Chapter 33

How about divorce?
Mark 10:1-12 (ESV)


1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”


Mark 10:1-2
A catch question

Jesus teaches in the region around Jordan. The Pharisees’ testing question about divorce is: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? However He replies, they seek to trap him.

Mark 10:3-9
A careful answer

Jesus hits the ball back into the Pharisees’ court. He asks what Moses commanded in the law. They reply he allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away. Jesus answers that hard human hearts caused Moses to allow this. From Scripture, Jesus shows God made humans male and female[1] from creation. God’s will and plan is always for the man and woman who marry to be regarded as one. A man must leave his parents and hold fast to his wife. He should ‘leave and cleave’. Thus Jesus reveals God’s description of marriage as a union between one man and one woman for life. He emphasises this principle with, What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

Mark 10:10-12
Further explanation about divorce to his disciples

Briefly answering a question set to trap Him, Jesus avoids complicated messy divorce situations abounding even in His day, as today. The Bible gives guidance on those issues elsewhere.[2] Remember too that Christ’s offer of forgiveness and restoration extends to all whose sins have smashed or spoiled marriages—whether theirs or others’.

Now Jesus answers the disciples about God’s wanting lasting marriages, not divorce: someone divorcing his or her spouse, and marrying another, commits adultery. The Bible is a single, unified book: this short passage must be read and blended with other Bible passages. Particularly relevant is Matthew 5:31-32, which carries Jesus’ expansion of this basic teaching. Verse 32 says But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality[3], makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman [obviously in the circumstances Jesus covers here] commits adultery. Jesus never commands divorce where there is adultery. Neither does He commend divorce for adultery. A marriage can survive despite the unfaithfulness of one or both spouses. Applying Moses’ principle, Jesus confirms divorce is allowed where sexual immorality breaks a marriage. Even so, both parties should fight hard to try to save the marriage. The Bible clearly states that God hates divorce.[4] Divorce is only a tragic last resort when all else fails.



[1]   .  See Genesis 1:27; Genesis 5:2.
[2]   .  1 Corinthians 7 deals with many different and complicated issues which are still with us in principle today.
[3]   .  My emphasis.
[4]    .  Malachi 2:16 – This is very clear in other versions (e.g. in NIV, NASB and NKJV) and in the footnote of ESV. The primary ESV translation seems rather odd and at odds with the other versions.


Questions on Chapter 33
Mark 10:1-12 How about divorce?

A. What is God’s best plan for marriage? Does the Bible anywhere teach that it is right for a man and a woman to live together and have sexual relationships outside marriage?   Mark 10:6-9   1 Corinthians 6:18   Exodus 20:14   Mark 10:19   Colossians 3:5  Ephesians 5:3  Galatians 5:19  2 Corinthians 12:21

B. According to Jesus’ teaching in verses 11 and 12, what ground for divorce is there, only if really necessary? How does this fit in with the context of Scripture as show by Matthew 5:31-32?   Mark 10:11-12   Matthew 5:31-32

C. Why should a Christian strive to save his or her marriage, if at all possible?   Mark 10:6-9   1 Peter 3:1-2   1 Peter 3:7

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