Question 24 (ABM) - Grounds for Divorce according to William Branham
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The following are a series of questions and answers between one of our editors (referred to as BTS) and an anonymous Branham minister (referred to as ABM). This series of Q&A relates to William Branham's doctrine and teaching. The full text of this question and its answer is below.
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Question 24 - Grounds for Divorce according to William Branham
Thanks for your responses to date. I do find our discussions useful and I do think they will be useful to others who might read them in the future.
While I do disagree with and take significant exception with your conclusions and the reasoning you use to get to your conclusions, I also appreciate that you are not an angry person and we can carry on a reasonable discussion. Almost everyone in the message that we have had contact with becomes incredibly angry when we disagree with William Branham.
I want to move towards some of William Branham's unscriptural teachings.
One of the more controversial teachings of William Branham is the subject of Marriage and Divorce.
Specifically, William Branham was of the view that a man was permitted to divorce his wife for any of the following 3 reasons:
- If the wife cuts her hair; or
- If the wife dresses in a manner that the husband doesn't like.
- If the wife had sex with a man other than her husband prior to marriage but did not tell her husband prior to their marriage.
My question, which follows after my discussion below, is with respect to what constitutes biblical grounds for divorce. It is my view that, from a biblical perspective, William Branham's teaching on this subject is contrary to the plain meaning of scripture.
I apologize for the length of this email but I want to include a reasonably complete summation of what the Bible teaches on the subject of divorce. This summary will also form the basis for a further question on the subject of remarriage, so I do have some general comments on that issue. But that is not the question that I am concerned with in this email. I simply want to address what are acceptable grounds for divorce from a biblical perspective. We can deal with the issue of remarriage in a subsequent question.
Mark is generally seen as the oldest of the Gospel (i.e. the first one written) so we will start there:
- 2 The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.
- 3 And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”
- 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”
- 5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
- 6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’
- 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
- 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.
- 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
- 10 In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.
- 11 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
It is clear from this passage that the genders are equal when it comes to remarriage. Mark 10:11 is addressed to men and Mark 10:12 is directed towards women. If a man remarries, he is guilty of adultery. If a woman remarries, she is guilty of adultery.
The interesting thing about this passage is that the Lord refused to answer the Pharisees’ question about divorce until they clearly understood God’s will for marriage - what God has joined together, let not man separate.
He then deals with the remarriage question directly when he is alone with the disciples. He clearly states that remarriage is wrong because it is adulterous: a man who remarries after divorce commits adultery and in the same way a woman who remarries after divorcing her husband commits adultery.
Since Jesus specifically calls remarriage after legal divorce ‘adultery’, he is saying that although the two may be legally divorced, they are still married before God. This means that remarriage is not only wrong, it is impossible at the deepest level. Jesus is saying that it is not actually possible to marry again during the lifetime of a divorced partner; it is only possible to commit adultery, even though from a legal point of view this new ‘marriage’ has been properly entered into. And he does not differentiate between the sexes.
Jesus taught that a man who divorced his wife and remarried committed adultery ‘against her’ i.e. his first wife. Jewish law did not recognize this. A woman could commit adultery against her husband by having an extra-marital affair. A man could commit adultery against another man by having an affair with that other man’s wife. But if the woman was unmarried, then the sin of the man was fornication (since intercourse is only permitted within marriage) and not adultery (since the woman was not married). It was not possible, under Jewish law, for a man to commit adultery against his own wife.
Jesus clearly changes Mosaic law and introduces gender equality into divorce and remarriage. A wife, according to Jesus, has just as great a right to fidelity as a husband. It is just as much adultery against her if he has an affair as it is adultery against him if she has an affair. Or to state more accurately what Jesus says: If the man remarries having divorced his wife, this is an offense against her and, specifically, the sin of adultery. She is just as much sinned against in this case as he would be if she remarried after divorcing him.
Mark is also unique among the Gospels because it records Jesus not only forbidding the man to divorce and remarry but forbidding the wife the same thing. St Paul also states that Jesus told wives not to divorce their husbands (1 Cor. 7:10). This was impossible under Jewish law, according to which a wife could sue the courts for divorce but could not directly divorce her husband.
Luke contains a single verse on the issue of divorce:
- Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
This verse addresses the issue of remarriage. The first half of this verse is virtually identical to Mark 10:11 The second part of the verse adds a new point to that of Mark - it is also adultery for a single man to marry a divorced woman. The entire verse is addressed to the man. Jesus says: it is wrong to marry another woman after divorcing your wife; it is just as wrong to marry (for the first time) a woman who has been divorced. In other words, the divorced woman’s first marriage still exists despite the legal divorce and therefore true remarriage is actually impossible in reality, and in God’s eyes (as opposed to those of the law of the land), it can only be adultery.
Matthew records 2 passages on the issue of divorce, the first being in Matthew 5.
- Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
Again, these two verses are addressed to the man. The first part of verse 31 (ignoring the exception for sexual immorality for the moment) is identical to the first portion of Luke 16:18 - whoever divorces his wife – but the end of the statement is very different. The assumption is that, after being divorced, she will remarry. She commits adultery BUT the guilt for the sin is her first husband’s (and not hers). He ‘causes her’ to commit adultery: he drives her to it. Admittedly, she should not get remarried, but the greater sin—though it does not excuse her action or make the remarriage all right—is her husband’s for divorcing her in the first place.
It is clear from Bro. Branham’s teaching on this issue that he completely misses the point of Jesus statement when he states:
- See, she has got a living husband, so no man can marry her. Care what she does and who she is, she's got a living husband, there is no grounds for her at all. But, it's not, for him. "Causes her," not him. Get it? You have to make the Word run in continuity. See, nothing saying he couldn't, but she can't. See, "causes her," not him. That's exactly what the Bible says, "causes her." It is not stated against him to remarry, but "her." Why? Christ in the type. 
Bro. Branham’s statement here completely ignores Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18. It also assumes that Matthew’s lack of speaking to the woman somehow allows a man to remarry and a woman not to remarry.
You can’t make a doctrine out of silence. You have to take the scripture as a whole.
What Jesus is saying is that the divorced woman commits adultery by remarrying, and her first husband should have prevented it by not freeing her and giving her economic reason to marry another man.
Dealing with the exception clause, the phrase “except sexual immorality” uses the Greek word “porneia” from which we derive the English word “pornography”. Its normal meaning would be that of illicit sexual intercourse but would also include other sexual acts such as incest, homosexuality and bestiality. It is probably for this reason that the more general word porneia is used in preference to the more specific term for adultery (moicheia).
But why is the exception here and not in Mark or Luke?
Both Jewish and Roman law demanded divorce in the case of adultery; a Christian would therefore be breaking the law if he did not divorce an adulterous wife. Divorce in these circumstances was also considered mandatory in some of the writings of the early church.
The assumption is that Jesus (in his teaching recorded in Mark and Luke) was aware that divorce would take place—or at least was permissible—in the case of adultery; and Matthew simply brought out what everybody knew already.
One thing that is clear is that the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching, and what stuck in his disciples’ minds (and therefore not in either Mark or Luke), was not the exception but the forbidding of divorce and of remarriage. It is also clear that Jesus does not here state that remarriage is permissible where there is illicit sexual activity during marriage but simply that divorce is permitted only in such circumstances.
The last part of Matthew 5:32 is basically the same as the last part of Luke 16:18
Bro. Branham misinterprets this passage as follows:
- Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, "Whosoever putteth away his wife and marries another, except it be for the cause of fornications, commits adultery." The difference between fornications and adultery, the word could be applied either way. But to make it clear what he was talking of there, that--a woman that's unmarried cannot commit adultery, because she has no husband to commit adultery against. It's uncleanliness for her. She has to confess that to her husband before they are married if she's did that. If not and her husband finds it out later, he has a right to put her away, because she took a false vow. For the Bible said, "Be it well..." or ritual says. "Be it well known to you (I have it in mine) if any couples are joined otherwise than God's Word does allow, their marriage is not lawful. I will require and will charge you both as you'll surely answer in the day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, if either of you know any impediment why you should not be lawful joined together, do you now confess it." There you are. See?
- So fornication is what a girl, when she lives unclean, that's fornication, 'cause she has no husband. But when she's married, and then when she lives like that, she commits adultery against her husband.
Bro. Branham thinks that the KJV interpretation of the word porneia is something that refers to activity prior to marriage, which it is not. The NIV interprets it as “except for marital unfaithfulness”; the GNT as “other than her unfaithfulness”; and the Amplified as “except on the grounds of unfaithfulness”. His interpretation does not stand up to scrutiny if you look at the true meaning of the Greek.
- 3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
- 4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’
- 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
- 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
- 7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
- 8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
- 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
This passage is Matthew’s account of the incident told in Mark 10:1-12. As in Matthew 5:32, but unlike the passage in Mark, Matthew’s account contains an exception. The wording in the Greek is similar here and again uses the Greek word “porneia”.
Clearly Jesus allows divorce where there has been illicit sexual activity. But is he also allowing remarriage for the partner who has not committed adultery, where there has been divorce for adultery?
Two positions are possible. Either Jesus allows separation, including legal divorce, in the case of porneia (marital unfaithfulness) but maintains that the marriage bond is still in existence and therefore even in this instance remarriage would be adultery: or he allows full divorce in the case of adultery, a divorce which dissolves the marriage bond and therefore opens the way for remarriage.
The exception phrase comes after the verb ‘divorce’ and modifies the clause ‘anyone who divorces his wife’. This is the obvious—indeed the only—position in the sentence that Matthew could put the phrase if he wanted to say that divorce is permissible in the case of adultery but remarriage is not. If Matthew had written: ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, except in the case of marital unfaithfulness’, then it would be clear that remarriage was allowed. But that is not how it is worded. This passage as a whole makes more sense if Jesus is rescinding the whole concept of full divorce which the Mosaic legislation permitted.
