Divorce and Remarriage (part 1): The Tanak

CAUTION! This article contains many Scriptures which will likely require you to reconsider what you may have believed the Bible says about marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual conduct and related matters. If you are not completely committed to placing the written Word of Elohim above all other sources of information, it is highly recommended that you NOT continue reading this article.

     The subject of divorce is a particularly sensitive topic, especially in our modern culture of serial divorce and remarriage. There is scarcely a more controversial subject among the Body of Messiah today. Many earnest Believers, who truly desire to follow Elohim's will for their lives, have been through a divorce, often times without any say in the matter. But even if we never had to go through a divorce in our lives, chances are near 100% that our friends, children, parents or other loved-ones have. None of us are entirely untouched by the tragedy of divorce. As a result, some people will undoubtedly take offense with what we are about to demonstrate in this study, even though we have no wish to offend anyone, least of all fellow Believers.

     There can be no doubt that a marriage covenant as a permanent union of husband and wife remains the normative principle throughout Scripture. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding regarding what Scripture actually says on the subject of divorce, and specifically, remarriage after divorce. In particular, there seems to be a lot of attention presently focused on the phrase "put away" as it relates to what constitutes a lawful "divorce" according to Scripture.
     "And Yahweh Elohim said, "It is not good for the man to be alone, I am going to make a helper for him, as his counterpart." (Genesis 2:18, The Scriptures)

     "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24, The Scriptures)

     The Hebrew word "shalach" (Strong’s #7971) means "to send away, let loose, dispatch, cast off, or put away." It is a broad term used hundreds of times throughout the Tanak (Old Testament) in relation to other matters besides marriage, such as with God driving Adam and Eve out of the garden or with Noah releasing the dove out from the ark.
     "so Yahweh Elohim SHALACH him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken, and He GARASH the man out. And He placed kerubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:23-24, The Scriptures)

     "and he SHALACH a raven, which kept going out and turning back until the waters had dried up from the earth. Then he SHALACH a dove from him, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground." (Genesis 8:7-8, The Scriptures)
     As we can see, the word "shalach" simply means to "send away". Nevertheless, "shalach" is also the primary Hebrew word concerning the separation of marriage. Essentially, this word applies to the woman in the sense that she is being "sent away" from the man. The earliest use of the word "shalach" in regards to the separation of marriage is in Deuteronomy 22.
     "When any man takes a wife, and shall go in to her, and shall hate her, and shall make abusive charges against her and bring an evil name on her and say, 'I took this woman, and when I came to her I did not find her a maiden,' then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the proof of the girl's maidenhood to the elders of the city at the gate. And the girl's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he hates her. And see, he has made abusive charges against her, saying, "I did not find your daughter a maiden," and yet these are the proofs of my daughter's maidenhood.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him, and fine him one hundred pieces of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought an evil name on a maiden of Yisra'el. And she is to be his wife, he is not allowed to SHALACH her all his days." (Deuteronomy 22:13-19, The Scriptures)

     "When a man finds a girl who is a maiden, who is not engaged, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty pieces of silver, and she is to be his wife because he has humbled her. He is not allowed to SHALACH her all his days." (Deuteronomy 22:28-29, The Scriptures)
     In both of these passages from Deuteronomy 22, the meaning of "shalach", when applied to a man's wife, is simply in the context of the husband "sending her forth" or "putting her away" from himself. However, these passages do not provide any actual instructions for marriage separation. They simply prohibit the husband from ever sending away his wife.

     There are two important things to note from these passages. First, in both instances, the husband is specifically told he may never "shalach" his new wife for his entire life, which would be meaningless unless there was some case where a husband IS otherwise permitted to "shalach" his wife. That should be obvious, but I want to make sure everyone grasps that point. To make a specific prohibition against "shalach" in these two cases means that "shalach" must be permitted somewhere else. Second, in both examples, the man has taken a virgin and turned her into a non-virgin by having sexual intercourse with her. She is specifically referred to as virgin prior to their sexual intercourse.

     In the first case, the man falsely claims she was not virgin on their wedding night but the evidence produced by her parents proves otherwise. In the second case, the man rapes the virgin and there is no longer any way for her parents to prove anything regarding her virginity after the fact. Why is it significant that in the only two places in the Tanak where the husband is specifically forbidden to ever "shalach" his wife, her prior status as a virgin is mentioned? The answer lies two chapters later, in Deuteronomy 24, where the instructions regarding marital separation are given.

