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Malachi 2:16 NLT

"For I hate divorce!" says the Lord, the God of Israel. "It is as cruel as putting on a victim's bloodstained coat," says the Lord Almighty. "So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife."

KJV Malachi 2:16

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 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.

כי שנא שלח אמר יהוה אלהי ישראל וכסה חמס על לבושו אמר יהוה צבאות ונשמרתם ברוחכם ולא תבגדו

In the NLT it would seem like the antagonist covers himself with the garment of the victim whilst in the other two it is the garment of the antagonist which is used to cover.

How can one understand the NLT translation in the above text?

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  • I changed the top Q because the original question is answered by the OP at the very start, giving the quote. It's the meaning of the NLT that is sought, not how it's translated, so that's why I've changed it. Just roll it back if that is not what you want, Collen.
    – Anne
    Mar 17, 2023 at 15:46

1 Answer 1

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No one here is going to defend a paraphraistic version (or any other version). The NLT is highly interpretive and should be read as such. It is anything but literal. The NLT quoted by the OP appears to be an early edition of the NLT. The current edition (as revised) reads for Mal 2:16 -

“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.”

In my judgement, the best modern rendering of the Hebrew is given (in Mal 2:16) by the 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.”

To "cover one's garment with violence" is idiom for engaging in a bloody battle and having it stained with blood from the battle. Thus, Malachai uses a bloody battle as an idiom for divorce - the husband might survive but he ends up with a violence covered garment (ie, blood stained).

There is another way to understand this verse - some commentators (eg, Benson, Ellicott) assume the garment is idiom for the wife. About this incorrect notion, the Pulpit commentary observes:

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. Malachi 2:16

I agree. It is better to read the plain meaning of the verse as explained above. It is simpler to understand divorce as like iniquity ("violence") attaching itself to a divorcing husband which he must then wear as a cloak of shame.

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