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Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (1) : The Marriage Covenant

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13) And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand.  14) Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet [is] she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.  15) And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.  16) For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.  

As one of the most important institutions that the Lord established, marriage is a very important subject that Christians need to understand and honor.  In this series we will be looking at:

  1. What we need to know about marriage to understand divorce.
  2. The definition, allowance and purpose of divorce and allowance of remarriage.
  3. The Biblical grounds for divorce (fornication).
  4. The Biblical grounds for divorce (loss of favour).
  5. The Biblical grounds for divorce (departure).
  6. A Summary Of Our Study and Closing Thoughts

Please understand, for this study we will only be looking at information that is pertinent to the subject of marriage and divorce.  Since marriage and the family is such a large subject we cannot begin to cover all aspects of the marriage union in this study.  Therefore, other subjects concerning marriage will be covered at another time.

Also, this series of blog postings do not begin to cover every verse in the Bible that touches on the subject of marriage and divorce.  To try to cover all the verses involving marriage and divorce would lead to a multi-part posting of maybe 40 or 50 parts.  So, once again, please understand I will be covering just a few representative verses on this subject to cover the basic principles concerning marriage and divorce.

If, after the series is completed you have questions about any individual verse I have not covered I’ll be glad to answer, to the best of my ability, any question you may have. Please feel free to ask them in a comment on the blog or by email at

Also, for those who have questions about same sex-marriage, please see my blog posting entitled “Same-Sex Marriage: What does the Bible say?” for a more complete study on that subject.

Let’s begin our study by looking at what we need to know about marriage to understand the Biblical teachings on divorce.


Mal 2:14;  Gen 2:21-24;  Eph 5:25-29;  Gen 2:18-20


What do we need to know about marriage to understand the Bible’s teachings on divorce? 

What is marriage? 

Lets’ being our study by looking at Malachi 2:14, here, we find the nature of the marital union being described…

Mal 2:14 – Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

What is marriage?

1.  It is a covenant relationship between the marital couple.  In other words, marriage is a covenant (or a promise, or a contract) that is made between the marital parties.  The groom promises the bride that he will do certain things for her and the wife promises the husband she will do certain things for him.
2.  The Lord is the witness to the covenant that is established between the man and the wife.  In other words, the Lord sees that the covenant is made and will hold both parties responsible to keep the marital agreement.  Although He is not a party to the agreement, because He is a witness to the agreement, He can enforce the agreement and punish those who do not keep the agreement.

If we understand that marriage is a covenant relationship between fallen human beings we also can know that it is a conditional covenant.  In other words, covenants made between men, because of their sinful, fallen condition can be broken.  If men were sinless the marital covenant would be kept perfectly and remain enforce until death.  But because men are fallen, at times the marital covenant is broken.  This is the reason why divorce is allowed.  If it were impossible to break the marital covenant there could be no divorce under any circumstances.

This principle is why an covenant that is made between God and man is permanent by nature.  God will never break His part of the covenant, therefore, man will always be obligated to keep any covenant that is made with God.

Let’s look at another set of verses that expand on the nature of the marital covenant in Gen 2:21-24…

Gen 2:21-24  And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  (22)  And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.  (23)  And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.  (24)  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Here the marital union is said to be:

a cleaving – to be bound together, to be joined – this describes the TYPE of relationship

1.  they are bound together as if they are now one
2.  they are to look upon each other as if they are themselves
3.  therefore by helping their spouse they are helping themselves
4.  therefore what affects their spouse will affect them
5.  therefore they will be sharing every aspect of their life with each other

a one flesh relationship – united persons, unified being – this describes the RESULT of the union…

1.  it is the joining of two individuals into one cohesive unit
2.  they are to be united in spiritual beliefs
3.  they are to be united emotionally
4.  they are to united in purpose
5.  they are to be united in presence
6.  they are to be united physically
7.  they are to be united in concerns of life
8.  they are to united in goals
9.  they are to united in desires

Please notice all the above clearly indicates that the marital union was MEANT to be a permanent union.  However, there is nothing in the above that says that the marital union IS permanent…

Mat 19:3-9  … (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….

Although God desires for the marital union to be permanent, the marital covenant can be brought to an end. In the above verses He does not say “man cannot put asunder”, he says “let not man put asunder” In other words, although the marital union SHOULD NOT BE broken, it CAN BE broken.

What are the basic obligations of a marital covenant? 

The obligations of a marital covenant are similar, but not identical, between men and women.

The man’s duties in the marital covenant are summarized in Eph 5:25-29…

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  (26)  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  (27)  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  (28)  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  (29)  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

If we summarize the above verses we see a three-fold obligation that is placed upon the man in the marital covenant:…

to love – self-sacrificial love –

1.  he is to be willing to sacrifice himself for her wellbeing
2.  he is to constantly put her first ALWAYS working for her good even at his expense

to nourish – to pamper, to protect, to allow to mature and grow –

1.  he is to care for her physical needs (food, clothing, shelter)
2.  he is to work towards her growth and maturity spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically by helping her to achieve her goals and desires
3.  he is to help her thrive

to cherish – to brood and supply warmth –

1.  he is to meet her needs of physical and emotional intimacy,
2.  he is to watch over and protect her physically and through counsel and service
3.  he is to be physically present with her (how else can he meet her intimacy needs and protect her?)
4.  he is to not abuse her physically or emotionally (how can he protect her if he is abusing her?  How can he help her to thrive if he is abusing her?  How can he love her sacrificially if he is abusing her?)
5.  he is to protect her reputation and public testimony
6.  he is to honor her as a weaker vessel

(Other verses that establish the above: Ex 21:10-11, 1 Cor 7:1-6, Deut 22:13-21, 1 Pet 3:7)

The woman’s duties in the marital covenant are summarized in Gen 2:18-20…

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.  (19)  And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.  (20)  And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

As we study the above verses we can see two main obligations placed upon the woman in the marital covenant….