This position also makes sense in the context of the reaction of the disciples to Jesus teachings – “His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matt 19:10)
If Jesus was allowing remarriage after divorce for adultery why would the disciples react with such surprise??? It can only be because he laid down a law that was so strict that they could not even comprehend it. Jesus’s reply to the disciples’ surprised reaction was also surprising. While they may have expected him to refute their comment, what he did was comment on the positive value of being single.
The disciples are amazed at Jesus’ reply. They have understood him to say something much more strict than anything they had encountered. Jesus is not allowing remarriage even in the case of adultery; he is saying that even in the case of adultery the marriage bond still exists.
Jesus’ response to the dismay of the disciples is also interesting. He states - “Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given.” Does this mean that if you can’t accept it you don’t have to? Does it mean it doesn’t apply to everyone? Is this principle not practical for everyone? Or is it that not everyone can understand what is being said but only those to whom God had given understanding? Apparently all of these interpretations are possible from the Greek wording of the passage.
The Corinthians had written to Paul (1 Cor 7:1) specifically asking him questions on a variety of matters which he addresses in his letter to them. In fact, the second part of 1 Cor 7:1 – “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” – appears to be a direct quotation from their letter which Paul would be in some agreement. But he does not agree with how they are using it.
The leading commentators believe that it was the women in the church especially who were saying that sexual intercourse was to be avoided. From 1 Cor 7:1-6, it is very likely that the women in the Corinthian church were denying sexual intimacy to their husbands (‘have his own wife’ in verse 2 means ‘have intercourse with his wife’, it does not mean ‘get married to his own wife’). Commentators think that it may well have been this which drove some of the men to seek sexual satisfaction with prostitutes (1 Cor 6:15–20). The Corinthians thought that because they were people of the Spirit, they had moved to a higher plane, the realm of spirit, where they were unaffected by behavior that had merely to do with the body. The word for ‘immorality’ in 1 Cor 7:2, has the same root as the word for prostitution (porn-) and is in the plural (literally: because of the immoralities), which may refer to the men having sex with prostitutes. Thus 7:2 would then be saying: Since the men are resorting to prostitutes, each man should be allowed to have intercourse with his own wife (contrary to the teaching (verse 1) espoused by the Corinthian women).
Dealing with divorce, Paul approaches two distinct issues:
- 1. Divorce where the husband and wife are both believers (1 Cor 7:10-11); and
- 2. Divorce where one spouse is a believer and the other is an unbeliever (1 Cor 7:12-16).
It is very important to recognize these separate distinct issues when looking at the question. His comments where there are 2 believing spouses are by way of command (“not I, but the Lord”) and his comments where only one spouse is a believer appear to be by way of suggestion (“I, not the Lord”).
1 Corinthians 7:10-12
:And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
In 1 Cor 7:10-11, Paul is speaking to believing couples. But why does Paul major so heavily on the wife and adds the husband almost as an afterthought? The order of Paul’s concern, which is addressed first and primarily to the women, lends credence to the suggestion that the problem stems basically from women in the church who were using their slogan from 1 Cor 7:1 to reject sexual relations with their husbands (verse 5), and arguing for divorce if it came to that. In speaking to “the married,” Paul is directing his response to couples where both partners are believers. This is made certain by 1 Cor 7:12–16, where, in a way that balances with 1 Cor 7:10–11, he addresses “the rest,” whom that context defines as believers married to unbelievers.
Paul specifically refers to the fact that Jesus himself spoke to this question, so he states that it is “not I” from whom this command comes, “but the Lord.”
“No divorce” is what is “commanded” for believers; nonetheless, just as in all the other situations addressed in this chapter, Paul allows an exception: “but if indeed she is separated.” “No divorce” is not turned into law, and the woman who does so is not put out of the community. What is disallowed is precisely what one finds in the teaching of Jesus: no remarriage, i.e. no adultery. Hence if she does separate, she must continue to follow the command “Stay as you are,” meaning now “Remain unmarried.”
The wife who divorces her husband may not use her present unmarried condition as an excuse for remarriage to someone else. If she does in fact desire to remarry, she must “be reconciled to her husband.” This is in keeping with Paul’s view expressed elsewhere that for believers marriage is permanent, from its inception until the decease of one of the partners (1 Cor 7:39; Rom. 7:1–3). The command is clear: she is to remain as she is and not divorce her husband; but if she were to disobey this first directive, then she must again remain as she is and not commit adultery by remarrying someone else. If she does not like her new unmarried status, then she must be reconciled to her husband.
What is true of the wife, Paul adds, is likewise true of the husband: “And a husband must not divorce his wife.” The lack of an exception here suggests that this is not where the problem lay; although one could imply that what is said of the wife would apply to the husband as well.
William Branham's teaching on divorce is completely against scripture when he states:
- And the Bible rights gives any man a right to leave and divorce and leave his wife, that'll cut her hair. That's the Bible. That's THUS SAITH THE LORD. Too bad you got away from the old fashion trainings, isn't it? THE.WORST.SINNER.IN.THE.CITY_ MINNEAPOLIS.MN SATURDAY_ 56-0218E
He moves even farther from Paul's teaching on the subject when he states:
- Notice, He can put her away, but she cannot put Him away. 
