The Sermon On the Mount
Matthew, Chapter 5
Matthew 5:31-37) It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
21) Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,
30) Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,
31) It hath been said,
NOTE: Verse 31 begins with a shorter version of the “ye have heard” statements; perhaps, it’s because Jesus is still on the subject of adultery that He began with the last statement; or perhaps, it’s because He’s already established His subject; that being, reminding them of what they’d heard and then adding clarity to it with what He would say.
In regards to these statements,
“These people had not really studied the Law of Moses for themselves. All they had was the teaching on the law from the scribes and Pharisees. In this particular matter, the people had heard the scribes and Pharisees teach” [Guzik].
32) But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
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.
Matthew 19:3-9) The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4) And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made [them] at the beginning made them male and female,
5) And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6) Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7) They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8) He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9) And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
NOTE: Suffice it to say for now, God is pro-marriage. The Greek word “hamartia,” translated “sin,” means “to miss the mark.” If the target is a good marriage, then divorce is “sin,” a missing the mark.” Jesus explains that the ONLY thing that can cause a marriage to end up in divorce is “the hardness of your hearts.”
ANOTHER NOTE: The literal sin of adultery is for a man to sleep with another man’s wife. Jesus first expands that definition to include adulterous thoughts; and now, he expands it to anything less than hitting the target. In that sense, divorce, except in the case of fornication, is paramount to adultery because it is a missing of the target. GOD WANTS YOUR MARRIAGE TO WORK!!
33) Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
(CEV) You know that our ancestors were told, “Don’t use the Lord’s name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it.”
(GNB) “You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’
(GW) “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Never break your oath, but give to the Lord what you swore in an oath to give him.’
(MSG) “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions.
Leviticus 19:12) And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I [am] the LORD.
Deuteronomy 23:23) That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; [even] a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.
34) But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
35) Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36) Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
NOTE: When you make an oath, i.e., a promise to someone, don’t say, “as sure as there’s a heaven,” or, “as sure as there’s an earth,” or, “I swear in the name of God’s holy city Jerusalem,” or, “I swear by my head/on my very life.”
Concerning “Swear not at all,”
“The scribes and Pharisees had twisted the law You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (Exodus 20:7) to permit taking virtually every other name in a false oath” [Guzik].
Regarding “Neither shalt thou swear by thy head,”
“This was a common oath. The Gentiles also used this oath. To swear by the head was the same as to swear by the life; or to say, I will forfeit my life if what I say is not true” [Barnes].
NOTE: Now, about you and me, when you make a promise don’t say, “I promise on my mother’s grave,” or some other modern day version of what Jesus is talking about in this passage.
37) But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
(CEV) When you make a promise, say only “Yes” or “No.” Anything else comes from the devil.
(GNB) Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—anything else you say comes from the Evil One.
(MSG) Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
In regards to this verse,
“Having to swear or make oaths betrays the weakness of your word. It demonstrates that there is not enough weight in your own character to confirm your words” [Guzik].
“For the Christian, an oath is unnecessary. His Yes should mean Yes, and his No should mean No. To use stronger language is to admit that Satan—the evil one—rules our lives. There are no circumstances under which it is proper for a Christian to lie” [BBC].
We should establish with others, by our example, that our word is binding to us. If we say it, then we will do it, bar some unforeseen circumstance that we have no control over.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church