Wasn’t abandoning wives and children a drastic solution? (Ezra 10:3) Ezra 10 New International Version (NIV) The People’s Confession of Sin 10 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
Ezra 10:1 - 44
ESV - 1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: "We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.
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I would agree that God does hate divorce, but He had also specifically commanded the people of Israel (long before the events in Ezra) not to intermarry with people from nations that did not recognize Him as God. He had also allowed divorce in the Law (although, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:8, that had been a concession to human hardheartedness). So I would say that the Israelites were ordered to put away their unbelieving wives (despite the drastic nature of the action) as a reflection of the greater duty of obedience that the Israelites owed to God, and to purify themselves for the task that they had undertaken to restore the worship of God following the return from exile.
God hates divorce; I believe that. Is there anything else that God might hate even more than he hates divorce? It doesn't say that God hates divorce more than he does anything else. Let's compare some atrocities; which do most of us hate more, parents who bicker and argue constantly or parents who get into fisticuffs? Both are bad, but physical violence is much worse than yelling and screaming. Does God hate divorce more than he hates it when women and children are being traumatized by an alcoholic man? Which do we think displeases him more? For a woman to be physically and mentally abused daily by a man, or for them to end a violent and abusive marriage? That question is for God to answer about his sons and daughters. I have three daughters; two have been married for more than twenty years. Which would displease me more, for their marriages to fall apart, or for my daughters to be abused by their husbands? I don't need to answer that. I ain't comparing my feelings to God's because I don't have to. (My daughters went to school; the BC women needed their husbands; love was the side piece). Yes, God hates sin. The bible isn't a book of do's and don'ts by which we are to govern our lives. God said, "I hate divorce" (Malachi 2:16a), then he said why. "To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty." (Mal 2:16b) There isn't room here to fully explain the difference in the culture of 400 BC and the present day. But the context of what's being said about divorce at the time is the main point. God isn't telling us how he feels about bad or broken marriages when he says he hates divorce. I'm pretty sure God isn't pleased with the behavior by us that leads to divorce. But this is much deeper than that! He's talking about the motives the men had for leaving their wives. The woman was totally dependent upon the man. God is decrying the provider (husband) abandoning his dependent (wife). She was overwhelmed (according to God) and it was a cruel thing to do. So that scripture could have said. 'God hates it when a man abandons a woman who is dependent upon him.' The men were trading the women in for a newer model! Couples splitting up can't be pleasing to God, but that ain't what he's saying he "hates." To ignore the cultural context of the scripture is to misunderstand it more than understand it. I'm not saying it was only applicable for the BC marriages. I'm saying it wasn't only about marriage, it was about God; it was about men and women. Yes, husband and wife is one unit containing two souls. It's a special kind of organism. Not much can be compared to it for its beauty. To spoil it is very ungodly. But that can be done lonnnnnng before a certificate is obtained. That lonnnnnng part is what I belive God hates. I'll ask it again: is there anything else that God hates more than he hates divorce? I think he hates violence more; but I'm only guessing; we know what he hates more than divorce because of the scriptures which are the focus of this question. Ezra 10 tells of the men of Israel confessing that they'd done wrong in marrying foreign women. They said, "we have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women..." (Ezra 10:2). Then Ezra confirmed it: "You have broken faith and married foreign women..." (vs 10). They were to put the women away (divorce them in accordance with the law). Faithlessness... Apparently, God hates faithlessness more than he hates divorce. I believe God also hates disobedience more than he hates divorce. (To obey God is better than sacrifice.. 1 Sam 15:22) To make sure we get the point of how much more God hates faithlessness than he does divorce, the last verse of Ezra 10: "All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children." (vs 44). That's how the book ends... I think he said something there for us to really think about. Children are really special to God; when they're mentioned we're to pay special attention.
I just want to add a comparison here between the foreign women in question and Haman in the book of Esther. As his name indicates, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites. The new wives were pagans who were having a pagan influence on their husbands. Second, these were not just any pagans, for they included descendants of Moab and Ammon (Ezra 10:30; cf. Neh. 13:23) and other surrounding nations of which God had told the Israelites explicitly that they should not marry them (cf. Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3). I chose this subject, partly because my own father and mother got a divorce when I was 16 and my sister was 15. It can be devastating. And yet there's always hope, as long as the person is living and breathing. And as long as forgiveness is part of the equation.
I would like to use 2 Corinthians 6:14 to answer this question: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” It is a command to Israelites not to marry foreign, unbelieving wives, which in this case was disobedience to God. Those wives needed to be put away because they were not allowed to marry them statutorily. Marrying them was in disobedience to God, which needed to be repented of and required restitution.
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