Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Close this search box.

Incorrect Translations of Malachi 2:16?

I’ve just learnt something new.

Until today, I understood Malachi 2:16a as saying, “’For I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘and him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the LORD of hosts” (NASB). But I’ve discovered that traditional translations of this verse into English may be incorrect.

In the Hebrew of Malachi 2:16, God does not say, “I hate …” (first person singular); rather God says, “He [who] hates …” (third-person masculine singular). This “he” seems to be the man who hates and divorces his wife, and in so doing behaves unjustly towards her. (A divorced woman in Bible times could be very vulnerable and disadvantaged.)[1]

The Hebrew of Malachi 2:16 is not straightforward.[2] The Septuagint, the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, is somewhat easier to understand and uses second person language: “If you hate [and] send away/divorce …” which makes it clearer that God is speaking about someone else and he is not the one doing the hating.[3]

Better Translations of Malachi 2:16

A few recent English translations have broken with the traditional rendering of Malachi 2:16.

Christian Standard Bible (CSB) “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Armies. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

English Standard Version (ESV) “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

New International Version 2011 (NIV) “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Several relatively recent English translations of Malachi 2:16 can be viewed here.

Malachi’s Comments, and Ours

After quoting God at the beginning of verse 16, Malachi comments on God’s statement by saying, “Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously” (Mal. 2:16b). Malachi had prefaced verse 16 by saying, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth” (Mal. 2:15b). There is a real warning in these verses, but the warning isn’t that God necessarily, or always, hates divorce.[4]

Divorce is a terrible thing. It is hard, horrible, and heartbreaking. But we should stop saying that God hates divorce as this may well be misquoting and misrepresenting scripture. Moreover, pronouncing that “God hates divorce” brings only hurt, confusion, and feelings of condemnation to Christians who are divorced or contemplating divorce. This pronouncement does nothing to help the church’s mission of bringing healing and hope through the gospel. And Malachi 2:16 must not be used to coerce or guilt a wronged or abused spouse to remain in a harmful marriage.


[1] In Deuteronomy, the Hebrew verb “hates” (שָׂנֵא–sane’), the verb that occurs in Malachi 2:16, also occurs in other verses where a man hates his wife and wants to divorce her (Deut. 22:13ff, 22:16; 24:3). It is practically a technical term used in the context of divorce. (The NASB translates the “hate” verb as “turns/turned against.”)
The same verb also occurs in verses where a man hates his wife or would-be wife. Leah was hated (sometimes translated as “was unloved”) by Jacob (Gen. 29:31–33). The father of Samson’s first wife assumes Samson has abandoned her because he hated her (Judg. 15:2). Amnon hated Tamar immediately after he raped her, and he refused to marry her despite her pleading to do so (2 Sam. 13:15). (See Strong’s H8130.)

[2] C.C. Torrey comments on the difficulties of the text and notes that it isn’t clear how the translators of the Greek Septuagint and of the Aramaic Targum understood the beginning of Malachi 2:16: “They seem to have translated, as the Massoretes pointed [the Hebrew], with faithful adherence to an impossible text and in despair of making anything out of it.” Torrey, “The Prophecy of ‘Malachi,'” Journal of Biblical Literature, 17.1 (1898):1–15, 4 fn 9.
Some of the grammatical questions this verse raises are:
~ Is the divorce phrase conditional (with the sense of “if,” as in the CSB)?
~ Is the “hate” verb (sane’) second or third person?
~ Is the “send away/divorce” verb (shalach) an imperative or not?
~ How are we to understand the clothing phrase?

[3] An online English translation from the Septuagint of Malachi 2 is here.
The second person masculine verb (“you hate”) may also occur in Malachi 2:16 as given in line 4 of 4QXIIa, a damaged document found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. See Russel Fuller, “Text-Critical Problems in Malachi 2:10–16,” Journal of Biblical Literature 110.1 (Spring, 1991): 47–57, 55.
A footnote in Calvin’s commentary on Malachi 2:16 states that “you hate,” as well as being found in the Greek Septuagint and the Aramaic Targum, was adopted by Cyril of Alexandria, Jerome, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and by Dutch theologians of the 1500s-1700s: Drusius, Grotius, and Dathius, and others as well. (See note 237 here.) “You hate” is also found in these Bibles: Matthew Bible (1537), Great Bible (1539–1541), Geneva Bible (1556–1560), Bishops’ Bible (1568–1602), all translating from Hebrew, and Douay-Rheims translating from Latin (1582–1609).

[4] Divorce was not a rare occurrence in the community of God’s people. Moses may have divorced his first wife Zipporah (Exod. 18:2–3). Abraham effectively divorced Hagar, with God’s instigation and approval (Gen. 21:14 cf. Gen. 16:3). God said about himself that he divorced Israel because of her infidelity (Jer. 3:8). Under Ezra’s leadership, the Jews divorced their pagan wives (Ezra 10:2–3 NLT). In the New Testament, Joseph was planning on divorcing Mary by breaking their legally binding betrothal (Matt. 1:19).
The same Hebrew verb (שָׁלַח–shalach) that is used for Abraham sending Hagar away (Gen. 21:14) and Amnon sending Tamar away (2 Sam. 2:16) is used for wives being sent away (i.e. divorced). The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB) notes that שָׁלַח with the accusative of “wife” means “divorce” and it cites Deuteronomy 22:19 & 29, Deuteronomy 24:1 & 3, Jeremiah 3:1, and Malachi 2:16. (See BDB here.) The same verb is used in Jeremiah 3:8 for God divorcing Israel. A rarer, related word (שִׁלּוּחִים– shilluchim) is used for Moses sending away his first wife Zipporah (Exod. 18:2). (See BDB here.) A different, unrelated word is used for the Jews divorcing their pagan wives (Ezra 10:3). (See BDB here.)
The NET Bible’s note on Malachi 2:16 includes these statements: “… the immediate context suggests that the divorce in view is that of one Jewish person by another in order to undertake subsequent marriages. The injunction here by no means contradicts Ezra’s commands to Jewish men to divorce their heathen wives (Ezra 9-10).” (See NET note 24 here.)

© Margaret Mowczko 2016
All Rights Reserved

Postscript 1: May 23 2016
Scholars who think “he hates” is correct

Since posting this article, I’ve discovered (thanks to comments from readers) that scholars such as Gordon HugenbergerDavid Instone-Brewer, and Martin A. Shields believe that “He hates …” is correct. A short comment from Martin Shields is included in the NET Bible’s note on Malachi 2:16 here.

Also, a reader has asked if I can prove that “He hates” is correct. This link here may be helpful for those who have no knowledge of Hebrew. It “shows” that the verb is not first-person (“I hate”) in Malachi 2:16.

Postscript 2: August 18 2020
Malachi 2:16 in early English translations

The idea of God saying he hates divorce may be a legacy of the King James Bible. This is one of the first English translations that has God as the one who hates: “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away …” (Mal. 2:16 KJV). “He hateth” is a correct way to render the third person masculine Hebrew verb sane’, but having God speak and say “he hateth …” breaks other grammar rules in the Hebrew of Malachi 2:16. [See footnote 2.]

English translations published in the 1500s, before the KJV, have “If thou [i.e. “you”] hatest her …” or something similar. These translations include the Matthew Bible (1537), Great Bible (1539–1541), Geneva Bible (1556–1560), Bishops’ Bible (1568–1602), all translating from Hebrew, and Douay-Rheims translating from Latin (1582–1609). (These Bibles are also mentioned in footnote 3.)

However, there are other issues with Malachi 2:16 in these older translations. For example, they render “putting away” as an imperative (as do some Greek texts): “If though hatest her, put her away, sayeth the Lord God of Israel.” And the Matthew and Great Bibles have, “And give her clothing [alimony?] for her scorn” which is different from “he covereth injury under his garment” in other translations.

Postscript 3: Calvin’s Commentary of Malachi 2:16

The Geneva Bible translates Malachi 2:16 as “If thou hatest her, put her away, sayeth the Lord God of Israel, yet he covereth the injuries under his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore keep your selves in your spirit, and transgress not.” (The original spelling is here.)

After giving commentary on the verse, John Calvin addresses husbands directly.

“What else is this,” he says, “but to cover by a cloak your violence, or at least to excuse it?” For ye do not openly manifest it: but God is not deceived, nor can his eye be dazzled by such a disguise: though then your iniquity is covered by a cloak, it is not yet hid from God; nay, it is thus doubled, because ye exercise your cruelty at home; for it would be better for robbers to remain in the wood and there to kill strangers, than to entice guests to their houses and to kill them there and to plunder them under the pretext of hospitality. This is the way in which you act; for ye destroy the bond of marriage, and ye afterwards deceive your miserable wives, and yet ye force them by your tyranny to continue at your houses, and thus ye torment your miserable wives, who might have enjoyed their freedom, if divorce had been granted them. (Source: Bible Hub)

Calvin understood that some husbands in his day were treating their wives cruelly and that this destroyed the bond of marriage. Without advocating for divorce, he plainly acknowledges that divorcing their wives was a better option than tormenting them. He also warns them that God is aware of their crimes.

Postscript 4: September 29 2021
The Historical Context of Malachi 2:16

In a more recent article, I present the idea that Malachi 2:16 is not a general statement on divorce but is about a particular person, a priest named Manasseh (brother of Jaddua, the High Priest in Jerusalem), who divorced his first wife in around 350 CE. See here.

Postscript 5: October 18, 2023
Does the Hebrew noun chabereth in Malachi 2:14 indicate equality in marriage?

“The LORD is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young, to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion (chabereth) and wife by law [or, covenant]” (Mal. 2:14 NET).

The prophet Malachi uses the Hebrew noun chabereth (חֲבֶרֶת) to describe a wife in this verse, and I was asked whether this word implies equality in marriage. Here are my thoughts on this.

