Malachi 2
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Against unlawful Divorce, and Marriages with Heathen Wives

CHAPTER 2:10–16

10Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the1 [holy people] of the Lord, which he loves, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar2 [the waker and the answerer], out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of Hosts. 13And this have ye done again3 [as a second thing], covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 14Yet ye say, Wherefore4 [doth he not accept]? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously; yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15And did not he make one [flesh]? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth [I hate divorce] putting away; for one covereth violence with his garment [covers his garment with cruelty], saith the Lord of Hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.


We have here a new subject without any connection with what precedes. The Prophet, in the name of Jehovah, rebukes their marriages with foreigners, and their divorce of their lawful wives. As his manner is, he first lays down an indisputable axiom as the basis of his reproofs.

Malachi 2:10. Have we not all one Father? Jerome, Calvin, and others understand by one father here, Abraham: Pocock, Scott, and Henry, Jacob. The obvious objection to this view is that Abraham was the father not of the Jews only, but of the Ishmaelites and Edomites. The best recent Commentators understand by it Jehovah. This makes it parallel with Malachi 1:6, where Jehovah styles himself the Father of Israel.

Divorce is a violation of the relation sustained to Jehovah, as a common father, and it is dealing treacherously with our fellow creature, one against another (literally, a man against his brother); it is further a profanation of the covenant which Jehovah made with his chosen people, out of which there grew specific duties and obligations not to marry idolatresses, or the daughters of a strange God. The Prophet classes himself with the offenders, as it was a national sin. The Septuagint has changed the suffixes here, “Has not one God created you? Why have YE forsaken,” etc.

The law of Moses prohibited all marriages with the heathen, lest the Israelites should be led into idolatry (Ex. 34:11; Deut. 7:1–4).

Malachi 2:11. Judah hath dealt treacherously. He now proceeds to specify their sins. Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem are here only different designations of the same persons. Jerusalem is probably mentioned, to show that the sin was aggravated by being committed in the holy city.

The Prophet stigmatizes their unlawful divorce as an abomination, and as such to be classed with idolatry, witchcraft, and adultery. In the last clause he characterizes their intermarriages with the daughters of a strange god (or worshippers, by a well-known Hebrew idiom), as a profanation of the holy seed (Ezra 9:2), for Israel was holiness to the Lord (Jer. 2:3).

Malachi 2:12. Jehovah will cut off, etc. The Prophet denounces the judgment of Jehovah upon every one out of the tents of Jacob, who commits this sin. We must connect “out of the tents of Jacob” with cut off.”

The apocopated form of the future expresses a wish that such may be the case. To express the universality of this judgment that no one should escape, not even in their posterity, we have a proverbial phrase, which has been variously interpreted. Our version has translated it, the master and the scholar, as the Vulgate, magistrum et discipulum. This too is the Rabbinical explanation followed by Luther, Pocock, Henry, Scott. Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Maurer, Reinke, Keil, Noyes, Henderson, De Wette, J. D. Michaelis, translate it, the watcher and the answerer. Calvin understands it of the master and servant: “Every one who was in power, and could command others,” and by the answerer, “the servant, who received and obeyed orders.” The Targum, Syriac, Ewald, son and grandson. Fürst, Munster, Hitzig, Dietrich, the caller and the answerer.

Malachi 2:13. And this ye do as a second thing. Henderson understands this of time, that the people had relapsed into their old sins in the time of Ezra, but it is better to understand it of a second sin, in addition to marrying heathen wives, of divorcing their Jewish wives. The Septuagint reads it, I hated, and mistook the word.

The greatness of their sin is enlarged upon Their divorced wives repair to the altar of Jehovah, there to pour out their hearts before Him, and to complain of their cruel treatment, and to seek his help. The last clause of Malachi 2:13 shows that Jehovah will not accept the sacrifice, nor bless the worshipper.

Malachi 2:14. Yet ye say, wherefore? That is, wherefore doth He not accept?

The people addressed refusing to be ashamed, and to confess their guilt, shamelessly ask the reason of their rejection. The Prophet now addresses each one personally. Jehovah has been a witness. Köhler understands this, as in Malachi 3:5, of an avenging witness, but as we have in Gen. 31:48 a similar expression. “This heap is a witness between me and thee,” where the same words occur in Hebrew, we must regard it with Keil, Henderson, and others, as meaning that God was a witness to the marriage, or to the covenant made between the parties. The divorced wife is now tenderly called the wife of thy youth, who has been the choice of thy youth, the partner of thy joys and sorrows, and the wife of thy covenant, with whom thou didst make a covenant for life.

