Moses: A Man Who Set A Precedent
When Moses married Zipporah, it was during the time he was exiled for murdering an Egyptian. Moses was in exile for over 40 years and remained at his father-in-laws house until God called him out at the end of the exile. Much time had passed, and we are in the wilderness here at Exodus 18:2- “After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her."
This term “sent away” is one that comes up many times, and even Jesus addressed this. It is the term for when a man no longer wanted his wife, for any reason, and told her to leave and not return. This was a devastating status for women who were forced to be dependent on a man, father or husband, for their survival and protection. Zipporah left with her sons and was taken in by her father. In Exodus 18:6, we see Jethro coming back to see Moses and stating he was bringing his wife and sons with him. When Jethro arrives, the topic is not brought up in the Bible, but when Jethro left Moses to return home in verse 27, it was without his daughter. Jethro gave Moses a lot of advice on this visit, and we can see that Jethro was not going to let Moses send his daughter away. Zipporah would have lived the rest of her days in disgrace and dishonor had she stayed at her father’s house.
We do not see Moses marrying again until Numbers 12. If we pay attention here, we will see that Zipporah had passed away by this time, which would allow God to permit Moses to marry again. Zipporah was in old age by the time of her passing. God never once in the Bible went against His word in Genesis about one man and one woman in a covenant relationship. Death of a spouse was the end of that covenant allowing the person to be released to marry again.
We see in Deuteronomy 24 that Moses now made an official law about a man’s right to divorce his wife. Again, women did not have such a right. 24 “Suppose a woman was divorced by her first husband because he found something disgraceful about her. He wrote out divorce papers, gave them to her, and sent her away.”
Here Moses is adding an official paper of divorce to this new law. Why? So that the woman could get remarried. Just sending her away gave her no rights under their societal system. But also see another reason for Moses making this law. Remember, Moses already got remarried in Numbers 12. Jethro blocked Moses from sending his first wife away, and God made Moses wait until his first wife’s death to end his covenant relationship and responsibilities. Moses creating an official divorce decree would allow a man to remarry while their wife was still alive. Understand that God does allow us free will. We will always reap what we sow, and that is the part of the sin curse. God will not always interfere in our rebellious choices, and our disobedience of His word. But understand that we will answer in some aspect for what we choose to do out of God’s will.
Now we get to Jesus’s response to what Moses had done.
Matthew 19: 3-9 And Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 He replied, “Have you never read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7 The Pharisees said to Him, “Why then did Moses command us to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because your hearts were hard and stubborn Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
If God sees marrying another woman, even with a divorce, as adultery, then we can fully see that Zipporah was indeed deceased when God gave Moses permission to marry the Cushite woman. God will not contradict His word.
Notice that Jesus mentions the hardness of hearts. It is likely that He is first speaking about Moses’ heart towards Zipporah and not just about the heart’s of any man wanting a divorce.
The marriage relationship is only between two people. God said it in Genesis and Jesus spoke about it again.
I want to add one last thing here about divorce. God forgives and forgets our sins. Jesus is talking about unrepentant sin when we are out of His designed will and get divorced and remarried. If you are divorced, please do not think you are out of God’s favor and blessings for the rest of your life. Repent and be free. Stand before Him in all of your rags and pain. When He remembers no more, it means just that. Your slate is clean to move on with your life without shame or condemnation. Remember that repentance is all about turning away from our sin and not picking it back up and living in it again. God has grace, but don’t try your luck to find His anger either. Do not go into a sin thinking you can just repent. God is not a fool.
Marriage is complicated, and God will guide you on what you need to do and what He will do in response. God divorced Israel because they were an unfaithful, unrepentant, and an abusive bride. Remember that God deeply cares how you are treated in a marriage. He will deal with a spouse that does not treat the other in a godly manner. God will always defend the innocent. He may release you from a marriage even when others will judge you for it, but make sure He is the one releasing you. God is the one who has written out your days. He will determine how that will look when we fully yield to that plan. It is not easy when the stormy seas do not seem to end, but know that He is the one who calms all seas.
Many have problems in their life that are there because God is not pleased with how they treat others. It could be financial, health, career, constant strife with everyone, etc. God will not open the storehouse of resources, blessings, and favor when we are blatantly living in unrepentant sin. He will not be mocked. What we do against ourselves and one another, wounds our soul, and there are consequences to that. God desires to spare us of this pain, but when we ignore Him, we will pay the price. If your hands are not clean, you will make everything you touch filthy. Walk in His light and righteousness. You are loved! Never forget all that He did for you on the Cross.