Chabereth is typically translated as “partner” or “companion” in English translations of the Bible. In the Septuagint, it is translated as koinōnos which means “partner, fellow, companion.” (See LSJ definitions here.)

“Companion” is a lovely way to describe the relationship of a wife to her husband. However, considering the intention of the speech, which is a warning to a husband (or, husbands) not to betray and divorce his wife, I don’t think we can use this as a statement about “equality” in marriage, as such. Rather, I see chabereth as a word well-chosen for its rhetorical value.

The root verb chabar (חָבַר) has the senses of “to unite,” “be allied,” and “be joined.” Walter Kaiser seems to be drawing on these verbal senses in this comment on chabereth in Malachi 2:14: “… the word “partner/ companion” may echo the “one flesh” of Genesis 2:24. It implies a harmony and a desire to work together to achieve life’s greatest goals while sharing all the pain, hardships, and joys.”
Kaiser, What Does the Lord Require?: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching Biblical Ethics (Baker Academic, 2009), 100. (Google Books) “Unity” is definitely a theme in the following verse, Malachi 2:15.

Based on its use in the Hebrew Bible, a sense of the noun chabereth and its masculine equivalent seems to be “association based on similarities.” In its masculine form, the noun is used for associates, fellows, and companions. (See here.)

“Similarity” and “equality” can sometimes be almost synonyms but because of the rhetoric, I’m reluctant to read too much into the word chabereth. Still, I’m glad this word was chosen. All of Malachi 2:14-16 is worded in a way that honours wives. The prophet’s intention here was to protect wives (or, one wife in particular).

The equality or mutuality of men and women, and of husbands and wives, is the Edenic and New Creation ideal. Malachi 2:14 doesn’t lend strong support to this concept, but it certainly doesn’t detract from it.

Thank you to those who support my work. It is greatly appreciated!
You can support my work for as little as $3 USD a month at Patreon.
Become a Patron!

Explore more

Malachi 2:16 and the Priest who Divorced his Wife
Jesus on Divorce, Remarriage and Adultery
Hyperbole and Divorce in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:31-32)
Paul’s Words on Divorce, and Leaving an Abusive Marriage
A Note on Divorce Terminology in the Bible
A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s “Grounds for Divorce”
All my articles on divorce are here.

100 thoughts on “God on Divorce (Malachi 2:16)

  1. Thank you for this enlightening post. My friend, whose husband has been cheating and leaving her for months at a time, was struggling to divorce him because of her concern over this very verse. She thought she’d be losing God as well as her husband because “God hates divorce.” I’m sure God doesn’t enjoy divorce, but he allowed it because of men’s hard hearts. Divorce can protect women from those hard hearts. Of course it’s not ideal, but we live in a broken world, and divorce provides damage control.
    Can you comment on how this verse might address polygyny? If a man keeps his first wife and just adds another, is God OK with that? I cannot find Bible support for God’s disapproval of this practice. Some today claim God approves it, and women just need to accept it. Do you have any posts/resources on this subject?

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Divorce is heart-breaking and damaging anyway you look at it. But God does allow it as a concession, just not as the ideal.

      I haven’t really thought about polygamy . . . I guess because I’ve always considered that Genesis 2:24 and the one-flesh symbolism was pretty clear. God has mercifully tolerated things such as polygamy and patriarchy among his people in the past, but they are not his ideals.

      A lifelong, monogamous, happy and mutually supportive marriage of one man and one woman is God’s ideal.

      1. Moses did not divorce Zipporah. He sent her to her father, Moses’ father in law to tell him the good news of what the Lord had done for Israel and to bring her father back to see Moses. Moses sent his two sons for a greeting to Jethro out of love for his father in law. Read the chapter for context : Exodus 18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
        Jethro, Moses’ Father-in-law
        18 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” 4 The other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”

        5 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God. 6 He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” 7 Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.

        1. Sending a wife back to her parent’s house is what divorce often looked like in ancient times. Moses may have sent Zipporah back for her own good, to spare her the hardships ahead. The Bible doesn’t tell us, one way or the other, if Moses took her back when Jethro visited Moses with Zipporah and the two sons.

    2. To answer your question on polygamy, God in the very beginning of Scripture declares as early as Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” God would have stated otherwise if He meant more than one woman, but He does not. Many men of God committed polygamy (David and Solomon) but it cost them dearly. In keeping with the original thinking that God hates divorce, He also told King David that the honor of building the first Temple for God would go to Solomon was because of all the blood spilled by David during his reign.(1Chron 22:8 & 28:3)If your friend had listened to Jesus more carefully she would have found that God allows for divorce in cases of sexual infidelity (Matt.19:9;Mark 10,11;Luke 16:18) but we as Christians (Especially in America)have forgotten that marriage is a reflection of the marriage between Christmas and His Church.Thus the indicative not to marry an unbeliever. Now marriage falls under common grace and it is open to believer & unbeliever alike. My atheist parents were married almost 63 years while my wife left me to raise our 2 daughters after only 15 1/2 years. But my parents chose not to honor God and God blessed me as a single father in the Military to raise 2 wonderful children.But each of those girls still feel the “violence” done to them from their mother’s action. And there mother died at a rather young age,compounding their loss.

    3. Hello. I read through your commentary regarding Malachi 2:16. As someone who has lived through an unwanted divorce and continues to stand on God’s Word for the reconciliation of my beloved to Him and the restoration of our marriage, I would love to share this commentary, particularly the part that I have pasted below, with you regarding the same scripture.


      The Hebrew phrasing of this verse can be taken in one of two ways. The opening of verse 16 either refers to a man who “hates and divorces,” or to God Himself “hating divorce.” Either way, the implication of the verse is clear: God in no sense approves of divorce. This is either emphasized with a double declaration from God, or by associating the act of divorce with an attitude of “hatred.”

      Divorce is a violent act and causes deep pain because it violates God’s design for marriage- the uniting of two to become one flesh. This unity is only broken when one spouse dies, not by divorce.

      Divorce is downplayed in our churches today, making it an option for those claiming to be born again Christians.

      It has never been part of His design.

      God bless.

      1. Hello Nicole.

        There is no doubt that divorce is a horrible thing, especially dumping your wife in order to marry another woman, which is the scenario in Malachi 2. (There is also an implication that the Jewish men were dumping their Jewish wives to marry pagan women.)

        “… the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. ‘For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence,’ says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” ESV

        Divorce does indeed go against God’s ideal of a one-flesh union, but there are many things that can break this unity, not just faithlessness, divorce, or death. Polygamy, for example, is against God’s design for marriage, and yet God tolerated this among his people, even among those he loved dearly such as Jacob and King David who had several wives and concubines.

        And there are many things worse things than divorce. Divorce is never mentioned in lists of sins or vices in any New Testament letter (e.g., Mark 7:20-23; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

        As I’ve said elsewhere, “Some Christians think all marriages are sacred. Some marriages, however, are diabolical. Furthermore, people are more sacred than marriages, especially abusive marriages. People need to be cared for, protected, and loved, and not unwillingly sacrificed for an ideal. All biblical regulations and instructions, including those about divorce, must be applied with both wisdom and kindness. But please note that I am not promoting divorce. What I do say is this: if a marriage or a home is unsafe, we must not just allow people to leave, we need to help people to leave.”

        Divorce has never been part of God’s design and abuse has never been part of God’s design.

        Also, I noticed most of your comment has been copy-and-pasted from the web page you linked to. Please don’t do this on my website. Plagiarism is illegal.

        1. Doesn’t plagiarism refer to material written by someone else and claimed as your own? She clearly indicated thats she was pasting something she had read and was seeking your response to it. At least, that’s how I read it.

          1. Plagiarism occurs when people quote a source without giving proper credit. Also, the amount Nicole shared was excessive.

            I removed the slabs of copy-and-pasted and inadequately cited content that she shared.

            It is unethical and, in some cases, illegal to quote over a certain word count without the permission of the author or copyright holder. Here’s a short note on this: https://ori.hhs.gov/education/products/roig_st_johns/Copyright%20Infringement.html

            I removed most of the content of Nicole’s original comment, and just left the link and a few paragraphs, because it was unethical and I didn’t want to get in trouble by having it on my blog.

            I don’t know how much of what I kept were Nicole’s words or were from another person. It was unclear in the original comment.

            Nevertheless, I addressed her concerns.

    4. I believe the Father wants unity and right fellowship when it comes to marriage. From every bit of study and prayer that I have done in my life the conclusion has been of that understanding.

  2. I appreciate this post, Marg. The truth is that the reason this passage is in the Bible (and most people don’t even know that it is) is because in those days no woman could ever divorce her husband. Divorce was only an option for men.

    A man could choose to divorce his wife for any reason whatever, and many did, divorcing for such reasons as that he had tired of her, she wasn’t have boy children, she was no longer healthy, etc. When she was divorced, she was sent away without her children (unless they were discarded also, as was Ishmael) and without any means to support herself, meaning she had to beg or become a prostitute.

    When a man divorced his wife, it was rarely for adultery, as Jesus speaks of being the only reason. It was a callous and cruel choice, and that was what God was against, and what Jesus speaks against in the new testament.

    It has been used as a reason to make women stay with abusive husbands, but actually, it was spoken for the reverse – that men did not abuse their wives, who for many cases had been with them since their youth. Further proof that God cares so much for women.

    1. Hi Bev,

      This is such an important point!

      I’ve got another post scheduled for Monday night (Australian time), which is about Jesus on Divorce. I’ll make sure your point is mentioned much clearer than it is in the present version of this upcoming article.

      Glad to see you back! I’d love to hear about your adventures.

      1. It’s great that you’re writing on the subject, as it’s so abused and has been used against people for decades.. not centuries because until recently a woman was doomed to a terrible marriage. Only recently has it become an issue because only recently have women begun to be recognised as of equal value with equal rights.

        thanks for all you do in this regard.

        (Yes, I would love to have lunch again and catch up.)

