Malachi 2:16

16 “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty, ” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”

Malachi 2:16 Meaning and Commentary

Malachi 2:16

For the Lord the God of Israel saith, that he hateth
putting away
The divorcing of wives; for though this was suffered because of the hardness of their hearts, it was not approved of by the Lord; nor was it from the beginning; and it was disagreeable, and even hateful to him, ( Matthew 19:8 ) in the margin of some Bibles the words are rendered, "if he hate her, put her away"; and so the Targum,

``but if thou hatest her, put her away;''
to which agree the Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, and Arabic versions; and this sense made mention of in both Talmuds, and is thought to be agreeable to the law in ( Deuteronomy 24:3 ) though the law there speaks of a fact that might be, and not of what ought to be; wherefore the former sense is best; and this other seems to have been at first calculated to favour the practice of the Jews, who put away their wives through hatred to them. The Jews were very much inclined to divorce their wives upon very trivial occasions; if they did not dress their food well, were not of good behaviour, or not so modest as became the daughters of Israel; if they did not find favour with their husbands; and, especially, if they had entertained a hatred of them: so says R. Judah F11,
``if he hate her, let him put her away:''
but this is by some of them restrained to a second wife; for of the first they say,
``it is not proper to be hasty to put away a first wife; but a second, if he hates her, let him put her away F12''
and R. Eleazer says F13, whoever divorces his first wife, even the altar sheds tears for him, referring to the words in ( Malachi 2:13 ) and divorces of this kind they only reckon lawful among the Israelites, and found it upon this passage; for so they make God to speak after this manner F14,
``in Israel I have granted divorces; among the nations of the world I have not granted divorces. R. Chananiah, in the name of R. Phinehas, observes, that in every other section it is written, "the Lord of hosts"; but here it is written, "the God of Israel", to teach thee that the holy blessed God does not put his name to divorces (or allow them) but in Israel only. R. Chayah Rabba says, the Gentiles have no divorces.''
But some of them have better understanding of these words, and more truly give the sense of them thus, as R. Jochanan does, who interprets them,
``the putting away of the wife is hateful F15;''
it is so to God, and ought not to be done by men but in case of adultery, as our Lord has taught, ( Matthew 5:32 ) ( 19:9 ) and which was the doctrine of the school of Shammai in Christ's time, who taught,
``that no man should divorce his wife, unless he found in her filthiness;''
i.e. that she was guilty of adultery; though this Maimonides restrains to the first wife, as before: but the house of Hillell, who lived in the same time, was of a different mind, and taught that
``if she burnt his food;''
either over dressed or over salted it, according to ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ) . R. Akiba says, if he found another more beautiful than her, according to ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ) , he might divorce her F16; of the form of a divorce, (See Gill on Matthew 5:31). Those interpreters among Christians that go this way do not look upon this as an approbation of divorce, on account of hatred; but that so to do is better than to retain them with hatred of them, seeing it was connived at, or than to take other wives with them. For [one] covereth violence with his garment,
or "on his garment", saith the Lord of hosts;
as he that puts away his wife does her an open injury, which though he may cover, pretending the law, which connives at divorces; yet the violence done to his wife is as manifest as the garment upon his back: though those who think the former words are an instruction to put away wives, when hated, consider this as a reason why they should do so; because, by retaining them, and yet hating them, and taking other wives to them, is doing them a real injury, whatever cover or pretence may be used; because, if dismissed, they might be loved by, and married to, other men. Aben Ezra seems to have hit the sense of these words, when he makes this to be the object of God's hatred, as well as the former; his note is,
``the Lord hateth him that putteth away his wife that is pure, and he hates him that covereth; or God sees his violence which is done in secret.''
Mr. Pocock proposes a conjecture, which is very ingenious and probable, that as the words will bear the construction Aben Ezra gives, that God hates putting away, and hates that one should put violence upon or over his garment; by "garment" he thinks may be meant a man's lawful wife, which is as a garment to him; and by "violence" a second wife, or other wives, taken to the injury, hurt, and vexation of the former; and the covering, or superinducing violence over the garment, is marrying an unlawful wife, over or with, or above his lawful one: and the sense is, that as God hates divorce, so he hates polygamy: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously;
(See Gill on Malachi 2:15).

F11 T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 90. 2.
F12 Maimon. Hilchot Gerushin, c. 10, 21, 22.
F13 T. Bab. Gittin, ib.
F14 T. Hieros. Kiddushin, c. 1. fol. 58. 3.
F15 T. Bab. Gittin, ut supra.
F16 Misn. Gittin, c. 9. sect. 10.

Malachi 2:16 In-Context

14 You cry out, “Why doesn’t the LORD accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the LORD witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.
15 Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.
16 “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty, ” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD ’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Hebrew For he hates divorcing.
  • [b]. Hebrew to cover one’s garment with violence.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.