Malachi 2:16 MEANING

Malachi 2:16
(16) For [I] hate divorce [of the first wife], saith the God of Israel, and he [the divorcer of his first wife] covers his garment with injury, saith the LORD of Hosts; therefore take ye heed to your spirit, and do not be faithless. According to our interpretation, the whole of these two verses must be taken as the words of the prophet. Any superiority.--We take Heb. sh'?r, "remnant" in the sense of yithr?n, "superabundance," "superiority." Any superiority of spirit--i.e., any such essential superiority as to justify him in treating his wife as a mere slave, and divorcing her against her will. This passage coincides more nearly with the spirit of Matthew 19:3 seqq. than with that of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. To yourselves, or to your spirit. The expressions are equivalent. (Comp. Jeremiah 17:21; Deuteronomy 4:15; Joshua 23:11.) Let none be . . .--Observe the change of person, so common in Hebrew. (Comp. Isaiah 1:29.) His garment.--Some take this to be an Oriental expression for "his wife." (Comp. Al Koran, 2:--"Wives are your attire, and you are theirs.") Or garment may be taken as the external symbol of the inner state of the man. (Comp. Zechariah 3:4; Isaiah 64:5; Proverbs 30:9, &c.) Injury.--Heb., chamas. This word is especially used of ill-treatment of a wife. (Comp. Genesis 16:5.) Keil takes the first verse as follows: No man who had ever a remnant of reason [or a sense of right and wrong] has done [sc., what ye are doing, viz., faithlessly putting away the wife of his youth. To this the people are supposed to object.] But what did the one [Abraham] do? [To this the prophet answers] He was seeking a seed of God [viz., the child of promise: i.e., he dismissed Hagar, because God promised to give him the desired posterity, not in Ishmael through the maid Hagar, but through Sarah in Isaac, so that in doing this he was simply acting in obedience to the word of God (Genesis 21:12).] Others vary the translation slightly, and render, And has no one done this who has a remnant of spirit in him? [This being supposed to be the objection on the part of the people. To this the prophet answers.] Wherefore did he so act? He was seeking a godly seed. Moore takes the verse quite differently, and refers it to the saying of Malachi 2:10. His words are, "The prophet at the outset had argued the return of the Jewish people . . . therefore these marriages that violated their oneness were wrong . . . He asks again . . . Did not [God] make [us] one? Did He not separate us from other nations into an isolated unity? Yet this was not done because the blessing was too narrow to be spread over other nations . . . for the residue of the spirit was with Him. There remained an inexhaustible fulness of spiritual blessing that might be given to other nations. Why [then did He choose] but one? He was seeking a seed of God [a nation which He should train up to be the repository of His covenant, the stock of His Messiah]." Many other interpretations have been proposed, but these are the only ones which are at all admissible.

Verse 16. - He hateth putting away. This is another reason against divorce: God hates it. It is contrary to his original institution, and was only allowed for the hardness of men's hearts (see Deuteronomy 24:1, etc.; Matthew 19:3-9). Septuagint, "If thou hate her and dismiss her," etc.; Vulgate, "If thou hate her, put her away," which seems to encourage divorce, whereas in the context divorce is strongly condemned. Hence Jerome considers these words to be spoken by the Jews, quoting in their defence Moses' precept. Others think that they are ironical - Put her away, if you please; but you must bear the consequences. For one covereth violence with his garment. He who thus divorces his wife shows himself openly to all beholders as an iniquitous man. So the clause is better rendered, And one (who does so) covereth his garment with violence, or, violence covereth his garment. Iniquity attaches itself to him plainly, encircling and enfolding him; the clothing of iniquity is the mark of the foul soul within. The notion of "garment" being here used figuratively for wife (as Hitzig supposes) is without proof. Such a metaphor is certainly unknown to Hebrew literature, though there is something like it in Arabic, "Wives are your attire, and ye are theirs" (Koran). Bishop Wordsworth considers that the phrase in the text refers to the custom of the bridegroom in espousals casting the skirt of his garment over her who was betrothed to him (see Ruth 3:9). So the idea would be, "Ye cast your skirt over iniquity, and betroth violence to yourselves for a bride." But this seems somewhat forced. Take heed... treacherously. A repetition of the warning in ver. 15.

2:10-17 Corrupt practices are the fruit of corrupt principles; and he who is false to his God, will not be true to his fellow mortals. In contempt of the marriage covenant, which God instituted, the Jews put away the wives they had of their own nation, probably to make room for strange wives. They made their lives bitter to them; yet, in the sight of others, they pretend to be tender of them. Consider she is thy wife; thy own; the nearest relation thou hast in the world. The wife is to be looked on, not as a servant, but as a companion to the husband. There is an oath of God between them, which is not to be trifled with. Man and wife should continue to their lives' end, in holy love and peace. Did not God make one, one Eve for one Adam? Yet God could have made another Eve. Wherefore did he make but one woman for one man? It was that the children might be made a seed to serve him. Husbands and wives must live in the fear of God, that their seed may be a godly seed. The God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away. Those who would be kept from sin, must take heed to their spirits, for there all sin begins. Men will find that their wrong conduct in their families springs from selfishness, which disregards the welfare and happiness of others, when opposed to their own passions and fancies. It is wearisome to God to hear people justify themselves in wicked practices. Those who think God can be a friend to sin, affront him, and deceive themselves. The scoffers said, Where is the God of judgement? but the day of the Lord will come.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 (k),

"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 (l)''

and R. Eleazer says (m), 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 (n),

"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 (o);''

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 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;''


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