      2. I believe that God does hate divorce as the scripture states. One version states that Moses allowed it because of the hardness of the heart, meaning that one does not take God’s word as one should. In the beginning God gave Adam one wife, stating that man should not be alone. His word also states that a man should leaves his parents and cleave to his wife (singular). God is the same yesterday and today, He dos not change.
        As followers of God, one must put his trust in God in every aspect of his/ her life. I believe a person can leave or divorce one’s spouse for abuse or infidelity, however one must not remarry.
        God is a faithful and forgiving God. We humans were born in sin, and we are falable. We will make mistakes such as Moses and David and God will forgive,but we must not be presumsous for we will suffer the consequences.

  3. God does not want us to hate, or to sin or the like. He gave us divorce because of hardened hearts – which is sin. He chooses to offer grace and mercy. He will also heal us as individuals at the expense of our marriage. Divorce will affect you, your ex, your children for a lifetime.

    1. Hi Crystal, I fully take your points. 🙂

      There’s no doubt that the effects of divorce are deep and long lasting. The effects of all kinds of abuse in the home are deep and long lasting too. 🙁

    2. Crystal– victims of abuse usually find that divorce affects them for the B ETTER. Getting through the court process can be very harrowing but so long as the victim doesn’t lose the children altogether, the longterm outcome is that the victim/survivor’s life is better, safer, and happier than when she (or he) was with the abuser.

      I support many victims of domestic abuse and have been doing so for years. I am a survivor of domestic abuse myself, and I have heard stories from hundreds, probably thousands, of Christian survivors of domestic abuse. So I know something about this topic. Please be careful with your wording: I think your last sentence would trigger many victims of abuse by making them feel guilty for wanting to divorce.

  4. Actually, the original Hebrew could be translated either in the first person or the third person. The Septuagint and the Targum, translated from the Hebrew centuries after the original was written, used the third person to justify divorce if a husband merely hated his wife, thereby permitting him to marry anybody else and also thereby condemning the wife to a life of poverty. Masoretic punctuation, added in the Middle Ages, also implies the third person (“he hates”). The first person (“I hate”) is more in keeping with the passage, which attacks husbands for their unfaithfulness. See Verhoef, NICOT, The Books of Haggai and Malachi.

    1. Hi Rick,

      That’s interesting, but I can’t see how the third person (“he hates) justifies divorce on the grounds of hate. You still have to contend with Malachi’s words on either side of the quotation in Malachi 2:16a.

      1. Personally, I agree. However, some ancient scholars thought otherwise. That’s why the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce.

        1. My next post is called “Jesus on Divorce”. I’ve written about Hillel’s and Shammai’s interpretations of Deuteronomy 24:1 and quote from the Mishnah Gittin 9.10.

          Jesus mentions Genesis 2 and creation, and he mentions Moses’ ruling on divorce, in his reply to the Pharisees, but I can’t see that either Jesus or the Pharisees mention or allude to Malachi 2:16. But I’ll look into this further. 🙂

    2. In actual fact the Hebrew cannot be translated as “I hate” without amending the text.

      On the other hand, the more recent translations of “He who hates and divorces” only require that the Masoretic pointing be altered. They require no change to the consonantal text. For details see my article “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2:10–16,” ZAW 111.1 (1999) 68–86.

      Some brief comments are also available in the NET Bible’s comment on this verse (they note the required amendment to the text to preserve the traditional translation but nonetheless persevere with it despite my lobbying).

      1. The Masoretic pointing was not part of the original Hebrew. It was added in the Middle Ages.

      2. Yes Rick, that was my point really: readings which rest on a change to the pointing are (in my opinion) rather less significant than changes to the consonantal text. So reading “I hate” is a more significant change than reading “He (who) hates.”

      3. Hi Martin,

        I checked the NET Bible before posting the article because they usually have excellent notes. I was disappointed to see that they had stayed with the traditional understanding too.

        I always appreciate you weighing in, as my Hebrew is poor. I am much more confident with the Septuagint which, as it turns out, is quite different in Malachi 2:16.

        I can’t access your paper via Macquarie University’s library. Any chance you can email me a pdf?

      4. Hi Martin
        I quoted your treatment of Malachi 2:16 in my book. Nice to see you on the web!

      5. Hi Barbara, I’m glad you found my article useful!

    3. Rick, appendix 7 of my book “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion” (2008) contains a list of 18 translations of Malachi 2:16 which support ‘he hates’ rather than ‘I hate’. These translations about by a range of Hebrew scholars and Bible translations teams.

      Since it is my book and I own the copyright, I am happy to put this Appendix here, for anyone to read for themselves. I hope it will clarify some things. This topic is a tricky one. It took me three years to write my book, and lots of that time was studying commentaries and researching what others had said. One chapter and one appendix in my book address Malachi 2:16; the rest of my book deals with other scriptural passages about divorce.

      In my next comment I will paste the entire text of Appendix 7 from “Not Under Bondage”

    4. Appendix 7 of “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion” (Barbara Roberts, 2008)

      (Note: in the book, each scholar’s translation was shown in bold font but I don’t have the capacity to do that here. Nor can I show all the footnotes and bibliographical references that are shown in my book. )

      Translations of Malachi 2:16

      This appendix presents eighteen translations of Malachi 2:16 where the one who hates is the divorcing husband. The date of each translation is shown.

      1868 (Ewald) For he who from hatred breaketh wedlock, saith Yahweh Israel’s God, — he covereth with cruelty his garment, saith Yahweh of Hosts. To arrive at his translation, Ewald repointed the perfect verb śānē’ as a Qal participle śōnē’ and the infinitive construct šallah as an infinitive absolute šallēah.

      1908 (van Hoonacker) Quand quelqu’un répudie par aversion, dit Jahvé le Dieu d’Isräel, il se couvre d’injustice par-dessus son vêtement, dit Jahvé des Armées. Hoonacker repoints śānē’ to the Qal active participle śōnē’ (like Ewald), but repoints the infinitive construct šallah as a Piel perfect “to send away, divorce” to match the perfect “covers” in the latter part of the verse.

      1927 (J. M. P. Smith) “For one who hates and divorces,” says the Lord God of Israel, “covers his clothing with violence,” says the Lord of Hosts.

      1934 (Lattey) For he that putteth away with hatred…

      1970 (New English Bible) If a man divorces or puts away his spouse, he overwhelms her with cruelty, says the Lord of Hosts the God of Israel.

      1981 (René Vuilleumier) En effet, répudier par haine, c’est couvrir son vêtement de violence, dit YHWH Sabaot. (In fact, to repudiate through hatred is similar to covering one’s garment with violence says YHWH Sabaot.)

      1986 (Westbrook) For he has hated, divorced … and covered his garment in injustice… . Westbrook follows J. P. M. Smith and takes the two verbs as finite.

      1987 (Glazier-McDonald) “For one who divorces because of aversion,” says Yahweh, the God of Israel, “thereby covers his garment with violence” Glazier-McDonald says “making Yahweh the subject is wholly arbitrary and requires too many inferences.”

      1994 (Hugenberger) If one hates and divorces, says Yahweh, God of Israel, he covers his garment with violence, says Yahweh of hosts. Hugenberger spends thirty-five pages analyzing the various interpretations and translations of verse 16 made prior to his time of writing, and presenting reasons why his translation is the most supportable. He leaves both śānē’ and šallah unchanged, suggesting that šallah be interpreted “as a Piel infinitive absolute functioning as a substitute for a finite form, in this case a perfect … in the Piel conjugation the infinitive construct often provides an alternative form for the infinitive absolute.”

      1994 (D. C. Jones) Translation of the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament made in the intertestamental period). The Septuagint has the first clause in the verse in the second person: If you divorce out of hatred, says the Lord God of Israel, then ungodliness covers your thoughts. Jones says:

      “The Septuagint … is widely and mistakenly assumed to have the same rendering as the Targum and the Vulgate: ‘If you hate, divorce!’… Correctly parsed, however, the Septuagint is not a subjunctive and an imperative, but a participle and a subjunctive. It does not say, ‘If you hate, divorce!’ It says, ‘If hating you divorce,’ with the apodosis [result] still to come, as in the Hebrew. …This rendering is congruent with Malachi’s general style as Malachi often inserts ‘says the Lord’ before completing the thought (1:10, 14; 3:10, 17). In one other verse he places it as here, between the protasis [condition] and the apodosis [result] of a conditional sentence (2:2).”

      Jones notes how two distinct Septuagint readings dating from the fifth century have been confused. One reading said “If you hate, divorce!” the other said “If hating you divorce…”. The former came to be regarded as “the LXX” of Mal. 2:16 to the neglect of the other reading. Jones says there is overwhelming manuscript evidence for the latter reading.

      1994 (C. John Collins) renders the Septuagint as If having hated you should divorce… because “the participle is an aorist, and an adverbial aorist participle before the main verb normally denotes action prior to that of the main verb.”

      1994 (C. John Collins) translates the Hebrew: For he hated, he divorced [his wife] … and he will [consequently] cover his garment with wrongdoing. Collins suggests that šallah (divorce) be taken “as a Piel perfect, with a rare but not wholly unattested a in the first syllable rather than the usual i.” This suggestion would give two perfect verbs (hated, divorced) denoting consecutive past action. He concludes: “Taken this way, Malachi 2:16 shows how the sin condemned but not named in verses 13 and 14 is a violation of the marital unity described in verse 15.”

      1997 (Sprinkle) When he hates so as to divorce, says the Lord God of Israel, then he covers himself with lawlessness. Sprinkle says I hate divorce is “an impossible translation of the MT, one that can only be retained on the basis of conjectural emendation without any manuscript support.” He takes the infinitive šallah as a result clause.

      1998 (Stuart) If one hates and divorces (Yahweh, Israel’s God, said), he covers his clothes with crime (Yahweh of the Armies said). Stuart sees both Hoonacker and Hugenberger’s suggestions as reasonable and does not arbitrate between them. He describes Malachi 2:16 as a conditional sentence with a typical “if … then” structure. The condition (if he hates and divorces) reflects the reference to divorce for aversion in Deuteronomy 24:3. The result (then he covers his clothes with crime) is the consequence of divorce for aversion.

