Some Pharisees came to test Him. "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" they inquired.
counsels of prudence." He freely addresses the crowds that throng to his ministry, and confronts the attempts of his enemies to catch him in his words. This Divine abandonment is very noble and beautiful, and argues that he now clearly foresaw all that was to take place. There are two intentions in the reply of Jesus which it is necessary to distinguish, viz. that of defense, and that of teaching. His words are to be studied, therefore, as -
I. A MEASURE OF DEFENCE. That his questioners meant him mischief there can be no doubt. The word "tempting" is used for "trying," "proving," and that in an evil sense.
1. What, then, was the danger that lay in such a question? According to his reply they hoped:
(1) To discredit him with the respectable classes, and to found a charge against him of overturning the social and religious institutions of the land. It is the reproach and shame of nearly all "heresies" in religion that they sooner or later attempt to abolish the safeguards of society, and the time-honored customs of the social order. Marriage is a touchstone that betrays the inherent unrighteousness and impracticability of a large proportion of them. His enemies hoped on this point to array him against Moses.
(2) To discredit him with the common people. It was a vexed question at the time in the rival schools of Hillel and Shammai, the latter being stricter, the former laxer, in their view of the lawfulness of divorce. Probably convinced of their own view of the case, they relied upon easily confuting his arguments, and thereby "showing him up" as a pretender and imposter.
2. But in this twofold scheme they were defeated, Jesus making his interroggators themselves the declarers of the Law which he accepted and simply interpreted. He appeared, therefore, as a defender and not an assailant of the Law. And then he showed how deep the basis of obligation really was, and how much less strict the "precept" of Moses was than it might have been, and the cause of this.
II. A PERMANENT DOCTRINE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The historical circumstances of the time when the precept was formulated were probably considered at greater length than could be represented in Mark's account, and the position justified that it was a compromise or provisional measure necessitated by "the hardness of heart" of the Jews the drawing up of a formal document being a check upon hasty and passionate ruptures of the marriage tie. He thus proved that moral obligation is deeper and more permanent than convention or external law. He next considered marriage as a law of nature anterior to the social sanction, which does not therefore create the institution, but ought only to recognize and enforce it. To this end he traces it to the original purpose of God in creation, quoting Genesis 1:27; and strengthening the inference from this by the positive command of Genesis 2:24, long anterior to the time of Moses. It is not for man to interfere with or modify an arrangement so manifestly Divine. The only ground upon which marriage can be set aside is therefore that of one or other party to the marriage bond having already broken it by sinful action, and thus destroyed it as an actual thing. The Law then simply steps in to defend the rights of the party who has been injured, setting that party free from further possibility of like injury. This transgression of the marriage bond which amounts to its annulment is not stated, but is clearly implied, viz. adultery. The Savior thereby proves his teaching in harmony with the teaching of nature and previous revelation. But the gospel which is proclaimed in his Name does more than this. It seeks to fit man for the highest social and religious duties, by purifying and strengthening his moral being. - M.
Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?
I. The family is a DIVINE INSTITUTION. We are not left to look upon it as a chance arrangement of individuals of the human species; it is a definitely fixed form of association.
2. It has been recognized all along the ages by the providence of God. When David (Psalm 68:6) says: "God setteth the solitary in families," a more literal and more pertinent translation would give us this: "God maketh the lonely to dwell in a home." The all-wise Creator has provided in the wide adaptations of nature for an abode of its own sort for every creature of His hand. He has set the coney in the rock, the ant in the sand, the fish in the river, and the whale in the sea; but to no one of them all has He given a home but to man.
3. It has been sanctioned by God in His Word (see Mark 10:7-9).
4. It has been symbolized and spiritualized in the Church (see Ephesians 3:15). And the relation between Christ and His people is like that between a husband and wife (see Ephesians 5:22-32). John saw the Church, "the bride, the Lamb's wife," descending out of heaven, "having the glory of God" (Revelation 21:9, 10).
II. The family is A RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION. That is to say, it has a distinct and valuable purpose to serve in aiding men to glorify God and enjoy Him forever as their chief end.
1. It is designed to perfect Christian character. The relations of a believer to his Saviour are essentially filial. The saints are the children of God. The Almighty Father, taking upon Himself the three obligations of a parent — government, education, and support — calls upon each Christian for the three duties of a son — subordination, studiousness, and grateful love. Hence, all our celestial connections with God are most perfectly and easily taught through our earthly connections with each other in a well-ordered home.
2. Again: the family relation is designed to concentrate Christian power. For it is the earliest outflow into practical use of the principle that in union there is strength.
3. In the third place, the family relation is designed to cultivate the Christian spirit. There ought to be in all organizations which are worth anything what the French people call esprit de corps; a peculiar, pervading tone of public sentiment and opinion, full of a generous confidence and pride, running through all its members. Each soldier feels his connection with the company to which he owes allegiance, thence with the regiment, and so with the entire corps. He is jealous of its honour, he is zealous for its name.
4. Once more: the family relation is designed to increase the Christian census. Children belong to the kingdom of God (see Mark 10:14).
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)I. THE NATURE OF THIS CONTRACT. It is for life, and dissoluble only for one sin. It is subject to Divine laws. It is mutual. It must be based upon affection. It implies the surrender of various rights, but not of all, i.e. conscience. In case of difference of opinion, and within proper limits, the authority is with the husband.
II. THE DUTIES IMPOSED BY THIS RELATION UPON BOTH IS IMPOSED CHASTITY. Likewise mutual affection. Also the duty of mutual assistance. The husband made by Scripture and by law the head of the domestic society; hence the duty of submission. Virtue and dignity of submission.
1. The want of experience is often a great hindrance to the happiness of married life; hence it frequently happens that the first years of married life are not the happiest.
2. The married life is often disturbed by the extravagance and folly of the husband or wife; for difficulties arise therefrom, and much bitterness is likely to spring up. Love is the universal law of marriage. Love will not easily find fault or rashly give offence. Poverty cannot quench it. The Christian rule for all applies doubly to man and wife — "weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice." Different dispositions and tastes may sometimes make mutual sympathy difficult. The sympathy of love and the sympathy of taste are distinct things. A source of unhappiness in married life is the habit of dwelling on individual right instead of remembering that love should not measure the service it bestows, nor that it receives. If difference of opinion does arise, the Christian duty is for the wife to yield. The marriage life was intended to promote human happiness; but it brings with it peculiar duties, and the happiness marriage was intended to impart will be wanting, if the duties of the married life are neglected.
(A. Bibby, M. A.)
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