For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
The text of rulings started in Exodus twenty can take us back to a time of cultural irrelevancy to the point that we may wonder about their current usefulness. Somehow though, these things about buying and selling children, slavery and polygamy are part of the great Horeb oracle, so to consider them irrelevant can be, and is in my opinion disrespectful.
Let’s look for example at the laws of polygamy. It says that, If he (a man) takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her (the first wife) food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money (Exodus 21:10-11). Read from our modern western cultural viewpoint, these rulings sound barbaric; but let’s give them a fair try.
Polygamy was an accepted M. East lifestyle in the days of Exodus. Marriage was a business transaction and if he could afford it, a man could marry a woman for financial, political or just plain lustful selfish reasons. Once she served her purpose, he got himself another to the neglect of the first one. Apparently God did not approve of this practice so He decreed that if a man re-marries, the food, the clothing and the conjugal rights of the first wife are not in any way to be diminished. If the husband doesn’t hold to that, she has automatic legal grounds to leave him and even remarry. In a certain way, that makes polygamy impossible unless you are King Solomon, and even he probably couldn’t live up to it.
We now are a far cry from these days of healthy ‘woman’s rights’. Today a man can take a woman, and if he has affairs on the side (in Bible views, a man is joined to a woman through sexual intimacy) that cause him to neglect the first wife (which is inevitable), she has to go through the cruel humiliations of divorce proceedings. This ruling teaches about the heart of the Father against such cruelty as rejecting a wife.
A common teaching today is replacement theology: the ideology that because of sin God rejected His first wife Israel in favor of Christianity. For many, this explains our on-going exile, the inquisitions and the Holocaust. People easily understand replacement theology scenario because this is the way they live and we generally understand God through the lenses of our own perverted viewpoint. First, God hates divorce (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 10:2-9), and about Israel Paul explains that, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29)”. If God practices the irrevocable putting away of wives because of sin, Christians then are also in danger. Second, even if He did, our relationship with Him was not to be diminished.
My point here is that this commandment reveals the true nature and character of the Father. He may chastise us for awhile to help us know and trust Him more, but never in an attempt to drive us away from Him, and He doesn’t go from ‘bride’ to ‘bride’ as mankind seems to enjoy doing today. We can now see not that this seemingly archaic rule teaches us much about our current value system and even our theology.