"ciphrah keriythuwth"
     "When a man takes a wife and shall marry her, then it shall be, if she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found a matter of uncoveredness in her, and he shall write her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH, and put it in her hand, and SHALACH her out of his house, and if she left his house and went and became another man's wife, and the latter husband shall hate her and write her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH, and put it in her hand, and SHALACH her out of his house, or when the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who SHALACH her is not allowed to take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled, for that would be an abomination before Yahweh. And do not bring sin on the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, The Scriptures)
     The Hebrew phrase "ciphrah keriythuwth" (Strong's #5612 and #3748) is usually translated into English as "certificate of divorcement" and always refers to some type of written document. Let's take a closer look at each of these words to get a better understanding of what they mean.
5612. ciphrah, sif-raw'; from 5608; prop. writing (the art or a document); by impl. a book:- bill, book, evidence, x learn [-ed] (-ing), letter, register, scroll.

3748. keriythuwth, ker-ee-thooth'; from 3772; a cutting (of the matrimonial bond), i.e. divorce:- divorce (-ment).
3772. karath, kaw-rath'; a prim. root: to cut (off, down or asunder); by impl. to destroy or consume; spec. to covenant (i.e. make an alliance or bargain, orig. by cutting flesh and passing between the pieces):- be chewed, be con- [feder-] ate, covenant, cut (down, off), destroy, fall, feller, be freed, hew (down), make a league ([covenant]), x lose, perish, x utterly, x want.
     The Hebrew word "ciphrah" is literally a bill, letter or scroll. The Hebrew word "keriythuwth" is a cutting of the marriage bond; literally dismissal or divorcement. The "ciphrah keriythuwth" wasn't a permission slip for her remarriage, it was a declaration of cutting her asunder. In fact, we can gain further insight into the basic meaning of "keriythuwth" by looking at its root word, "karath", which means to cut off. In essence, the Hebrew term has to do with the cutting away or separating. Every single time the word "keriythuwth" appears in Scripture, it is always preceded by "ciphrah". The whole phrase, taken together, simply means "a writing of cutting off from marriage."
     "Thus says Yahweh, "Where is the CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH of your mother, whom I have SHALACH? Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Look, you were sold for your crookednesses, and your mother was SHALACH for your transgressions." (Isaiah 50:1, The Scriptures)

     "And I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Yisra'el had committed adultery, I had SHALACH her and given her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH; yet her treacherous sister Yehudah did not fear, but went and committed whoring too." (Jeremiah 3:8, The Scriptures)
     These passages are the only mentions of the Hebrew word "keriythuwth" anywhere in the Tanak, and every time it is used, it is preceded by the Hebrew word "ciphrah". These two words, rendered literally, signify a document of cutting off from marriage. It always refers to a written certificate of marital separation.

Marital Separation

     Deuteronomy 24:1 gives us the exact sequence of events that constitute an initial marital separation.
     "When a man takes a wife and shall marry her, then it shall be, if she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found a matter of uncoveredness in her, and he shall write her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH, and put it in her hand, and SHALACH her out of his house" (Deuteronomy 24:1, The Scriptures)
     There are five elements that are required for a lawful marital separation according to this verse. Let's take a look at each of these requirements (in order):

     (1) A man takes a wife and marries her.
     (2) She finds no favor in his eyes because he has found a matter of uncoveredness in her.
     (3) He writes her a certificate of divorcement.
     (4) He puts the certificate of divorcement in her hand.
     (5) He puts her out of his house.

     First, a man takes a wife AND marries her. These are two distinctly different but related events. He takes ("laqach", #3947) a wife and then marries ("ba'al", #1166) her. The exact phrase in Hebrew here is "laqach 'iysh 'ishshah ba'al" or "when-has-taken a-man a-wife and-married-her". Taking a wife here refers to the betrothal, in which the man and woman are considered married but the relationship has not yet been consummated. Marrying her refers to full marriage, including the act of sexual intercourse, which seals the deal, so to speak. That much should be obvious. One cannot separate what hasn't first been joined, so marriage is the first prerequisite. The man and the woman must get married.

     Second, she then finds no favor in his eyes because he has found a "matter of uncoveredness" in her. We will discuss this "matter of uncoveredness" in detail later on, but for now, we only need to see that this requirement precedes everything that follows. There must be a "matter of uncoveredness" which he discovers in her and subsequently causes her to lose favor in his eyes.

     Third, as a result of this discovery, he writes her a certificate of dismissal or divorcement.

     Fourth, he puts the certificate of divorcement in her hand himself.

     Finally, he sends her away, out of his house.

     The required elements of marital separation, as well as their sequence of events, are important to recognize. Unlike our modern culture, which sees three separate stages related to marriage (married, separated, and divorced), Scripture only describes two stages related to marriage (married and separated). In Biblical terms, these two stages are:

     (1) living together, as husband and wife
     (2) living separately, no longer as husband and wife

     In our western society, we think of separation as an intermediary step between the husband and wife living together and them being "legally divorced", but there is no support for this idea anywhere in Scripture. The certificate of divorcement was merely the formal declaration of marital separation, which was required PRIOR to the separation, not the other way around. It was not a different or additional stage from separation. Instead of the husband giving the certificate of divorcement to his wife at the end of some period of separation like we have today, he was required to give his declaration of "cutting off" to her at the moment separation was initiated.

