Verses 32-37

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery”

            “But I say unto you,”
            “But I say to you.”–Again,
Jesus is about to expand an already existing portion of the Law.

            When Jesus laid down the Law for Marriage, there is no time in history when the marriage bond stood in great peril of destruction than in that First Century CE.  At that time, the world was in danger of seeing the almost total break-up of marriage and the home.  Ideally, the Jew abhorred divorce.  God had said in Malachi 2:16 that He hated divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away”).  The tragedy was that practice fell short of the ideal.
           On idea of the time that undermined the whole marriage relationship:  the woman, in the eyes of the
Law, was a thing; nothing but chattel.  She was at the absolute disposal of her father, or of her husband.  She had virtually no legal rights.  To all intents and purposes, a woman could not divorce her husband for any reason, but a man could divorce his wife for any cause at all.  The Rabbinic Law said, “A woman may be divorced with or without her will; but a man only with his will.”  The problem was compounded by the fact that the Jewish law of divorce was so very simple.  All a man had to do was to hand this document (a bill) of divorcement“Let this be from me the writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, that thou mayest marry whatsoever man thou wilt”–to the woman in the presence of two witnesses and she stood divorced.  In  the time of Jesus, divorce had grown so much easier that the situation had arisen in which girls were actually unwilling to marry because marriage was so insecure.

“saving for the cause of fornication”
Literally:  “Apart from a matter of fornication.”–An unusual phrase that perhaps means, “except for a matter of unchastity.” This has been rendered as: “Except on the ground of unchastity” (Weymouth), “except unfaithfulness” (Goodspeed).

         FORNICATION:  (Grk.–porneia)–Literally, “on account of whoredom.”  This Greek word could mean any form of sexual misconduct.

         Jesus brought marriage back to its original institution, and declared that whosoever put away his wife henceforward should be guilty of adultery.  But only one offence, he declared, could justify divorce. Nor has any man, or set of men, a right to interfere, and declare that divorces may be granted for any other cause.  It does not appear that there is any other case in which Jesus Christ admits of divorce.  A real Christian ought rather to beg of God the grace to bear patiently and quietly the imperfections of his wife, than to think of the means of being parted from her. 
         “But divorce was allowed by Moses;” yes, for the hardness of their hearts it was permitted: but what was permitted to an uncircumcised heart among the Jews, should not serve for a rule to a heart in which the love of God has been shed abroad by the Holy Spirit.  Those who form a matrimonial connection in the fear and love of God, and under His direction, will never need a divorce.  But those who marry as passion or money lead the way, may be justly considered adulterers and adulteresses as long as they live.        

“causeth her to commit adultery”
Literally:  “causes her to commit adultery:– That is, drives her into it in case she marries again; exposes her to commit adultery because, according to the
Law of Christ's Kingdom, her marriage to another man will be regarded as adultery.

         A.W. Verrall, the great classical scholar, said that one of the chief diseases from which ancient civilization died was its low view of woman.  The first thing which wrecked the marriage situation among the Greeks and Romans was the fact that relationships outside of marriage carried no stigma, and in fact, seemed to be the normal and accepted mode of life.  Demosthenes expressed it as: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and of having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.”  By the time of Jesus, through the Hellenist philosophers and teaching, this Greek outlook about marriage had thoroughly permeated the Jewish way of thinking.
         REMPHASIZING:  Whosoever, are divorced for any cause except the single one of adultery, if they marry again, according to the Scriptures, they are living in adultery. No earthly laws can trample down the Laws of God, or make that right which He has solemnly pronounced wrong.

VERSES 33-37:

VERSES 33-37

“Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but hath perform unto the Lord thine oath.”

         One of the strange things about the Sermon on the Mount is the number of times when Jesus recalls to the Jews that which they already knew. The Jewish teachers had always insisted on the obligation of telling the truth; to illustrate this they had these sayings: “The world stands fast on three things, on justice, on truth, and on peace;” or “Four persons are shut out from the presence of God—the scoffer, the hypocrite, the liar, and the retailer of slander;” or, “One who has given his word and changes it is as bad as an idolater.”
         Jesus here is referring to the promise made to the "pure in heart" of seeing God in all things, and points out a false doctrine of the scribes, which arose from their not seeing God.

“Thou shalt not forswear thyself”
Literally:  “You shall not swear falsely.”–The Jews held that this only prohibited swearing falsely and by the Name of God.  This is not the exact wording of Exodux 20:7; but it does express all that it was currently understood to condemn, namely, false swearing (Lev. 19:12, etc.). This is clearly seen from what follows.

