It seems that the only provision Jesus allows for divorce, or at least was recorded, was for sexual immorality. Due to the exception clause found in 19.9 the issue of concern is what Jesus means by his use of πορνείᾳ (porneia). The Matthew passage (except for indecency, μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ, [epiporneia]) raises many questions, mainly what does Jesus specifically mean by πορνείᾳ, as it carries a broad range of terms. The LXX (Septuagint) uses πορνείᾳ to translate the Hebrew זנות, zenut, which is used for immorality and also specifically for incestuous marriages and other illegitimate forms of marriage. However, many scholars concede that וחנז does not always mean an illegitimate marriage but a full range of sexual immorality. Deuteronomy 14.1 [Jesus’ reference to Moses in 19.8] contains the words ךבד צרות, “indecent matter.” צרות literally means “nakedness” and the sexual immorality involved in Jesus’ use of πορνείᾳ is physical adultery.
The sexual impropriety that Jesus permits for grounds of divorce is not any mere sexual sin [i.e. lusting of the eyes], but a physical act of adultery. In agreement with Jesus’ teaching, divorce ought not to be compulsory. Divorce ought to be a last resort if reconciliation cannot be made.
In conclusion to Matthew 19, Jesus’ allowance for divorce should be understood in a practical hierarchical sense. Jesus’ words are clear in 19.8a that divorce is only permitted as a result of sin and human depravity and that God works with our sin to control human depravity. In 19.8b Jesus gives the absolute ideal to marriage, that it was not so [divorce] from the beginning. This formula given in 19.8 is only a provision that God makes as an act of grace to control the depravity of mankind.
Background information is essential to developing a grounded doctrine of divorce and remarriage. Perhaps the most important foundation to understanding marriage and divorce is to understand that it is modeled after Christ’s unity with the church (Eph. 5.25). The best biblical analogy that models Christ’s relationship with His people is the narrative of Hosea. The Hosea model is true to the relationship God has in pursuing His adulterous people. David Instone-Brewer describes the situation as God divorcing His people in the Hosea analogy. The only problem with the background information that Instone-Brewer uses is God’s divorce laws in Exodus 21 as a model of God’s will. Thus, when the circumstances come about to where divorce would be permissible God divorces His people (Israel [and Judah]). The problem with using the Exodus 21 text and applying that to God in a binding law of God’s is that it nearly replaces God’s will using divorce as a last resort and not divorce as a provision for man’s sinfulness.
The majority of the biblical text on divorce [i.e. Mt. 19] has to do with marital fidelity. Craig Blomberg advocates the position that porneia that it should not mean incest or premarital sex without contextual support, as Jewish girls were married at a young age. Andreas Köstenberger does well when he states that porneia, as outlined in the Deuteronomical passages, should be understood to be descriptive, not prescriptive. The historical development and understanding of porneia is crucial to understanding Jesus’ words and original grammatico-historical interpretation of the biblical texts. As Köstenberger outlines Jesus’ teaching on divorce he immediately refers back to the initial background reference frame of Genesis 2.24 text that the two become one flesh, which ought not to break.
Though it is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, spousal abuse may be grounds for divorce. This may be inferred from the texts of Mark 10.2-12 and 1 Corinthians 7.15. In Mark 10.5 Jesus refers to the hardness of man’s heart. This is practical hierarchical accommodation that God has allowed due to the depravity of man, as mentioned earlier, this should be viewed as God’s sovereign control over human depravity. The inference is derived from 1 Corinthians 7.15, “for the sake of peace.” Concerning the sake of keeping peace in 1 Cor. 7.15, Instone-Brewer comments,
“A pragmatic solution was necessary that did not necessarily conform with the legalistically correct procedure. Sometimes the solution suggested by a strict interpretation of the Law did not have the desired effect. Strictly speaking, an imbecile could not be prosecuted for stealing, but nevertheless stolen goods were confiscated from him and returned to the owner “for the sake of peace.” Sometimes pragmatism has to rule over the strict application of the law, for the sake of a peaceful society and in order that God’s will be done.”
There are many important factors to early Judaism and Greco-Roman (as well as Near Eastern) societies and laws that are crucial to understanding the historical development of divorce and remarriage in the Bible. When the texts are taken at a prima facie interpretation, so much information cannot me known such as what information the Pharisees had on the doctrines when He spoke to them and what reference grams Paul used in his instructions on divorce and remarriage.
At which point ought one to strictly adhere to the legal instruction even if it causes death by abuse? The problem with pragmatic hierarchical application is that the ethical decisions are more than likely lesser of two evils. However, the pragmatic hierarchy seems to be permitted in Paul’s instruction for the sake of peace. It surely is not absolute idealism, merely something that is permitted as a last resort. Others may advocate that in abuse situations the wife needs to get to protection from trusted friends. The husband should be kept away from the wife until he has sincerely repented and has received counseling from the church. It would be the decision of the wife and a church leader, or pastor, as to whether the husband has truly repented and it is safe for the wife to return. As for my personal position on abuse–I’m not sure. I’m open to either option. It is a very serious issue and I do not want to haste my study on it (I’ve been studying and thinking over this issue for three years so far).
 Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holdman Publishers 1997), 306.
 Andreas Köstenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2004), 228.
 Craig L. Blomberg, “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy: an Exegesis of Matthew 19:3-12,” Trinity Journal ns 11.2 (Fall 1990): 164.
 David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Publishing Co. 2002), 167.
 The wording used for “sexual immorality” is taken from the ESV translation. Further examination and background information for the Greek word translated to “sexual immorality” (πορνείᾳ porneia) will be discussed.
 Ibid., 157.
 Ibid., 156-159.
 Instone-Brewer, 203.