     As a result of this modern contrivance, many Believers today think marital separation is an acceptable, if unfortunate, alternative to divorce. Yet according to Scripture, they are the exact same thing - the state of a man putting away his wife. The certificate of divorcement is simply the term for the written document that the Torah required to be given to the wife when putting her away. We can speculate that it ended up being used as proof of separation so as to afford her the opportunity of marrying another man, but Scripture only speaks of the certificate in terms of severing the marriage covenant.
     "When a man takes a wife and shall marry her, then it shall be, if she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found a matter of uncoveredness in her, and he shall write her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH, and put it in her hand, and SHALACH her out of his house" (Deuteronomy 24:1, The Scriptures)
     When we carefully read Deuteronomy 24:1, we can readily see that "shalach", or "putting away" is the act of the husband putting his wife out of his house, so that the two no longer live together as husband and wife. This is what Scripture defines as marital separation in its most basic form and what allows the woman to marry another man in the very next verse.
     "and if she left his house and went and became another man's wife" (Deuteronomy 24:2, The Scriptures)
     However, since this is significant regarding her remarriage, it should be noted that the woman also becomes defiled by the act of becoming another man's wife after being sent away by her original husband.
     "and the latter husband shall hate her and write her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH, and put it in her hand, and SHALACH her out of his house, or when the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who SHALACH her is not allowed to take her back to be his wife after she has been TAME' (#2930), for that would be an abomination before Yahweh. And do not bring sin on the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:3-4, The Scriptures)
2930. tame', taw-may'; a primitive root; to be foul, especially in a ceremonial or moral sense (contaminated):- defile (self), pollute (self), be (make, make self, pronounce) unclean, x utterly.
     The former husband is not allowed to take her back once he puts her away and she becomes defiled by her second husband. In fact, the subject of the entire passage is presented on the basis of the former husband not being permitted to take her back once he gives her up and she has been with another man. Her defilement is a direct result of her remarriage, independent of whether she remains married to the latter husband, or if he sends her away, or if he dies.

     It is important to recognize that even in the case of a perfectly lawful marital separation, the woman becomes DEFILED when she lays with her next husband! That speaks volumes about the moral nature of separation and remarriage for the wife. Her defilement occurred at the moment she became another man's wife, and if she were to later return to her former husband at some point, it would be an abomination before Yahweh.


     At this point, we may ask ourselves precisely what Hebrew word represents our cultural idea of divorce. The problem with this question is that we use the English word "divorce" in many ways. As a noun, it refers to a formal marital separation. As a verb, it refers to the act of separating from marriage. Variations such as "divorced" or "divorcing" refer to a man or woman who has gone through, or is going through, a process of marital separation.

     The truth is that there is NO word in Hebrew that is an exact match for our modern concept of "being divorced". It's much the same with trying to find a Hebrew word that represents our modern secular concept of adultery. It simply doesn't exist. All we would be doing is attempting to "reverse-engineer" our modern term "divorce" back into the original text, effectively discarding its original meaning to align it with our modern definition.

     When we say "divorce", if we use it as a noun in the sense of a formal written declaration of marriage separation, then the Hebrew term is "ciphrah keriythuwth". If we speak of "divorce" as a transitive verb in the sense of the husband sending away his wife, the Hebrew word is usually "shalach" but sometimes "garash", depending on whether the context is one of sending away or driving out. If we speak of "divorced" as an adjective in the sense of a woman whose prior marriage has been dissolved, the closest Hebrew word would be "garash" (Strong's #1644). The word literally means "driven out, put away or cast out".
     "They do not take a woman who is ZANAH (a whore) or CHALAL (a defiled woman), and they do not take a woman GARASH (put away) from her husband, for he is set-apart to his Elohim." (Leviticus 21:7, The Scriptures)

     "'ALMANAH (a widow) or GARASH (one put away) or CHALAL (a defiled woman) or ZANAH (a whore) - these he does not take. But BTHUWLAH (a maiden/virgin) of his own people he does take as a wife." (Leviticus 21:14, The Scriptures)
     There are five distinct women being described in this single passage: a widow, a put away woman, a defiled woman, a whore, and a virgin. Nowhere in Scripture is a woman described as a divorcement certificate! Notice the high priest was to take an untouched, virginal woman for his wife. All four other types of women that are mentioned had previous sexual intercourse. What is important to see here is that the Hebrew word for this "put away" or "cast out" woman is "garash".

An Unscriptural View

     In this Internet age, there is a great deal of false teaching being promoted that claims that the Hebrew word "keriythuwth" means "divorced" as it applies to a person. In reality, that particular word is only ever used in conjunction with a written certificate of marital separation. A person cannot be "keriythuwth"; only a certificate can be "keriythuwth". As we've already seen, whenever this word is used in Scripture, the phrase is always "ciphrah keriythuwth". Without exception, it always refers to a divorce certificate, or more literally, a "certificate of divorcement". Nowhere in Scripture is the word "keriythuwth" anything at all like the concept of a person in the state of "being divorced". It is simply the term for the written document that the husband gives his wife when initiating their separation.

