Does “Not Over” Mean “Exception” (Mt. 19:9)?

[Note: While I have addressed the Greek text and English translation in far greater detail among articles posted here:, this article serves as a shorter explanation of the topic.]

Addressing the text of Matthew 19:9–To dismiss not over fornication is to dismiss not for fornication; thus, a non-fornication cause. Jesus does not address divorce for fornication (Mt. 19:9). It was the death penalty for such (Deut. 22:13-22; Lev. 20:10), not the divorce penalty.

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Dismiss or Divorce (Mal. 2:16)?

By Timothy Sparks

You cannot divorce without dismissing/sending away. So any discussion that okays sending away/dismissing a God-joined wife with a divorce certificate is okaying dismissing/sending away. God and Jesus condemn the sending away of a God-joined wife. How then could dismissing a wife with a divorce certificate somehow make sending her away right in Yahweh’s sight?!

Women could not divorce their husbands during the Old Covenant days among the Hebrew nation. It was only the men who were sending their wives away, some of them by divorce among the Hebrew nation. Notice in Mark’s account, written to the Romans, when Jesus later addresses the disciples in the house concerning the same thing (Mk. 10:10), Jesus also refutes the concept of a woman sending away her husband (Mk. 10:12). No discussion is necessary about whether or not she sends away her husband with a certificate of divorce, since God forbids sending away a God-joined spouse. It does not matter whether a spouse kicks the other one out and says, “Get out and don’t come back” or if he/she does the same thing with a divorce certificate. It is all the same. God and Jesus forbid dismissing/sending away a God-joined spouse.

“‘For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,’”
Says the Lord of hosts.
‘Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously’” (Mal. 2:16, NKJV).

“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” (Mal. 2:16, KJV).


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Did Jesus Say God Favorably Allowed Divorce?

By Timothy Sparks

(This brief study addresses the texts of Deut. 24:1ff, Mt. 19:6-8 and Mk. 10:5-9.)

I have seen no evidence from Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek Scripture that God anywhere grants favorable permission regarding divorce of a one flesh union. Some, however, believe that God granted favorable approval for a man to divorce his one flesh wife in the text of Deut. 24:1ff. However, when Scripture says “Moses” (Mt. 19:8) we should not automatically read “God” into the text.

God wrote the text of Deut. 24:1ff through Moses. However, what Jesus refers to in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 concerning what Moses wrote is not a reference to the text of Deut. 24:1ff. In Deut. 24:1ff there is no permission to divorce. What Moses wrote, which Jesus refers to as a permission to divorce, Jesus clearly refutes (Mt. 19:8). Moses’ written permission is not recorded in Deut. 24:1ff. We do not have Moses’ written permission to divorce within God’s Law.

Unless one is willing to pit Jesus against God’s Law (the very law Jesus upheld to the smallest part of a letter, Mt. 5:17-19), the correct answer is that Jesus refutes the command Moses wrote concerning permission to divorce. Moses’ written permission did not have God favorably authorizing it and God did not include it in the Old Covenant.

Please see the following for closer examination of the issues:


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The Divorce Metaphor (Jer. 3:8)

By Timothy Sparks

(Adapted from McFall:, pages 143-145)

The “divorce” metaphor (Jer. 3:8) is very appropriate under the circumstances. God can break his covenant relationship with Israel on the strength of its conditionality which he made very clear to them. God is not breaking any “marriage” vow which he gave them. God did not promise to stay in a permanent “one flesh” relationship with Israel. Such a relationship never existed. The covenant was broken by Israel. So God drew upon their own evil practice of divorcing their wives, in essence, to say, “This is how I am now going to break my covenant relationship with you.” It is a valid use of the divorce terminology with which that they could identify, without validating the human practice of divorce.

The reality was a conditional covenant which was entered into between God and his people. There were only covenant vows to be broken. There were no marriage vows to be broken. The relationship was conditional on Israel keeping the terms of that covenant. A marriage is not conditional. A marriage is established with a vow for life and “bound” for life by God as he established in the beginning (Mt. 19:4, 6, 8; Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39). The Old Covenant envisioned the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). Israel did not keep the terms of the Covenant, therefore, to use a metaphor they could understand, God “divorced” them. But the use of “divorce” does not mean there was a literal “marriage.” A person might say “I am divorcing my family” but it does not imply that person went through a literal marriage ceremony. It is using “divorce” as a metaphor. The metaphor increases and deepens our understanding. We should not get confused and take the metaphor literally. God’s situation with Israel was a covenant relationship, not a literal marriage relationship.

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Covenant Questions Vital to Understanding the Truth About Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

By Timothy Sparks

1. Under which covenant did Jesus live and die? A) Old Covenant or B) New Covenant

2. Which covenant did Jesus have to obey perfectly in order to be sinless? A) Old Covenant or B) New Covenant

3. When did the Old Covenant cease to be in effect? Please explain with Scripture.

4. When did the New Covenant go into effect? Please explain with Scripture.

5. Before Jesus died could he have taught contrary to the Old Covenant and remained sinless? Please explain with Scripture.

6. Did Jesus change any law under the Old Covenant before his death? If yes, please list the law or laws he changed.

7. Was the death penalty God prescribed under the Old Covenant in effect before Jesus died? Please explain with Scripture.

8. Before Jesus died was he obligated to uphold God’s death penalty as prescribed under the Old Covenant? Please explain with Scripture.