          Jesus here proceeds to correct another false interpretation of the Law.   The Law respecting oaths is found in Lev. 19:12; Deut. 23:23. By those Laws, men were forbidden to perjure themselves, or to forswear; that is, swear falsely. They dishonor God, and break this commandment, who use frequent oaths, even in reference to things that are true; and those who make vows and promises, which they either cannot perform, or do not even plan to fulfill, are not less criminal. 
         Swearing in civil matters is become so frequent that the dread and obligation of an oath are utterly lost in it.  In certain places, where oaths are frequently administered, people have been known to kiss their thumb or pen, instead of the book, thinking thereby to avoid the sin of perjury; but this is a shocking imposition on their own souls.
         An oath is a solemn declaration, made with an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed, reviling His vengeance and renouncing His favor, if what is affirmed is false. A false oath is called perjury;  or as in this place, forswearing. 
         In the time of Jesus there were two unsatisfactory practices about taking oaths:
1.      Frivolous SwearingTaking an oath where no oath was necessary or proper. 
         It had become common to introduce a statement by saying, “By thy life” or “By my head” or some such; and  ,

2.      Evasive Swearing–The Jews divided oaths into two classes: 
         a.     Those which were absolutely binding and
b.     Those which were not binding. 

Any oath which contained the Name of God was binding but any oath which succeeded in avoiding the Name of God was held not to be binding.  The result was that if a man swore by the name of God in any form, he would rigidly keep that oath; but, if he swore by heaven, or by earth, or by Jerusalem, or by his head, he felt free to break that oath.  The result was that evasion had been brought to a fine art.         

“perform unto the Lord”
Literally: “You shall give your oaths to the Lord.”” Perform literally, really, and religiously, what is promised in an oath.

The morality of the Jews on this point was truly execrable: they maintained that a man might swear with his lips, and annul it in the same moment in his heart. The Pharisees taught that religious oaths in which God's name was used were binding and should be filled, while they were less scrupulous about oaths by created things, and in common conversation. But Jesus taught that oaths of the latter kind proceed from evil, and should never be taken.

“But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:”

“Swear not at all”
Literally: “do not to swear at all”–Certainly
Jesus does not prohibit oaths in a court of justice for He Himself answered Caiaphas on oath.  The apostle Paul made solemn appeals to God (I   Thess. 5:27; I Cor. 15:31).

         Jesus prohibits all forms of profanity. The Jews were past-masters in the art of splitting hairs about allowable and forbidden oaths or forms of profanity just as modern Christians employ a great variety of vernacular “cuss-words” and excuse themselves because they do not use the more flagrant words.  Many times I have heard some Christian use some form of cursing, and then say, “Pardon my French,” as if that is supposed to excuse their use of profanity.
        Even at the trial of Jesus the High Priest demanded an oath from Jesus   “I adjure by the living God, that thou tells us whether thou be the Son of God,” (Matt. 26:63); and it is inconceivable that our Lord should here have quoted the precept about not forswearing ourselves, but performing to the Lord our oaths, only to give a precept of His own directly in the teeth of it.
         Evidently, it is swearing in common intercourse and on frivolous occasions that
Jesus meant here.  Against all this Jesus now speaks decisively; teaching His audience that every oath carries an appeal to God, whether named or not. Swear not in any of the common and profane ways customary at that time.

“neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne”
Literally:  “Neither by Heaven, because it is God’s throne.”–To swear by that was, if it meant anything, to swear by Him that sits on that throne. (Matt. 23:20-22).  It was a custom among the Scythians, when they wished to bind themselves in the most solemn manner, to     swear by the king's throne; and if the king was at any time sick, they believed it was because some one's having taken the oath falsely.

     “Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, swearth by it, and by all things thereon.
     “And whoso shall swear by the temple, swearth by it, and by Him that dwelleth therein.
     “And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by Him that sitteth thereon”
(Matt. 23:20-22).

“Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool:  neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.”

“Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool”
Literally:  “Nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet.” —Quoting from Isa. 66:1.  The earth; for it is His footstool. Swearing by that, therefore, is really swearing by God. Or perhaps it means,

1. We have no right to pledge, or swear by, what belongs to God; and,
2.     That oaths by inanimate objects are unmeaning and wicked. If they are real oaths, they are by a living God, Who has power to take vengeance.

        FOOTSTOOL: (Grk.–hypopodion)–A footstool is that on which the feet rest when sitting. The term is applied to the earth, to denotes how lowly and humble an object it is when compared with God.

“Neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King
Literally:  “nor by Jerusalem, because it is {the} city of the great King–Jesus is here quoting Psalm 48:2—“Beautiful for situation; the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.” Compare Psalm 46:4; 48:1-2; 87:3.

           GREAT KING:  (Grk.–megalou basileōs)– That is, of God; called the Great King because He was the King of the Israelites, and Jerusalem was the capital of the nation, and the place where He was especially honored as King.

“Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.”

“Neither shalt thou swear by thy head,”
Literally:  “Neither shall yhou swear by your head.”–This was a common oath among the Jews.  Even the Gentiles also many of them used this oath. To swear by the head was the same as to swear by the life; or in effect to say, “I will forfeit my life if what I say is not             true.” We  have this same equivalent today when we say, “Cross my heart and hope to die.”