     Nevertheless, many have been promoting an unscriptural view that attempts to create an artificial distinction between our modern concept of "divorce" and the Hebrew terms "garash" or "shalach". This is usually done in an attempt to explain away unlawful "divorce" as actually referring solely to the lack of a "certificate of divorcement" being given to the wife. The argument usually goes something like this:
     "Malachi 2:16 has been quoted as saying that God hates divorce, but that's not at all what the verse says. The Hebrew word "shalach" is often mistranslated as "divorce", when it really only means to "put away", which is merely a separation. Deuteronomy 24 states that when a man got a divorce from his wife, he was to write her a certificate of divorce, put it in her hand, and then send her away. Instead, men were separating from their wives without ever giving them a certificate of divorce and then illegally married someone else. What God really hated was that these husbands were separating from their wives without giving them the certificate of divorce that would enable them to remarry. This is what God hates, not divorce."
     This position is completely fabricated and has no basis in Scripture. In every passage that speaks of the certificate of divorcement, it is used in the sense of judgment against sin, never as a permission slip for remarriage. In Deuteronomy 24:1, he gives it to her because he discovers the matter of uncoveredness. In Deuteronomy 24:3, he gives it to her because he hates her. In Isaiah 50:1, he gives it to her because of transgressions. In Jeremiah 3:8, he gives it to her because of adultery and whoring. It is never demonstrated to be intended to provide some kind of protection or remarriage opportunities, but simply to pronounce judgment against her.

     In the end, this entire argument comes down to trying to differentiate between "putting away" and "divorce" by making it seem like these are two distinct concepts, even though Biblically they are identical. There is no such thing as something called "divorce" being any different from "putting away" anywhere in Scripture. Neither is there any mention in Scripture of NOT giving the separating wife a certificate of divorcement for some reason. This is simply an attempt to create a false distinction where none exists in the text, in order to unscripturally invent TWO forms of marital separation.

     The words "shalach" and "garash" are the only Hebrew words used to represent marital separation, and there is no distinction whatsoever between a separated woman "WITH a certificate of divorcement" and a separated woman "WITHOUT a certificate of divorcement". In fact, the Tanak never even speaks of a woman who has been lawfully separated from a legitimate marriage without the certificate of divorcement. Separation without the certificate would be the same as separation without the matter of uncoveredness: the separation would be unlawful and invalid in Elohim's eyes. The exact same Hebrew words are used regarding marital separation in every single case. Let's look at the passage in question.
     "And you say, "Why?" Because Yahweh has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have acted treacherously, though she is your companion and the wife of your covenant. And did He not make one? And He had the remnant of the Spirit? And what is the one alone? He seeks a seed of Elohim. So you shall guard your spirit, and let none act treacherously against the wife of his youth. "For I hate SHALACH," said Yahweh Elohim of Yisra'el, "and the one who covers his garment with cruelty," said Yahweh of hosts. So you shall guard your spirit, and do not act treacherously." (Malachi 2:14-16, The Scriptures)
     By reading this passage without bias or ulterior motives, we can see that acting treacherously against one's wife is the subject of objection here. In fact, even after having acted treacherously against her, she is still referred to as the WIFE of his covenant. His treachery does not dissolve the marital bond between them.

     Elohim says He hates "shalach" here in Malachi 2:16, yet this is the exact same word He uses in Jeremiah 3 when He Himself resolved to "shalach" Israel.
     "And I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Yisra'el had committed adultery, I had SHALACH her and given her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH; yet her treacherous sister Yehudah did not fear, but went and committed whoring too." (Jeremiah 3:8, The Scriptures)
     Clearly, Elohim hates "shalach", and this explicit condemnation of "shalach" in the Tanak is noteworthy. It tells us, in no uncertain terms, what the heart of Elohim is regarding marital separation. He HATES it. So then why did He permit conditions for this possibility in His Word, and more importantly, why did He Himself determine to "shalach" Israel?

