Mark 10:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Mark 10:3, NIV: What did Moses command you?' he replied.

Mark 10:3, ESV: He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”

Mark 10:3, KJV: And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

Mark 10:3, NASB: And He answered and said to them, 'What did Moses command you?'

Mark 10:3, NLT: Jesus answered them with a question: 'What did Moses say in the law about divorce?'

Mark 10:3, CSB: He replied to them, "What did Moses command you? "

What does Mark 10:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus' reply about divorce is similar to the answer He'll give to the young man asking about inheriting eternal life: go back to the law (Mark 10:19) and go back to the heart of the law (Mark 10:21). In many cases, scribes felt that the Mosaic law wasn't specific enough, so they added to, argued over, and adapted the Law until some parts were unrecognizable. In the case of divorce, they added to the law to benefit men who wanted to marry someone else. Jesus says that the law simply needs to be understood and applied. It isn't enough to follow the letter of the law, and it certainly isn't appropriate to redefine the law to suit one's own wishes. David showed, in part, why he was a man after God's own heart when he said, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).

Jesus asks the Pharisees what Moses "commanded" them to do. The Pharisees respond with what Moses "allowed" them to do (Mark 10:4). The Mosaic law does not command divorce for any circumstance. An unfaithful wife was to be executed, not divorced (Leviticus 20:10). Even then, however, God prefers reconciliation, as He showed with Hosea.

God established marriage for its own worth, but He also uses marriage as a metaphor for faithfulness to Him. Using brutal analogy, God talks about Israel as a bride (Isaiah 54:5) that goes whoring after other gods (Exodus 34:15–16). To drive the point home, God told the prophet Hosea to marry a woman they both knew would cheat. After Gomer left Hosea, God told him to buy her back (Hosea 3). In the remainder of the book, God shows Israel and Judah how they are like an unfaithful wife who seeks out foreign gods. God will punish them for their unfaithfulness, even as He loves them and pleas for them to return. It is this example of a loving husband that Jesus points to when He accuses the husbands around Him of hardened hearts (Mark 10:5).

The point of the Old Testament passage on divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1–4, isn't that the Law commands divorce. The only time the Israelites were commanded to divorce was upon their return from exile in Babylon when the men married foreign women (Ezra 9–10). The point of the passage in Deuteronomy is that if the husband does divorce his wife, he must do so by giving her a legal certificate. Without it, a woman of that era was legally married but homeless. She would not have her dowry, and she would not be allowed to remarry.