God is the Author of the life, and to swear by that, therefore, is the same as to swear by Him.  Senseless, since the oath could have no meaning. Dr. Thompson in his book,  The Land and the Book, says the Orientals are still terribly profane, swearing continually by the head, the beard, the heart, the temple, the church. For these plain reasons:
1.         God commands you not to do it.
2.         You have nothing which is your own, and you should not pledge another's property.
3.         Being a breach of the Law of God, it is the way to everlasting misery.

         The whole idea that Jesus was attempting to get across was thisIf God’s Name was used, God became a partner in the transaction; whereas if God’s Name was not used, God had nothing to do with the transaction.  In effect Jesus is saying that, so far from having to make God a partner in any transaction, God is already there The heaven is the throne of God; the earth is the footstool of God; Jerusalem is the City of God; a man’s head does not belong to him; he cannot even make a hair white or black.  His life is God’s.  There is nothing in the world which does not belong to God; end, therefore, whether God is actually named in so many words or not, does not matter.  He is already there!
            In the other oaths specified, God's name was profaned quite as really as if His Name had been uttered, because it was instantly suggested by the mention of His “throne,” His “footstool,” His “city.” But in swearing by our own head and the like, the objection lies in their being "beyond our control," and therefore profanely assumed to have a stability which they have not.

“But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay:  for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

“Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay
Literally:  “But let your word be yes yes, no no.”–
Jesus is telling these Jews that their replies should simply be a positive affirmation, or negation, according to their knowledge of the matter concerning which they are called to testify.

             YOUR COMMUNICATION: (Grk.–logos humōn)—Literally: “your word.”  Your  word in ordinary conversation. All foolish appeals are forbidden.

           YEA, YEA; NAY, NAY:  (Grk.–nai nai, ou ou)–Let a simple Yes or No suffice in       affirming the truth or the untruth of anything. (See James 5:12; II Cor. 1:17,18). That is, a     positive affirmation, or negation, according to your knowledge of the matter concerning         which you are called to testify.  Do not equivocate; mean what you assert, and adhere to what you say.

“whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”
Literally: “But the excess of these if from evil.” —All foolish appeals are forbidden. A simple statement is all Christ permits. All beyond that is evil, “and cometh of evil.”  Indeed, it makes one doubt the truth of him who has to confirm every assertion by an oath. 

What Jesus is saying it this:  the truly good man will never need to take an oath; the truth of his sayings and the reality of his promises need no such guarantee.  But the fact that oaths are still sometimes necessary is the proof that men are not good men, and that this is not a good world.   Proceeds from some evil disposition or purpose. And from this we may learn,
1.      That profane swearing is always the evidence of a depraved heart.
         To trifle with the name of God, or with any of His works, is itself most decided proof of depravity.
2.      That no man is believed any sooner in common conversation because he swears to a thing.

            When we hear a man swear to a thing, it is pretty good evidence that he knows what he is sayingto be false, and we should be on our guard. He who will break the Third Commandment–“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” will not hesitate to break the Ninth–“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”–also.
            This explains the fact that profane swearers are seldom believed. The man who is always believed, is he whose character is beyond suspicion in all things; who obeys all the laws of God; and whose simple declaration therefore is enough. A man that is truly a Christian, and leads a Christian life, does not need oaths and profaneness to make him believed.

3.      It is no mark of a gentleman to swear.|
       The most worthless and vile; the refuse of mankind; the drunkard and the prostitute,  swear as well as the best dressed and educated gentleman.

No particular endowments are requisite to give a finish to the art of cursing. The basest and meanest of mankind swear with as much tact and skill as the most refined; and he that wishes to degrade himself to the very lowest level of pollution and shame, should learn to be a common swearer. Any man has talents enough to learn to curse God, and his fellowmen, and to pray–for every man who swears, prays–that God would sink him and others into hell. No profane man knows but that God will hear his prayer, and send him to the regions of woe.

4.      Profanity does no man any good. No man is the richer, or wiser, or happier for it.
         a.       It helps no one's education, or manners.
         b.       It commends no one to any society.
                  The profane man must be, of course, shut out from female society; and no refined intercourse can consist with it
c.      It is disgusting to the refined; abominable to the good; insulting to those with whom we associate;degrading to the mind;
unprofitable, needless, and injurious in society; and awful in the sight of God.
5.     God will not hold the profane swearer guiltless
Wantonly to profane God’s name; to call God’s vengeance down; to curse God on His throne; to invoke damnation, is perhaps of all offences the worst. And there is not in the universe more cause of amazement at His forbearance, than that God does not rise in vengeance, and smite the profane swearer at once to hell. Verily, in a world like this, where His name is profaned every day, and hour, and moment, by thousands, God shows that He is slow to anger, and that His mercy is without bounds!