"Then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:4)It is hard, in our modern world, to understand exactly why such an action is so onerous to the Lord, but God sees the remarriage of a woman, after an intervening marriage to another man, a great sin. God says that such sin greatly defines the land. "If a husband divorces his wife and she goes from him and belongs to another man, will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted?" (Jeremiah 3:1) The only clue given here for while it is such a great sin is because the woman has been "defiled". When a woman is divorced and remarries, she is no longer "clean" to her former husband and, while if she is divorced from her second husband she is free to marry another, she is not free to return to her first husband.
What I find interesting is not the defiled state of the woman but who it is who is responsible for her defilement. In speaking on divorce and remarriage, Jesus said, "everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32) Jesus declares that when a man divorces his wife and sends her away he causes her to commit adultery. In relation to the scripture in Deuteronomy, the woman is defiled not because of her actions but because of her husband's. Her husband is responsible for her defilement since he is the one who sent her away. I believe that it is for this reason, because it was the husband that divorced her and sent her away, that she is not to return to him. She is free to marry another but not him. When one divorces their wife or husband, except for the case of sexual immorality, God calls it treachery.
"'This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. For I hate divorce,' says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'and him who covers his garment with wrong,' says the Lord of hosts. 'So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.'" (Malachi 2:13-14, 16)To be sure, God is not speaking about divorce that is the result of sexual infidelity, abandonment, or abuse leading to an unsafe home environment, but in cases where one simply decides they no longer want to be married, their rejection of their spouse is treachery. When we deal treacherously with one another God holds us accountable, not only for our own actions, but also for the pain, hurt, and defilement we force upon others.
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