There is nowhere in the Bible that this is taught. And certainly this goes directly against Paul's teaching when he states, "let not the husband put away his wife."
William. Branham further misses the whole point of Paul’s teaching when he states:
- Now you notice in First Corinthians 7:10, notice, Paul commands the wife that is, that divorces her husband, to remain single or be reconciled, not to remarry. She must remain single, or to be reconciled back to her husband. She cannot remarry. She must remain single, but, notice, he never said about the man. See, you can't make the Word lie. "From the beginning," the sex law by polygamy. Now, the Word of God runs true with nature of God, runs in to continuity. 
How did Brother Branham create an exception when none is given? And specifically, when Paul commands that the husband not divorce his wife, how is any exception allowed? Nowhere does Paul permit either directly or indirectly any remarriage of the husband in this verse.
Paul is effectively stating that if a Christian husband and wife cannot be reconciled to one another, then how can they expect to become models of reconciliation before a fractured and broken world?
1 Corinthians 7:12-16
- 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
- 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
- 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
- 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to :peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
Paul’s answer is consistent with 1 Cor 7:10–11; they are to “stay as they are.” The believer may not initiate divorce (1 Cor 7:12–13), for which in this instance a reason is added (1 Cor 7:14). But as before, there is an exception; if the pagan chooses to leave, then the believer is not bound to maintain the marriage (1 Cor 7:15). But God’s call is to “peace”, which means further that one should maintain the marriage in the hope of the unbelieving spouse’s conversion (1 Cor 7:16). The believer may not pursue divorce, “but if” the unbeliever separates, let him or her do so. That is, if the pagan spouse seeks the dissolution of the marriage, then allow the divorce.
The real difficulty with this passage is with the middle part of verse 15, “a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” That is, they are not bound to the ruling given above about maintaining the marriage. They have wanted to dissolve such marriages. Paul has said “No”. But now he allows that if the pagan wants out, then one is not enslaved.
Does this mean that the believer is free to remarry? There are a number of reasons why this does not appear to be the case:
- 1. Remarriage does not appear to be the issue that Paul is dealing with; in fact, it seems to be quite the opposite. In a context in which people are arguing for the right to dissolve marriage, Paul would scarcely be addressing the issue of remarriage, and certainly not in such circuitous fashion.
- 2. The Greek verb “to be under bondage” is not what Paul uses elsewhere for the “binding” character of marriage (1 Cor. 7:39; Rom. 7:2); this means that Paul does not intend to say one is not “bound to the marriage.” Rather, one is simply not under bondage to maintain the marriage which the other person wishes to dissolve. From Paul’s point of view, one is bound to a marriage until death breaks the bond (1 Cor 7:39).
- 3. In 1 Cor 7:11, even though there is a similar exception regarding divorce, he explicitly disallows remarriage.
- 4. Such a concern misses the theme of the chapter, which has to do with not seeking a change in status. The exceptions in each case do not allow a change in partners but in status, either from single to married or vice versa, but not both! All of this is not to say that Paul disallows remarriage in such cases; he simply does not speak to it at all. Thus this text offers little help for this concern.
The real problem with this passage is that its focus on maintaining mixed marriages (but allowing them to dissolve if the pagan initiates the action) does not offer much help on the problem of remarriage.
The Early Church
It should be added that from earliest post-New Testament days, writers in the early church wrote about divorce and remarriage. Almost always their teaching is about remarriage—rather than merely about divorce. In almost every case they write against remarriage and mention no exceptions. When writing about divorce they do quite frequently mention the permission—which they quite often make into a command—to divorce where there has been adultery. The overwhelming majority of them do not allow remarriage in these circumstances. Some specifically prohibit it; others simply say: there should be no remarriage after divorce. They mention no exceptions.
William Branham's teaching on marriage and divorce is just plain wrong according to the Bible. As a result, it is common in message churches for men to divorce their wives and remarry. Message ministers do not speak against this because they would be speaking against their prophet.
QUESTION: Do you agree with William Branham's doctrinal teaching that a man can divorce his wife for any of the following 3 reasons?
- If the wife cuts her hair; or
- If the wife dresses in a manner that the husband doesn't like
- If the wife had sex with a man other than her husband prior to marriage but did not tell her husband prior to their marriage.
I want to keep this question very specific to the issue of divorce in these three cases so am not asking about his position with respect to remarriage. We can deal with this later but I do not want to confuse the issue of divorce with that of remarriage.
If you are in agreement with William Branham that a man can divorce his wife for any of these three reasons, please substantiate this with biblical support.
