Does the Bible Really Say God Hates Divorce?
I never allowed my children to use the word “hate.” They could “dislike” something/someone “very much”, but not hate. To me, the word hate had a sinful aspect of intense anger, disgust, and hostility associated with it.
I wanted them to think twice before they threw this word around. So when I heard the phrase “God hates”, it caused me to rethink my understanding of the word.
And since I was divorced, I needed clarification on the “God hates divorce” statement.
Biblical Definition of Hate
Let’s start with an understanding of hate. If God is love and is without sin, how can He hate?
Our Bible tells us that while God is love, (1 John 4:8) He also hates the following:
“Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” (Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV.)
We know God’s essence is love and therefore hates whatever goes against His loving nature. His hate, however, never leads to sin. He can love us perfectly and hate our sin without sinning Himself.
“It is God’s love for man that prompts Him to hate sin with a vengeance.”- Billy Graham.
Our good, good Father also hates anything that would cause us harm or lead us away from Him.
When Solomon says there is “a time to hate” (3:8), he is referencing the evil people do (not the person), mistreatment of others, and our own sin.
What the Bible says about Divorce
There is a lot to unpack on the Biblical subject of divorce, and this will in no way be an end-all discussion on the topic.
But we can go to the Bible for guidance and direction on the subject, and afterwards, you can do what I did- have a nice long chat with your God and Savior about your situation and/or how you feel about the topic.
What God Says about Marriage
We see the gift of marriage originate with Adam and Eve in Genesis:
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” And “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” 2:18,24 NIV.
Jesus continues the teaching: “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:8b-9 NIV.
Marriage began as God’s idea and is His design. Once a couple is married and joined together by God, the marriage is meant to be for life.
Warnings from God about Divorce
Chapter 2 of Malachi contains warnings for the sinful priests and people of Judah. Men were marrying pagan women who worshiped idols.
The priests were divorcing the wives of their youth and replacing them with younger ones. And then along comes verse 16 where some translations state, “God hates divorce.”
“For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. Therefore, take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” NKJV (The “garment” refers to the ceremonial marriage act of the husband giving his bride his garment as an act of protection.)
This verse, apparently, is difficult to translate from the complicated Hebrew (3rd person verb tense??) Some translations express the hate as being done by the husband for initiating an unjustified divorce.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. “So be on your guard and do not be unfaithful.” NIV.
3rd person Hebrew verb tense aside, I can’t help but think that God hates divorce because it destroys what He loves.
I see His hate manifested as being heartbroken, disappointed, and grieved. His perfect plan, the solemn vows, and the families they create were not meant to be broken.
Biblical Grounds for Divorce
God wants us to work out a path of forgiveness, repentance, and restoration in marriage. It is something He calls us to do in all our relationships. But the marriage covenant is special to God and requires extra work on our part.
While God wants us to hold our marriages together with forgiving love, it never includes tolerating abuse (physical or emotional.)
There are scenarios that permit divorce according to the Bible:
In this passage, the Pharisees were testing Jesus. There was a lot of controversy over interpreting the divorce law in Deuteronomy 24: 1-4, and they were hoping to entrap Him. They asked Him why Moses permitted divorce.
“Jesus replies, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:8-9 NIV.
Sinful human hearts made divorce inevitable and the Deuteronomy passage instituted a law to help the victims. This was primarily women, whose husbands could simply throw them out.
The law restricted casual remarriages and made people think twice before divorcing. In the Matthew verses, Jesus stated divorce was allowed when one spouse was unfaithful.
1 Corinthians 7:15
Paul gives additional instructions on Christian marriages in chapter 7. He gives another Biblical ground for divorce in verse 15:
“But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
The Christian partner should do all they can to keep the marriage together. But if the unbelieving spouse leaves, then divorce is permissible.
These Bible verses show that when one may say “God hates divorce,” they need to consider multiple Bible verses.
God Understands Divorce
Divorce tears apart a foundation of our society — the family. And sadly, sometimes it’s necessary.
I married an unbeliever when I was 21 because he adored me. My thought process was this: I was “washed up” at 21 and since he was the first man in my life to truly love me, I thought I should accept.
My career was fulfilling, but I was desperate to be a wife and Mother. I accepted his proposal of marriage after careful prayer.
Even though I knew about being “unequally yoked”, he agreed to raise our children in my faith. I believed I could even possibly convert him.
The short story: He left me for another woman after 6 years of an emotionally abusive marriage. We had 2 children (a newborn and a 4-year-old.) He refused to attend marriage counseling.
He rarely saw our children or paid child support. I took our oldest child to a counselor who told us, “you can’t make someone love you.” Even so, after all of this, I resisted a divorce.
My faith told me divorce was wrong, a sin. I made the vows; I needed to keep them, no matter what. After a few years, my mother sat me down and asked me if I thought God would want me to be living as I was.
That began some deep soul searching. Sick of the uncertainty of my situation, I went through with a divorce.
A few years later, I started an in-depth Bible Study of the book of Matthew. I had never truly studied the Bible, and the magnificence of God’s love and forgiveness overwhelmed me. He gave me His peace about my divorce.
I Hate Divorce
Does God hate divorce? I certainly did (and still do), so He probably does too. By His grace and gift of free will, He allowed me to choose the wrong life partner. I married for the wrong reasons.
My desires to have a family overruled what God wanted for me in a partner. I’m sure He hated the damage it did to me and my children. But all my anger and tears, hurt and pain did not go unnoticed by Him.
God and I had many conversations about my divorce. I came to Him with a broken heart and many questions. He always responded with love and forgiveness. His Word showed me His permission and regulations for divorce.
Sin is present in all marriages, and in all divorce. Divorce is a product of sin. If there was no sin, there would be no divorce. God wants all marriages to last until death separates us.
No divorce pleases God, but He pours out His mercy on us all.
Can Divorce be Forgiven by God?
Whatever the reason, divorce is not an unpardonable sin. There is nothing in His Word that indicates otherwise.
We do, however, need to come before Him as with any sin, with repentance and acknowledging our part. God promises to forgive our sins when we confess and repent.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 NIV.
God and Divorce
Divorce is a complicated and much debated topic in Scripture and in our lives today. A marriage relationship is complex, bound by laws of God and man, and filled with complicated emotions and expectations.
God gives tremendous weight to the attributes we need in all marriages- forgiveness, patience, understanding, peace, and reconciliation.
When considering divorce, we need His counsel as well as Biblical counsel from those who make it their profession. Don’t walk the road alone. God may hate divorce, but He doesn’t hate you.
He loves you and wants the best for you.
Blessings in Your Journey,
Are you feeling broken? There is One who seeks out and loves the broken and rejected. He’s on the lookout for the ones who need healing, comfort, and restoration.
He is a healer and an artist who picks them up, sees their brokenness and turns them into beautiful masterpieces. Find hope and encouragement in this post: Finding Beauty in Brokenness.
For more writings by AnnMarie Anderson, please check out: