What is the "Exception Clause" in Matt. 19:9?
Matthew 19:7-10, They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? (8) He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. (9) 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. (10) His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
The “exception clause” in Matt. 19:9 extends to Gentiles as well as Jews in the Sanhedrin [Matt. 19:3]. Some believe this clause is not for us today but the Jews in the Sanhedrin finding out their bride was not a virgin.
What does verse 9 say?
1. “Fornication” covers a multitude of sins not just pre-marital sex. It also covers extra-marital sins.
2. There is no mention of the “betrothal stage” in the text as some believe putting it in relation to the Jews in the Sanhedrin.
3. The disciples asked Jesus, not just the Jews.
(1) Matt. 19:10-12
(2) Matt. 5:31-32, note here that the context is the Sermon on the Mount which is written to believers in kingdom living.
4. Note Matt. 5:31 where Jesus is talking about Moses but in v. 32 he says, “you.” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is talking about how our inner righteousness must exceed the outward righteousness of the Jews. “You,” refers to the disciples not just the Jews.
Therefore we believe this is one of the two Biblical reasons for divorce, the other one being desertion (1 Cor. 7:10-16).