In the Book of Ezra, Jews who intermarried with foreign wives responded to Ezra's message by determining to divorce their wives and also to send away any children produced by the marriage:

Ezra 10

We have indeed betrayed our God by taking as wives foreign women of the peoples of the land. Yet in spite of this there still remains a hope for Israel. 3 Let us therefore enter into a covenant before our God to dismiss all our foreign wives and the children born of them, in keeping with what you, my lord, advise, and those who are in dread of the commandments of our God. Let it be done according to the law! 4 Rise, then, for this is your duty!

But in Malachi 2:14-16 we read:

the Lord is witness between you and the wife of your youth with whom you have broken faith, though she is your companion, your covenanted wife. Did he not make them one, with flesh and spirit? And what does the One require? Godly offspring! You should be on guard, then, for your life, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel.

One way of reading Malachi is to understand that he is urging the Jews not to take Ezra's teaching too far: as long as the foreign wife has converted to Judaism, God wants the couple to stay together and raise 'godly offspring.' Another way is to interpret Malachi as teaching that there is no such thing as a "covenanted wife" unless the woman is Jewish. Are there other scriptures that can help us understand Malachi and Ezra's teaching here? How absolute was the Ezra's policy? Were there no exceptions if the woman was willing to raise their children as Jews?

2 Answers 2


In Malachi 2:11 it says:

Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god.

So both Malachi and Ezra agree that intermarrying with foreign women with foreign gods displeases the Lord.

Knowing this, we can understand that when Malachi speaks against divorce, he is talking about men divorcing Israelite women.

Conclusion: Malachi is talking about why it’s wrong to divorce Israelite women since he already has said that marrying foreign women is wrong.

  • Thanks for your answer. It's clear that Malachi denounced marrying foreign women, but why does this mean he approved of divorcing them? Against this idea we have God supporting Moses' marriage to the Midianite Zipporah, the Canaanite Rahab's inclusion in the lineage of Jesus, Boaz' marriage to the Moabite Ruth (which produced King David), and - in the NT - Timothy's birth to a Jewish mother and a Gentile father. The parable of the Good Samaritan likewise shows that a mixed race believer is often a better Israelite than even a pure-bred priest or Levite. Commented Mar 15 at 1:12
  • First of all, we can guess that Malachi approved of divorcing them because if he thought it was detestable to marry them, than he would think that the men who married foreign women should separate themselves from the foreign women. Also, Malachi 2:11 says, “ Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god.” Zipporah became part of the Israelite covenant when she circumcised her son, Rahab accepted the Lord, and Ruth said “your God my God”. All these women worship the Lord so this is not even an argument. Commented Mar 17 at 0:45

Malachi 2:11-16 conveys God's direct words, effectively elaborating on the policy that Ezra portrayed concerning the marriage of Israelites with Gentiles in Ezra chapter 10. Contrary to softening Ezra's policy, Malachi clarifies the underlying principle of that policy. The key lies in the understanding on Malachi 2:11, and let's explore on this passage.

Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. (NIV)

Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. (KJV)

The NIV translation provides greater clarity compared to the KJV translation, although the latter can convey the same meaning after a moment of reflection. The detestable act committed by the Israelites was not merely marrying gentile women; rather, it specifically indicated these gentile women worshipping foreign gods and leading Israelite men astray, a warning foretelling by God in Exodus 34:16. Therefore if the foreign wives remained faithful to the God of Israel, they were blessed, as exemplified by the stories of Rahab and Ruth.

The sinful nature of the Israelite men lay in their decision to divorce their Israelite wives, whom they had married when young. God rebukes their action in Malachi 2:13-14

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

The tears that flood the Lord's altar were shed by the women of the Living God, who had been divorced by the men that married women worshipping foreign gods. These divorces did not comply with the law's requirement outlined in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, leading the Lord condemn these men for treating their wives unfaithfully in Malachi 2:14.

God's intention is clear: He desires godly offspring, as proclaimed in Malachi 2:15, "What does the one God seek? Godly offspring.". This can only be achieved when both the parents remain faithful to God.

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