Divorce and the Family - RR187AR79

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Divorce and the Family
Course: Course - Deuteronomy
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 79
Length: 0:26:14
TapeCode: RR187AR79
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

Let us worship God. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in His temple. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen Thy heart. Wait I say on the Lord. Let us pray.

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, teach us to wait on Thee, teach us to trust in Thee, and to know that Thy ways are all together righteous and all together holy. Give us patience that we may learn to wait, to work and to triumph. Take away the disquiet of our hearts, our unwillingness to wait on Thee and make us strong by Thy word and by Thy spirit that we may be more than conquerors in Christ. In His name we pray, Amen.

Our scripture is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Divorce and the Family. Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

“When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.

3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;

4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”


Like so much in Deuteronomy this is a controversial

Like so much in Deuteronomy this is a controversial text. Books have been written pro and con about its meaning. The modern man misunderstands it and declares it to be anti-feminist because it would appear that only the man can secure a divorce. But this is not true, appears from Mark 10:12 where our Lord speaks of a woman divorcing her husband. Has His statement been contrary to the law the Pharisees and Scribes would have immediately called attention to this to discredit Him. In the inter-testimental period it is true that many Rabbis gave ridiculous reason for divorcing the wife. For example, cooking and serving food too hot, or over salting it and so on and on, trivial reasons, just throwing their weight around. And these trifling grounds reflect rabbinic pontifications to please people not reality. Church men on the other hand insist on contrasting Matthew 19:3-9 with Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and discrediting the Deuteronomic law by saying that Matthew 19 replaces it. Again if our Lord were stricter or looser on His teachings on divorce than the law then He would have at once been the target of an all-out attack and condemnation. All we have to do is to read the gospels and we see them again and again holding our Lord to the letter of the law in a way they never held themselves. In order to understand this law we must recognize the strong familistic culture of the Bible. First, the dowry system was perhaps the major restraint upon divorce. No man could casually divorce a woman wrongfully and not thereby forfeit the considerable wealth of the dowry. It was somewhat easier for a woman to walk away from a marriage. Then second if a man wronged his wife he not only lost the dowry he had provided but he faced also the anger of his wife’s family. The male members would be resentful of his faithlessness. [00:06:19]

In a familistic culture it is very unwise to offend

In a familistic culture it is very unwise to offend another family. Third the divorce was not obtainable on the man’s say-so. A council of tribal or clan elders would pass on the validity of his attempt to divorce his wife. This hearing would determine whether he or the wife retained the dowry and also the children. The elders at the gates of the city or town were the men who rendered the decisions in all such matters. The grounds for divorce according to verse one were some uncleanness in her. This is a term which covers more than sexual misconduct to include a generally evil character and an evil way of life. The phrase ‘to find no favor’ therefore cannot be read in terms of arbitrary personal tastes. It refers to substantial problems. If the elders grant the divorce whether favoring the man or the woman a bill of divorcement had to be given by the husband to the wife. Again this is important because it means that she has title to the dowry or possibly does not because the guilt is hers. The bill of divorcement clarifies the marital and property status of the woman. It also establishes very clearly whether or not the woman has the children because the guilty party could lose control of them. Having gained the divorce, whether winning or losing, the woman could then remarry and of course the man also. Her guilt or innocence had been established, her guilt did not prevent her from remarrying. Her second husband might well believe that she has mended her ways. Verse three then gives us certain possibilities for the woman. First her second husband might hate her also, finding her perverse and evil woman, or second, her second husband might die leaving her a widow. What then are her options? [00:09:25]

Verse four tells us that her first husband cannot remarry

Verse four tells us that her first husband cannot remarry her. He might want to do so because assuming her guilt she is a widow of a wealthy man and he wants to gain her assets, assuming that the dead husband had no heirs. On the other hand, she could not be a repentant and godly woman. Whatever the reason remarriage is forbidden. The reason given is that she is defiled, the Hebrew word translated defile means foul or contaminated. The bill of divorcement would specify the grounds for divorce. The man and the woman were no longer a community of life. Marriage is a covenant and a contract; as such it cannot be lightly entered into, nor lightly broken. There is a ban on attempts to renew it. Defilement and uncleanness are related concepts. The defilement is of two kinds and these two are inseparable. First, one can be defiled in relationship to God. It is His law we transgress. Whether or not we understand what God means when He says we are defiled, we are defiled; we have crossed a boundary forbidden to us. Then second because we are defiled in God’s sight we should therefore see ourselves as defiled in the sight of men. Our obedience must rest not on our understanding but on our faithfulness. God ordains the marriage covenant and He sets the conditions thereof. We cannot go against His word without being defiled, self-defiled. A re-marriage contrary to God’s law, we are told, is an abomination before the Lord and it causes the land to sin. Because marriage is the most personal and closest of ties marital and sexual sins are especially deadly for a land and a culture. The ground for divorce in this law did not include adultery or homosexuality because both the husband and the wife gain a divorce by death from such a guilty party. [00:12:36]

