What The Bible Says About
Remarriage After Divorce

The Bible teaches that remarriage is possible after a legal and legitimate divorce.  The Old Testament law concerning divorce includes guidelines for remarriage:

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, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man and 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, then 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.  (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, NIV)  

This scripture shows that a woman can remarry after a legitimate divorce.  In Matthew 19:8-9 and Mark 10:4-12, Jesus clarified that divorce is legitimate only when there has been marital unfaithfulness or hardness of heart:

"Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery....Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given."   

(Matthew 19: 8, 9, 11)


They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.  “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'   So they are no longer two, but one.

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."  When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.  He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.

And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."  (Mark 10:4-12, NIV)  

It is clear from these scriptures that marital unfaithfulness is a valid reason for divorce if the marriage cannot be reconciled, and that remarriage is permitted in such cases.  

Jesus said that hardness of heart is also a valid cause for divorce.  Domestic violence can be viewed as a type of hardness of heart, especially when an abusive husband refuses to stop sinning against his wife or to seek professional help.  In Malachi 2 God condemns domestic violence and says it breaks the marriage covenant:   

..the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.  “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel , “and I hate a man’s covering himself [alternate translation: his wife] with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.    (Malachi 2:14b,15b,16, NIV)

Is remarriage allowed after a divorce is caused by hardness of heart such as domestic violence, where there hasn’t been adultery?  There can be disagreement among Christians on this point:

  • The verses we looked at in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 imply that remarriage is permitted after any valid divorce, strengthening the argument that Jesus would have allowed remarriage after hardness of heart.
  • Matthew 19: 9 might imply that remarriage is permitted only after a divorce due to adultery.
  • In the Bible, the words for marital unfaithfulness and adultery some times referred to non-physical unfaithfulness to a relationship, such as Israel ’s unfaithfulness to God, for which God later divorced Israel (see Jeremiah  3:8).  Hence, marital unfaithfulness might possibly include breaking of marriage vows and covenant by domestic violence (see Malachi 2:14 -16).
  • In Matthew 19:11 Jesus said not everyone would be able to remain unmarried.  This may be a merciful provision for women and their children who might face great difficulties after leaving tragic and hsrd-hearted situations like domestic violence.
  • In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul doesn’t seem to include hardness of heart as basis for divorce and remarriage.

The Bible, Paul allows remarriage after an unbelieving spouse no longer wishes to remain married to a believer.  The believing spouse is then released from his/her marriage vows: 

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances.  (1 Corinthians 7:12-13 NIV)   

The death of a spouse or ex-spouse also frees the survivor from the marriage relationship (Romans 7:2-3), and allows remarriage.  

Even were God permits remarriage, a woman leaving domestic violence also faces the question of whether remarriage is wise for her and her children during certain periods.  Some women decide it is better for their children if they do not date or remarry until their children are grown.  And often a time of emotional healing is necessary after leaving a relationship.  Entering a new relationship might seem like a way to deal with the sorrow and loss involved with abuse and divorce, but remarrying “on the rebound” or before a woman has had time to heal emotionally could lead to even more sorrow.  Desperation, loneliness, and need are not necessarily the best foundations for a new, healthy relationship. A period of singleness may be challenging, but can help us to gain perspective, get to know ourselves, and become aware of patterns that might make us vulnerable to unsafe people. It can also be a period during which God can teach us a precious trust and faith in His promises to provide for us as our loving Father and to be the Husband to women without one (Isaiah 54:5).


Discussion Questions:

1)      According to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, can a woman remarry a former husband after she has had another marriage that has ended?  

2)      If a woman decides to leave a domestic violence relationship, how long should she wait after before remarrying?  Why?  What if she has children?  



Duty, Guy.  Divorce and Remarriage, 1967.  Bethany Fellowship, Inc.,
Vander Lugt, Herb. Divorce And Remarriage In Cases Of Abuse, 2005.  RBC Ministries,
Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Vander Lugt, Herb. Divorce And Remarriage: What Does The Bible Teach?, 1994. Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Copyright 2005   Judy Kennedy