Divorce in the Ancient World

DIVORCE IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES For centuries it has been possible for a husband in Arab lands, to divorce his wife by a spoken word. The wife thus divorced is entitled to all her wearing apparel, and the husband cannot take from her anything she has upon her own person. For this reason, coins on the headgear, and rings and necklaces, become important wealth in the hour of the divorced woman's great need. This is one reason why there is so much interest in the bride's personal adornment in Eastern countries. Such customs of divorce were no doubt prevalent in Gentile lands in Old Testament times. It was for this reason that the Law of Moses limited the power of the husband to divorce his wife, by requiring that he must give her a written bill of divorcement (Deuteronomy 24:1). Thus the Jewish custom of divorce was superior to the Arabic. It is important to remember that the sin of adultery did not have anything to do with the matter of divorce under the Jewish law. That sin was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), and that by stoning. If a husband found any unseemly thing in his wife, he could give her a written bill of divorcement, which made it possible for her to marry another man (Deuteronomy 24:2). A man guilty of unfaithfulness was considered to be a criminal only in that he had invaded the rights of another man. A woman was not allowed to divorce her husband. The prophet Malachi taught that GOD hated "putting away" and condemned severely any man who dealt treacherously with the wife of his covenant (Malachi 2:14-16). Such was the attitude of the Hebrew people on the subject of divorce.4 The LORD JESUS swept away all grounds for divorce under the Law, and made unfaithfulness the lone grounds for divorce under the Christian dispensation (Matthew 5:31, 32). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

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