Divorce in Noahide law

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The Jerusalem Talmud recounts that there is no formal divorce according to Noachide law.[1] The rishonim understand this in three completely different ways. Some claim that this means that divorce is legally impossible for a Gentile and once married there is no way to end the marriage.[2] Others maintain that the Talmudic passage means that there is no formal process of divorce, and either spouse can end the marriage by simply leaving the family unit.[3] Yet other authorities insist that in Noachide law a man may never divorce his wife -- but she may divorce him at will.[4]


  1. Jerusalem Talmud Kiddushin 1:1; see generally Malachim 2:16.
  2. See Chedushai haRaN Sanhedren 58b; see also Penai Yehoshua, Kiddushin 13b who insists that this applies even after the death of the spouse.
  3. Maimonides, Ishut 1:1-2 and Malachim 9:8
  4. Opinion of Rabbi Yochanan, Bereshit Rabbah 18:5 and see also commentary of Rashi on id for an elaboration on this.