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Deuteronomy 24:

1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Now fast-forward to Jeremiah 3:

1 “If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again?

No, according to Deuteronomy 24:4.

Would not the land be completely defiled?

Yes. The land of Israel was an adulterous wife.

But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers— would you now return to me?”

According to Deuteronomy 24:4, God would not take her back.

8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.

But then:

12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “ ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. 13Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ ”

Did God override Deuteronomy 24:4 by letting the defiled wife/Israel return to her husband/God?

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  • Are you not asking : Do prohibitions for Ish אִישׁ [in Deuteronomy 24] also apply to יְהֹוָה YHVH ? Nov 16, 2021 at 14:49
  • @Nigel, Jer 3:8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:07
  • @חִידָה yes, precisely.
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:09
  • You seem to be asking : Can YHVH perform a biological union with humans in context to Deuteronomy 24 ?? -- No. -- How is the spiritual marriage of [Jeremiah 3] not subject to the biological marriage of [Deuteronomy 24:1-4]? Nov 16, 2021 at 15:11
  • Yes, something like that. Expand this idea into an answer and I'll upvote it +1.
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:14

4 Answers 4

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I think the apostle Paul so well versed in Torah legal matters he referred to himself as "to the law, a Pharisee;" provides an interesting loop hole to consider to get around this issue in Romans 7.

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

This stipulates that if the "husband" dies - the wife is freed from her obligations regarding the law of marriage. So by this understanding if a husband was to divorce his wife - then die - the laws would no longer apply. If that same man then was to say ..... rise from the dead .... he would be free to remarry her :) Something interesting to consider or ponder with relation to Christs death and resurrection

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  • Worth developing further. I think one could make the case that the invitation in Jeremiah 3:12 is a Messianic invitation to be fulfilled under the lordship of Christ who has died and been raised again.
    – Austin
    Nov 18, 2021 at 6:42
  • Yes thats definitely how I understand it. All of the old testament to my understanding is building to that point. Through out scripture Israel is described as a "barren" wife *(isaiah 54) - starting with Sara (then Rachel and Rebecca) who prophetically represent Israel as the prophets\Patriachs wife. Essentially Israels "marriage" with God has not been consumated until Christ. Before that the wife has to go through a cleansing period before the wedding supper of the lamb. Jesus birth - death and resurrection.
    – Marshall
    Nov 18, 2021 at 16:11
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Let us recall that marriage (and the certificate of divorce) here is only a metaphor of God's covenant relationship with Israel and thus was not subject to Torah law.

The OP's logic is correct if God had truly divorced Israel, but that had NOT occurred since the covenant promise to Israel was eternal (1 Chron 16:17, Jer 50:5, Ps 105:8) and thus depended on God's faithfulness and not Israel's faithfulness. Thus did not prevent Israel being punished for waywardness as the Babylonian captivity showed.

The thrust of the marriage law in Deut 24 is simple: where a formal divorce has occurred, the two were not allowed to remarry each other. Simple. Further, if a wayward wife is promiscuous, then the husband is free to formally divorce the wife BUT that does not have to happen depending on how kind/gracious/forgiving the husband is.

The story of Hosea illustrates this perfectly and designed to show the troubled relationship God, as "spiritual husband", to the "spiritual wife" of Israel. Several times Gomer left Hosea and returned to her prostitution following which Hosea was free to formally divorce her, but he did not.

Instead Hosea was instructed to find her and bring her home and resume the marriage. No formal divorce (certificate of divorce) was issued.

In Jer 3, God is essentially saying that Israel had been unfaithful and in more than 99% of cases, this would have created grounds for a divorce but God never really divorced Israel but went and found her and wanted to resume the "spiritual/metaphoric marriage".

The point of this passage is simple - God is very gracious, kind and forgiving!

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  • =1 Exactly how I would answer. In Hosea God also used the metaphor of a child/son.
    – Perry Webb
    Nov 18, 2021 at 0:22
  • How do you account for God's statements in Jeremiah 3:8 that "I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce?"
    – Austin
    Nov 18, 2021 at 6:38
  • @Austin - Do not confuse the metaphors (as per my first paragraph above) - God's relationship with Israel was a covenant/spiritual relationship which is not bound by Torah marriage laws.
    – Dottard
    Nov 18, 2021 at 8:18
  • @Dottard, I'm not confusing the metaphors, since there's only one extended marriage metaphor. Perhaps you mean, don't confuse the metaphor with the real thing? If you mean that you should probably explain it in your answer. You don't really argue that the covenant was not bound by Torah law, but that the law doesn't apply because God didn't really divorce Israel, when he said he divorced Israel.
    – Austin
    Nov 18, 2021 at 8:49
  • @Austin - your point is valid so I have updated the answer with greater care.
    – Dottard
    Nov 18, 2021 at 10:35
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Did God in Jeremiah 3:12 contradict Deuteronomy 24:4 by letting Israel return to him?

First, we must remember that 'God's ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts'. (Isaiah 55:9)

Secondly, the Law Covenant was given to imperfect mankind. In Romans chapter 7, Paul expounds on the sinfulness of imperfect man. The Law was instituted to correct mankind's wayward course.

As to the divorcing, Jehovah God knew that men would want "a way out" so to speak and created an allowance for divorce. Note the words of Jesus:

Out of regard for your hard-heartedness, he wrote this commandment for you.–Mark 10:5

Jehovah God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and it was never his intention from Adam and Eve onward. (Matthew 19:8)

So Deuteronomy 24:4 could not apply to Jehovah God because he is perfect, just, and holy. (Deuteronomy 32:4)

How can Jehovah God accept back unfaithful Israel?

Jehovah God is merciful to a degree not capable by mankind. (Nehemiah 9:31) He wants all to return to him and not perish. (Ezekiel 18:23, 30-32)

The book God's Word for Us Through Jeremiah brings out a point about Jehovah's forgiveness:

Yet, Jehovah goes beyond speaking about forgiveness. He acts accordingly. Jehovah used Jeremiah to exhort: “Do return, O renegade Israel . . . I shall not have my face drop angrily upon you people . . . I shall not stay resentful to time indefinite.” (Jer. 3:12) God does not feel lingering anger or bitterness toward any of his people whom he has forgiven. Rather, though a wrong has been committed, Jehovah wants to repair the damaged relationship. Despite the sins a person may have committed, if that sinner truly repents and seeks God’s forgiveness, Jehovah will ‘bring him back’ to His favor and blessing. (Jer. 15:19) That reassurance should encourage anyone now estranged from the true God to return to him. Do you not agree that Jehovah’s forgiveness attracts us to him?​

This is reinforced by Jehovah's words at Isaiah 1:18:

“Come, now, and let us set matters straight between us,” says Jehovah. “Though your sins are like scarlet, They will be made as white as snow; Though they are as red as crimson cloth, They will become like wool"

Multiple times Jehovah sent his prophets to remind Israel of its wayward course but they refused him. (Jeremiah 7:25, 26) Ultimately, Jehovah had to let them go because it was not what they wanted. (Matthew 23:37, 38)

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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Deuteronomy 24:1-4 only applies if the woman marries another man. God didn't declare that Israel actually married anyone. She just did a lot of whoring.

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