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Verses 31-32

Matthew 5:31-32. Let him give her a writing of divorcement “The doctors of the school of Sammai affirmed, that, in the law concerning divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1, the words some uncleanness, were to be understood of adultery only; whereas, they of the school of Hillel interpreted them of any matter of dislike whatever. Hence the Pharisees asked Jesus, Matthew 19:3, if it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? The opinion of Hillel was generally espoused by the Jews, as appears from both their practice and their writings. Thus, Malachi 2:16, the clause which in our translation runs, The Lord says, He hateth putting away, that is, divorces on frivolous pretences, is, by the Chaldee paraphrast and the LXX., turned thus, ( εαν μισησας εξαποστειλης ,) if thou hatest thou shouldest put her away. Also, the son of Sirach says, Matthew 25:26: If she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh. And Josephus, Ant. lib. 4. cap. 8, ‘He that would be disjoined from his wife, for any cause whatever, as many such causes there may be among men, let him give her a bill of divorce.’ Nay, one of their doctors, R. Akiba by name, delivered it as his opinion, ‘that a man may put his wife away, if he likes any other woman better.’” As, therefore, they had perverted the law of divorce that they might give full scope to their lusts, Jesus thought fit to reduce it to its primitive meaning, assuring them, “that he who divorces his wife for any of the causes allowed by the doctors, whoredom excepted, lays her under a strong temptation to commit adultery; unjust divorce being no divorce in the sight of God; and that since such marriages still subsisted, he who married the woman unjustly divorced, committed adultery also.” Saving for the cause of fornication, &c. Fornication here, as elsewhere, is often used for adultery: in general it denotes the exercise of all the different species of unlawful lusts. Although in these words only one just cause of divorce is acknowledged, namely, adultery; “yet the apostle, 1 Corinthians 7:15, plainly allows another, viz., malicious and obstinate desertion in either of the parties; and that because it is wholly inconsistent with the purposes of marriage. We must therefore suppose, that our Lord here speaks of the causes of divorce commonly said to be comprehended under the term uncleanness, in the law; and declares, that none of them will justify a man’s divorcing his wife, except fornication.” Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery Here we learn, “that if the cause of a divorce be just, the innocent party is freed from the bond of marriage, so as to be at liberty to marry again.” But if the divorce be made without a just cause, the marriage still subsists, and consequently both parties, the innocent as well as the guilty, thus divorced, commit adultery if they marry, as do the persons likewise whom they marry.” Macknight.

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