What does Malachi 2:16 mean?
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.”
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.
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.'
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.
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.'
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.
NKJV: “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Malachi 2:10–16 is perhaps the Bible's strongest indicator of God's views on divorce. This passage begins the second of Malachi's three prophetic lessons, ending in Malachi 3:6. The people of Israel are rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple, but under the control of a foreign nation. Rather than honoring God, and their own wives, it seems the men of Israel were divorcing Jewish women in order to marry pagans (Ezra 9:1–2; Nehemiah 13:23–27). This is described in this passage as an act of violence against the women. In no uncertain terms, Malachi expresses God's hatred for divorce.
Chapter Summary:
God will humiliate the priests who are insulting Him with improper sacrifices. While the priests are being unfaithful to God, the people of Israel are also being unfaithful to each other. In particular, they are marrying pagans, and committing divorce, which God absolutely despises. God's covenant with Israel included both blessings for obedience, and consequences for disobedience. And yet, as Israel disobeys, they blame God for their hardships. God's people are defying Him, then blaming Him for the end results!
Chapter Context:
Malachi's structure is intricate, but can be divided into three primary messages. The first message is to Israel's priests, and runs from Malachi 1:2 through Malachi 2:9. Chapter 2 begins with a warning, to the priests, that God will humiliate them for their arrogant, apathetic attitudes. The topic then transitions to Malachi's second message, directed to Israel as a whole, accusing them of being unfaithful to each other. This rebuke of infidelity continues through the beginning of chapter 3, before calling Israel to repentance in the final message.
Book Summary:
Malachi is the last message of prophecy given to Israel prior to 400 years of silence. Israel has rebuilt the temple, following the invasions of Babylon, but they are still under foreign oppression. Israel's spiritual condition, however, is dire. Hosea depicted Israel as prone to failure, but repentant. Later, Ezekiel exposed Israel's blatant disobedience. By the time of Malachi, Israel has passed into numbness and apathy. Unlike other Old Testament prophets, Malachi takes the form of a dialogue, where Israel responds to accusations as if unaware that they've occurred. The next prophetic voice from God would not come until the ministry of John the Baptist.
Accessed 5/18/2024 7:51:06 PM
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