First, it is important to understand that the principles in determining adultery exactly follow and parallel the principles of idolatry. Righteous, TRUE GODLY men are to love, bless, and edify "wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it". (Ephesians 5:25.) When TRUE GODLY men love wives "AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED" the churches, the plural members of his body, such men have ABSOLUTELY no need, or desire, or even thought, whatsoever, to "put away" any wives. Period. Would the (Capital-L) LORD "put away" a TRUE GODLY man, thus causing that man to go commit idolatry? God forbid! As exactly such, neither is a (small-L) lord, a TRUE GODLY man, to "put away" wives, thus causing them to go commit adultery.
That is the premise of the "judgment of the LORD" (Exodus 20:22, 21:1) of Exodus 21:10: "If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall he not diminish." This "judgment of the LORD" mandates that a (small-L) lord follow the (Capital-L) LORD's example of love, blessing, and edification. A TRUE GODLY man is NOT to cruelly replace wives in order to obtain new ones. Such is an evil oppression upon women, God's beloved gardens for the seed of man! Indeed, by this "judgment" of the LORD, a TRUE GODLY man could not add a new wife unto himself at the cruel expense or replacing of any previous wife or wives. Indeed, he had to be so Godly capable if he was to so add.
In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, the "Law of Moses" did "suffer" (i.e., "allow") the concept of a man "putting away" a wife (but not vice versa). Even then, it was specified ONLY under the context of a woman in whom was "found some uncleanness in her". Thus, "putting away" was not excusable under any other cause (reason) except her "uncleanness" (fornication). And look at what the Lord Jesus said about this in Matthew 19:8-9:
"Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
It is important to observe that command closely. First, it talks only about men "putting away" wives, but not vice versa. Second, Jesus included the "fornication" exception in the command, just as the "Law of Moses" had in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Third, this was in response to the Pharisees who, in verse 3, asked, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife FOR EVERY CAUSE", not only the one exception of fornication/"uncleanness". Fourth, the command does not indicate that the second wife (of the man who had "put away" the first wife) was committing adultery. Fifth, Jesus declared that both men, the original husband and the "second" husband, in this case did, indeed, commit adultery.
All of this is exactly based on Scripture. (Could it even possibly be otherwise? Of course, God forbid.) In every application of the word, adultery means: the act of a (by-God) married woman breaking her wedlock contract/covenant. While the Pharisees were asking Jesus if a man could "put away" a wife for every and any reason, Jesus re-iterated that the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 reference to "putting away" only provided the "uncleanness", fornication, reason/cause for such "putting away" ---and that from the beginning there was and is no other justified reason/cause. Indeed, Jesus was simply repeating the exact principles of the "Law of Moses" as had been exactly written and specifying!
As well, our Lord Jesus addressed the evil of cruelly replacing wives. The man who "puts away" a wife in order to marry another is in violation of the "judgment of the LORD" in Exodus 21:10. Indeed, by "putting away" the first wife to marry another, he is diminishing the three requirements (in Exodus 21:10) of the first wife. As well, because he had "put her away", he would be the one responsible for having CAUSED her to "marry another". Thus would that "act of breaking her wedlock contract" be HIS fault, sin, and absolute personal responsibility. THAT is the way by which he would be guilty of committing adultery: he would have caused his first wife to "break her wedlock contract". THAT is what our Lord and Saviour was saying there. By itself, the man's act of marrying the "second wife" was not adultery. It was the cruel replacing of the "first wife", being in violation of the "judgment of the LORD" in Exodus 21:10, that, by causing the first wife to commit adultery by her "marrying" the "other husband", the original husband would be guilty of her adultery (thus it being his sin too).
Yet, the man would NOT be committing adultery if he had taken the second wife while NOT putting away the first wife. That is the "judgment of the LORD" in Exodus 21:10. However, if the man is not so capable of fulfilling the requirements of Exodus 21:10, he is neither to so add unto himself nor to cruelly replace any present wife or wives. He is not ever to be responsible for causing any wife of his to commit the "act of a (by-God) married woman breaking her wedlock contract/covenant". Nor is he to participate in the act of another TRUE GODLY man's wife "breaking her wedlock contract" with him. It is that principle that Jesus was addressing in Matthew 19:9. Indeed, if this were not so, then why did our Lord not say that the second wife would be guilty of committing adultery? Indeed, it is because of the TRUTH of what adultery REALLY, TRULY, and VERILY means. The husband for causing it, the first wife for doing it, and the second man for participating in it, these are the only ones guilty of the single act of the first wife's "act of breaking her wedlock contract/covenant". The original husband was indeed guilty (with the first wife and the "second husband") because he, himself, had caused it by cruelly replacing that first wife. That was a clear violation of the "judgment of the LORD" in Exodus 21:10.
And a TRUE GODLY man, following the LORD's example, would no more cause a wife to commit adultery so that he can "have" another wife than the LORD would cause a TRUE GODLY man to commit idolatry so that God could "have" another servant. Indeed, all of the principles in determining adultery exactly follow and parallel those in determining idolatry. Just as the (Capital-L) LORD loves, blesses, and edifies TRUE GODLY men, so too must TRUE GODLY (small-L) lords love, bless, and edify their wives ---in deed, "AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED" the churches.
© October 4, 1995, The Standard Bearer
P.O. Box 765, O.O.B., ME 04064