When asked about divorce, Jesus said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt. 19:4-6). The Lord Jesus considered marriage to be a binding covenant between a man, a woman and God. To be treacherous and break the covenant of marriage displeases God (Mal. 2:14-16). Instead of continuing Mosaic legislation regarding divorce and remarriage, Jesus said, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Mt. 18:8, 9). Jesus remarked on the difficulty this would pose for people to receive this saying.
Saul offered his daughter, Michal, to David to wife that David might die at the hand of the Philistines (Sam. 18:24). Yet, David paid the dowry for Michal and she became his wife (1 Sam. 18:27). Michal loved David and even deceived her father in order to give David time to escape from Saul’s attempt to take David’s life (1 Sam. 19:11-17). However, while David was on the run, Saul gave Michal to Phaltiel, the son of Laish (1 Sam. 25:44).
After the death of Saul, there was a war between the house of Saul and the house of David. Abner, the commander of Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, had a falling out with Ishbosheth and proposed forming a league with David. David agreed to the proposal, but had a condition: Michal must return to him (2 Sam. 3:12-16).
When Michal was delivered to David, Phaltiel followed behind her weeping. The tears of Phaltiel are no doubt real. His marriage to Michal had brought an emotional closeness. The severing of this union caused great pain. Our heart goes out to Phaltiel, but we recognize the underlying fact that Michal was another man’s wife. No emotional turmoil Phaltiel may have suffered could change that.
In what sense does 2 Samuel 3:16 refer to Phaltiel as Michal’s husband? In the sense that they had a civil agreement that recognized them as married but was not divinely approved. This accommodative manner of referring to the union is similar to the term “married” in Mark 6:17—referring to the arrangement between Herod and Herodias that lacked divine approval. Saul had arranged Michal’s marriage to Phaltiel in violation of her original marital covenant to David. This has been a problem throughout time. Man, by civil laws, may declare a couple married, but God has not approved of the marriage. Why? Because God considers the former marriage covenant still binding. Romans 7:1-3 uses marriage as an illustration of how the law is binding upon a person until death. This is why Jesus in Matthew 19:9 said that marrying another is adultery, because God still considers the original marriage covenant binding. Matthew 19:9 gives fornication as the sole exception. If one’s spouse is guilty of fornication, then one may put away the fornicator and marry another who is eligible for marriage.
The issue of divorce and remarriage was hotly debated and emotionally charged back in Bible times and it is today as well. With the number of families not living according to God pattern for the family on the increase, this issue will not go away any time soon. Will we stay with God’s word?
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