Bible Answer

If a divorcee remarries, does he have two wives?

After reading your article on divorce and remarriage, I wondered if a man divorces his wife and marries another woman, is that man now considered married to two women in God's eyes?

A divorce (by definition) is the dissolution of a marriage. When a man divorces a wife, he puts an end to the marriage relationship. Nevertheless, the two remain one-flesh, according to scripture.

We could make an analogy using an example of giving a child up for adoption. When a mother gives up her child for adoption, she is no longer considered the child's parent. Another woman will become the child's mother. Nevertheless, the woman remains the child's biological mother. The two will share a lifelong bond in the flesh (i.e., physically) that can never be broken. The child's physical relationship to the biological mother persists despite the child having been given to another family.

Spiritually speaking, marriage creates a similar life-long relationship. A man and woman form a "one-flesh" relationship through marriage, Jesus says. This bond cannot be undone except by death (see Romans 7). While a man may divorce his wife ending the marriage, he cannot end their one-flesh relationship.

Consequently, if that man divorces his wife, he is no longer husband to the woman. Like a woman who relinquishes her right to be mother over a child given up for adoption, he has relinquished his right to be husband to his wife. Divorce is sin, according to Jesus, but even so it does not end the one-flesh relationship, which is a life-long bond that precludes any future marriage relationship. While the two are no longer married, neither are they free to remarry, Jesus says, because remarriage results in the sin of adultery.

Therefore, a man who divorces his wife and remarries is not married to two women. He is married only to his second wife, yet he is also guilty of adultery in having taken the second wife.