To be a “help meet” for the man – to correspond with, to fulfill, to meet shortcomings, to be suitable

1.  To fulfill areas of shortcoming for man.  Where husband is weak she is to step in and meet needs.
2.  To have complimentary abilities and talents, being able to accomplish what her husband is unable to accomplish
3.  To love her husband and family (shown by her submission and reverence)
4.  To be willing to sacrifice herself for the benefit of her family and husband

To be a companion for the man (to eliminate his being alone) – to be at ones side, to stand together with, to serve alongside, to aid

1.  To be intimate physically and emotionally
2.  To be physically present (How can she be at his side and stand with him if she is not physically present.)
3.  Recognize husband’s position of responsibility before God for actions of entire family.  And therefore work in harmony to bring about God’s will in the entire family.

—-She will be submissive to the husband’s requests to obey the Lord in her life and her children’s lives. She will not be submissive to her husband’s requests that would lead her to go against the Lord’s will for herself or her family.

—-She will lead a modest life desiring for her life to draw attention to her Lord and not herself.

To be unified in desires with her husband

1.  She is to work towards his growth and maturity spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically by helping him to achieve his goals and desires
2.  She is to watch over and protect him through counsel and supportive actions
3.  She is to not abuse him physically or emotionally (how can she protect him and aid him through abuse?  How can she love him sacrificially if she is abusing him?)
4.  She is to protect his reputation and public testimony

(Other verses that establish the above:1 Cor 7:1-6, Eph 5:22-23, 33, 1 Ptr 3:1-6)


What we have seen so far can be summarized as follows:

  1. Marriage is a covenant relationship
  2. The parties of the covenant are the husband and wife
  3. God is the witness to the making of the covenant, He is not a party in the covenant
  4. God as witness will hold each party accountable to keep the promise they made to each other.
  5. Marriage is described as a “cleaving” and a “one-flesh” relationship
  6. Both of these descriptions imply a closeness, unity and intimacy between the couple
  7. The marriage union SHOULD NOT BE broken by man but CAN BE broken by man.
  8. Man’s responsibility in a marriage union can be summarized as “to love” and “to nourish” and “to cherish” the wife
  9. Woman’s responsibility in a marriage union can be summarized as “to be a help meet” and “to be a companion” to the husband.

As we continue our study we need to try to remember the above points about marriage.  In our next lesson we will be looking at God’s teachings on divorce.

For a free copy of this series in book form pdf version: please go to:

For a free copy of this series in book form docx version: please go to:

Settled In Heaven Ministries Text Blog:


  1. terry1954 says:

    thanks for sharing your post today with me. I enjoyed reading it

  2. Debbie says:

    Thanks, Pastor Rob, for taking the time to help us understand our marriages better, in light of His word! God bless you!

  3. Thank you for the free pdf and posts. Off to finish reading. I’ve been hesitant to think of relationships and remarriage since my divorce some 7+ years ago, because of my perception as it being sinful to remarry. Wow, God really is showing me some blessed things this year.

    • Rob Barkman says:

      To Shelia and all the readers of this series,

      There are many differing, confusing views out there. I am just trying to share what I believe the Lord has shown me in His Word. I have come to these teachings after years of being taught various views on these things, but I never felt that I had fully understood them. Some seemed to void of any practical applications to the situations that mankind has faced throughout the ages. While others seemed to contradict the clear teaching of various sections of Scripture. This study has come from several years (5+) of searching the Word to see if I can seea more complete picture of the Lord’s teacings on marriage, divorce and remarriage. I am thankful this has been a blessing to you and I trust you will continue to study these things on you own, to come to your own views on these things.

      I have only presented a summary of what the Word teaches on these things. As I said in the posting, I have skipped the explanation of many verses simply for time and length of posting’s sake. If you have any additional questions about other verse I have not presented, please feel free ot ask me, I’ll do the best I can to explain my thoughts on them. To my knowlege, the teachings I have presented violate no Scripture (whether OT or NT). The verses I have not covered will simply uphold the teachings contained in this series of blog postings. If you see otherwise, I would appreciate you letting me know which ones so I can further my own studies.

      Lord bless you and all the readers of this series as you seek to come to the Lord’s teachings on these things. Thank you Shelia for the kind words.

  4. Thank you for a well thought explanation as to the understanding of marriage and divorce…Having divorce in our family (not me) it is helpful …Diane

  5. SLIMJIM says:

    Looking forward to this series

  6. Thanks Rob for the best teaching on marriage I have seen. It makes me wish I was still teaching young people as it would have been most helpful in groups I’ve led in the past. Hopefully, I’ll still have opportunity to use it.

    • Rob Barkman says:

      Thank you for the kind words Angela, I too am praying for continued opporutnities for you to share your knowledge of the Word as well. Your blog has always been a great encourgment to me. Lord bless you.

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