Q: According to the Scriptures, is it not possible for a woman to divorce a man, even in the case of a husband's adultery? And why is divorce apparently permitted only in cases of adultery (and desertion) but not in cases like chronic wife beating?

A: Concerning the right of women to divorce as well as men, Matthew only mentions the man divorcing the woman because he was writing to a Jewish audience; in the Jewish system — then and, even, still in Israel today — a man can divorce his wife, but a woman cannot divorce her husband. However, Mark, who was writing to the Romans who had no such limitation, does mention a woman divorcing her husband, as well as vice versa. Based on both of these gospel accounts, I believe that the same grounds for divorce or remarriage allowed for a man are also acceptable grounds for divorce or remarriage allowed for a woman. Such grounds were strictly limited (fornication and desertion on the part of the unbelieving spouse), because of the divine ideal of the permanency of marriage. Any and all other cases are simply not mentioned as acceptable grounds, and I cannot go beyond the biblical text.

In cases like wife beating, while I can never counsel divorce, I can and do strongly counsel separation, as a wife must not be put in physical danger by an abusive husband. The fact remains, as Malachi teaches, that God hates divorce; even the two grounds for divorce were by permission only, not by command. Certainly, the ideal remains forgiveness and reconciliation.