      1999 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts.

      1999 (Shields) For the one who hates and divorces, says Yahweh, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says almighty Yahweh.

      2001 (English Standard Version) For the man who hates and divorces, says the Lord, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts.

      2003 (Zehnder) For the one who hates and divorces, covers his garment with violence, says YHWH of hosts. Zehnder says “The widespread rendering of the clause with ‘For I hate divorce’ is … untenable.” He interprets śānē’ as “either a verbal adjective or (with revocalization) as a Qal participle, šallah as an infinitive Piel or (with revocalization) as a third person singular perfect Piel.” He also gives, as an alternative translation, the same wording used by Hugenberger.

      These translations supply a weight of evidence against the common rendering “I hate divorce” and they all read the text as condemning a husband who both hates and divorces his wife. Since 1986, when the wave of these new translations began in earnest, an impressive degree of agreement has been developing amongst scholars.

      Differing views

      There is not complete unanimity, however. For the sake of fairness, the scholars who have taken differing views will now be briefly canvassed. It will be seen that their various solutions have far less unanimity than the scholars listed above.

      Wilhelm Rudolph did not emend or revocalise śānē’ but argued that it could be construed as a verbal adjective acting as a participle, with an elided first person singular pronoun “I” as the subject. He read “sallah” as the object and arrived at “Because I hate divorce”. Hugenberger refuted this, saying there are “no other first person pronouns in the context, and … a verbal adjective of śānē’ is otherwise unattested”. Rudolph also repointed “covers” as an infinitive construct and added a prepositional prefix to it. Martin Shields refuted this by saying, “When a participle constitutes the predicate of a verbless clause, the subject is usually explicitly represented in the clause. The absence of such explicit representation in Malachi 2:16 is a serious difficulty for this view.”

      In 1984, Ralph L. Smith emended śānē’ to the first person perfective form (“I hate”) as found in Malachi 1:3.

      In 1986, A. S. van der Woude rejected the “I hate divorce” reading because it required emendation of “he covers”. He recognized the third person of “hates” but rejected Hoonacker’s translation on the grounds that “it must sincerely be doubted whether in Old Testament times even a prophet would have denounced divorce as a crime. Deuteronomy 24 tells against this interpretation.” His solution was to translate šallah not as divorce, but as “a morally detestable hostile act”.

      In 1987, Pieter Verhoef rejected the translation “he hates” because he thought it must lead to “if he hates, let him send away” — which would contradict all that the prophet was seeking to convey. He argued for “I [God] hate divorce”, positing an elided “I” and repointing śānē’ to make it the Qal participle śōnē’.

      In 1993, Andrew Cornes echoed Verhoef and Rudolph. He rejected a posited translation, “if he hated when divorcing it would be as bad as covering his garment with violence”, because “it would imply that divorce was perfectly unacceptable if there were no hate involved and that would undermine all that Malachi is wanting to say about not breaking faith with your partner…”

      In 1994, Eugene Merrill argued for “I hate divorce”, simply because he claimed that that translation seemed to be preferred by the majority of scholars. He saw no difficulty in rendering “he hates” as “I hate” because “one must allow for fluidity in such grammatical forms”.

      In 1995, David Petersen translated verse 16a as “Divorce is hateful!” reading ki as asseverative and šallah as either a Piel imperative or an infinitive absolute. However, he read the passage as a metaphorical comment about Yahweh’s relationship to Israel rather than taking a literal divorce interpretation.

      In 1995, John J. Collins reviewed Hugenberger’s book, applauding the new translation, but questioning the conclusion that Malachi was making a distinction between divorce based on aversion and divorce that is justified:

      “He [Hugenberger] is surely right to reject the traditional translation ‘for I hate divorce,’ since the term ‘hate’ is very widely associated with divorce in the extrabiblical sources. Despite the support of Westbrook, however, the term ‘hate’ does not imply that divorce is ‘merely on the ground of aversion’. In the context of divorce, to ‘hate’ means to repudiate without further qualification. The term is used as a technical term for divorce in the Elephantine papyri and the technical sense is reflected in such expressions as ‘silver of hatred’ = divorce money, and ‘judgment of hatred’ = divorce proceedings. The fact that the longer expression ‘hate and divorce’ is also used at Elephantine does not prove that ‘hate’ implies something beyond mere divorce. Marriage formulae are often redundant (cf. ‘to have and to hold, to love and to cherish’). We need not conclude that Malachi condemned divorce without qualification. Prophetic speech does not lend itself to legal niceties. We can only conclude that he was unhappy with the current practice of divorce in his day. We cannot attribute to him, on the basis of the verb ‘to hate’, a distinction between divorce based on aversion and divorce that is justified.”

      Against John J. Collins, the view of Douglas Stuart may be relevant:

      “For those who recognize the overt dependency of the prophets on the Pentateuch and of Malachi specifically on Deuteronomy, it is entirely reasonable to expect that Malachi would be careful in the process of condemning what his contemporaries were doing — divorcing their first wives to marry pagans — not to state that all divorce was illegal. He might do this in the most semantically economical way (by the use of a single adjective [‘hating’] to pin down the type of divorce under attack), but he would certainly want to do it.”

      In 1998, Andrew Hill argued that: “śānē’ makes excellent sense if one presumes that the subject, hā’ehād [‘The One,’ i.e., Yahweh], of the verb has been gapped from verse 15 (‘Indeed, The One hates divorce…’).” Yet Hill seemed to contradict himself by implying that the divorcing husband was the one doing the hating: “The occurrence of the verbs śn’ and šlh [hate/divorce] in Deuteronomy 24:3 gives rise to the interpretation that ‘hating’ or ‘aversion’ was the motive for divorce.”

    5. And after “Not Under Bondage” was published, the NIV produced a new translation.

      In my view, and to my great relief, the 2011 NIV got Malachi 2:16 right. They translate it as:
      “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty.

      Here is my short article ‘God hates divorce? Not always.’ which I published on A Cry For Justice in 2013.

  5. Thank you, Marg, for co-laboring with the LORD JESUS to help set the captives free in clarifying this scripture. As a 36-year veteran in the faith I’ve seen my fair share of Sisters in Christ who have stayed in abusive/adulterous marriage relationships due to the misinterpretation of Malachi 2:16.

    We desperately need Church communities enlightened to these kinds of truths in order to establish green pastures where our hurting sisters (& also brothers) can find rest, refreshing, rejuvenation and recovery from the deep-seated wounding that occurs in circumstances where rejection, hatred, & anger have prevailed. May our Father make it so!

    Separation is also a very viable option in many situations, allowing wives to get an accurate bearing on their identity in Christ and heal enough to receive guidance from the Chief Shepherd & Guardian of their souls concerning their options. Without godly counsel & “family of God” support based on accurate interpretation & application of scripture we remain entrapped in the “deceitfulness of sin” thereby, holding to fixed but false beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary. JESUS came to set us free from all internal captivity! We desperately need a Church community that is enlightened to these principles.

    I read a quote the other day that resonated with my heart. I trust it will speak to you and your readers: “…part of our growth in God: He brings us to understand things that — because we are now alive in Christ — we are already aware of but haven’t yet been able to articulate.” (Tim Fall). Thanks for articulating the TRUTH! Blessings!

  6. It’s so simple but our sinful Flesh refuse to see it. EVEN Jesus himself said MANY will not accept his teaching on Remarriage. Marriage is a one flesh COVENANT unto Death. Jesus calls marrying anyone with a Divorced Spouse …Adulterers. Is it really worth going to Hell for?

    1. Hi Karen,

      Jesus doesn’t mention hell in his statements on divorce. In fact, none of the numerous laws regulating divorce in the Old Testament, and none of Jesus or Paul’s teachings on divorce, associate divorce with hell. (Paul doesn’t mention hell at all in any of his letters, and yet you mention hell in your short comment.) Anyway, moving on . . .

      Jesus statements on divorce in Matthew 19:4-9 and Mark 10:2-12 were given in response to specific questions posed to him by Pharisees and should be understood in this context. My next post is on Jesus’ teaching on divorce. The post on this page is simply about what Malachi 2:16 says.

      Ideally, marriage is a lifelong commitment and covenant. Thankfully, that is my experience. I’ve been married to my husband for over thirty years, and we are still going strong. My marriage is one of the biggest blessings of my life. However, that is not the experience of everyone.

      Many people do not keep their vows. Some people don’t even come close to fulfilling their marital vows to love, honour and cherish the other person. A legal divorce is usually just one step taken long after someone in the marriage has already broken their vows and broken the marriage covenant.

      I think we are in agreement that divorce is a terrible thing. However, divorce is not mentioned in any of the several lists of sins in the New Testament.

      1. staying married to a narcissist that is hell bent on destroying you is a living hell…there are people that will believe that one needs to stay in whatever situation and just “pray and give it to Jesus”. The body of Messiah is very ignorant of what is actually occurring in many homes and marriages…it is far better to leave, go the a shelter for battered women then to stay with a demon possessed person…abusive men use these scriptures to guilt trip the woman into staying, as do many pastors and ignorant church folk…much more education needs to happen within the body regarding abuse and divorce…abuse is grounds for divorce, after all, that is breaking the covenant.


        1. MDSW, I think you are right.

          If more people in the church really knew what it was like to live, day in day out, with a wicked, deplorably selfish, intensely controlling, or otherwise cruel spouse, and if they knew more about the merciful character of God, they would see divorce differently.

          Separation and divorce may be the best option when married to someone who has broken the marriage covenant by habitually failing to love, honour and cherish, and has thus destroyed the one-flesh union. As another commenter said, divorce is sometimes the better of two evils.

