Marriage and Divorce in a Biblical Nutshell

The Bible is relatively concise for something as seemingly complex as marriage and divorce. As such, the following verses give a distinct and straightforward synopsis of the essential Biblical guidelines for the institution of marriage.

Original Design of Marriage

Even from the very beginning, God acknowledges marriage and its extraordinary oneness in Genesis 2:24, where He outlines marriage as “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”  This certainly implies a permanent monogamy in design and purpose. Already we’re deep into the weeds of our modern culture since the precision of the Hebrew language further defines “wife” as singular and feminine.

This refrain is repeated in the New Testament in Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:8, and Ephesians 5:31.

Marriage is a Permanent Union

Mark 10:9 affirms the permanence of God’s marriage design when it states, “Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.”‌‌ Unfortunately, this vow is repeated in virtually every marriage ceremony and, all too quickly, subsequently violated.

Limitations on Marriage Partners

The Bible is clear that believers should only marry other believers. This is not only in 1 Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband has fallen asleep [died], she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” but also in 2 Corinthians 6:14 which reconfirms this limitation “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers….” It could be argued this could also be applied to specific partnership arrangements, but that’s another subject.

God’s Attitude Toward Divorce

The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi 2:16, expresses God’s attitude towards divorce “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel….”

Exceptions to Divorce

In Matthew 19:8-9, Christ lays out one of two exceptions for divorce “He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning, it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery.’”‌‌

In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul exposes the second exception “yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave. The brother or sister is not enslaved in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”

Unfortunately, these two often go hand in hand as a non-believer will often leave because of an adulterous relationship yielding both divorce justifications present.

Mutual Submission and Respect

Several other verses establish the concept of mutual submission. For example, Ephesians 5:25 states, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” and 5:22 “wives, be subject to your own husband, as to the Lord….”

A wonderful verse in 1 Peter 3:1-3 further addresses submissiveness regarding an unbelieving spouse “wives, be subject to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word [unbelievers], they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, as they observe your pure conduct with fear. Your adornment must not be merely external…but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible quality of a lowly and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

A counterbalance to this concept of  a wive’s submission is expressed in 1 Peter 3:7, which states, “You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Paul further elaborates on this concept in Ephesians 5:33, which states, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”

Scripture never states that women, in general, are to be subject to men in general. However, it does affirm male leadership in the home (Ephesians above and Titus 2:5) and in the church (1 Timothy 2:11).

Miscellaneous Verses

1 Corinthians 7:5 instructs in marital relations, Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Finally, another loving verse addresses the children of mixed marriages in 1 Corinthians 7:14 “for the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband. For otherwise, your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”


Throughout history, we can witness the organization of civilization via the institutions of Government, Church, and Family. Is it any wonder that the decline of civilization will be accomplished by attacking these very structures?


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