Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is an important passage relating to the Biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage. The text reads as follows:
1 כִּי־יִקַּח אִישׁ אִשָּׁה וּבְעָלָהּ וְהָיָה אִם־לֹא תִמְצָא־חֵן בְּעֵינָיו כִּי־מָצָא בָהּ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר וְכָתַב לָהּ סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻת וְנָתַן בְּיָדָהּ וְשִׁלְּחָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ׃
2 וְיָצְאָה מִבֵּיתוֹ וְהָלְכָה וְהָיְתָה לְאִישׁ־אַחֵר׃
3 וּשְׂנֵאָהּ הָאִישׁ הָאַחֲרוֹן וְכָתַב לָהּ סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻת וְנָתַן בְּיָדָהּ וְשִׁלְּחָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ אוֹ כִי יָמוּת הָאִישׁ הָאַחֲרוֹן אֲשֶׁר־לְקָחָהּ לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה׃
4 לֹא־יוּכַל בַּעְלָהּ הָרִאשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר־שִׁלְּחָהּ לָשׁוּב לְקַחְתָּהּ לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר הֻטַּמָּאָה כִּי־תוֹעֵבָה הִוא לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְלֹא תַחֲטִיא אֶת־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה׃
The four verses constitute one sentence in Hebrew, which could be translated as:
When a man has taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her: and he will write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; and she will go out of his house, and she will go and be another man’s wife; and the latter husband will hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and you shall not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God gives you for an inheritance.
The sentence consists of a large series of clauses connected with "and." Verse four contains the only commands: "her former husband . . . may not take her again to be his wife," and "you shall not cause the land to sin" by this action, for it is an "abomination to the LORD." Everything other than these two commands in verse four are merely permissive, not commanded. The text contains no command at all to divorce, much less to remarry.
How does Deuteronomy 24:1-4 relate to the plain New Testament teaching of Jesus Christ that remarriage is adultery? Consider Christ's commentary in Mark 10:1-12 on Deuteronomy 24:1-4:
1 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. 2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For 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 cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
The Lord Jesus Christ teaches that God's plan from the very beginning of the Old Testament was one man for one woman for life, and that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was allowed for the hardness of men's hearts. (See the essay on "The Bible and Divorce" here.) Furthermore, Christ teaches that remarriage while one's first spouse is alive constitutes the wicked sin of adultery. This is actually clear within the text of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 itself. Note that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 clearly indicates that the remarriage has caused the woman to be "defiled." The Old Testament text itself denies that the remarriage is acceptable to Jehovah--it is evil and defiling. However, civil law in Israel's theocracy was different from God's perfect standard of sin. Some things that are sin were not illegal in Israel and should not be illegal now--they are legal even though they are sinful because of the hardness of men's hearts. Covetousness is forbidden in the Ten Commandments, but there was no civil penalty for coveting. (Nobody would be left.) Drunkenness is forbidden by God in many verses, but it was not illegal in Israel. Similarly, divorce is a sin--God hates it (Malachi 2:16)--and remarriage is defiling, but both were legal in Israel. The civil government's permission to divorce is different than the fact that divorce and remarriage are outside of the perfect moral will of God.
Clearly, then, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not by any means constitute a permission for divorce or for remarriage in Biblical New Testament churches. Christ's teaching against divorce and remarriage in Mark 10:1-12 brings out the true sense of the Old Testament text from Genesis to Malachi. In Mark 10, however, Christ does not address the question of whether the political system should make divorce or remarriage illegal. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 demonstrates that the civil government should allow divorce or remarriage to be legal (along with covetousness, drunkenness, laziness, and many other sins) because of the hardness of men's hearts.
Furthermore, Deuteronomy 24 teaches that if one has committed the sin of divorce and the further sin of remarriage, he should not sin a third time by divorcing his second spouse and returning to the first one. Some extreme advocates of the (Biblical) no-divorce, no-remarriage position argue that one should leave a second spouse and return to the first one because one is (allegedly) engaging in repeated and continual acts of adultery when one engages in marital relations with a second spouse. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 makes it clear that this extremist position is false and dangerous. Divorce is a terrible sin. Remarriage is a terrible sin, and the initial consummation of the second marriage is an act of wicked adultery. Believers who commit an act of adultery by remarrying should repent of that horrible sin. Church members who remarry should be subject to church discipline like other adulterers. However, once one has married a second spouse and committed lifelong fidelity to him or her, going back to the first spouse is an "abomination to the LORD" (Deuteronomy 24:4) that defiles the land. Everything in the Old Testament that is an abomination to Jehovah (versus, say, an abomination only to the Egyptians, Genesis 43:32) is a permanent moral prohibition, not something that changes by dispensation. Consider (from the study of Deuteronomy 22:5 here, dealing with the abomination of violating gender-distinction):
Thus, the Bible clearly teaches that divorce is a grave sin, and remarriage is adultery (Mark 10) which defiles (Deuteronomy 24:4). Likewise, rejecting a second spouse, committing a second sin of divorce, and going back to a first spouse is not godly repentance, but an "abomination." Sometimes when a certain sin has been committed there is no going back. Israel sinned when the nation failed to inquire of Jehovah and made vows to Gibeon (Joshua 9), but once the vows had been made, there was no going back. In the same way, once one has made life-long vows to a second spouse and married him or her, there is no going back--to do so is an abomination to the Lord.
1.) Do not divorce. God hates it.
2.) Do not remarry. It is adultery.
3.) If you remarry, do not go back to your first spouse. It is an abomination.
Bro Kent Brandenburg's study on the Biblical way to obtain a life's partner (assuming, of course, that one has the new birth and conversion, the first and greatest prerequisite) is a great preservative against committing the terrible sins of divorce and remarriage. One who starts out right is, by the grace of God, much more likely to continue right than someone who starts out wrongly.