      2. God, the Creator of marriage, is the only One that can break the covenant of marriage and He says that that only happens by death.

        Have you read Help! My Spouse Wants Out by Craig Hill or Divorce and Remarriage by Joseph Webb? They are both in the minority view of this topic, but their analysis of the original scripture (not translations) proves to be accurate.

        1. People make and break covenants all the time.

          Promising to love and cherish as part of your wedding vows and then habitually doing the opposite is breaking a covenant.

      3. Marg I agree with your comments.
        I commented in my book after decades of living with an abuser and adulterer, ” what really is the sin? Is the divorce the sin or is the sin the abuse and adultery caused by ones spouse and therefore the divorce is the outcome of the unrepentant sin that had occurred and was yet till divorce occurring?

        1. Hi Florence,

          I agree, too many people are looking at the wrong thing. They have become focussed on pleasing God by following his rules but without understanding what the rules are there for in the first place. The regulations in the Bible were given to minimise abuse. And abuse is sin.

          Obedience pleases God. Allowing sin and abuse to continue in marriages does not.

          All the words about divorce in the Bible, whether from God, Jesus, or Paul, are given in the context of people divorcing for minor reasons. The Bible is against people divorcing for no valid reason. The Bible is not against people divorcing for major reasons such as abuse and betrayal.

          1. And, as you’ve noted, even God divorced His people in response to their breaking of their covenant with Him. He cannot sin, so how do we deal with that in our attempts to convict divorcees? Thank you for your faithfulness in sharing the truths in scripture and in your investigations of the texts.

    2. Oh Karen, I’m sure you mean well, but please may I urge you to read “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion” ?

      I believe you have been wrongly taught about divorce. The church has widely and abysmally misunderstood the scriptures about divorce. This misunderstanding goes back millennia. I’m not kidding.

      So it’s not your fault if you’ve got wrong ideas….

      The fault lies with leaders and scholars and those whose duty it is to rightly divide the Word of Truth so that the body of Christ is not led astray. And in particular so the oppressed, the abused, the vulnerable, the widows and fatherless children are not mistreated.

      Women and children who suffer domestic abuse are in fact like widows and fatherless children: They are bereft of good husbands, good fathers. The biblical principle of justice for the afflicted applies just as much to them as it does to those whose husbands and fathers have actually died.

      So please read “Not Under Bondage” before you think you’ve got the doctrine of divorce all sewn up.

      I know you might think I’m just wanting more book sales for myself, but really, I don’t care about sales. In fact, I give away my book to victim/survivors of domestic abuse who can’t afford to buy it, or for whom it would be unsafe to order it because their abuser scrutinises their spending and their mail.

      For the give-away option, see this post

      And for a brief article about remarriage after divorce, see

    3. I am really curious where this idea, that adulterers go to hell, comes from? It is so crazy to me that people would think in this graceless manner and hold women, especially, to this standard, and yet the words of Jesus about if you think it, you have done it, don’t seem to be universally applied. By His reasoning, probably most of humanity are guilty of adultery, and yet, He doesn’t say that hell is the punishment. He was merely illustrating the fact that humans cannot be “good enough” on their own- we need His grace.

  7. How did I know, as soon as I saw the heading of your post that it was somehow going to undermine marriage…hmmm, bit of a pattern going on here maybe?? I am so happy and ready to stand before my God on that enormous day and be very confident in my stance and teaching on marriage. Marg, are you? Are you really?

    1. How on earth can you know from the title that this post “was somehow going to undermine marriage”? If this is what you got from the title, then it is no wonder you’ve misunderstood the content and intent of the article.

      My stance, backed by a couple of Hebrew scholars who have contacted me to discuss the post, is that God does not say “I hate divorce” in Malachi 2:16. I’m also happy to discuss this with Jesus if he happens to bring it up on the Day of Christ.

      Nowhere on this website do I undermine marriage. I love being married! I do hope to undermine patriarchy, however; as it is not God’s ideal for his new covenant, new creation people.

      You are welcome to address and discuss aspects of my posts, but judgemental posts are usually deleted.

    2. Marg is not saying God likes divorce. She advocates understanding Malachi 2:16 based on a sound examination of the grammar of the pronouns. That effort does not undermine marriage. Scripture says what it says, and we should strive for accuracy.
      Her article upholds God’s ideal for marriage. She conveys the same ideas about divorce that Jesus does–divorce is a sad allowance in a badly broken world of hard hearts. Divorce flowed from hard hearts (primarily, in that day, of males who were unfaithful to females), and that hardness is what God hates. Even God portrays himself as “divorcing” Israel and Judah for spiritual unfaithfulness (see Jeremiah 3 and elsewhere). If God himself is unwilling to stay in an unfaithful relationship, then it stands to reason that he would not require an injured spouse to stay in one, either. That doesn’t mean he likes it. Divorce is the lesser of two evils.

      1. “If God himself is unwilling to stay in an unfaithful relationship”

        I think that’s a slippery slope of a statement. Later it’s stated,

        “Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not be angry forever.”

        and Jeremiah 31.

        1. Dave, you make a great point about God’s amazing fidelity and loyalty, especially towards those who (re)turn to the LORD. But I don’t see how the concept of “a slippery slope” applies in this discussion.

      2. God’s uses the analogy of marriage to explain Jesus’ love for the Church. Earthly marriage should mimic this love. Jesus never leaves nor forsakes His Church. Also, a sinning spouse does not give the other spouse justification to sin (Matthew 5:32).

        1. Hi Nikki,

          The themes in Ephesians 5:25-33 are love, yielding, unity, and nurture. And even though the relationship between Christ and the church is given as an example, leaving and forsaking are not mentioned because many wives, especially in the first century when the mortality rate was high, were left and forsaken by their husbands when they died. And husbands leave for other reasons too, for economic reasons, or because of war and imprisonment. But Jesus doesn’t leave us no matter what.

          All Christians should embody the love of Jesus (Eph. 5:1-2). And earthly marriages should embody the love of Jesus. Paul uses the word “love” six times when addressing husbands. But some spouses habitually do the opposite of love. Some marriages are unchristian and irredeemable.


          Jesus makes an important point in Matthew 5:31-32. Jesus wants his followers to live by a higher ethical standard than the Law of Moses stipulated and live by a higher ethical standard than what the scribes and Pharisees practised (Matt. 5:20). Living to a higher ethical standard is his overall point throughout Matthew 5:17-48, but that doesn’t mean we must do everything literally or precisely as Jesus has stated in this passage.

          Jesus uses rhetorical devices to make his points; he makes strong statements and uses hyperbole to hold the attention of his audience (e.g., Matt. 5:22; 29-30; 39-41; 48). Jesus did not want people in his audience to actually pluck out their eyes (Matt. 5:29), for example, and he cannot have actually expected his audience to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:40).

          We must understand the principles that Jesus taught in Matthew 5:17-40 and we must take them seriously, but we are not necessarily expected to practice them literally. If you believe we are meant to take all of Jesus’ teaching literally and precisely in verses 17-40, without applying commonsense and kindness, then I doubt there is any point in continuing this conversation.

          At the heart of Jesus’ teaching and ministry is love for humanity. Insisting that a person endure a marriage where the other spouse is violent and habitually cruel to their partner, or to their children, is the opposite of what Jesus wants for his followers.

          Update: I’ve expanded these comments and turned them into a new blog post here: https://margmowczko.com/hyperbole-divorce-sermon-on-the-mount-matthew-5/

          A covenant is formed when people make promises. It is people who break marriage vows. People make and break the covenant of marriage. Furthermore, the people who do break the vows of their marriage covenant usually do this years before any separation or legal divorce.

          The marriage is over, the covenant is broken, before a separation or legal divorce.

          Divorce is horrible and heartbreaking, and usually occurs after a marriage that is horrible and heartbreaking, and we mustn’t insist on binding a person to a spouse who is harming them just because of a few Bible verses that have been poorly understood by the church.

          God’s concern in Malachi 2:16 ESV was protecting vulnerable wives. We do the opposite of God’s heart if we make a vulnerable spouse stay with an abuser.

    3. Jeez Matt, after reading the article by Marg and the numerous comments from people who understood the article, and then reading your comment could I recommend two reads? 1) “Adventures in Missing the Point” and 2) Luke 18:9-12

      1. To Terry O I love your comment. All the comments are very informing in one way or another including Matt. Just saying I got a little laugh from your comment.

  8. Good word study, Marg. The point about divorce as it concerns what people do (as opposed to God supposedly hating it) makes sense in light of the intro and conclusion concerning being on one’s guard.

    1. Thanks Tim. It does make better sense.

  9. What God hates is abundantly clear, to one who reads the Scripture. He hates anything out of line with His own character. He is just, loving, and holy.
    The reason God hates divorce is because of the heart issues behind each divorce.

    If God hated divorce so much that He forbade it, then He would be contradicting Himself.

    “The Law is Holy, Just, and Good,” – Romans 7:12
    “I had not known sin, but by the Law.” – Romans 7:7
    and “Therefore, sin is the transgression of the Law.” – 1 John 3:5.

    Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law. And He kept the moral law.
    But his fulfilling of the Law could not change the moral nature of God. God’s character never changes.

    Now, knowing that, look at Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
    God’s perfect, just, and good law concerning a woman whose husband has put her away, is that when he has given her a writing of divorcement, she may go and become another man’s wife.

    This is holy. This is just. And this is GOOD.
    According to the New Testament.

    Furthermore, Exodus 21:11 says that even a slave wife, if her husband takes a second wife and diminishes at all in providing her food, clothes, or even love!!-She may go out without having to pay anything for her freedom. She doesn’t have to wait for the year of Jubilee. In fact, Jewish tradition says she would go to those who sat at the gates, and make her appeal, and they would force the owner-husband to write out a divorce paper, to set this despised, abused wife, completely free to remarry.

    No marriage is to be dissolved, without a writing of divorcement. And the writing of divorcement was for the purpose of decreeing her free to remarry.