Quotes of William Branham
The following are quotes of William Branham which are included for completeness and reference:
The Bible claims, if a woman cuts her hair, a man's got a right to put her away in divorcement, because she's not honest with him. We have to get down and preach the Bible here some of these days. Said, "If she bobs her hair, she dishonors her husband." If she's dishonorable, she ought to be put away. You can't marry another one, but you can put her away. Whew. Boy, that—that's going hard; I can feel it. But that's the truth.
I had a hot one on that down the other day in Shreveport. They was talking about the women, and should women wear long hair. And I said, "A woman that bobbed her hair, her husband had a right and a Bible right to divorce her." That's right. That's what the Bible said. That's exactly right. Oh, my. Holy Ghost women setting there, just the way they been taught; that's all… See? Yes, that's… slip, loosely. And if… He said, "Now, if they would cut it, if there's something wrong they had to cut their hair," said, "let her take a razor and shave it all off," and make her hair real slick until it comes out her head. That's right. That's what the Scripture said. It says if she cuts her hair, she dishonors her husband. And a woman that's dishonorable has a legal right to be put away in divorce. But he can't marry again now. But he—but he can put her away in divorcement. That's right. That's Scripture. Oh, brother, what we need is some question nights. That's right. That's First Corinthians the 14th chapter, if you want to read it. 
I can prove by the Bible that any woman that'll bob her hair has a legal right in the sight of God for her husband to divorce her. Hair… That's the Scripture. Now, if you don't believe it, lay the question up here tomorrow night, and I'll show you. That's right. That's right, but what do we do? The Bible says it's a common, sinful thing for a woman pray with her hair cut short. That's right. And yet we… You put all this make-up on, but what does it do, friend? There's only one woman done that, and you know what God did to her? He fed her to the dogs. So if you see a woman wearing that, say, "Howdy do, Miss Dog-meat." That's exactly what she was. God fed her to the dogs: Jezebel. You know you don't want to be of her daughters, but I don't blame it on you. It's because it's tradition. It's handed right down, and it's a disgrace.
Looky here. It used to be, a long time ago… And you holiness people, it was wrong for you women to cut your hair. What became right about it, when the Bible said that a, "If any woman cuts her hair off, her husband has a right to give her a divorce." Plain teaching, but that's the Bible.
Here not long ago, a man wanted to introduce me to his wife, a great holiness organization. Said, "My wife is going to play the piano tonight, Brother Branham." And I looked at her, and the woman... I ain't making fun of the woman; I don't believe in doing that. I'm only telling what's the truth. And I want you to receive it in the same way of love. I have to be stern once in a while. Yes, sir.
And the woman had a dress on, and if I'd see my wife like that, I'd divorce her. And that's exactly the truth. I wouldn't... I'd put her away, out there like that, and paint all over her face....
And the Bible rights gives any man a right to leave and divorce and leave his wife, that'll cut her hair. That's the Bible. That's THUS SAITH THE LORD.
That's one of the Words, for the Bible said it's wrong for a woman to cut her hair. That's right. If she does, how is she going to get in? See? Just ask, any preacher will tell you the Word says that. See, "she dishonors her head," she dishonors her husband. She should be divorced. That's exactly right. "For she that will cut her hair, let her also be shorn off, shaven." See, it shows through that. Not just bobbed, God don't want it that way. That's that Mister In-between. Don't fool with it. Either cut it all off or leave it grow, that's what God said. Any minister of the Gospel knows that's the Truth, whether you'll say it or not. But that's the Truth. See? Well, what good, if you're going to do all the rest of them, and leave that go?
You remember, in the Bible, when the king married Esther? Because the queen refused, HE JUST GOT HIM ANOTHER ONE. And when the… What happened when she refused to come out with the king and obey him? The same thing it is with a woman that refuses to be wife to her husband...
Notice, he can put away his wife any time he wants to, but she can't put him away...
Now you notice in First Corinthians 7:10, notice, Paul commands the wife that is, that divorces her husband, to remain single or be reconciled, not to remarry. She must remain single, or to be reconciled back to her husband. She cannot remarry. She must remain single, but, notice, he never said about the man. See, you can't make the Word lie. "From the beginning," the sex law by polygamy. Now, the Word of God runs true with nature of God, runs in to continuity.
I have told you the Truth, THUS SAITH THE LORD, all the way through! 
Now, just look what science has done for her. She comes out, first, with her hair chopped off, with one of these Jacqueline Kennedy hairdos, see, or something like that. And you know what the Bible said? The Bible actually gives a man, if he wants to, the right to put her away in divorcement, if she does that. "She's a dishonorable woman, that'll cut her hair." The Bible said so. Right. Didn't know that? Huh? Oh, yeah! I preach too much in California for you not to know that. That's right. Oh, yeah! What good does it do me? They do it, anyhow. You can't take the pig and change his name, make him a lamb. Notice.
If she even does something wrong, she must confess that to her husband before he takes her, and make it right. The same as the church that was married to the law, has to come also before Christ, before the second marriage. She has to confess that. If she doesn't, and she lives with her husband for ten years and then confess it, HE HAS THE A RIGHT TO PUT HER AWAY AND MARRY ANOTHER WOMAN. That's the Scripture." 