     The answer is right here in Jeremiah: "for all the causes for which backsliding Yisra'el had committed adultery". It was the pronouncement of a lawful judgment against her sin that permitted marital separation. We will explore this in more detail when we examine the "matter of uncoveredness" from Deutereonomy 24, but consider what we've already seen from that passage regarding the husband who willingly put away his wife:
     "then her former husband who SHALACH her is not allowed to take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled, for that would be an abomination before Yahweh. And do not bring sin on the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:4, The Scriptures)
     Now compare this verse in Deuteronomy 24 to what we see at the beginning of this chapter in Jeremiah 3.
     "Elohim said, "If a man SHALACH his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man's, does he return to her again? Would not that land be made greatly unclean? But you have committed whoring with many lovers. And would you return to Me?" declares Yahweh." (Jeremiah 3:1, The Scriptures)
     Notice how the man who puts away his wife is forbidden to take her back once she lies with another man. Also notice how Jeremiah 3:1 refers to this woman as "land". So few Believers understand the meaning in these passages. Consider also the following passage:
     "Do not sow your vineyard with different kinds of seeds, lest the yield of the seed which you have sown and the fruit of your vineyard be defiled." (Deuteronomy 22:9, The Scriptures)
     Those with spiritual discernment should immediately understand the implications here with regards to the Biblical definition of adultery. There is a distinction in Scripture between men and women, just as with the farmer and the field. All adultery, according to Scripture, occurs inside the woman's body! The woman is the field in which the seed is planted. Adding another seed, or adulterating the field, is polluting or defiling his field. The farmer plants his seed into his field, and the field brings forth the farmer's fruit in due season. We don't need a degree in agriculture or human biology to understand these basic concepts.

     We can see in Malachi 2:14 that Elohim considers marriage to be a covenant relationship. The text says that "she is your companion and the wife of your covenant." This fact is vital if we're to understand why Elohim hates putting away. This whole passage is speaking against covenant breakers! We know that "na'aph" (adultery) is defined as "woman that breaks wedlock" and that God speaks here of marriage as a covenant. So, in essence, when she commits adultery with another man, she is guilty of covenant breaking - a serious offense indeed! There is much we can learn from Malachi 2:14-16 when we read the passage carefully:
  • Yahweh was witness of the covenant made between the man and his wife, and it was Yahweh who made them one.

  • She is described as the wife of his youth, his companion, and the wife of his covenant.

  • The man is specifically told not to act treacherously against his wife, because Yahweh hates putting away and cruelty.
     It is very clear that the act of putting away here is specifically referencing the man acting treacherously against the wife of his covenant. Putting away, acting treacherously and cruelty are all interconnected in this passage. But we must remember that we have seen in other passages that putting away is permissible where there is specific justification. In fact, Jeremiah 3:8 shows us that Yahweh Himself put away Israel for the cause of her adultery. The treachery here must refer to putting away without the prerequisite cause that Elohim certainly had in Jeremiah 3 and which Deuteronomy 24 required. When a husband would put away his wife, it was intended as her punishment - the consequence of marital unfaithfulness on the part of the wife. Punishing her with marital separation without just cause would be acting treacherously against her.

     As we saw in Deuteronomy 24, if the husband indeed intended to send his wife away after discovering a matter of uncoveredness in her, he was to write and give a certificate of divorcement to her. He certainly was not REQUIRED to discard her, but in case she no longer had any favor in his eyes after having found this matter of uncoveredness, this was the procedure he had to follow before sending her out of his house. That certificate of divorcement was his formal declaration to her that she has been "cut off", ending their covenant of marriage relationship.

     Many people believe that this certificate was some kind of proof of eligibility for remarriage, but Scripture says no such thing. It stands to reason that once she was lawfully separated from her husband, she would be able to remarry, but Scripture only speaks of the certificate in terms that he has severed her ("cut her off") from himself. It is his formal pronouncement of judgment against her for the "matter of uncoveredness".

     Under the "valid separation" circumstances described in this passage, she certainly was able to remarry (as shown in Deuteronomy 24:2) but there is no Scriptural evidence that the certificate itself was meant as anything other than due notification from the husband to the wife. She could just as easily have burned the certificate once receiving it and she would still have been just as eligible for remarriage. All that Scripture required is that he give it to her himself and send her away. Every single lawful marital separation - without exception - required giving the wife a certificate of divorcement before sending her out of his house.

A Matter of Uncoveredness

     Now that we have a clear understanding of each of these Hebrew terms, we need to go back to the "matter of uncoveredness" from Deuteronomy 24 so we can try to understand it better. All rabbis agree that a separation, while never desirable, was still quite lawful. The only dispute among them was determining precisely what constituted a valid cause for separation. Let me repeat that again: their dispute was in determining what JUSTIFIED the husband in putting away his wife, according to Deut. 24. An unjust dismissal of one's wife was not permitted! We saw the exact sequence of events that were grounds for a lawful marital separation. All five elements were necessary for a husband to separate from his wife, including the "matter of uncoveredness" which the husband discovers in her. So what is this "matter of uncoveredness" alluding to?
     "When a man takes a wife and shall marry her, then it shall be, if she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found a matter of uncoveredness in her..." (Deuteronomy 24:1a, The Scriptures)
     The Hebrew word translated here as "uncoveredness" is "'ervah" (Strong's #6172). This is the very same word that is translated throughout Leviticus 18 as "nakedness".
6172. 'ervah, er-vaw'; from 6168; nudity, lit. (espec. the pudenda) or fig. (disgrace, blemish):- nakedness, shame, unclean(ness).
     "And Ham, the father of Kena'an, saw the nakedness (#6172) of his father, and told his two brothers outside." (Genesis 9:22, The Scriptures)