    As for polygamy, God never said not to do it under the law, however Jesus indicated that it was not God’s original plan, when he pointed back to the Garden of Eden, in Mark 10.

    Notice, Jesus said it would be adultery for a man to put away one wife, just to take another one, unless his wife had already committed adultery.

    If polygamy was alright, then it wouldn’t be adultery.
    It would just be another wife.

    Think about it.

    1. “The reason God hates divorce is because of the heart issues behind each divorce.” Amen! God hates it when we betray and abuse. But I still think we need to get rid of the harmful slogan “God hates divorce”.

      1. So, Marg, should we replace this “harmful slogan” with ‘God is indifferent to divorce’, or, ‘God loves divorce’, or maybe ‘God tolerates divorce’? I’m open to your suggestions.

        1. Matt, everyone hates divorce, but we shouldn’t put words into God’s mouth that he never spoke.

          God does not say, “I hate divorce” in the Hebrew of Malachi 2:16.

          Not sure what the bee in your bonnet is all about.

          1. I suppose Marg that the ‘Bee in my bonnet’ is that as a person who has worked with young people for over thirty years it is probably owing to the immense and continuing devastation I have seen in the lives of young people and families because of divorce. The divorce rate in the body of Christ, depending on who you refer to, is either just below or just above that of the world. This is a ridiculous situation given that we are meant to be the light of the world and we can’t hold our marriages together. I have a friend who is struggling in his marriage right now. He works very hard at the mines in order to provide his family with the things they need and some of the things they want. his wife does not work and does not keep the house in order, does not cook meals for their children, but spends most of her time either with her so called Christian friends telling each other how precious they are and tickling each others ego in other various ways. When she is not doing that she is on her phone texting them about how precious they are. When he spoke to her about this situation and explained that because she does not work he believes it is fair that she do what is required to be done at home and tending to the needs of the children before she spends time with her friends when he is away, she told him that she didn’t have to submit to him and used your website as a justification of this. I know you have said that you are not a feminist to me in the past, but Marg, your ‘flavour’ is quite feminist and believe me, I know what feminism looks like as I have studied it at Uni level and have followed the trends for some time. Feminism is not biblical no matter what slant we choose to interpret scriptures; and yes, we are equal, as genders, but are not the same. Therefore we have different roles provided by our biology, not by patriarchy. Feminism is rife in the Body of Christ in the west. At uni ( a christian uni) I had a lecturer inform me that she was a Christian feminist. Even a cursory glance at the history of feminism should tell any sane person that it is not a good thing. There is a link here to an article by a Christian woman who was there at the inception of the second wave; http://fathersforlife.org/pizzey/anti_fem.htm
            Marg, I am not generally a judgemental person, but when I am dealing daily with girls who are cutting themselves so badly that they are going to the hospital to get stitched up on a weekly basis because their father has been removed from their lives; when boys I have worked with in the past are putting a gun to their heads and pulling the trigger because they never had a father around to teach and model to them how to control their masculine impulses; when i see boys with good hearts become nasty violent spouses because the family court has denied them their father and the chance to become a good man, based on lies told by their mother, who is automatically believed; when I attend the funeral of a beautiful, soft, gentle 18 yo girl who lay on the train tracks owing to enormous depression caused largely by the fact she could not access her father, and believing that most of this is caused by 2nd & 3rd wave feminism, I tend to get a bee in my bonnet. I do believe Marg that your website gives some people excuses to do things that they probably shouldn’t.
            p.s. I was introduced to your website by my friend i spoke of earlier when he sent it to me to read as his wife showed it to him as a justification to do the selfish neglectful things she does. I’m sure she is not the only one.Regards Matt

            Regards Matt

          2. Matt, I have been a pastor for more than 30 years, and one thing I have found is that people who want to do wrong will use anything, any website, any teaching, any misconstruing of God’s word in order to justify what they do.

            You would know of websites and teaching that instruct people that the husband is the head of the home. You will probably also know of marriages in which spousal abuse has been justified by those same websites. Where those same teachings are used to send a beaten and abused woman and her children back to the ‘head of the home’ saying that if they would just love the husband more, he wouldn’t beat them and their children. You cited this case in which there is clearly much more problem in the marriage than just what you’ve mentioned, and I can cite cases I’ve had to deal with in which women and children are abused by the ‘head’ of their household, using scripture and such websites in order to validate their aberrant behaviour.

            The marriage you speak of needs help in more ways than just who is earning the money and who is keeping the house. It’s an interesting thing to see the tables turned in this way, in that a website such as this is cited as the problem in the marriage, when multiple hundreds of thousands of marriages have suffered the abuses of patriarchy, and this website is a small voice in a storm bringing reason to the madness.

            I know Marg and I know her marriage. She does not advocate divorce in any way, nor does she advocate that marriage partners not treat each other with respect and love. The point that she is making in these posts is that when a woman or her children are being abused, the answer must not (as has been the case over decades of the western church) be that she must stay in the marriage because God hates divorce.

            As she said, we all hate divorce. I’ve been married almost 45 years and in ministry 35 of those and I’ve seen the Bible used as a tool for selfishness and destruction in marriage many times, on both sides. Marriages need help, that’s the truth, and the instances you’ve mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg I’m sure, and we all grieve over them, but finding clarity in what the Bible actually does say is a step toward at least getting people to look beyond the surface issues and into what is really wrong and how they can fix their marriage.

            I realise you mean well, but there’s more to it than just someone’s website. People aren’t impacted by anything they’re not looking for already, and they will twist whatever they need to in order to validate their actions. I’m sure you’ve found that also.

          3. Matt, that makes much more sense than commenting on the plainest of titles and having a problem with an unscriptural slogan.

            What you say in your most recent comment does need to be discussed.

            By the way, I’ve had many people write to me about this post. Many of them are men who have been abused.

            ‘Matt’ is a common name; I don’t recall previous conversations.

        2. Matt, you asked about replacing the “God hates divorce” slogan with something else.

          Here is my suggestion:
          God hates treacherous divorce, but he does not hate disciplinary divorce.

          The rationale for this:
          God distinguishes between treacherous and disciplinary divorce.

          God permits disciplinary divorce for abuse, adultery and desertion.

          God condemns treacherous divorce (for cases other than those above).

          I explain all this in depth in my book “Not Under Bondage”. And if you want more info, click on my screen name for this comment.

          {Marg — feel free to edit my comments if you think i’m doing too much promotion of my book on your site]

          1. I would like to also respond to Matt’s comments. I can recount tales of girls from loving Christian homes with fathers and mothers present and active in their lives, who are self harming in various ways, getting pregnant out of wedlock, committing suicide. I can share stories of young men from intact Christian homes who struggle with pornography, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and suicidal ideation. These things happen in a fallen world regardless of family situations. Divorce is not the sole cause of the problems, but it is often brought on by these problems. Divorce is also an outcome of abuses in the home which most likely also incited to those problems.
            The church would be of more help in preventing divorce by: first, not idealizing (idolizing) marriage and couplehood; second, upholding standards of genuine sacrificial love in all it’s members rather than placing an institution above humans.

  10. I really appreciated this more than I can share. My husband (2nd) and I have been married almost 3 years. Previously, we were both married 17/18 years. Neither of us wanted divorce, but our former spouses did. We know the hard work it takes, the levels of communication, etc. I am amazed by God’s blessing of my husband to me daily. He was the answer to many tear drenched prayers. But through the years, I have had “God hates divorce” thrown at me, dropped on me and echoing in my own head and heart. To read the better translation and understand more fully lifts that. I know through the divorce process I spent a great deal of time crying out to God, and He is so loving.

    1. I hope the echo fades. <3

  11. When my mother died, my parents had been married just over 30 years. It was a second marriage for both of them. They had both been left by their first spouses. I don’t think God condemned them to lifelong singleness due to the choices of their exes.

    I love reading more about translation issues, so I greatly enjoyed this!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      I’m sure you’re right about your parents.

  12. The end to this conflict, the answer rest in one simple fact…. that God says he will forgive our sin and remember it no more as far as east is to west. Simply put, He will not hold it against us. Someone who holds onto the fact that someone was divorced has not understood Gods command to us about forgiveness. Remember the woman caught in adultery, Jesus said to the crowd of people including those who were accusing the woman directly, let him who is without sin throw the first stone…well one by one, everyone walked away. But you do realize Jesus was without sin and could have by his own words cast that stone…. rather he chose mercy and forgiveness with a demand…. go and sin no more…Jesus also did not say to the woman that the husband has the right to divorce you if he chose to. Jesus was about restoring relationships. Did He not restore our relationship with God the Father? How many Christians suffer for being as the scribes and Pharisees…legalistic and damming. No one is righteous, for all have sinned. Divorce isn’t good, and I do not condone it. But if we hang onto the act of disobedience and condemn those who have divorced, we are no better than those who brought this woman to Jesus to be stoned.

    1. Thanks David. It’s amazing the sins and failings God looked over in the Old Testament. Even the sins of the likes of Abraham (a “friend” of God) and of David (“a man after God’s heart”). Yet much of church is quick to wound and condemn, rather than provide healing and hope. I’m glad that in many sectors of the church this is changing.

      I hope you’ll stay tuned for my article on ‘Jesus on Divorce’. I think some of us in the church have missed the context of Jesus’ remarks about divorce and remarriage, and completely distorted its meaning . . . with sometimes tragic consequences.

    2. Hi David, I appreciate the compassion in your comment.

      May I just point something out, though? Your comment could be taken to imply that all divorce is sinful. The notion that divorce is always a sin hurts victims of adutlery, abuse and unjustified desertion.

      I believe that divorce is not always sinful. Some divorce is sinful: when it is done on ground that are not biblically condoned. But when it divorce is undertaken on grounds that the Bible permits and condones — adultery, abuse, and unjustified desertion — then it is NOT sinful at all. So the person who has taken out a divorce on biblical grounds does not need to ask forgiveness for having taken out that divorce.