Response from ABM
Thank you for your continued dialogue. I can appreciate that many people get angry when you disagree with Bro. Branham. Those of my sect have long experienced this, going all the way back to when Bro. Branham was alive.
I have carefully read your email, and as far as doctrinal considerations go, I believe we largely agree, perhaps with one exception. I will state what we believe and then go on to try and show how we reconcile it with Bro. Branham's teachings.
How we handle divorce.
In short, we follow Paul's formula. Divorce falls into two categories. (1) Divorce where both are believers. (2) Divorce where only one party is a believer. The rule varies based on which situation a person is in.
We believe that the only circumstances in which two believers may divorce is in the case of adultery. Matthew 19:9 is our basis for this statement. In this case, we also believe in excommunicating the guilty party according to 1 Cor 5:9 for a period of time. We do allow an opening; if the two spouses choose to reconcile, then excommunication is lifted. We believe the decision to divorce belongs solely to innocent spouse according to Matt 19:9. The spouse who committed adultery has no right to remarry if there is a divorce. As long as the guilty spouse remains unmarried, they can be forgiven and received back into the fellowship after a period of time has passed. We find no scripture authorizing a new marriage for someone guilty of adultery. The innocent spouse is free to remarry. We base this freedom of the innocent spouse to remarry based on Matt 19:9 also, Jesus use of the word "except" implies remarriage in the case of adultery is permitted for the innocent party.
In the case where one spouse is a believer, but the other is an unbeliever, the believer is free to divorce if they are not well treated by their unbelieving spouse. If the believing spouse is not well treated, this is evidence that the unbelieving spouse is not pleased to dwell with them. We do not prevent the believer from initiating the divorce of their unbelieving spouse in this case. We base this on 1 Cor 7:12–16. We believe that "being pleased to dwell together" means to dwell happily and in peace together. If you review the greek word (strongs 4909), it does not simply mean "willing", but it means also "gratified" and is elsewhere translated as "hearty agreement". It implies a certain attitude be present in the unbelieving spouse. So if we find a lack of that attitude in the unbelieving spouse, we permit the believing spouse to divorce. For example, if an unbeliever mocked the believer for their faith and was constantly a thorn, yet never pressed divorce, the believing spouse is free to divorce. (We would try to counsel the situation first) So we are quite liberal in granting believers the freedom to divorce their unbelieving spouse.
If two believers have problems which are not adultery, they are permitted to separate. Divorce is not permitted. This is according to 1 Cor 7:11
If two people are married, and one is abusive, after counseling we can deem the abusive spouse to be an unbeliever, excommunicate the unbeliever, and permit the believing spouse to divorce and remarry. This is not explicitly stated in scripture, but we interpret Matthew 18:15-17 to give us a mechanism to declare someone an unbeliever, and having thus been decided, our interpretation of 1 Cor 7:12-16 takes effect.
We deem any marital sin prior to conversion to be forgiven through baptism and repentance. We do not consider any pre-conversion reason as valid reason to divorce or to prevent remarriage. This can be a bit complicated, but will leave it at that.
Reconciling Bro. Branham's teachings
What I have elaborated above seems somewhat different than your opinion of Bro. Branham's teachings. Let me explain how we derive our belief from his teachings.
We begin by understanding the situations going on in the Tabernacle that prompted Bro. Branham to preach Marriage and Divorce to begin with. We understand that outsiders do not have the full context of the situations there, and some things which are obvious to us are not obvious to others. We secondarily believe Bro. Branham was not trying to create new doctrine on this subject, but simply interpret existing scripture. (Idolaters on the other hand believe he was trying to put forward some new standard. This is error. He was just promoting what he believed was a traditional Christian view of divorce.)
There were several people at the church who had unbelieving spouses. In the cases of a wife dishonoring her husband, we understand Bro. Branham was speaking about cases with an unbelieving spouse. If the unbelieving spouse dishonored their believing spouse that would be an indication that they were unwilling to dwell together in peace. This would be grounds for divorce under 1 Cor 7:12-16. However, if both spouses were believers, this would not be grounds for divorce. So in this manner, we feel we fully reconcile what Bro. Branham taught on these points to scripture. (It is not clear to outsiders that Bro. Branham was speaking specifically of cases of an unbelieving spouse when he spoke of the cases where the wife dishonored her husband.)
In the case where Bro. Branham says a woman has no right to remarry in the case where her husband divorces her, we believe he just did not communicate clearly and many people (including message people) misunderstand what he meant. We interpret his teaching to mean that the party guilty of adultery has no right to remarry, whether it is the man or the woman. He merely used the example of a husband as the innocent party. We agree that there is equality between man and woman in these matters, and we believe Bro. Branham believed so himself. He was just not clear on this point. Emphasis is on the guilty party not being able to remarry, not on the gender.
