Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts - It is dangerous to tolerate the least evil, though prudence itself may require it: because toleration, in this case, raises itself insensibly into permission, and permission soon sets up for command. Moses perceived that if divorce were not permitted, in many cases, the women would be exposed to great hardships through the cruelty of their husbands: for so the word σκληροκαρδια, is understood in this place by some learned men.
From the beginning it was not so - The Jews named the books of the law from the first word in each. Genesis they always term Bereshith, בראשית , which is the first word in it, and signifies, In the beginning. It is probable that our Lord speaks in this way here, In Bereshith it was not so, intimating that the account given in Genesis is widely different. There was no divorce between Eve and Adam; nor did he or his family practice polygamy. But our Lord, by the beginning, may mean the original intention or design.
He saith unto them - Jesus admits that this was allowed, but still he contends that this was not the original design of marriage. It was only a temporary expedient growing out of a special state of things, and not designed to be perpetual. It was on account of the hardness of their hearts. Moses found the custom in use. He found a hard-hearted and rebellious people. In this state of things he did not deem it prudent to forbid a practice so universal; but it might be regulated; and, instead of suffering the husband to divorce his wife in a passion, he required him, in order that he might take time to consider the matter, and thus make it probable that divorces would be less frequent, to give her a writing; to sit down deliberately to look at the matter, and probably, also, to bring the case before some scribe or learned man, to write a divorce in the legal form. Thus doing, there might be an opportunity for the matter to be reconciled, and the man to be persuaded not to divorce his wife. This, says our Saviour, was a permission growing out of a particular state of things, and designed to remedy a prevailing evil; but at first it was not so. God intended that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and that they were only to be separated, in the case specified, by him who had formed the union.
Hardness of your hearts - He speaks here of his hearers as a part of the nation. The hardness of you Jews; as when we say, we fought with England and gained our independence; that is, we, the American people, though it was done by our fathers. He does not mean to say, therefore, that this was done on account of the people whom he addressed, but of the national hardness of heart - the stubbornness of the Jewish people as a people.
And yet they [the Jewish leaders] would not receive Him. While they claimed to keep the law, they denied it by their works. Having eyes they saw not, because of the ignorance that was in them through the hardness of their hearts. The impurity of their hearts, the defiling practices of their lives, their selfishness, their envy, their jealousy, their evil surmising, their transgression of the law of God, while they claimed to keep it, bore continual testimony as to their character. By the fruit the tree was known. Christ laid bare their true character. He declared that they were “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). Again He says, “Ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God” (chap. 12:24). TDG 275.3Read in context »
Jesus came to our world to rectify mistakes and to restore the moral image of God in man. Wrong sentiments in regard to marriage had found a place in the minds of the teachers of Israel. They were making of none effect the sacred institution of marriage. Man was becoming so hardhearted that he would for the most trivial excuse separate from his wife, or, if he chose, he would separate her from the children and send her away. This was considered a great disgrace and was often accompanied by the most acute suffering on the part of the discarded one. AH 341.1
Christ came to correct these evils, and His first miracle was wrought on the occasion of the marriage. Thus He announced to the world that marriage when kept pure and undefiled is a sacred institution.4 AH 341.2
Counsel to One Contemplating Divorce—Your ideas in regard to the marriage relation have been erroneous. Nothing but the violation of the marriage bed can either break or annul the marriage vow. We are living in perilous times, when there is no assurance in anything save in firm, unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. There is no heart that may not be estranged from God through the devices of Satan, if one does not watch unto prayer. AH 341.3Read in context »
Among the Jews a man was permitted to put away his wife for the most trivial offenses, and the woman was then at liberty to marry again. This practice led to great wretchedness and sin. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declared plainly that there could be no dissolution of the marriage tie, except for unfaithfulness to the marriage vow. “Everyone,” He said, “that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.” R.V. MB 63.1
When the Pharisees afterward questioned Him concerning the lawfulness of divorce, Jesus pointed His hearers back to the marriage institution as ordained at creation. “Because of the hardness of your hearts,” He said, Moses “suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8. He referred them to the blessed days of Eden, when God pronounced all things “very good.” Then marriage and the Sabbath had their origin, twin institutions for the glory of God in the benefit of humanity. Then, as the Creator joined the hands of the holy pair in wedlock, saying, A man shall “leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one” (Genesis 2:24), He enunciated the law of marriage for all the children of Adam to the close of time. That which the Eternal Father Himself had pronounced good was the law of highest blessing and development for man. MB 63.2Read in context »