9. Did Jesus give any teachings contrary to the Old Covenant before his death? If so, please explain with Scripture.

10. Before Jesus died did he teach people they did not have to obey certain laws contained within the Old Covenant? Please explain with Scripture.

11. Was there any teaching that Jesus taught the people before his death which if they practiced the day they heard him they would have been in violation of the Old Covenant but not in violation of the New Covenant? Please explain with Scripture.

12. Do you understand how these questions are vital to a proper understanding of Jesus’ teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage? Please explain with Scripture.

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Did God Give Us Divorce?

By Timothy Sparks

While some may say that God did not give us divorce, there are three exceptions they may allow:

(1) An exception to Jesus’ ban on divorce;

(2) An exception that would favorably authorize hard-heartedness, permitting divorce; and

(3) An exception that would favorably authorize withholding forgiveness, permitting divorce.

Jesus says that it is not for humans to divide what God joined (Mt. 19:6; Mk. 10:9), yet divorce is an attempt to divide what God united. God did not give divorce in the beginning (Mt. 19:8), and Jesus bans it (Mt. 19:4-6). God gives no exception to Jesus’ ban on divorce.

God hates divorce, which arose from husbands’ hatred against their wives (Mal. 2:16). Jesus makes clear that divorce originated out of men’s hard-heartedness (Mk. 10:5). God gives no exception to Jesus’ teaching that would favorably authorize hard-heartedness.

Hard-heartedness is the opposite of forgiveness, and Jesus commands unlimited forgiveness (Mt. 18:21-22). God will not forgive unforgiving individuals (Mt. 18:35). God gives no exception to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness.

Why would we want to hold onto a human institution God did not give us?


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Q & A: Entrance Into God’s Kingdom & Building a Foundation to Show Ourselves Approved to God

Responses by Timothy Sparks


July 13, 2009

dear sir:

I have read your research on denominations I was impressed with the truth you have discovered. I am helping some to come to an understanding of God’s ways and this has helped us a lot, thank you for that. Perhaps you can tell me your understanding of how you understand how to get into God’s kingdom, I may have missed something. would appreciate a return answer.”

Richard G.


July 13, 2009

Hello Richard,

Thank you for your email. While much background from the Scriptures is necessary for a sufficient understanding of the kingdom, four passages of special note to our discussion are Isaiah 2, Daniel 2, Joel 2, and Micah 4. Upon reading those passages, it becomes clear that Peter’s address (Acts 2) finds its background in the prophets’ message of the Messiah’s kingdom.

Peter says “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). He further quotes Joel, “It will come to pass that whoever calls on the Lord’s name will be saved” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32). Those present on that day, who allowed Peter’s message to reach their hearts, said, “Men, brothers, what may we do?” (Acts 2:37). In context, based on Peter’s quotation of Joel that “whoever calls on the Lord’s name will be saved,” their full question is, “What must we do to call on the Lord’s name that we may be saved?” Peter responds telling those who have now believed in Jesus as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) to change their hearts and be immersed in Jesus’ name, into the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). Similarly, Ananias tells Saul (his Hebrew name; his Greek name is Paul), “Why are you waiting, get up and be immersed and wash away your sins, having called on his (the Lord’s) name” (Acts 22:16). So, “calling on the Lord’s name” is not merely a prayer, nevertheless Saul surely prayed every prayer he knew to pray (Acts 9:9, 11), but when Ananias arrived he told Saul to “get up,” contextually meaning “get up from praying” and told him that he was to be immersed in order to wash away his sins and having done so would call on the Lord’s name. This my friend, is what God has instructed to be admitted into Heaven’s kingdom. Then, we must put our hand to the plow and never look back (Lk. 9:62).

The truth will set us free,



July 14, 2009

Can you tell us how we might build a foundation so we can show ourselves approved before God?”

Richard G.


July 14, 2009

To answer your question about the firm foundation on which you should build, the answer could be said to be twofold:

(1) Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11)

(2) The truth (Jn. 17:17; 2 Tim. 2:15, the Scripture to which you alluded, and which is very interesting, especially in that the word rendered “be diligent” is better rendered “do your best”)

In actuality, since Jesus is the truth (Jn. 14:6), they are the same. Jesus is the Logos (Word, Message) and revealed to us God’s Message, the Holy Spirit preserving God’s revelation for us through the written word.

My recommendation is (if you will allow me to use some accommodative language): Become a “Berean” (Acts 17:11). While memorization seems to be a “lost art” for most Americans, some form of retention is absolutely necessary (Ps. 1:2; 119:11, 97).

Few people realize how precious the truth really is. God’s wisdom reveals to us, “Buy the truth and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23). We should acquire the truth at all cost, and when we possess it, we must never sell it out. Our obligation is to lift as many eyelids as possible, in hopes that they are willing to open their eyes to the truth.

The process that I have undergone in searching for the truth has been challenging at best and extremely painful at worst. At a time when I thought I was engaged in “aggressive evangelism,” I had to come to grips with many things, including the truth. This I know, God is always our dearest friend and God’s truth can become our closest companion, if we are willing to allow our thinking to be transformed (Rom. 12:2) and if we are willing to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29).

A little background for the setting and language in which the New Testament was written provides us with the realization that, during the days of the Roman Empire, to the Greek mind of the first century, nothing was more precious than freedom. However, at the same time, it seems that many Jews of the first century had forgotten the times when they were enslaved and oppressed, nevertheless Jesus came to set them “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). When the truth frees the mind, the spirit rejoices (Acts 8:39).

Timothy Sparks

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