In the case where a woman had relations prior to marriage but did not disclose it to her husband prior to marriage, we differ with you slightly. We do believe in Old Testatement times, this would be a cause for divorce, immediately following the consummation of the marriage when the lack of virginity was discovered. (Duet 22) If, immediately after a marriage, a husband found his wife to not be a virgin, we believe it would be acceptable to annul the marriage. We have, however, never witnessed such a case. So this is purely a hypothetical situation. We have heard of some message sects allowing divorce years after marriage for this reason. We do not believe this was in keeping with the scripture. If the request to divorce for this reason is not immediate following the marriage consummation, it is not a valid reason to divorce. We would, of course, if such a situation arose, do everything within our power to encourage the two spouses to reconcile and not divorce. (We believe Bro. Branham did think it was acceptable to divorce a woman years after their marriage if he discovered she had not been a virgin at marriage. However, this is not scriptural, and we believe he had a mistaken understanding.)
In the case where Bro. Branham says "he can put her away, but she cannot put him away", we also accept this teaching. But we interpret it differently that you are. We believe in the specific cases he gave, that the party guilty of adultery has no right force the divorce. It is the innocent party who has the right to chose a divorce. The prerogative of divorce or reconciliation lays completely with the innocent party. Bro. Branham merely stated if from the perspective of the man being the innocent party - however the reverse could also be true. So again, we believe this is equal for both genders, and the emphasis is not on the gender but on the guilty party.
I am aware how other sects of the message have went crazy with Bro. Branham's statements. Some adopted polygamy, some divorced their wife of many years for no good reason, others used it to hold women in bondage. That is wicked, and those men are wicked. We do not blame Bro. Branham for their wickedness, because we see through his own life how treated his wife and understand how we felt about marriage. I view people who use Bro. Branham's statements to justify their immorality no differently than people who twist the sayings of Jesus.
You ask: Do you agree with William Branham's doctrinal teaching that a man can divorce his wife for any of the following 3 reasons?
If the wife cuts her hair; or
- Yes, if a wife who dishonors her husband by cutting her hair inappropriately, he may divorce her if she is an unbeliever (if she is a believer, it is not grounds for divorce)
If the wife dresses in a manner that the husband doesn't like
- If an unbelieving wife dresses in a way her husband does not like that is not grounds for divorce. I do not think this question actually reflects what Bro. Branham taught. I believe he presented it in a manner in which she dishonored her husband. But if she dresses in a inappropriate way that dishonors her husband, yes that is grounds for divorce if she is an unbeliever (if she is a believer, it is not grounds for divorce)
If the wife had sex with a man other than her husband prior to marriage but did not tell her husband prior to their marriage.
- If a wife was found to not be a virgin on her wedding night, she could be put away, but only if it was done immediately. (Duet 22, which yes is the law. But I believe it establishes the principle. We would not stone the woman, but we would permit the divorce.) But this is purely hypothetical. We provide counseling to everyone before we marry them, and we ensure things like this are taken into consideration before we even marry them.
I would say that all three of these scenarios are very petty reasons to divorce and we would counsel the parties to not divorce for these reasons. But if they pressed for divorce and ignored our counseling, we would permit it. In all cases, including adultery, we seek to have the couple delay any decision to divorce, but separate if necessary. We see divorce as the last resort. In cases of abuse, we are quick to encourage separation and in cases of serious abuse we move quickly to excommunicate the abuser and report to the authorities. We have several thousand people in our associated churches, so we have had to deal with these issues from time to time and believe we have a very scriptural system. Divorce is uncommon in our "sect" of the message. It is primarily driven by cases of adultery in my experience.
Follow up from BTS
I agree that it does not appear that William Branham was trying to bring some new standard on marriage and divorce. I think that he was trying to bring his view of scripture. But as I stated in my original email, I think his understanding and interpretation of scripture is blatantly and obviously wrong.
You state, “He was just promoting what he believed was a traditional Christian view of divorce.” I do not agree with this statement. I do think he set a separate standard between men and women. This is not the traditional position of the church.
I think your attempt to reconcile William Branham's teaching to scripture is a result of cognitive dissonance. You cannot accept that William Branham could be significantly wrong in his teaching and, therefore, you must reconcile his teachings with scripture, even if that is not possible from what he clearly said. Your belief that he is a prophet will not allow you to have any substantial disagreement with him.
You state that "It is not clear to outsiders that Bro. Branham was speaking specifically of cases of an unbelieving spouse when he spoke of the cases where the wife dishonored her husband". I believe you must make this distinction even if it is not the case. More on that later.
You stated, “We agree that there is equality between man and woman in these matters.”
This is what the New Testament teaches, so we are in agreement. But there are other issues where we are clearly in disagreement.
You stated, “We believe Bro. Branham did think it was acceptable to divorce a woman years after their marriage if he discovered she had not been a virgin at marriage. However, this is not scriptural, and we believe he had a mistaken understanding.”
This is a significant statement. But I believe he was mistaken in a more significant way.
You later state, “If a wife was found to not be a virgin on her wedding night, she could be put away, but only if it was done immediately. (Duet 22, which yes is the law. But I believe it establishes the principle. We would not stone the woman, but we would permit the divorce.)”
