On the contrary, both biblically and even in the secular world, divorce is necessarily a legality. To separate from your spouse without a written-valid-legal divorce, and then remarry to someone else constitutes abandonment, adultery, and polygamy. The fast and easy tradition among the Jews of “putting away” but not legally divorcing is precisely what I believe Jesus was confronting.
If a man [an Israelite in the Old Testament] did not divorce his wife he would put her away. There is a word for that in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ‘shalach’. It is different than the Hebrew word for divorce, which is *‘keriythuwth’. ‘Keriythuwth’* (Jeremiah 3:8) literally means ‘excision, a cutting of the marital bonds’; legal divorce was written, as commanded in Deuteronomy 24, and permitted subsequent marriage. ‘Shalach’ is usually translated ‘to put away’. Women were ‘put away’ when their men married others, ‘put away’ to be available if needed or wanted again, ‘put away’ to become mere property, as slaves, or ‘put away’ in total dismissal; it was a cruel system. They were ‘put away’ in favor of another, but not given a divorce and the right to marry again. This word (Shalach) described a cruel tradition, common, but contrary to Jewish law.
Some of the hardships women experienced who were ‘put away’ can be seen as this Hebrew word ‘shalach’ is described in the Langenscheid Pocket Hebrew Dictionary (McGraw-Hill, 1969); “to let loose, roaming at large, to be scared, abandoned, forsaken”.
J. B. Phillips, in his book of meditations For This Day (Word, 1975) wrote: “The Christian faith took root and flourished in an atmosphere almost entirely pagan, where cruelty and sexual immorality were taken for granted where slavery and the inferiority of women were almost universal, while superstition and rival religions with all kinds of bogus claims, existed on every hand.”
God hated this ‘putting away.’ Malachi the prophet broken-heartedly pleaded with God’s people to stop the practice.
…16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”
The word translated ‘putting away’ in Malachi 2:16 is not the Hebrew word for divorce but it is ‘ shalach’ – ‘put away.’
Jesus said the same thing in Luke 16:18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”
Whoever ‘putteth away’ his wife (husband) [and remarries] commits adultery! This practice was cruel and was adulterous, but it was not divorce. This New Testament word, translated ‘put away’ is a form of the Greek word ‘apoluo’. It is the word in Greek which parallels the Hebrew word ‘shalach’ – ‘put away.’
The Old Testament Hebrew word for divorce, ‘keriythuwth’ , and the New Testament Greek word, ‘apostasion’ also parallel. The Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon of the New Testament cites usage of the word ‘apostasion’ as the technical term for a bill or writing of divorce as far back as 258 B.C.
‘Apoluo,’ the Greek word for ‘putting away’, was not technically divorce, though often used synonymously. In that age of total male domination men often took additional wives and did not provide written release when they forsook wives and married others. The Jewish law demanding written divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-2 was largely ignored. If a man married another woman, so what? If a man ‘put away’ (apoluo) his wife without bothering with a written divorce, who was going to object? The woman?
Jesus had some objections. He told them that this earth would pass away before the law requiring a written bill of divorce should fail (Luke 16:17). And He said when you put away a wife (without a written bill of divorce), and marry another (while still married), you are guilty of adultery. And the women who is ‘put away’ though abandoned, is still married. She would commit adultery if she married again (Luke 16:18) just as the man has done.
[from Divorce and Remarriage © Bruce D Allen 2013, emphasis added.]