When a man hath taken a wife and married her
That is, when a man has made choice of a woman for his wife, and has obtained her consent, and the consent of her parents; and has not only betrothed her, but taken her home, and consummated the marriage:
and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes;
is not agreeable to him, he takes no delight in her person, nor pleasure in her company and conversation; but, on the contrary, his affections are alienated from her, and he cannot bear the sight of her;
because he hath found some uncleanness in her;
something that he disliked, and was disagreeable to him, and which made their continuance together in the marriage state very uncomfortable; which led him on to be very ill-natured, severe, and cruel to her; so that her life was exposed to danger, or at least become very uneasy; in which case a divorce was permitted, both for the badness of the man's heart, and in favour of the woman, that she might be freed from such rigorous usage. This word "uncleanness" does not signify adultery, or any of the uncleannesses forbidden in ( Leviticus 18:6-19 ) ; because that was punishable with death, when it could be proved; and where there was only a suspicion of it, the husband might make use of the bitter water: though the house of Shammai seem to take it in this sense; for they say a man might not divorce his wife unless he found her in some unclean thing, something dishonest and wicked, and which they ground upon these words; but the house of Hillell say, if she burnt his food, or spoiled it by over salting, or over roasting it; and Akiba says, even if he found another woman more beautiful than her or more agreeable to him. But neither his sense, nor that of the house of Shammai, are approved of by the Jews in general, but that of the house of Hillell F13; and they suppose a man might divorce his wife for any ill qualities of mind in her, or for any ill or impudent behaviour of hers; as if her husband saw her go abroad with her head uncovered, and spinning in the streets, and so showing her naked arms to men; or having her garments slit on both sides; or washing in a bath with men, or where men use to wash, and talking with every man, and joking with young men; or her voice is sonorous and noisy; or any disease of body, as the leprosy, and the like; or any blemishes, as warts, are upon her; or any disagreeable smell that might arise from any parts of the body, from sweat, or a stinking breath F14:
then let him write her a bill of divorcement;
Jarchi says, this is a command upon him to divorce her, because she finds not favour in his eyes; and so the Jews F15 generally understand it, and so they did in the time of Christ, ( Matthew 19:7 ) ; whereas it was no more than a permission, for reasons before given. A man might not dismiss his wife by word of mouth, which might be done hastily, in a passion, of which he might soon repent; but by writing, which was to be drawn up in form; and, as the Targum of Jonathan, before the sanhedrim, in a court of judicature, which required time, during which he might think more of it, and either recede from his purpose before the case was finished, or do it upon mature deliberation; and a firm resolution. The Jews say F16 many things of the witnesses before whom it was to be written and sealed, and at what time, and upon what, and with what it was to be written, and who were proper persons to write it or not, in a treatise of theirs, called Gittin, or divorces. In the Hebrew text this bill is called "a bill of cutting off" F17; because the marriage was rescinded, and man and wife were cut off and separated from one another for ever; of the form of such a bill, (See Gill on Matthew 5:31);
and give [it] in her hand;
which was to be done before witnesses, and which is one of the ten things requisite to a divorce F18; though it made no difference whether it was delivered by himself, or by a messenger; or whether to her, or to her deputy, appointed by her before witnesses; or whether it was put into her hand, or in her bosom, so be it that she was but possessed of it; with which agrees the Jewish canon,
``if he casts a bill to his wife, and she is within the house, or within the court, she is divorced; if he casts it into her bosom, or into her work basket, she is divorced F19:''and send her out of his house;
which was a visible token and public declaration of her divorce; besides, were she to be continued in his house afterwards, it would give suspicion of cohabitation, which after a divorce was not lawful.
F13 Misn. Gittin, c. 9. sect. 10. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.
F14 T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 90. 1. 2. Misn. Cetubot, c. 7. sect. 6, 7. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.
F15 T. Bab. Gittin, ut supra. (F14)
F16 Misn. Gittin, c. 2. sect. 2, 3, 4, 5.
F17 (ttyrk rpo) "libellum excidii", Montanus, Fagius; "succisionis", Munster; "abscissionis", Tigurine version.
F18 See Ainsworth in loc.
F19 Misn. Gittin, c. 8. sect. 1.