Sermon on the Mount ~ Part H
We continue our study of the Sermon in the Mount, beginning in Mattityahu 5:27.
The Seventh Commandment
18 “You must not commit adultery.“ ~ Deuteronomy 5:18
27 “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that a man who even looks at a woman with the purpose of lusting after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you sin, gouge it out and throw it away! Better that you should lose one part of you than have your whole body thrown into Gei-Hinnom. 30 And if your right-hand makes you sin, cut it off and throw it away! Better that you should lose one part of you than have your whole body thrown into Gei-Hinnom. ~ Mattityahu 5:27-30
The Believer has the mind of the Messiah (1 Corinthians 2:15) and is not to nurture and cherish improper sexual feelings, desires, urges, and lusts. If he does, then, for reasons explained at Ya’akov 1:12–15, he will succumb to the temptations they raise, give sexual fantasizing undue control in his life, and finally engage in wrong sexual behavior such as adultery, fornication, and homosexuality (on homosexuality see Romans 1:24–28).
The two examples Yeshua gives in verses 29–30 call for extreme measures to prevent and eradicate sin. However, they are not intended literally; they are hyperboles – deliberate exaggerations to make a point. Yeshua says that people should be vigilant in avoiding sin, making every effort to remain pure.
31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a get.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery.” ~ Mattityahu 5:31-32
Deuteronomy 24:1 mentions writing of divorcement but does not specify its contents or the conditions under which divorce was permitted. The rabbis call such a document a get and discuss divorce in the Talmud. Later in Mattityahu 19, some P’rushim came and tried to trap him by asking, “Is it permitted for a man to divorce his wife on any ground whatever?” 4 He replied, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, 5 and that He said, ‘For this reason, a man should leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two are to become one flesh? 6 Thus they are no longer two, but one. So then, no one should split apart what God has joined together.” 7 They said to Him, “Then why did Moshe give the commandment that a man should hand his wife a get and divorce her?” 8 He answered, “Moshe allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts are so hardened. But this is not how it was at the beginning. 9 Now, what I say to you is that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery!” ~ Mattityahu 19:4-9
The only text in the Torah dealing with divorce is Deuteronomy 24:1–4, and its discussion of grounds is perfunctory. Hillel and Shammai, who lived in the generation before Yeshua, took opposing sides in interpreting this passage.
The School of Shammai says a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, as it is said, ‘… because he has found in her indecency in a matter.‘ But the School of Hillel says he may divorce her even if she burns his food, as it is said, ‘… because he has found in her indecency in a matter.'” (Mishna: Gittin 9:10)
Yeshua in v. 9 agrees with the strict-constructionist Beit-Shammai. But although Beit-Hillel‘s lenient position became the halakhic (Jewish Law) norm, Rabbi El’azar, a member of Beit-Hillel, commented in the Gemara to this Mishna, “When a man divorces his first wife, even the altar sheds tears,” citing Deuteronomy 24:13–14 as evidence (Gittin 90b). There is a Jewish tradition that in Messianic times the stricter rulings of Beit-Shammai will become the standard.
Yeshua, in adducing Scripture, harks back to the beginning, in Gan-Eden (vv. 4–5), to support his view that marriage must not be dissolved for anything less than the most direct insult to its one-flesh integrity, adultery.
In our next post, we continue to explore the Sermon on the Mount from Mattityahu’s Gospel.