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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) For [I] hate divorce [of the first wife], saith the God of Israel, and he [the divorcer of his first wife] covers his garment with injury, saith the LORD of Hosts; therefore take ye heed to your spirit, and do not be faithless. According to our interpretation, the whole of these two verses must be taken as the words of the prophet. Any superiority.—We take Heb. shār, “remnant” in the sense of yithrōn, “superabundance,” “superiority.” Any superiority of spiriti.e., any such essential superiority as to justify him in treating his wife as a mere slave, and divorcing her against her will. This passage coincides more nearly with the spirit of Matthew 19:3 seqq. than with that of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. To yourselves, or to your spirit. The expressions are equivalent. (Comp. Jeremiah 17:21; Deuteronomy 4:15; Joshua 23:11.) Let none be . . .—Observe the change of person, so common in Hebrew. (Comp. Isaiah 1:29.) His garment.—Some take this to be an Oriental expression for “his wife.” (Comp. Al Koran, 2:—“Wives are your attire, and you are theirs.”) Or garment may be taken as the external symbol of the inner state of the man. (Comp. Zechariah 3:4; Isaiah 64:5; Proverbs 30:9, &c.) Injury.—Heb., châmâs. This word is especially used of ill-treatment of a wife. (Comp. Genesis 16:5.) Keil takes the first verse as follows: No man who had ever a remnant of reason [or a sense of right and wrong] has done [sc., what ye are doing, viz., faithlessly putting away the wife of his youth. To this the people are supposed to object.] But what did the one [Abraham] do? [To this the prophet answers] He was seeking a seed of God [viz., the child of promise: i.e., he dismissed Hagar, because God promised to give him the desired posterity, not in Ishmael through the maid Hagar, but through Sarah in Isaac, so that in doing this he was simply acting in obedience to the word of God (Genesis 21:12).] Others vary the translation slightly, and render, And has no one done this who has a remnant of spirit in him? [This being supposed to be the objection on the part of the people. To this the prophet answers.] Wherefore did he so act? He was seeking a godly seed. Moore takes the verse quite differently, and refers it to the saying of Malachi 2:10. His words are, “The prophet at the outset had argued the return of the Jewish people . . . therefore these marriages that violated their oneness were wrong . . . He asks again . . . Did not [God] make [us] one? Did He not separate us from other nations into an isolated unity? Yet this was not done because the blessing was too narrow to be spread over other nations . . . for the residue of the spirit was with Him. There remained an inexhaustible fulness of spiritual blessing that might be given to other nations. Why [then did He choose] but one? He was seeking a seed of God [a nation which He should train up to be the repository of His covenant, the stock of His Messiah].” Many other interpretations have been proposed, but these are the only ones which are at all admissible.

Malachi 2:16. For the Lord God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away — He allowed the Jews liberty of divorce only for the hardness of their hearts, Matthew 19:8, not that it was a thing pleasing to him. For one covereth violence with his garment — Or, And when one puts violence upon his garment, or covers his garment with violence, as Dr. Pocock translates it, who hath given the clearest sense of this phrase, and showed, out of several eastern writers, that they usually call a wife by the name of a garment; the expression of Moses, Deuteronomy 22:30, agreeing with this way of speaking. According to this interpretation, the sense of the text will be, that God hates divorcing a former wife to take in one of a strange nation: and he hates that any should bring into his family an illegitimate wife, over and above one that he had legally married before.

