Jesus left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them. Some Pharisees came, and to test him they 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 dismissal and to divorce her." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
In the time of Jesus, the Jewish ideal of marriage was the highest imaginable. “The very altar sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth.” But in practice, divorce was extremely easy to obtain. Everything hung on the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1, where it was laid down that a man could divorce his wife if he found in her “some impropriety.” The Shammai school of thought held that this referred only to adultery. But the Hillel school held that even the spoiling of a dish of food was grounds for divorce, or talking to a strange man, or criticising her in-laws, or if she spoke too loudly…. Rabbi Akiba even said that if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife, he could be granted a divorce.
Quite clearly, then, when Jesus took a strict line on divorce, he was putting right a grave injustice against women.
There is an intriguing piece of dialogue between Moses and God in Exodus 3:13f. Moses says to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to the Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" In Hebrew the verb is not clearly divided into past, present and future tenses as in modern languages; and I have seen this translated as “I will be who I will be.” God was not just giving a name, like an identity tag; God was making a promise. It is as if God said, “I will always be there for you, no matter what happens.” In the marriage ceremony people say something like this to each other. They are speaking God’s kind of language, where every word is also a promise of fidelity.
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