I will go into the issue of William Branham’s view of the law and its application in the New Testament church in a later question. However, it is clear as we stated in our original question that Jesus clearly changed Mosaic law in his teaching on divorce. Given that, how can you justify bringing the law into the New Testament? Jesus did not carry the principle of Jewish law on divorce into the new covenant, so why would a principle of that law apply here except that you must agree with William Branham?
You state, “We deem any marital sin prior to conversion to be forgiven through baptism and repentance. We do not consider any pre-conversion reason as valid reason to divorce or to prevent remarriage.“ I agree with this statement but would apply it to all sexual immorality. But you make an exception for this on the marriage night? I don’t understand how you can make such an exception from the New Testament.
You state, “In the case where Bro. Branham says "he can put her away, but she cannot put him away", we also accept this teaching. But we interpret it differently that you are. We believe in the specific cases he gave, that the party guilty of adultery has no right force the divorce. It is the innocent party who has the right to chose a divorce. The prerogative of divorce or reconciliation lays completely with the innocent party. Bro. Branham merely stated if from the perspective of the man being the innocent party - however the reverse could also be true. So again, we believe this is equal for both genders, and the emphasis is not on the gender but on the guilty party”.
This disagrees with the plain meaning of William Branham’s statements:
- 230 Now you notice in First Corinthians 7:10, notice, Paul commands the wife that is, that divorces her husband, to remain single or be reconciled, not to remarry. She must remain single, or to be reconciled back to her husband. She cannot remarry. She must remain single, but, notice, he never said about the man. See, you can’t make the Word lie. “From the beginning,” the sex law by polygamy. Now, the Word of God runs true with nature of God, runs in to continuity.
- 238 Now look, in the final analysis, look, there is one Jesus Christ (is that right?), one Man, God, Immanuel. Do you believe that? [Congregation says, “Amen.”—Ed.] But the members of His Wife are many, see, thousands times thousands of thousands (is that right?), His Wife, the Bride, the Church. You understand now? [“Amen.”]. (65-0221M - Marriage And Divorce)
- 135 “Woman was made for man, and not man for woman.” That’s the reason, under the old laws, that polygamy was legal. (65-0429E - The Choosing Of A Bride)
WMB obviously held men to a different standard for divorce than women. He specifically states, “he never said about the man.” Why would he say that if he was not making a distinction between men and women? I understand that this is not scriptural. That is my whole point. I also think the reason virtually everyone in the message would disagree with you is that they actually understand what William Branham taught on the issue.
You state, “a wife who dishonors her husband by cutting her hair inappropriately, he may divorce her if she is an unbeliever (if she is a believer, it is not grounds for divorce).”
You go on to state, “If an unbelieving wife dresses in a way her husband does not like that is not grounds for divorce. I do not think this question actually reflects what Bro. Branham taught. I believe he presented it in a manner in which she dishonored her husband. But if she dresses in a (sic) inappropriate way that dishonors her husband, yes that is grounds for divorce if she is an unbeliever (if she is a believer, it is not grounds for divorce).“
But this is not what Paul plainly taught in 1 Cor 7:12-13:
- To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
This does not say that if the unbelieving wife cuts her hair but still wants to live with her husband that the believing husband has the right to divorce her. It also does not say that if the unbelieving wife dresses in a manner that the believing husband does not like but she still wants to live with her husband that he has the right to divorce her. To argue this is twisting the passage to mean something it clearly does not state. This also holds true equally to the woman. The issue is the desire to remain married, not whether the unbelieving wife has "dishonoured" her husband in a way that she does not even understand or in a way that may be normal cultural behaviour for a married woman.
There is nothing in the New Testament to support your statement or William Branham's statements. This is contrary to the preaching of Christ and to the apostle Paul.
You state, “I would say that all three of these scenarios are very petty reasons to divorce and we would counsel the parties to not divorce for these reasons.”
We believe that the teachings of Jesus and that of the apostle Paul are clear. The three reasons that William Branham gave were not scriptural and cannot be supported from any New Testament teaching. In fact, they are contrary to the plain meaning of the New Testament.
- MARRIAGE.AND.DIVORCE_ JEFF.IN 65-0221M
- QUESTIONS.AND.ANSWERS 59-0628E
- MARRIAGE.AND.DIVORCE 65-0221M
- MARRIAGE.AND.DIVORCE 65-0221M
- William Branham, 53-0609A - Demonology, Religious Realm, para. 226
- William Branham, 53-0729 - Questions And Answers On Genesis, para. 76-77
- William Branham, 53-1130 - Has The Lord Spoken Only To Moses?, para. 22
- William Branham, 54-0514 - The Seal Of God, para. 98
- 55-0311 THE.SEAL.OF.THE.ANTICHRIST
- The Worst Sinner in the City 56-0218E
- William Branham, 64-1212 - The Harvest Time, para. 210
- 65-0221M – Marriage and Divorce
- William Branham, 65-0429E - The Choosing Of A Bride, para. 157