The Meaning of Malachi 2:16 Explained

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.

YLT: For I hate sending away, said Jehovah, God of Israel, And He who hath covered violence with his clothing, said Jehovah of Hosts, And ye have been watchful over your spirit, And ye do not deal treacherously.

Darby: (for I hate putting away, saith Jehovah the God of Israel;) and he covereth with violence his garment, saith Jehovah of hosts: take heed then to your spirit, that ye deal not unfaithfully.

ASV: For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covereth his garment with violence, saith Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

What does Malachi 2:16 Mean?

Verse Meaning

The Israelites were not to break their marriage covenants because the person who divorces his mate to marry an unbeliever brings disgrace upon himself. Divorcing for this reason constitutes covenant unfaithfulness, breaking a covenant entered into that God Himself witnessed ( Malachi 2:14). As such, it is an ungodly thing to do since Yahweh is a covenant-keeping God; He keeps his promises. To break a covenant (a formal promise) is to do something that God Himself does not do.
Divorcing for this reason constitutes covering oneself with wrong. This is a play on a Hebrew euphemism for marriage, namely, covering oneself with a garment (cf. Ruth 3:9; Ezekiel 16:8). One covers himself with wrong when he divorces his wife whom he has previously covered with his garment (i.e, married). For these Jews divorce was similar to wearing soiled garments; it was a disgrace. For emphasis, the Lord repeated His warning to take heed to one"s spirit so one would not deal treacherously with his covenant partner (cf. Malachi 2:15).
There is some dispute among English translators whether the rendering, "I hate divorce," is correct. It is possible, and some English translators have so rendered it (AV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV, TNIV, NET), but it requires emending the Masoretic text. [1] The normal way of translating the Hebrew literally would be, "If [2] he hates sending away [3], says Yahweh God of Israel, then [4] violence covers [5] his garment, says Yahweh of hosts." One paraphrase that captures the literal meaning well Isaiah , "For the man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts" (English Standard Version). Another good paraphrase Isaiah , ""If he hates and divorces [6]," says the LORD of Hosts" (Holman Christian Standard Bible). One writer expressed the spirit of the Lord"s statement by paraphrasing it, "Divorce is hateful." [7]
"The passage [8] does not deal with the case of a man divorcing a wife who has already broken her marriage vows, so it also does not apply to the case of a woman divorcing her husband who has already broken his marriage vows. This is another reason the passage should not be understood as an absolute condemnation of divorce under any circumstances. In fact, according to Jeremiah 3:8 the Lord himself had divorced the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of her adulteries (cf. Hosea 2:2)." [4]
The fact that Ezra commanded divorce ( Ezra 10) may appear to contradict God"s prohibition of divorce here. (Nehemiah neither advocated divorce nor spoke out against it; Nehemiah 13:23-29.) The solution seems to be that Malachi addressed the situation of Jewish men divorcing their Jewish wives to marry pagan women. Ezra faced Jewish men who had already married pagan women. Does this mean that it is all right to divorce an unbelieving spouse but not a believer? Paul made it clear that the Christian is to divorce neither ( 1 Corinthians 7:10-20). Evidently it was the illegitimacy of a Jew marrying a pagan that led Ezra to advocate divorce in that type of case.
Even though God typically opposes divorce, and in that sense hates it, He permitted it ( Deuteronomy 24:1-4) to achieve the larger goals of maintaining Israel"s distinctiveness so she could fulfill His purposes for her in the world ( Exodus 19:3-6). His purposes for the church are not exactly the same as His purposes for Israel. Furthermore the church is not subject to the Mosaic Law. Therefore it is inappropriate to appeal to the Jews" action in Ezra as a precedent that Christians who are married to unbelievers should follow (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
In none of the other passages in which divorce appears to be required ( Genesis 21:8-14; Exodus 21:10-11; Deuteronomy 21:10-14) does God present divorce as a good thing. He only permitted it under certain circumstances created by sin ( Matthew 19:9).
"The prophet"s concluding exhortation, "So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith" is a strong warning to every husband that he must be constantly on his guard against developing a negative attitude toward his wife." [10]