Malachi 2:15. But did not he make one only. And yet had he a residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? He sought a godly race. We come now to the most difficult verse of all others in the prophecy. There has been an extraordinary difference of opinion as to its construction and sense. Köhler styles it most justly a crux interpretum. The Septuagint translator seems to have given his understanding a holiday, and made his pen supply its place. Not a spark of light can be struck from the words, and nothing but words. The subject under discussion is divorce. In the preceding verse, to add sanctity to the marriage tie, Jehovah is said to have been a witness of it, and the wife is to be regarded as bound by a solemn covenant to the husband. What more natural now than that the prophet should recall the institution of marriage in the beginning, as of divine sanction? This would be a conclusive argument, and is the very one our Saviour made use of, when speaking of divorce, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be ONE FLESH, wherefore, they are no more twain, but one flesh.” The argument is introduced abruptly. Did not Jehovah make one? The word אֶחָד, to a Jew, perfectly familiar with בָּשָר אֶחָד in Genesis, would immediately suggest the one flesh, the one pair, of Gen. 2:24.

And wherefore one? In the Hebrew, one has the article, הָאֶחָד, and must be understood of the same subject with the preceding, אֶחָד. And wherefore did he make one pair? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit? This applies most naturally to the life-giving spirit of God—his creative power, not exhausted, for He might have made many women for one man.

That he might seek a godly seed. The design of God was to perpetuate a godly seed. This is counteracted by frequent divorce.

Most English commentators adopt this interpretation. Another view has been advocated by Jerome, Ewald, Reinke, Böttcher, and others, which makes Jehovah the subject, instead of the object. They are led to this view by Malachi 2:10, “Hath not one God created us?” They therefore translate it, “And did not ONE (the same God) create them, And what did the ONE seek?”

Another class of commentators refer the one to Abraham, and translate the clause, But did not the single one do it? And yet a divine Spirit remained to him. But what did the single one do? They regard the one as a designation of Abraham, and found their opinion on Isaiah 51:2, I called him alone, and Ezekiel 33:24, where Abraham is spoken of as one in opposition to the many of the people. In both these passages there is an express mention of Abraham, which is not the case here. They consequently understand, Yet had he the residue of the Spirit as meaning, that he remained a good man.

Still another interpretation is adopted by a considerable number of commentators, that there is no question but a simple affirmation: לֹא אֶחָד is to be translated no one, that the object of made is to be supplied from the previous sentence, that by the residue of the spirit is meant, any portion of reason, any sense of right and wrong. The one of the second clause they refer to Abraham. The whole verse would then be translated, “No one, who has a sense of right and wrong, has done what you are doing. And what did the one do?” They suppose that the guilty parties were wont to appeal to the case of Abraham to justify their conduct, and that the answer shows that his case was no precedent. There are very serious objections to this view. We have to supply the object of עָשָה, made, and the predicate of הָאֶחָד in the second clause. The position of וְלֹא, and the question in the second clause, render it probable that it is a question. Had the Prophet meant to say, that no one ever did so, he would have used אֵין אִיש, as Gen. 39:11, or simply אֵין.

Further, to understand the residue of the spirit of any reason, or moral sense, is strained, and lastly, אֶחָד refers to two different subjects, according to this view, first, to “no one,” and, secondly, to Abraham, though the article is used, referring it back to the former.

There is an interpretation adopted by Fairbairn and Moore, which refers the one to the one chosen seed, the holy nation, but this strikes us as by no means so consistent and forcible as the one which refers it to the one flesh.

Malachi 2:15. Therefore take heed. Then follows a warning against the sin rebuked. The perfect with vav must be translated as imperative, as is often the case. To take heed to your spirit is to take heed to yourself (Deut. 4:15; Joshua 23:11).

Let no one deal treacherously. The third person is here used for the second in the previous clause. This is often the case where there is no change of subject. There is no advantage in following the LXX. and retaining the second person.

Malachi 2:16. For I hate divorce. The Prophet here gives the reason of the warning. Jehovah says, “I hate divorce.” The LXX., Vulgate, and Luther, construe this very differently as a permission of divorce; If thou hate her put her away. But this is inconsistent with the context, which condemns divorce; it is in opposition to the law which permits divorce only for some great misconduct, “some unclean thing,” and which (Deut. 21:15) requires the husband to maintain a hated wife. In favor of the translation, adopted by Köhler, Keil, Henderson, I hate divorce, may be urged, that the form may be considered as a participle, that the first person is often understood before participles, that, saith Jehovah, God of Israel, which follows in the Hebrew, implies that Jehovah is speaking directly in his own person.

Malachi 2:16. And him who covers with violence his garment. The design of this clause, parallel to and coördinate with, I hate divorce, is to express more emphatically the consequences and enormity of the sin, that it is exceedingly heinous, and the height of cruelty. We read in Ps. 109:18, 29, of being clothed with cursing as with a garment, of being clothed with shame. We find the same construction of כִּסָּה with עַל in Num. 16:33; Ps. 106:15; Hab. 2:14, where the object covered is preceded by עַל as here. “The earth covered them,” “And covered the company of Abiram,” “As the waters cover the sea.” We therefore understand the relative, which is frequently omitted, and regard this clause as the continuation of the preceding, “I hate divorce,” only with a more emphatic statement. Most of the recent commentators understand by his garment, his wife. This, says Köhler, is a very uncertain and rare Arabic idiom, and contrary to all Hebrew usage. Nor is it at all necessary, as the interpretation we have given does not introduce a different idea, and is confirmed by the following, “saith the Lord of Hosts.”