      This is a very important point to make, so that we do not lay false guilt on people.

    3. I think it might be better to say that divorce is more a consequence of sin than inherently and invariably sinful. Otherwise what do we make of Jeremiah telling us that God divorced Israel (Jer 3:8)?

      1. Thanks for sharing this comment, Martin.
        I wish I could highlight it more so everyone reads it.

      2. This may be better for the NT post but I have a disagreement with the elders of the church I go to. They take Jesus’ statement in Matthew conservatively. Their interpretation is that the only cause for divorce is when adultery has occurred. In all other instances a party that remarries now commits adultery everyday they remain remarried.

        I have gotten them to agree that there is one unforgivable sin, that is to turn away from the Gospel and faith in Jesus’ earthly work. I then try to point out that their interpretation of Matthew creates a second unforgivable sin as the remarried person who would be committing the sin as long as they are remarried. That their prayers for forgiveness can’t be granted as the sin will always be present negating the request for forgiveness. Am I wrong?

        1. Hi Barry,

          Sometimes the comments section on a blog just doesn’t have the scope to adequately discuss a question like yours.

          All I can say is that I think your elders are wrong. There are several valid reasons for a divorce.

  13. Hi Lorena
    I invite you to read this review of John Bevere’s book. “The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense”

    Bevere’s book is not only bad, but dangerous. Men, women, and children could be seriously harmed or killed if they were to take his nonsense to heart.

  14. Marg, I see that there are you and some other ladies who are Internet friends, and who know a lot lot lot more about divorce and abuse and such stuff than I do. So maybe I shouldn’t meddle. But if a man can give a small contribution, then I think the heart of the matter is that God loves people, isn’t it? So how about the following slogan?: «God doesn’t hate divorce. God loves people, and doesn’t want anyone to be abused.»

  15. Yes I read the article. Of course!
    Your article talks about a rewriting of the english bible. If we’re going to rewrite one part to make it say something its never said before, then we have to revisit the WHOLE thing. In which case everyone has been following a lie. The only issue with that is we’re taught the bible is inspired BUT NOW there are those saying, Yes, its inspired, but only the greek/hebrew. I find nothing wrong with the current translations IF you look at it from a totally unprideful pov. There’s nothing wrong with this translation UNLESS you want it to say something else to remove guilt.

    The ONLY way for the guilt to be removed is from Christ and knowing that HE is the source of our grace, not another translation to make us feel better for doing something we know we shouldn’t be doing. Jesus lays it out for us pretty clearly about marriage and divorce.

    There, is that a little more related to your article for you?

    1. I asked because none of your statements were directly related to what is stated in the article. They were just your opinions on the topic of divorce.

      English translations of the Bible are not inerrant. Most statements on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Holy Scriptures refer to the original documents which were written in Hebrew and Greek and a little Aramaic. The original Hebrew of Malachi 2:16 does not have God saying, “I hate divorce . . .”

      I am aware that the source of grace is Jesus Christ. Your comments, however, are without grace. You have simply stated your opinions, in both of your comments, in a defensive manner, despite the fact that no one is speaking unkindly to you. You are perfectly entitled to your opinions, but please keep your comments on-topic and kind.

      1. Oh, I’m sorry, I guess when i start seeing people trying to infuse the world into scripture I get a little “defensive” of it. However, somehow I knew you were going to take my comments as “unkind”.

        Thinking today, just what is your end game with this “new translation”. As far as I can see, this verse, no matter which way it is translated, is very critical of divorce.

        So are you trying to make it more “acceptable”? What are you trying to do??

        Call me naive, but to go from “I hate divorce” to “To the man who hates and divorces his wife” seems to me a LONG stretch and a BIG OOPS! That’s a hec of a mistranslation for professionals !!

        And when I see all this talk about “its mistranslated”, all I see is giving more ammo to those who would diss the scriptures. What else has been mistranslated? Have the Catholics been right all this time? Can we buy our way to heaven? I’ve noticed the article on hell. Is there a hell? Is there then a heaven? Have we even got grace correct? Maybe Martin Luther read it wrong.

        All of this talk just to say that God will still hold people accountable for divorce. Do not be unfaithful.

        Today, with all the “equality” you can put “to the woman who hates and divorces her husband”. Doesn’t fly as well that way in the world however, does it?

        last point (I’ve too much time to think while working) Quote we simply must stop using Malachi 2:16 to coerce or guilt a wronged or abused spouse to remain in a harmful marriage.unquote
        What are the vows. To love and honour, in sickness and health, richer or poorer, till death do you part. I would put an abusive spouse under the category of sick.
        And so you know, my sister was abused and divorced her husband. Do I agree, bloody right I agree. However, is it the way God intended. I don’t think so. Nothing in this world is as was intended. Apparently even our translations.

        I guess churches better start teaching Greek and Hebrew. To unkind for you?

  16. We are in agreement on one point: Malachi 2:16 is critical of divorce. The purpose of the article is not to make light of divorce, but to understand the Bible, God’s Word, more accurately, which is always a good thing.

    If you read my article carefully, you’ll read the translation “he who hates divorce” is based on the Hebrew. It is not based on opinion or bias or an agenda.

    My first paragraph makes it clear why I think the traditional translation is wrong. It was this realisation, and nothing more, that motivated this post. I think you may be looking for a hidden agenda that just isn’t there.

    Also, how do you know Malachi 2:16 is not mistranslated in older English translations? Have a look at the “link” in the postscript for basic parsing information from a very conservative source.

    All this article states is that God does not say “I hate divorce” in Malachi 2:16. I stand by that statement. But I certainly do understand your amazement that previous scholars have got this wrong.

    The NWT was not translated by language scholars. Anyone with a couple of semesters of Ancient Greek and who understands the “predicate nominative” can see that the NWT translation of John 1:1 is incorrect.

    Ron, if you knew your comments would be perceived as being unkind, why did you post them? Why would you want to come across as unkind to a stranger?

    Anyway, since you’ve posted your comments with an unnecessarily defensive, inflammatory and unkind tone, knowing that they would be seen as breaching the guidelines of this website, I will be removing them shortly.

    1. THANK YOU, Marg!
      You handled that beautifully. Your skill of kindly and rationally responding to unreasonable detractors is a lesson in itself. I’m sure it’s no fun, but thank you just the same.

      1. Thanks Debbie. In all the time I’ve been on the internet, only a handful of comments have disturbed me personally, and Ron’s are not among them. I just figure that people who leave nasty or inflammatory comments would not talk that way to me face to face, and they’ve forgotten that people on the internet are real. I also understand that people read their own experiences into blog posts, even if what I’ve written says nothing about the situation they are reacting to. Still other people truly have no idea they come across as jerks in their comments. I honestly try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

        1. Not sure how I came across this article ……but I appreciate your insight. I think sometimes Christendom tries to OVER THEOLOGIZE the heart of God. I believe we ALL agree that the covenant marriage is a relationship/institution created by God. We don’t need to dissect Malachi 2:16 hermeneutically to conclude that God HATES divorce. He created the union and agreed with the husband and wife in the covenant. So why wouldn’t God hate the division of the covenant. Even in the case of adultery Jesus said because of their hardened hearts (Matthew 19:8) MOSES (not GOD) rendered a divorce decree. With as many times Israel committed adultery within the confines of its covenant marriage to God; God NEVER divorced her! Jesus GAVE HIS LIFE for the church to be reconciled back to God. So how can we preach that marriages are the image of the Christ-Church relationship in one breath and not emphasize the grief, and pure hatred God has for the absence of reconciliation in the covenant marriage between husband and wife.

          I do not agree with condemning each other in our attempts to teach God’s truth ( I don’t believe in condemnation at all) . While Ron’s comments do seem a little harsh, I believe we are in a critical time where harshness is warranted. Much of what he said in my humble opinion is the heart of God. I did not see the deleted comments so again hurtful words are never acceptable for a believer. The church is accepting the dissolving of marriages in like pattern to the world. An irreconcilable difference does not exist in the life of a believer; otherwise Jesus’ blood really doesn’t have the power we confess it does.

          We can pray and fast for people to be healed from cancer and physical afflictions but as soon as a spouse wants out of a marriage we fail to travail before God to pray them back to the cross and believe God for reconciliation. God HATES divorce!

          Also, some of these posts are ALARMING …… I believe we (leaders, counselors, pastors, etc.) need to be extremely cautious in advising people they are “free” to leave their covenant marriages….

          I love you and pray God will continue to strengthen you on His battlefield ……

  17. Although I am studying Hebrew myself, and people more learned than myself come down on both sides of the curve,God doesn’t. Clearly anything that sinfully causes a marriage to fail is displeasing to the Triune God. It’s interesting to note that in speaking with a primarily Jewish audience Matthew relates the encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees and Jesus cites Genesis as well as Deuteronomy 24, Jesus (God with us) is clear in Matthew 5:31 that the “uncleanness” cited in Deuteronomy 24:1 is speaking of sexual infidelity and not just “burning the toast” as many who had perverted original Judaism had interpreted it to mean. But you are free to divorce in Christ although some would say that it is more honorable to stay with your husband and forgive him just as God has forgiven us for our daily spiritual adultery. But although my ex was unfaithful to me on more than one occasion, the more I attempted to forgive her the more she fled into the darkness. But although she divorced me,I stayed angry at her for years after, and that was also displeasing to the Lord.
    It took His power and His conviction for me to forgive her and to ask her to forgive me for my sins against her. May you find the same peace Amistad the pain and tears.