Context Summary

Malachi 2:1-17 - The Transgression Of The Covenant
As a contrast to the disgraceful attitude which the prophet had described as characteristic of the priesthood, he paints the picture of the noble priest, whose burning zeal for God's honor averted evil and punishment from the people. It is desirable that each servant of God should seek to exemplify these traits of character, for it is only they who walk with God in peace and equity who can turn away "many from iniquity." The prophet reproves those who had put away their Jewish wives and had contracted marriage with foreigners. In doing this they had ignored the fact that God was the Father of the Hebrew race, of the women as well as the men, in an especial sense in which He was not the Father of the heathen. In answer to the argument of the Jews, who demanded a plurality of wives, Malachi says that God originally made only one woman for one man, though He could have made many. It was a sin, therefore, against the original constitution of the race for a man to have more than one wife, and this is the argument that our Lord employed in Matthew 19:4. The one man for the one woman is the secret of a happy home-life and of a godly seed. [source]

Chapter Summary: Malachi 2

1  He sharply reproves the priests for neglecting their covenant;
10  and the people for marrying strange wives;
13  and for putting away their former ones,
17  and for infidelity

What do the individual words in Malachi 2:16 mean?

For that He hates divorce says Yahweh God of Israel for it covers violence with one's garment Yahweh of hosts Therefore take heed to your spirit that not you do deal treacherously -
כִּֽי־ שָׂנֵ֣א שַׁלַּ֗ח אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְכִסָּ֤ה חָמָס֙ עַל־ לְבוּשׁ֔וֹ יְהוָ֣ה צְבָא֑וֹת וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּ֥ם בְּרוּחֲכֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א תִבְגֹּֽדוּ ס

שָׂנֵ֣א  that  He  hates 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: שָׂנֵא  
Sense: to hate, be hateful.
שַׁלַּ֗ח  divorce 
Parse: Verb, Piel, Infinitive construct
Root: שָׁלַח  
Sense: to send, send away, let go, stretch out.
אָמַ֤ר  says 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: אָמַר 
Sense: to say, speak, utter.
יְהוָה֙  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
אֱלֹהֵ֣י  God 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural construct
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל  of  Israel 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יִשְׂרָאֵל  
Sense: the second name for Jacob given to him by God after his wrestling with the angel at Peniel.
וְכִסָּ֤ה  for  it  covers 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Piel, Conjunctive perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: כָּסָה  
Sense: to cover, conceal, hide.
חָמָס֙  violence 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: חָמָס  
Sense: violence, wrong, cruelty, injustice.
לְבוּשׁ֔וֹ  one's  garment 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular construct, third person masculine singular
Root: לָבוּשׁ 
Sense: clothing, garment, apparel, raiment.
יְהוָ֣ה  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
צְבָא֑וֹת  of  hosts 
Parse: Noun, common plural
Root: צָבָא 
Sense: that which goes forth, army, war, warfare, host.
וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּ֥ם  Therefore  take  heed 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Nifal, Conjunctive perfect, second person masculine plural
Root: שָׁמַר  
Sense: to keep, guard, observe, give heed.
בְּרוּחֲכֶ֖ם  to  your  spirit 
Parse: Preposition-b, Noun, masculine singular construct, second person masculine plural
Root: רוּחַ  
Sense: wind, breath, mind, spirit.
וְלֹ֥א  that  not 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Adverb, Negative particle
Root: הֲלֹא 
Sense: not, no.
תִבְגֹּֽדוּ  you  do  deal  treacherously 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Imperfect, second person masculine plural
Root: בָּגַד  
Sense: to act treacherously, deceitfully, deal treacherously.
ס  - 
Parse: Punctuation