“I have seen your abominations,
your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings,
on the hills in the field.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will it be before you are made clean?”
-Jeremiah 13:27, ESV
God Hates Adultery More Than He Hates Divorce.
This is my response to Christian counselors and pastors who trot out Malachi 2:16 as blunt force weapon to shame a faithful spouse into staying married.
“God hates divorce,” they say.
And I say, “Not as much as He hates adultery.”
It’s well past time we get that straight.
Adultery is always sin. And God uses rather graphic language in Scripture when talking about adultery. In the above passage, we read of God viewing his adulterous people as “neighing” like animals in heat after their adulterous lovers. And more verses like that one can be found in the Prophets, especially Ezekiel.
Jeremiah is using an understandable repulsion to convey metaphorically God’s heart about Israel pursuing other gods. It is like a husband who finds his wife running after other lovers and playing the whore. This metaphor fails to work if we view such adulterous behavior lightly or think God views adultery lightly.
God hates adultery.
He prohibits it in the Ten Commandments, which were even quoted by Jesus Himself (e.g. Mk 10:19, Lk 18:20). Since the prohibition against committing adultery is repeated by Jesus and is in the same list prohibiting idolatry, one can be assured God has strong feelings about such a command being followed. And I will point out that none of the Ten Commandments read, “Thou shalt not divorce.” Nor does Jesus repeat the statement from Malach 2 saying that God hates divorce.
Even more strongly, divorce is not always sin. Adultery is. God hates sin. By logic alone following from this, we can know for sure that God hates adultery more than divorce. Furthermore, as I have argued elsewhere, the much abused Malachi 2 passage is really about God condemning the Jewish men abusing divorce to commit adultery. It all comes back to the hatred of adultery and not divorce (primarily).
To be clear:
Divorce is awful. I do not wish divorce on anyone as I dearly wished all marriages are free of the trauma of adultery. However, I realize that sometimes divorce maybe the best of the remaining bad options remaining. Furthermore, I do not think God ever wanted to divorce Israel (see Jeremiah 3:8). However, God realistically realized Israel’s heart was rebelliously set against Him. He chose to honor the free will choices of Israel–even though, that meant honoring their adulterous rejection of Him. He divorced her. And sometimes God’s people, too, may need to take such a hard yet realistic step against similar chosen evil.