     "And make linen trousers for them, to cover their nakedness (#6172), reaching from the waist to the thighs." (Exodus 28:42, The Scriptures)

     "The nakedness (#6172) of your father's wife's daughter, brought forth by your father, she is your sister, you do not uncover her nakedness (#6172)." (Leviticus 18:11, The Scriptures)
     The root word for "'ervah" is "'arah", which means "to make bare; to empty; discover, make naked, uncover". In the context of Deuteronomy 24, it seems to refer to discovering or exposing some kind of sexual impurity. The language in this passage has always been in dispute and continues to be disputed today, but I believe the answer can be readily determined by the context. This matter of uncoveredness is referring to whoring or virginity fraud, where the husband was expecting a virgin and discovers she had previously been penetrated. Unlike in our culture, all first-time brides were expected to be virgins when they married. Let's look at the evidence given in Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

     First, notice that the whole passage is predicated on the fact that he discovers this uncoveredness JUST AFTER he marries her. The sequence of events is that he takes (#3947) a wife in betrothal, marries (#1166) her through consummation, and THEN he finds a matter of uncoveredness in her. He has found evidence that she has been previously uncovered, and THIS is the reason that she has suddenly lost favor in his eyes.

     Second, the passage states that the husband finds this matter of uncoveredness in her. What exactly are we supposed to think that a man has the ability to discover regarding the wife he just married, if not that her sexual status as a virgin was untrue. After all, we know the subject matter of "'ervah" has to do with something of a sexual nature. There's not too many things of a sexual nature he could be expected to discover. We've already seen from two separate passages in Deuteronomy 22 how a wife's virginal status prior to marriage was grounds for disallowing him from ever putting her away. If it could be demonstrated that he took her virginity when they first had sexual intercourse, there would be no prior uncoveredness in her for him to discover.

     Third, this uncoveredness would have had to occur sometime prior to their first intercourse in order for her husband to discover it. If she had been whoring prior to or during the betrothal period, it would have been grounds for marital separation.

     Fourth, in Deuteronomy 24:3, we see that the second husband only hated her when he wrote her a certificate of divorcement and sent her away.
     "and the latter husband shall hate her and write her a CIPHRAH KERIYTHUWTH, and put it in her hand, and SHALACH her out of his house..." (Deuteronomy 24:3a, The Scriptures)
     There's no mention of him discovering any matter of uncoveredness in her as the first husband did, obviously because the new husband would have understood that she was already uncovered by her previous husband. There can be no legitimate case of virginity fraud involving a woman previously put away by her first husband - a woman understood to have already been penetrated.

     All the evidence in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 leads me to conclude that the intended issue being addressed here was virginity fraud. That is the specific sexual impurity that is being referred to by the "matter of uncoveredness". She had previously been penetrated before they came together and her first husband has discovered this fact when she did not bleed during their first intercourse, resulting in her having no favor in his eyes. We should be able to gain further clarification of this passage when we study related passages in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament).

Illegitimate Marriages

     One last matter we need to examine in the Tanak is regarding illegitimate marriages - that is, marriages that are unlawful and forbidden according to Scripture and therefore not sanctioned by Elohim. There are some marriages that may be in accordance with civil laws but are nevertheless contrary to the express will of Elohim. Illegitimate marriages are those which He has not joined together and are invalid according to Scripture, regardless whether the individuals within the so-called "marriage" or the society at large believes otherwise.

     Illegitimate marriages include those with specific close family members, marriages overruled by the woman's patriarchal authority (assuming she was virgin and living in her father's house), marrying another man's wife, marrying both a mother and her daughter or granddaughter, etc.
     "And a scarcity of food came to be in the land, and Abram went down to Mitsrayim (Egypt) to dwell there, for the scarcity of food was severe in the land. And it came to be, when he was close to entering Mitsrayim, that he said to Sarai his wife, "See, I know that you are a fair woman to look at. And it shall be, when the Mitsrites see you, that they shall say, 'This is his wife.' And they shall kill me, but let you live. Please say you are my sister, so that it shall be well with me for your sake, and my life be spared because of you." And it came to be, when Abram came into Mitsrayim, that the Mitsrites saw the woman, that she was very fair. And Pharaoh's officials saw her and praised her before Pharaoh, and the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house. And he treated Abram well for her sake, and he had sheep, and cattle, and male donkeys, and male and female servants, and female donkeys, and camels. But Yahweh plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not inform me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister'? And so I was going to take her for my wife. Look, here is your wife, take her and go." And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him, and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had." (Genesis 12:10-20, The Scriptures)
     In this passage, we see that Abram asked his wife Sarah to tell everyone in Egypt that she was his sister, because Abram felt that otherwise, they would kill him in order to take his beautiful wife. Of course, both Abram and Sarah understood that this arrangement would then make it possible for another man to have Sarah. In essence, by asking his wife to lie about their marriage, Abram was placing her in harm's way by causing her to potentially commit adultery. Had Elohim not intervened, Pharaoh would have ended up committing adultery with Sarah by marrying another man's wife, and Abram would have been responsible for causing it. Nevertheless, that unlawful marriage would not have been legitimate because she already belonged to Abram.
     "And Abigayil hurried and rose, and rode on a donkey, with five of her female attendants. And she followed the messenger of Dawid, and became his wife. Dawid had also taken Ahino'am of Yizre'el, and so both of them were his wives. But Sha'ul had given Mikal his daughter, Dawid's wife, to Palti son of Layish, who was from Galliym." (1 Samuel 25:42-44, The Scriptures)