  18. God actually lead me out of my marriage to an abuser. Let that sink in…I did not walk out of my marriage. I stayed. I never felt a peace about leaving and I prayed and asked often. At the end, I was searching, asking, praying about my whole life with this angry, mean, lying, confusing, man who appeared to be hurting me, and purposely, and calculatingly planning ways that he knew would hurt me. I was looking for non Christian counselors (I had had my fill of those!) who had a degree in human behavior because I always knew he was cruel, yet calling himself a Christian. I was finally lead to call FOTF’s 24 hour counseling line. The pastor who called me back told me the truth of who and what I was married to and I was set free! He said words that I had longed to hear for over 32 years. It took some more counseling because I was almost afraid to believe what he was saying, but I knew deep down that God was setting me free, in His time, in His way, and in such a way that I would most definitely know it was Him! Glory to God! He is so faithful and He had me all those years and kept me under His loving wings. Thank you Jesus!


    1. I’m thankful for your freedom, Cathy.

  19. Your idea that Joseph and Mary were legally betrothed and this required a divorce is not supported by scripture. Mat. 1:19 is about Joseph contemplating putting her away privately. This means in a non public way. Put away means to send away, repudiate and does not mean divorce since divorce actually required a certificate to end a marriage (See Deut. 24:1,2; Jer. 3:8).

    The publisher of my 280 page book, “Put Away But Not Divorced” went out of business. This has turned out to be a good thing because I can now do what I want to do with it. Consequently, I’ve rewritten it, added chapters, added illustrations, changed the cover and have a new forward, written by Olan Hicks.

    This book is the product of many years of daily studying and debating this important but highly controversial subject. My endeavor has always been to use good hermeneutics to assure that I learn the truth and then to present it in a way that is easy to understand. Download the free PDF file by clicking on either of the URL’s below: http://www.TotalHealth.bz

    1. The Greek word in Matthew 1:19 is the same word used for divorce in Matthew 5:31, 32, 19:7-9 (//Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18).

  20. When I teach on the subject of divorce, I try to show how this verse in Mal. should be translated, but find that some are resistant to the idea of mistranslation. Unless you know at least 2 languages, you can have a very simplistic understanding of the challenges of translation.

    Marriage is an example of a covenant and divorce is an example of the termination of a covenant. A covenant is started by one or both parties making vows. A covenant can be terminated for cause, if the other party breaks their covenant vows. There is a simplicity to this, but it has been complexified by some misunderstanding Scripture.

    Many scholars see Ezra as an example of annulment of a marriage, not a divorce, although they are similar.

    In Jewish thought, a betrothal is a covenant and therefore to terminate it requires a divorce. If one wanted to do this “quietly” as Joseph did, he would use the Hillel “Any Matter” divorce. Joseph was not planning to divorce for no good reason, as Mary was pregnant and he knew he was not the father, but he did not want to shame her. Translating this into modern terms, this shows that one can use the “no fault” method of divorce for a good reason, that of avoiding shaming one or both parties.

    1. It’s interesting that the Hebrew verb is different in Ezra than in the other verses in the Hebrew Bible about divorce. So maybe it does mean something like annulment.

  21. Greetings Marg,

    I just found this article of yours as I, too, have finally learned the truth about Malachi 2:16. Although many will disagree with your take on this verse, I did hear a sermon about this very topic and the pastor noted that John Calvin also interpreted this verse the same way as you and I have learned. Not a bad supporter, huh?!

    1. Hi Leanne,

      The Geneva Bible begins their translation of Malachi 2:16 with, “If thou [singular “you”] hatest her [and] put her away, saith the Lord God of Israel . . . ” This translation might have been what your pastor was thinking about. There’s no evidence that Calvin took part in translating the Geneva Bible, however; but he was the spiritual leader of the protestant community in Geneva.

      In his actual commentary on Malachi 2:15, Calvin says this:
      “What seems to be said is, — that God hates the divorcer, and him also who maltreats his wife without divorcing her. Then we may give this literal rendering, — For he hates the divorcer, (or him who puts away,) Saith Jehovah, the God of Israel; And the coverer of outrage on his own garment, Saith Jehovah of hosts. To speak of God here in the third person is in accordance with the preceding verses.” (Source) This interpretation is different again to what I’m suggesting in the article.

      1. Exactly! You referenced it perfectly and this understanding of such a misquoted verse regarding divorce has huge implications for those who’ve been taught incorrectly. Being enlightened to the actual meaning of this was balm to my soul, so I thank you and the others who expound on it profusely! All that said, it makes much more sense overall when considering the abuse that wives can endure by their husbands when they’re (the wives) are coerced into believing that, because “God hates divorce,” they ought to remain in abusive marriages.

        1. Misuse and misinterpretations of this one verse have caused so much grief and allowed so much abuse to carry on. 🙁

          1. Hi Marg, I can relate to so many of the people here that are speaking of divorce and former adultery and abuse given to them, in their lives. I too was one of “them” for decades. I knew that I should have left much sooner, but I was guilted into staying because surely it must be me that was selfish as my pastor said once. He didn’t listen long enough to get the answers of what was really wrong. As I felt back then ” how could someone listen when they have a empty heart and a closed Bible.” From the pulpit I also heard many times how “God hates divorce”…As I sat there listening to this chastisement from the pulpit on many occasions I thought, well I am sure He does because I do also, but its where the actions of another have put me… but not for the reasons that church people are saying and also thinking. I know my God and I doubt that He likes abuse, adultery , addictions coming from a husband. Where my ex husband was heralded as a hero for staying with a woman that sought divorce for the right reasons, they in the church believed all of his lies about me, as he was trying to make out he was the victim, and they were and are all lies to this day. In it all I felt like a lamb led to slaughter as he stole our money and I was to beg so that I could eat.
            I learned that sadly the church is the meanest in these things because really its all about the numbers at times and if one divorces, well then others may also, therein leading to a shunning of the person going through a divorce.
            Surely I also feel that it must be a sin for the Shepherd of a flock to beat people from the pulpit and misuse the Word of God?
            After close to a dozen years of singleness and walking out my relationship with the Lord, He brought me the most loving, devoted to Christ and me man as we love each other deeply and walk this life out together.
            Not so long ago while in that church for one time, there were still those looks, the gossips, the remarks half silently spoken that tell you they still believe the lies and feel that their condemnation is right and that I do not deserve this man and our loving marriage. I since have taken the time to write my story and testimony out into a book. I am not an author by choice but leading by my God. There are too many things that are not spoken of in the church and too many things that are gently twisted that no one ever questions. My book is called,
            “he calls me stupid, HE calls me beautiful” sold on Amazon.
            Too often , yes far too often, we are not only beat at home, but also beat by those who are self righteous, by those within the church. How sad when others only think that mercy and grace, love and compassion are saved for a select few.

          2. Hi Florence,
            Christians, including Christian pastors, can be so unkind, even cruel, to the very people who need kindness and support the most.
            Congratulations on publishing your book. I love the title! https://www.amazon.com/calls-stupid-HE-beautiful/dp/1072810700

  22. Hi Marg,

    Sadly it is so and some of them are in truth doing the opposite of what should be done. The lesson learned for me: be aware that in every pew there is someone who is in pain. Maybe not the same as mine but pain none the less, knowing that most times people have already beat themselves and don’t need anyone else doing it for them.
    Thank you for also sharing the link.
    Blessings for a wonderful weekend.

  23. The verse discussed in this post could also be read from a more legal perspective. I hold a master’s degree in law and often apply a legal approach to try to understand the Bible.

    Reading this verse as a hard law, deviating from the Law of Moses, would actually be a bit complicated. Laws in the Bible are clearly distinguishable as laws: “Thou shall not…” etc, often accompanied with the necessary legal consequences. This verse is part of a conversation between God and his people, it does not breathe the typical ‘commandent style’ where God’s people can only listen and obey.
    Moreover, the Law of Moses had already been given by the time of Maleachi. If this verse would be a new law, it would be some form of amendment, which is again complicated since some prophets were regarded a nuisance, not a legal authority. On the contrary, the authority of Moses was recognised, during his life and after his life.
    A very strict reading of a traditional translation could also regard this verse as a ‘mere’ opinion of God, without altering the Law of Moses. Thus, God might hate divorce but not explicitly forbid it – legally.

    Just like in law, even every punctuation – and consonant – in the Bible counts, like Jesus said, and can have significant implications. This also means we should not turn a verse into a law when it is not a law, or diminish the importance of a sentence when it is actually very important according to subject, words chosen and context.
    A revised translation brings a new biblical legal meaning to this verse: divorce which might technically be applied in accordance with the Law of Moses is nevertheless deemed spiritually unjust in Gods eyes under certain circumstances. This translation indeed has significant implications, especially contextually. It is in line with other calls from biblical prophets where God says that he is not pleased with just following the law; He wants lovely dedication and a just heart. Compare e.g. 1 Samuel 15:22 and Zecheriah 7:4-7.

    Kind regards

    1. Thanks, Annard. Good points!

  24. I believe we need to throw the “God hates divorce” mantra into the bin.

    God commands abusive men to let their wives go free. Here is Myle’s Coverdale’s translation of Malachi 2:16 (Coverdale Bible, 1535) —

    “If you hate her, put her away, says the Lord God of Israel and give her a clothing for the scorn, says the Lord of Hosts. Look well then to your spirit, and do not despise her.”

    What does “give her a clothing for the scorn” mean?
    Clothing covers vulnerable parts. It shields. It protects. It warms. Good clothing gives a person dignity and respectability. To be clothed is to be protected from shame and disgrace. The man must do this for the woman he is setting free. He must compensate her for the stigma and potential poverty she will suffer from being cast off, divorced, rejected. Compensation could take the form of money, goods, property. He must not slander her to the community — that would be the opposite of ‘giving her a clothing’. He must do what is required to enable her to live safely and honourably in the community as a free woman

    My academic article explains why I think this translation best conveys the meaning of the Hebrew text of Malachi 2:16.
    To forestall my comment going to spam, I have changed the address of the article. To make it into a hyperlink replace DOT with .


    1. Thanks for this, Barbara. I very much enjoyed reading your article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Marg's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Join Marg's Patreon

Would you like to support my ministry of encouraging mutuality and equality between men and women in the church and in marriage?