I pose a question about the original Hebrew hermeneutics of this passage. The MT of Malachi 2:16 reads:

כִּֽי־ שָׂנֵ֣א שַׁלַּ֗ח אָמַ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְכִסָּ֤ה חָמָס֙ עַל־לְבוּשׁ֔וֹ אָמַ֖ר יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֑וֹת וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּ֥ם בְּרוּחֲכֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א תִבְגֹּֽדוּ

If the word šal•lah (שַׁלַּ֗ח) is the infinitive 'to divorce' (and please bear with me if I misunderstood that to be so) and the word śānē (שָׂנֵ֣א) is the present tense 'hates', could this text from the original language be translated as God 'hates to divorce' the one (his beautiful ideal marriage where two become one flesh) BECAUSE the man covers his garment with violence?


The related Q&A deals very well with the awkwardnesses of this verse. Here, OP's interest is in whether the Hebrew described there can bear the sense in which YHWH ("The LORD") could be the subject of first clause of Malachi 2:16.

The short answer is "no": the sense cannot be "God hates to divorce...", even though some are tempted to see something like this sense implicit here.1 Why?

  • Taken in its most obvious sense, the agent-subject (continuing from v. 15) is the one who might be "faithless" towards the "wife of [his] youth". This one naturally, then, remains as the subject of the next clause.
  • Although some commentators think the speech attribution ("says the LORD, the God of Israel") might be a later insertion (which is purely speculative: there is no evidence for it),2 its inclusion makes it very difficult to see the deity's self reference in the third person. Perhaps not impossible, but typically, the voice of God in prophetic texts uses the first person ("I hate...").

    Almost all English versions adopt the expedient of emending that first verb so that it is first-person, thus fitting the scenario above. So far as I can see, one of the few to stick closer to the Masoretic Text here is the (Holman) Christian Standard Bible.3 I think it catches the sense nicely:

    “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel,...

  • As is widely noted, the compressed wording of Malachi 2:16 seems to have as its backdrop the scenario of Deuteronomy 24:3, where the same sequence of "hating" and "sending/divorcing" (latter in a technical sense) is seen.

The other translation difficulties of this grammatically awkward verse are already well explained in the other Q&A.

  1. E.g., Andrew E. Hill, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; Nottingham: IVP Academic, 2012), p. 326.
  2. For instance, BHS encloses this phrase as b-b, and includes as the note: "add?". J. M. Powis Smith's ICC commentary inclines this way. He gives as reasons: "for it separates the protasis from the apodosis, constitutes the only occurrence of this title of Yahweh in Malachi, and is superfluous alongside of the immediately following affirmation of divine authority" (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah [ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1912], p. 55).
  3. There are still grammatical adjustments to be made, but these are less intrusive that the first-person emendation. This solution is well explained by Paul Reddit, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (NCB; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 174-5.
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Biblehub Commentary page has extensive commentaries on this text - Henry, Ellicott, Cambridge, etc etc. Pulpit commentary I found especially helpful.I do not wish to merely paste extensive quotations. My link is surely satisfactory.

Your own emphasis appears to be supported. God hates divorce because the perpetrator of it covers violence with his garment.

Ruth covered herself with the skirt of Boaz' garment, desiring to be one with him and to be under one covering with him.

But the man who 'covers' a woman in marriage and then tears her away from 'under his garment' is no longer covering himself and a woman in union.

He is covering up a violent rift in relationship.

It is as though, after the divorce, that his garment conceals an act of violence beneath it.

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  • I thank you Nigel J. I bring this up to address abuse. I'm a medical professional in women's health. After witnessing atrocities done to women at the hands of their husbands, I can only imagine that God would 'divorce' the wife from her oppressor if she cries out but that He would 'hate' to dissolve His union of the one flesh. The responsibility, sin, and chastisement seems to fall on the man who disdained this union with the wife of his youth so that God intervenes. God hears the voice of those oppressed according to multiple texts in the book of Psalms and the Lord delivers them out of all. – K. Reed Feb 23 '18 at 21:28
  • Paul makes it clear that, even within the church, a woman may - if she feels she must - separate from her husband. But she must thereafter remain unmarried. Paul encourages reconciliation, if it is at all possible. But he does not enforce it. I Corinthians 7:11.There is no need for a wife to dwell with an abusive man. I abhor the idea (which some seem to have) that the bible obliges wives to forcibly stay with vile men. It does not. – Nigel J Feb 24 '18 at 1:26
  • Down-voted for four reasons: 1) This is nearly a "link-only" answer. It should summarize the commentary, identify the author, and provide the link as a reference only. 2) The association with Boaz is far-fetched. There is no indication that he covers Ruth with anything. Ruth uses כנפך which doesn't necessarily mean "garment" whereas this verse uses לבוש c . 3) This answer ignores the context of the parsha and the chapter, that deals specifically with problems of the priestly class. 4) You don't seem to make any attempt to actually deal with the problems in the Hebrew text as the OP asks. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Feb 24 '18 at 19:57

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