     "And Dawid said, "Good, I make a covenant with you. Only one matter I am asking of you: you do not see my face unless you first bring Mikal, daughter of Sha'ul, when you come to see my face." Dawid then sent messengers to Ishbosheth son of Sha'ul, saying, "Give me my wife Mikal, to whom I became engaged for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines." And Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Palti'el son of Layish. But her husband went with her to Bahurim, going on and weeping behind her. And Abner said to him, "Go, turn back!" And he turned back." (2 Samuel 3:13-16, The Scriptures)
     In this example, David was hiding from Saul, who wanted to have him killed. David's wife Michal helped him to secretly escape from her father. But while David was hiding for his life, Saul gave Michal as wife to another man by the name of Palti. David did not put her away per the requirements of Deut. 24, so lawfully she was still married to David no matter what Saul claimed. Later, David demands the return of his wife, despite the fact that she had been illegitimately remarried. Her unlawful husband, Palti, is even recorded as crying the whole way behind her as she is finally returned to her rightful husband.

     In addition to adulterous marriages, one other particular form of illegitimate marriage given in the Tanak was regarding marriage between Israelites (Believers) and non-Israelites (unbelievers).
     "Do not make a covenant with them nor with their mighty ones. Let them not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me when you serve their mighty ones, when it becomes a snare to you." (Exodus 23:32-33, The Scriptures)

     "Guard what I command you today. See, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Kena'anite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hiwwite and the Yebusite. Guard yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. But break down their altars, and smash their pillars, and cut down their Asherim - for you do not bow yourselves to another mighty one, for Yahweh, whose Name is jealous, is a jealous El - lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they whore after their mighty ones, and slaughter to their mighty ones, and one of them invites you and you eat of his slaughterings, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters whore after their mighty ones, and make your sons whore after their mighty ones." (Exodus 34:11-16, The Scriptures)

     "When Yahweh your Elohim brings you into the land which you go to possess, He shall also clear away many nations before you: the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Kena'anites and the Perizzites and the Hiwwites and the Yebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you. And when Yahweh your Elohim gives them over to you, you shall smite them and put them under the ban, completely. Make no covenant with them, and show them no favour. And do not intermarry with them - you do not give your daughter to his son, and you do not take his daughter for your son, for he turns your sons away from following Me, to serve other mighty ones. Then the displeasure of Yahweh shall burn against you and promptly destroy you." (Deuteronomy 7:1-4, The Scriptures)

     "But if you do turn back at all, and cling to the remnant of these nations, these that remain among you, and intermarry with them, and go in to them and they to you, know for certain that Yahweh your Elohim shall no longer drive these nations out from before you." (Joshua 23:12-13a, The Scriptures)
     The Hebrew word translated here as "cling" is "dabaq" (Strong's #1692), which is the exact same word used back in Genesis 2:24.
     "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24, The Scriptures)
     This word essentially means to join together and form a permanent alliance with. Israel's intermarriage with foreign wives was forbidden. These passages specifically commanded Israel not to intermarry with the other nations, because they would be drawn into idolatry away from Yahweh. This prohibition didn't make any allowances for what to do if they married anyway. Scripture simply said they were not to do this.
     "And when these matters had been done, the leaders came to me, saying, "The people of Yisra'el and the priests and the Lewites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, as to their abominations, those of the Kena'anites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Yebusites, the Ammonites, the Mo’abites, the Mitsrites, and the Amorites, for they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the set-apart seed is intermingled with the peoples of those lands. And the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass." (Ezra 9:1-2, The Scriptures)

     "And now, O our Elohim, what do we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commands, which You have commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land which you are going in to possess is a land unclean through the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, by their abominations with which they have filled it, from one end to another, by their uncleanness. And now, do not give your daughters as wives for their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons. And do not seek their peace or wealth ever, so that you are strong, and shall eat the good of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your children forever.' And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our Elohim have held back the rod upon our crookednesses, and have given us such deliverance as this, should we turn back, to break Your commands, and join in marriage with the people of these abominations? Would You not be enraged with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?" (Ezra 9:10-14, The Scriptures)

