Malachi 2:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Malachi 2:16, 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."

Malachi 2:16, 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.”"

Malachi 2:16, KJV: "For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously."

Malachi 2:16, NASB: "'For I hate divorce,' says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'and him who covers his garment with violence,' says the LORD of armies. 'So be careful about your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.'"

Malachi 2:16, NLT: "'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, 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."

What does Malachi 2:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In the Old Testament, "covering someone with your garment" is a metaphor for protection. A classic example is Ezekiel 16:8, where God describes His love for Israel using the symbolism of a man and wife. As the protector and provider, men are supposed to "cover" their wives. Malachi's two-part criticism in this passage is that this is not happening. Israeli men are marrying pagan women (Malachi 2:11), and they are divorcing their Jewish wives in order to do it (Malachi 2:14). This is exactly the opposite of "protection." In fact, it is an act of spiritual violence.

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."

Old Testament rules for divorce were never meant to imply God's approval. This is further supported by this verse's association of "faithlessness," and spiritual danger, with divorce. Rather, divorce laws were meant to reign in the impact of that sin (Matthew 19:7–9). This was especially meant to protect the rights of women, who in that culture were highly dependent on their husbands (and children) for support.