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What Does the Bible Say About..Reasons for Divorce?

You say that adultery is the only acceptable reason for divorce...yet it says in the Bible that if a man abandons his wife etc. it is also a reason. Why are you not listing those reasons?


I would like to know where in the Bible it says that abandonment is also a reason for divorce. I have found passages saying that a divorce may be for "uncleanness" (Deuteronomy 24:1-3), and for "fornications" (Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:7-9). I find Paul saying to converts to Christianity that if their pagan spouse chooses not to live with them any longer because they are now Christians, that they may divorce the unbelieving spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:10-16) He does say that it would be best if they remained together.

If you know of other scriptural reasons for divorce, please let me know what the passages are that teach that, and I will be happy to include them. Jesus, though, said the only reason for divorce was "fornications." It is unclear to some whether this includes adultery, or only applies if the spouse had represented themselves as a virgin and wasn't.

Follow-up Question

Thank you for responding to me on my question. (One of many)

I have a few scriptures that seem to confuse the matter. I will list them and my questions to each passage.

Deuteronomy 21:15-If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love,

?:So, is it not adultery to have more than one wife?

Deuteronomy 25:7-However, if a man does not want to marry his brother's wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, "My husband's brother refuses to carry on his brother's name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me."

?: A few passages before this one it said that a man should not sleep with his brother's wife. Nowadays nobody would think of marrying his brother's wife, just because his brother died.

Ezekiel 18:6-He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor's wife or lie with a woman during her period.

?: People do not follow this rule, what is the difference between this and that about divorce?

1 Corinthians 7:12-To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.

?: He states that it is his belief, and not law from the Lord. How can that then be used as 'evidence' that one should not divorce in that case?

But then he goes on to say: 15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

I cannot find the passage that my pastor read to me. I know it was in the New Testament. It spoke about a man abandoning his wife etc. My concern is that there are many women that are told they need to stay in abusive marriages, because they do not have proof of adultery. I was in a very unhappy, abusive marriage for 7 years. I finally left. My pastor told me that I was justified. I would have left years earlier, but everyone kept telling me I couldn't.

It creates a horrible cycle: The boys learn from their father that it is okay to treat women that way; the girls learn to live in abusive relationships. I left for my children, and I know I did the right thing. There are many women that are looking for help and can't find it and stay in horrible marriages in silence, because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Those are my thoughts and findings on the matter.


Although the scriptures you bring up generally do not have anything to do with divorce, some do relate to adultery. Some don't relate to your original question or my answer at all, but I will address all of them.

Deuteronomy 21:15 talks about having two wives. Technically, if one is married to both, then it is not adultery. There was a long period of time when some people had more than one wife. Biblical examples include Jacob, David, and Solomon. Because they had them, and even because the Law of Moses provided for the possibility of having more than one wife, doesn't mean God wanted it that way. In Christ's church the example of the elders, which should be the standard for others as well, is that he be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). This also applies to deacons (1 Timothy 3:12). In most countries now the law allows only one wife, so even if the scriptures didn't specify that we would be bound by the law of the land.

Deuteronomy 25:7 is the law of "levirate marriage." It was specifically designed so that the land would not pass out of the family to which it was first allotted. It was a method of ensuring that there would be an heir in each marriage. It was specifically to the nation of Israel, and no longer would apply since nobody knows the original disbursement of the Holy Land. The earlier passage about sleeping with his brother's wife would only apply while the brother was still alive, because death dissolves the marriage obligation.

Ezekiel 18:6-Just because people no longer follow this rule doesn't negate the rule. And among Orthodox Jews this is still one of the most important mitzvahs. It even goes to the point of having separate beds, although they may be immediately next to each other. In respect to obedience there may be little difference between this and divorce. People disobey God all the time, but that doesn't make it right.

1 Corinthians 7-As I previously pointed out, this is so that a spouse who is abandoned can know that they are not disobeying God by divorcing the spouse that has elready left.

I understand your concerns. They are very valid concerns. I have known a number of women (and men) in relationships in which their spouse abused them. Such a situation is intolerable. I would advise anyone in a situation in which they or their children would be endangered by remaining to think first of their own safety. Get out of the relationship. But do so without violating God's word. Leave the house, leave the situation, maybe even get a civil divorce if necessary, but unless the spouse was previously unfaithful don't marry again. Consider yourself married but living separately.

Some disagree with me on this point, and I agree that it has done great harm. On the other hand, the obligation of marriage requires that the person try to make it work until it is obvious that health and safety make that impossible.