     "And Shekanyah son of Yehi'el, one of the sons of Olam, spoke up and said to Ezra, "We have trespassed against our Elohim, and have taken foreign women from the peoples of the land. And now there is expectancy in Yisra'el concerning this. Now then, let us make a covenant with our Elohim to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the counsel of Yahweh and of those who tremble at the command of our Elohim. And let it be done according to the Torah." (Ezra 10:2-3, The Scriptures)

     "And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You, you have trespassed and have taken foreign women, adding to the guilt of Yisra'el. And now, make confession to Yahweh Elohim of your fathers, and do His desire, and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the foreign women." And all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, "Right! It is upon us to do according to your word." (Ezra 10:10-12, The Scriptures)

     "In those days I also saw Yehudim who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, Mo'ab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Yehudah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. Then I contended with them and cursed them, and smote some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by Elohim, saying, "You do not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Shelomoh sovereign of Yisra'el sin because of them? Among the many nations there was no sovereign like him, who was beloved of his Elohim, and Elohim made him sovereign over all Yisra'el. Even him foreign women caused to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, trespassing against our Elohim by marrying foreign wives?" (Nehemiah 13:23-27, The Scriptures)
     These illicit "marriages" were not recognized by Elohim because they were specifically and clearly condemned in His Word. Marriage is between any man and any woman - unless directly prohibited by Scripture. In order to be restored to Elohim's favor, they were required to repent of their sin and turn away from those illegal, unrecognized relationships and turn back to him. Those marriages which Elohim did not join together are those which he directly prohibits in His Word, and any sexual relationship which God clearly spells out as forbidden (adultery, sodomy, incest, intermarriage, beastiality, etc.) must be turned away from.

Conclusions from the Tanak

     Here's a quick rundown on some of the things we've seen so far regarding divorce and remarriage in the Tanak:
  • A man was not allowed to "shalach" (send away) his wife if he took her virginity by deceitful means. [ref: Deut. 22:13-19; Deut. 22:28-29]

  • A man was allowed to "shalach" (send away) his wife if he discovered a matter of "'ervah" (some kind of sexual impurity/virginity fraud) in her and then wrote and gave her a "ciphrah keriythuwth" (certificate of divorcement). [ref: Deut. 24:1]

  • A man was required to give the "ciphrah keriythuwth" to his wife just prior to "shalach" (sending away). [ref: Deut. 24:1; Deut. 24:3]

  • A "shalach" (sent away) woman was able to become another man's wife. [ref: Deut. 24:2]

  • A "shalach" (sent away) woman became "tame'" (defiled) once she became another man's wife. [ref: Deut. 24:4]

  • Neither the High Priest nor the Levitical priesthood was permitted to take a "garash" (put away) woman as a wife. Only a virgin was permitted for the High Priest. [ref: Lev. 21:7; Lev. 21:14]

  • The Hebrew word "keriythuwth" was only ever used in relation to a certificate of divorcement, never a person. [ref: Deut. 24:1-4; Is. 50:1; Jer. 3:8]

  • There is no difference between our modern concept of divorce and the Hebrew concept of putting away. They both refer to marital separation, represented in Hebrew by "shalach" (send away) or "garash" (cast out). [ref: Lev. 21:7; Lev. 21:14; Deut. 22:19; Deut 22:29; Deut. 24:1-4; Jer. 3:8; Mal. 2:14-16]

  • Marriage is a covenant relationship of which Elohim is a witness, and he makes the husband and wife one. [ref: Mal. 2:14-15]

  • A husband who "shalach" (sent away) the wife of his covenant without just cause was acting treacherously against her. [ref: Mal. 2:14-16; Jer. 3:8]

  • A husband who "shalach" (sent away) his wife was forbidden to take her back once she's been "tame'" (defiled) by another man, but if he did NOT "shalach" (send away) her, she remained his wife even if she became another man's. [ref: Deut. 24:4; Jer. 3:1, 2 Sam. 3:13-16]

  • Yahweh hates "shalach" (sending away) and cruelty. [ref: Mal. 2:16]

  • The sole justification for a man who "shalach" (sent away) his new wife is for prior uncoveredness/whoring (virginity fraud). [ref: Deut. 24:1]

  • There was no "matter of uncoveredness" (virginity fraud) issue when the wife was not assumed to be virgin prior to marriage. [ref: Deut. 24:3]

  • Marriages between Israelites (Believers) and non-Israelites (unbelievers) were forbidden and considered illegitimate. Such illicit marriages were to be repented of and turned away from. [ref: Ex. 23:32-33; Ex. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:1-4; Josh. 23:12-13; Ez. 9:1-2; Ez. 9:10-14; Ez. 10:2-3; Ez. 10:10-12; Neh. 13:23-27.]
Continued in part 2...




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