Marriage, Divorce, Vows, and Authority

I have long contended that a proper understanding of marriage, and why it is that the western world – or the “greater Babylonian Metropolitan Area” at least – is such an incredible mess, is obvious from any even remotely honest examination of Scripture.  We literally call “good”, evil, and “evil”, good.  What He clearly calls “abomination“, government now “licenses”.   And what the Word allows, Caesar’s government, and its incorporated tax-exempt faith-based ‘church’, all too often forbids.

The Word of YHVH is simply not “politically correct”.

This, too, should not surprise us.  After all, our Savior warned us that the “world will hate you for My sake“.  The blessings, and the curses, described in Deuteronomy chapters 28 through 30 are impossible to deny – for those that have “eyes to see”.

But it is perhaps because marriage, as ordained and instructed by YHVH, is so utterly fundamental to an understanding of His intended relationship with US,  that it is a major battleground in the so-called “culture war”.    His instruction (‘torah’) about marriage is attacked by the Adversary, and truly hated by modern post-Biblical Babylon.  How DARE the Designer Himself actually come right out and say clearly that “male and female He created them” — and that we are “perfect” or “complete” (from the root ‘tamim/tamam’ in the Hebrew) for the purposes that He made us!  We must not confuse what it means to be equally “blessed and beloved of Yah” with the popular notion that men and women are somehow “equal”.

Most who have heard me talk or teach about ‘law’, or the Constitution for the once-united States, or Exodus 21 and what it means for a master to give his slave a wife, know that I eschewed licensing of marriage — even long before the ‘state of New York’ put yet another exclamation point on the argument this month.   Perhaps even more vital, however, and even MORE politically-INcorrect, to an understanding of marriage, I contend, is the nature of vows, and authority, outlined for a house which puts Him as its head in Numbers chapter 30.  Those who are, or ever intend to be, husbands, or wives, should read and study it carefully.  It is not only about ‘vows’, but about authority, in accord with His Word and will.

Summarized, and admittedly over-simplified, it boils down to, “Men – do all that you SAY you will do”.  And “women, if you are under the authority of a father, or later a husband, who ‘covers’ you in accord with that provision – be thankful.”  For while you, too, are accountable to do as you vow to do, there is a layer of protection for you in the covering of that head of your house:  If you make a rash vow, and he nullifies it when he hears it, HE “bears your guilt”.  (And all of this helps explain as well why the Savior advises us all to be VERY careful about vows, and let our “yes be yes”, and our “no be no”.)

This aspect of the Torah may in fact be one of the few examples I can think of where a well-known tradition of men – at least “once upon a time” – actually teaches the principle in Scripture correctly.*  Not only that, but it demonstrates as well how, properly understood, EVERY aspect of His “teaching and instruction” fits together like a glove.   Proper authority, and usurpation; marriage, covenant, and divorce; adultery, idolatry, and the process for “putting away” — all are consistent with His Word as Written, when we understand His ‘torah’!

Do you remember the phrase which was often traditionally used in marriage ceremonies, just before the time when a father walks his daughter down the aisle and to the groom at the altar?

“Who gives this woman to be wed?”

This tradition traces directly to Numbers 30 and the explicit authority of a man over the vows of his wives and daughters. Since a man may void, or cast down, the vows of his daughter while she is under his authority, it makes sense that a transfer of such authority would be expressly  observed.  The wife-to-be has accepted the offer of marriage from her eventual ‘covering’, and so does her father.

This tradition shows that a father is surrendering his God-given authority over his daughter, and her vows, to her new husband.  This is, I suggest, part of the reason why Scripture is so specific, in so many places, about marriage, sexuality, and that covenant union.

Now I ask the next question:

What then is a certificate of divorce?  As outlined by God in Deuteronomy 24:1-3, it is an explicit, necessary part of the proper and complete process for lawfully sending a wife out of his house – so that she is no longer under the former husband’s covering – and may thus remarry.

Is it not yet another explicit transfer of authority? A woman who has been lawfully and completely “put away” is now responsible for HER OWN vows, and has no husband in headship over her. With such a certificate, as a believer, she is eligible for remarriage; without it, she is not – and is guilty of adultery for joining with any other man while her husband yet lives.**

Likewise, if that husband puts her away unlawfully, then HE, as her covering, is guilty of the adultery that he has ’caused her’ to commit (as Matthew 5:32, properly translated, makes clear).  But otherwise, his giving to her of a ‘certificate of divorce’ is a written, second witness that she is eligible to be remarried.  (She, of course, is a witness as well.)

Consider who has thus taken authority, and responsibility, for making the vow void.   “Who gives this woman to be wed?”

If she was ever married, her certificate of divorce is lawful written proof that her former husband did!  Indeed, as Numbers 30:15 confirms, he “bears her guilt” for that vow as well.

It is important that each of us understand why Scripture says that “death and life” are in the “power of the tongue”.  We must learn to guard what we say, and do according to all that we say we will.  To make vows is serious, to break them even more so.  But Who we “submit ourselves to obey” – and thus serve – is just as important.  We must know and respect His delegation of proper authority, in accord with His instruction.

*  Most, of course, will recognize that the line I quoted has since been corrupted by ‘egalitarianism’!

**  Note one other important thing, as both Numbers 30:15, Matthew 5:32, and many others make clear.  If a husband puts away his wife treacherously, then HE bears her guilt.  He “causes her” to commit adultery!


About mark

Semi-retired electronic engineer, turned author and lecturer; occasional radio talk show host, and motivated Torah/Bible teacher. Also an avid private pilot (Private, ASEL, Inst), radio amateur, scuba diver, and aspiring sailor.
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