Why King David Cannot Be Used to Justify Divorce, Remarriage or Adultery

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Joseph Mattera
Joseph Mattera

There have been numerous leaders who have referenced King David to justify their ability to continue ministering without a hitch despite unbiblically divorcing their spouses, remarrying and even committing adultery.

Before we examine this subject, let us first establish some general rules as a foundation: 1) The moral standards of the law as found in the Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20) remain the same in the New Covenant; 2) The ceremonial Levitical sacrificial system has been done away with in Christ (see John 1:29; Heb. 9-10); 3) The sanctions for disobeying the law as applied in Israel’s civic law have been modified in the New Covenant.

Regarding this last point: Punishments for disobeying the Ten Commandments as found in the extrapolation and application of Israel’s civil law have been greatly modified because of God’s grace as revealed in the New Testament. Specifically, the punishments for breaking the Ten Commandments regarding the sabbath, adultery, all sexual sins, blasphemy and disrespecting parents are no longer punishable by death. Those breaking these laws may be worthy of death as shown in Romans 1:28-32, but nowhere in the New Covenant do Jesus or the apostles advocate the death penalty for breaking these laws, including the sins of homosexuality and witchcraft.

Also, in John 8:1-12 Jesus affirms the punishment of stoning for the woman caught in adultery, but He doesn’t enforce it. In addition, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says that many in the church actually lived immoral lives before their conversion but because they were washed and sanctified they were not under the punishment of execution. Also of note: Christians in the first century were under Roman law and not Old Testament theocratic law.

The only capital offense that seems to be a constant in any age predates the Law of Moses and goes back to the time when God first instituted human government: the Noahic law in Genesis 9:5-6, in which a man’s blood should be shed if he murders another human being. Also, Romans 13:1-7 seems to indicate that capital punishment is still somewhat enforced with God’s approval, even in secular society. Thus, this shows us that God’s sanctions for disobeying His law are very different in both testaments with the exception of the punishment for murdering a human being.

Furthermore regarding King David, in light of clear Old Testament law David should have been executed for both murder and adultery (Ex. 21:12). But for some unknown reason God suspended this biblical standard by not putting David to death. Thus, we can see God’s dealings with David were based on His sovereign choice adjudicated by the Prophet Nathan, possibly based on His divine purpose in using David’s seed to bring forth the Messiah and not based on known biblical law.

Perhaps the biblical prophecies regarding Jesus coming from the line of David through Judah overrode the penalties of biblical law for the sake of fulfilling the divine purpose (see Gen. 49:10; Matt. 21:15, 22:41-45; Heb. 7:14). Hence, we cannot use David as a biblical standard when it comes to adjudicating biblical decisions regarding murder and adultery. Using him as an example on how to deal with a Christian leader who commits murder, adultery or divorces their spouse and remarries is not biblically tenable.

Which present-day prophet has the credibility and accuracy equal to Nathan to render such a subjective decision reflecting God’s sovereign will? If there was such a prophet today, how would we prove we can make such a biblical exception based on their prophecy? And if we can make such an exception for one prophet or prophecy then what’s to stop every so-called prophet or Christian who claims to hear from God from ignoring biblical standards based on personal prophecies?


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