I’ve recently had several people ask me about divorce. It’s a difficult subject, but the Bible does address it. Scripture teaches that divorce is permissible only when a spouse offends through sexual infidelity (Matt. 5: 31-32), or when an unbelieving spouse abandons their Christian partner (1 Cor. 7:12-16). Divorce is not required, and is discouraged if any hope of saving the marriage can be found. Forgiveness and love is expected in the Christian toward the offending spouse. Remarriage is permissible when the divorce is biblical (Matt. 5:31-32), when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-16), or if a spouse dies (1 Cor. 7:39). The believer must only marry another believer (1 Cor. 7:39). God does not recognize divorces for nonbiblical reasons; however, if a divorced partner remarries, forming a new covenant relationship, this frees the first spouse to remarry (Deut. 24:1-4).
God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), yet, it is recorded in Scripture that God Himself issued a writ of divorce against His people, Israel, after they had repeatedly engaged in spiritual adultery, saying, “I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce” (Jer. 3:8a; cf. Isa. 50:1). The metaphor of divorce here speaks of God sending the Northern Kingdom of Israel away to their destruction under the Assyrians in 722 B.C.
Note in verse 8 [of Jeremiah 3] that God divorced Israel and that it was because of adultery. The Savior’s words in Matthew 19:9 are consistent with this. He taught that divorce is permissible for an innocent partner when the spouse has been guilty of immorality. When we read in Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce, it must mean unscriptural divorce, not all divorce.
(This short article is an excerpt from my book: Making a Biblical Marriage.)
Steven R. Cook, D.Min.
 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1000.