divorce in a general sense. Jesus affirming the idea that people shouldn't divorce.

The fact that God would allow divorce (Exodus 21:1,21:10–11) in spite of not agreeing with it (Malachi 2:16) reveals something about God's character and divorce itself. The fact that it is revealed that divorce is bad, but still allowed, reveals that God does is against divorce, doesn't want it to occur, but that that it's not a sin for it to occur.

Where does stubbornness come into it? God knows that human relationships are going to become broken beyond repair, How hard is it for stubborn people to reconcile?

  • Did / does God allow it? I'm not sure. Just because there is a human law which says you can divorce, it doesn't mean that God allows it - even if Moses wrote it. Just because God does nothing, doesn't mean he allows it. Think of homosexual marriage today. I believe that is what this passage is saying May 22, 2015 at 20:26
  • Exodus 21:1 indicates the regulations with regards to divorce in 21:10–11 are words of God, not words of Moses. Hence Yahweh regulated (not outlawed) divorce. are you implying Moses invented the regulations and claimed they were from God?
    – Jay
    May 23, 2015 at 1:38

Evan ... you are missing something. Read Deuteronomy 24:1-4. God allows divorce in regard to certain situations. HE goes on to say that a woman can remarry as well. BUT if husband #2 divorces her or dies, the woman cannot remarry husband #1. Jesus says that divorce is the result of the hardening of man's hearts. That is my 2 cents.


The man’s hard heartedness was a reality. This would bring the wife much pain. Moses therefore, for her benefit, required a certificate of divorce be issued her to allow her to remarry, and be free from the accusation of adultery, which carried the death penalty. It was a concession for her benefit, not theirs.

  • Welcome to Christianity! Please consider improving this answer by citing source(s).
    – Null
    Dec 17, 2019 at 15:47

God is against the letter of divorce and Moses still allowed at the end. Even after the fact he wrote the Genesis Book with no God leading cases any acts of divorce he still allowed it to happen. Moses was clearly an emotional, people's pleasing individual; which his lack of emotional leadership control actions led him to die before landing his feet into the promised land. I can imagine how hard it would be for me to lead whining and lustfull people. I would definitely step above God's law to avoid havoc within the crowd. That's what Moses did. In no where it's written God gave him that order. Jesus was cornered/pressured by the same whining political people to try to resolve this discrepancy of the past where I'm sure it's a subject hard to teach in the synagogues. Jesus always took a wise approach keeping his crowd controlled because it wasn't time for him to die yet. It concludes with the fact that God Never allowed and will never allow divorce and end of the story. Moses did what he did for whatever reason God isn't in favor. God didn't create adultery, man did. God has nothing to do with it and his ever lasting law and plan for humanity will stand regardless of what next men's arrangements will be.


Look at the big picture. God sent His Son into the world to save the world from sin, not to condemn it (John 3:16). This scripture makes it clear that God did not create man to be destroyed at the first offense of His law, not until they have had a chance to repent and seek redemption through the Gospel of Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation).

So why can God give seemingly conflicting commandments? Because the Lord atoned for the sins of all mankind, saving us from direct punishment for our sins on condition of repentance. So Jesus, by virtue of His sacrifice (payment for our sins) can give us more time to sanctify ourselves.

@Jacob Divorce is a sin. It's clear in the scripture in the root question (Mark 10:2-9)

Consider that God allows sin to happen every day. Why? To give us a chance to repent. Why did Israel get altered rules about divorce? Because it was wisdom in God to give them that law (He was being patient with their hard hardheartedness). Isaiah 55:8

Why does God want us to repent instead of simply be destroyed? Because He loves us.

In the book of Moses 1:39 (LDS scripture, not widely accepted by Christianity) God said to Moses:

"39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."


My guess (we are talking about God's motives, so guessing is all we can really do) is that divorcing wives is something the Israelites would have done whether the allowance for it had been in the Law or not. That is the "hardness of heart" that Jesus is talking about. God does seem to despise the practice of divorcing a faithful spouse (indeed, even the desire to do so).

So the Law's passage should not be seen as "if you give the certificate, you can divorce the wife", but as, "if you divorce the wife, you must give the certificate."

This has the practical benefit of making the divorce clearly official, so that any interested party can be confident that the woman is free to marry.


The same way God permitted polygamy and slavery for the Israelites. In a sin-free world, none of these acts would be favourable/exist but since mankind, at the time, has chosen a path where the absence of these acts would only lead to more chaos and disorder for the Israelites, and to an extent the world around them (believers are in this world but not of this world), God would have to simply regulate them within reasonable boundaries to produce equally reasonable outcomes. Remember that God is the God of order and not confusion. For every path, good and bad, man takes, God from eternity already has a distinct plan for each. He's got everything covered.

It is like trying to trying to ban all people from using offensive language to prevent hating one's neighbour, trying to ban all metalwork so people won't have the ability to make idols and bow before them or trying to ban all weapons so people won't have the ability to murder or mandating everyone should have their gentials and breasts cut off so people won't commit sexual sin. Surely this seems desirable for God but is it desirable for the Israelites? Radical change would seem perfect but we must remember that God is slow, steady and gracious to sinners (Psalms 103:8). He must teach them gradually and make them comfortable in His presence, over smaller things, before He could grant them power over larger things. It's the same reason why progressive revelation exists. It's the same reason why God didn't just send Jesus immediately when the proto-Israelite society of Shem and his descendants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or even further back, the line of Seth, were still developing. They must get into the right mindset of realising why God sent Jesus to die for their sins and why He matters and thus, why they need to trust Him, before they could receive the finished product.

We see this in our secular context too. There's a reason why we don't straight up ban alcohol, premarital/homosexual intercourse (or these days same sex marriage or divorce), abortion, "offensive" language, different religions, "apostasty" etc. even if Christians view them as sins. Hell, freedom of speech and religion would even be viewed as vices if people really wanted to conserve the worship of the One True God at all costs.


I think we can only speculate as to what the answer to your question is since it's not stated in the text. We know God's intentions for marriage, that He hates divorce, His commands for marriage, and that it was permitted because of a hard heart.

If a man did not have a hard heart, he would be tender and sweet towards his wife. A man with a hard heart would most likely be harsh, unkind, unfaithful, or apathetic towards his wife. It could be an act of mercy to the one married to the one with a hard heart.

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