The frequency of divorce in the United States, so that in one of the States divorce is allowed for “misconduct,” reveals the same state of things existing now, as was here condemned by Jehovah, and must bring with it the same evils, and the same punishment. What tongue can adequately tell, what heart conceive, the untold misery from this cause, especially to the deserted wives, and the children left without a mother’s care! How little is the indissoluble nature of the marriage relation regarded! and the fact, that the Lord was the witness of it, and will be a swift witness against those who violate it! The Saviour only allows of one cause of divorce, and regards divorce for any other as adultery.

MATTHEW HENRY: “The poor wives were ready to break their hearts, and not daring to make their case known to any other, they complained to God, and covered the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying. This is illustrated by the case of Hannah, who, upon the account of her husband’s having another wife (though otherwise a kind husband) and the discontent thence arising, fretted and wept, was in bitterness of soul, and would not eat. It is a reason given why husbands and wives should live in holy love, that their prayers be not hindered. The Lord has been witness to the marriage covenant between thee and her, for to Him you appealed concerning your sincerity in it and fidelity to it; He has been a witness to all the violations of it, and is ready to judge between thee and her. It is highly aggravated by the consideration of the persons wronged and abused. First, she is thy wife, thy own, bone of thy bone, and flesh of thy flesh; the nearest to thee of all the relations thou hast in the world, and to cleave to whom thou must quit the rest, Secondly. She is the wife of thy youth, who had thy affections when they were at the strongest, was thy first choice, and with whom thou hast lived long. Let not the darling of thy youth be the scorn and loathing of thy age. Thirdly. She is thy companion; she has long been an equal sharer with thee in thy cares and griefs and joys. Fourthly, she is the wife of thy covenant, to whom thou art so firmly bound, that, while she continues faithful, thou canst not be loosed from her, for it was a covenant for life. Married people should often call to mind their marriage vows, and review them with all seriousness, as those that make conscience of performing what they promised.

MOORE: The phrases, “wife of thy youth,” and “companion” are thrown in to show the aggravated nature of this offense. “She whom you thus wronged was the companion of those earlier and brighter days, when in the bloom of her young beauty she left her father’s house, and shared your early struggles, and rejoiced in your later success; who walked arm-in-arm with you along the pilgrimage of life, cheering you in its trials by her gentle ministry; and now, when the bloom of her youth is faded, and the friends of her youth have gone, when father and mother whom she left for you are in the grave, then you cruelly cast her off as a worn-out, worthless thing, and insult her holiest affections by putting another in her place.” There is something very touching in these allusions to the aggravations of this wrong, arising from the tender associations and memories of youth.

PRESSEL, on Malachi 2:10: Have we not all one Father? No faith without love, arid no love without faith. He who keeps the Father and Creator of all men before his eyes must love all men as his brethren, and he who recognizes in other men his brethren must in the Creator of all men love the Father. The prophet’s mode of reasoning is not unlike that of the Apostle John in his First Epistle, 3:17; 4:11, 20, 21. The reference of the prophet to the Heavenly Father is a glimpse in the Old Testament of a doctrine which was not fully brought to light till the time of the New Testament.

On Malachi 2:14. Jehovah is witness between thee and the wife of thy youth. This might be made use of as a solemn warning by a minister against divorce, whether intended or accomplished, as it represents to us the sanctity of marriage, and at the same time awakens in the hearts of the married all lovely and sweet recollections.

On Malachi 2:15. He who regards the divine Spirit within us will be proof against the lusts of the flesh. He who indulges these lusts drives away from his heart more and more the residue of the divine Spirit.


[1]Malachi 2:10.—בּגַד to deal treacherously, to be unfaithful, is used in Malachi 2:11, 14, 15, 16.

[2]Malachi 2:11. בַּת—is used here, as often, in the sense of worshipper, or servant. קֹדֶש means here, holy seed, not holiness, as Henry, Scott.

[3]Malachi 2:12.—יַכְרֵת jussive form. The master and the scholar. So Vulgate. A proverb like: none shut up or left (Deut. 32:36); the deceicer and deceived (Job 12:16; Job 18:19); Song of Solomon nor nephew, to express totality by opposites. Out of the tents, is to be connected with “cut off.”

[4]Malachi 2:16.—The perfect with vav con. must here be translated as imperative, as in 1 Kings 2:6.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Malachi 1
Top of Page
Top of Page