Treason against the family was the worst crime and

Treason against the family was the worst crime and in any society it is deadly. Modern life is not family oriented and so it is alien to the biblical doctrine of treason. In the phrase, verse one, ‘some uncleanness in her’, the word can be rendered something shameful in her, but it is literally the nakedness of a thing. In Proverbs 28:18 we are told: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Or is made naked, or run naked. But he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Now the Hebrew word for naked or nakedness in Deuteronomy 24:1 and Proverbs 19:18 are not identical but the meaning is similar. A people or persons who despise God’s laws concerning marriage and the family are in a state approaching collapse. They are running wild or naked. They are evil and unashamed of it. A recent book by Dr. Michael Jones, Degenerate Moderates, points out there is an inseparable connection in our time between a tax on the family and the decay of society because there is a correlation between what is done to the fundamental institution and what happens to society and his point is is that men, whether Freud or Niche or Picasso or others, were aware of what they were doing. What is here said to be the grounds of the disillusion of a marriage is a general lawlessness. Not in the sense of criminal conduct but in regards to God’s requirement of men and women in marriage. In the kind of offense cited in verse one as nakedness we have those things whereby a person shows his evil and ungodly nature. [00:15:31]

The very forms of godly living are set aside, a pattern

The very forms of godly living are set aside, a pattern of contempt for God and man appears. In such cases the man seeks from the elders at the gate a disillusion of the marriage and the wife of such an ungodly man through her family seeks an end to her bondage. Now we come to a key point, a very key point and this is why so many of the things written on this text go astray. This is not simply a divorce law. Modern anarchism will call it so but it is more than that, it is family law. The major concern in a divorce is thus not merely the husband and the wife but the husband, wife, children and the kinfolk. We cannot superimpose our modern anarchistic individualism on biblical law. Society is harmed when a bad marriage continues or when a good marriage breaks up. In our time priority rests with the state and then the person, but in a truly godly society priority belongs to God and His law, and under Him, to the family. It is a tragic absurdity that modern discussions of divorce center on the individual and it tells us much about the modern age. In a divorce those affected can include children if there are any. It can be for their good or for their evil as the case may be. It is commonly and in other areas always inclusive of families on both sides. One pays the price of rearing a child badly, the other, as a deliverance of a major burden. We cannot limit the meaning of the word family to the husband, wife and children, the basic unit. It includes a network of lives and relationships. To limit our concern to divorce law thus falsifies the problem. Each man and woman have normally a family network which is either hurt or benefited by the divorce. Divorces occur but the family remains. Let us pray. [00:18:56]

Our Lord and our God we give thanks unto Thee for Thy

Our Lord and our God we give thanks unto Thee for Thy word. We thank Thee that we live, move and have our being in Thee and in Thy creation. Thy laws circumscribe us on all sides and Thy laws deliver us. Teach us therefore to trust in Thee, to know that Thy ways are good and altogether righteous and holy. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Are there any questions now? Yes?

[Question] Social scientists today seem to have more impact on the family then even the church.

[Rushdoony] Very important point, if you didn’t hear that I’ll repeat it: social scientists today seem to have more impact on the family then even the church and that’s by design. The interesting fact is that more has been written on the family both good and bad in this century then in many, many centuries before. Previously it was taken for granted; now people on the other side have awakened to the centrality of the family. It was, I forget his name, the former high commissioner over Germany, an American, Harvard or Princeton…yes…James Bryant Conant, who shortly after the war declared that families were the major impediment to the realization of democracy and for true democracy the world over to be achieved the family had to go. Now that didn’t come out of the blue, there was a long background of thinking that preceded that. Then you had the Kinsey Report, financed by the Rockefeller foundation. The interesting thing is that although the state of Indiana puts half a million a year into the Kinsey research they are never allowed to see the documentation and the private papers or how the figures have been obtained. What the whole work represents is an assault on the family as the bible declares it to be. [00:22:08]

So we do have a problem in our time, Michael Jones

So we do have a problem in our time, Michael Jones has rendered an invaluable service in finding how with their very words these men declared their total hostility to the family, the biblical family is the great impediment and the insistence in some instances that art can only be liberated by being divorced from the family and morality and Christian faith. So it’s been a very self-conscious thing. Any other questions or comments? Yes?

[Question] Well when families decline so do empires, it seems that through history that empires cease to exist because they spent many years destroying the family, the family principles.

[Rushdoony] The rise of imperialism tends to coincide with the breakup of the family and it’s that also which enables imperialism to arise which brings about its collapse. Because the ruthless concern for everything but the major unit as though everything has to be built from the top down, leads to imperialism and that type of concern comes about with the breakup of the family and then with that breakup it also destroys the imperial unit. Yes?

[Question] The Democrat idea of the family man, what do they actually mean by that statement?

[Rushdoony] That mankind is the true family rather than the family as we’ve historically known it. The family is in process of redefinition, it’s been redefined as homosexual or lesbian couples or groups, it has been redefined in terms of communal living, it has been redefined in terms of the whole of humanity. And the white house conferences on the family have been very much a part of that redefinition. It is total war against the family. Any other questions or comments? [00:25:00]

Well if not let us conclude with prayer

Well if not let us conclude with prayer.

Our Father we thank Thee that Thy word is truth and whether men like it or not Thy word governs all creation. It is a blessing to those who believe and obey and a judgment on those who do not. Give us grace so to walk day by day that it is for us a glorious law of liberty, liberty in Christ. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, Amen.

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