2:10-17 Corrupt practices are the fruit of corrupt principles; and he who is false to his God, will not be true to his fellow mortals. In contempt of the marriage covenant, which God instituted, the Jews put away the wives they had of their own nation, probably to make room for strange wives. They made their lives bitter to them; yet, in the sight of others, they pretend to be tender of them. Consider she is thy wife; thy own; the nearest relation thou hast in the world. The wife is to be looked on, not as a servant, but as a companion to the husband. There is an oath of God between them, which is not to be trifled with. Man and wife should continue to their lives' end, in holy love and peace. Did not God make one, one Eve for one Adam? Yet God could have made another Eve. Wherefore did he make but one woman for one man? It was that the children might be made a seed to serve him. Husbands and wives must live in the fear of God, that their seed may be a godly seed. The God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away. Those who would be kept from sin, must take heed to their spirits, for there all sin begins. Men will find that their wrong conduct in their families springs from selfishness, which disregards the welfare and happiness of others, when opposed to their own passions and fancies. It is wearisome to God to hear people justify themselves in wicked practices. Those who think God can be a friend to sin, affront him, and deceive themselves. The scoffers said, Where is the God of judgement? but the day of the Lord will come.He hateth putting away - o He had allowed it "for the hardness of their hearts," yet only in the one case of some extreme bodily foulness discovered upon marriage, and which the woman, knowing the law, concealed at her own peril. Not subsequent illness or any consequences of it, however loathsome (as leprosy), were a ground of divorce, but only this concealed foulness, which the husband "found" upon marriage. The capricious tyrannical divorce, God saith, "He hateth:" a word Naturally used only as to sin, and so stamping such divorce as sin.

One covereth violence with his garment - o or, "and violence covereth his garment," or, it might be, in the same sense, "he covereth his garment with violence" , so that it cannot be hid, nor washed away, nor removed, but envelopes him and his garment; and that, to his shame and punishment.

It was, as it were, an outer garment of violence, as Asaph says Psalm 73:6, "violence covereth them as a garment;" or David Psalm 109:18, "he clothed himself with cursing as with a garment." It was like a garment with "fretting leprosy," unclean and making unclean, to be burned with fire. Leviticus 13:47-58. Contrariwise, the redeemed saints had Revelation 7:14 "washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb." Having declared God's hatred of this their doing, he sums up in the same words, but more briefly; "and this being so, ye shall take heed to your spirit, and not deal treacherously."

16. putting away—that is, divorce.

for one covereth violence with … garment—Maurer translates, "And (Jehovah hateth him who) covereth his garment (that is, his wife, in Arabic idiom; compare Ge 20:16, 'He is to thee a covering of thy eyes'; the husband was so to the wife, and the wife to the husband; also De 22:30; Ru 3:9; Eze 16:8) with injury." The Hebrew favors "garment," being accusative of the thing covered. Compare with English Version, Ps 73:6, "violence covereth them as a garment." Their "violence" is the putting away of their wives; the "garment" with which they try to cover it is the plea of Moses' permission (De 24:1; compare Mt 19:6-9).

The prophet enforceth his former exhortation, Malachi 2:15, with the arguments laid here close together from the odiousness of the thing he exhorts them to forbear. It is odious to the Lord, who changeth not, but resents this evil practice as much as ever. God, Judge of wrongs and the wronged, hates such wrong.

God of Israel by covenant, and in peculiar relation, and so much more engaged to punish it; and he now declares his hatred of these things.

Putting away; divorce, such putting away of wives as these petulant Jews used to make way for some new wives.

For one covereth violence with his garment; rather, and covering violence, &c., which God hates as much as divorcing or putting away. This superinducing of violence by a second wife taken in upon, or with, or over the first wife, called here a garment, God hateth. In sum, neither your divorces nor your polygamy may with safety be practised, for God hateth both.

Therefore take heed to your spirit, and therefore be advised, take heed, as you love your life, your souls, your peace, and welfare, that ye deal not treacherously; neither on dislike divorce, nor yet, with unbridled lust, take another wife in to the former; both are perfidious treachery against her, thy covenant, and thy God; and what canst thou expect from such courses that God hateth, but to be cut off.

The prophet enforceth his former exhortation, Malachi 2:15, with the arguments laid here close together from the odiousness of the thing he exhorts them to forbear. It is odious to the Lord, who changeth not, but resents this evil practice as much as ever. God, Judge of wrongs and the wronged, hates such wrong.

God of Israel by covenant, and in peculiar relation, and so much more engaged to punish it; and he now declares his hatred of these things.

Putting away; divorce, such putting away of wives as these petulant Jews used to make way for some new wives.

For one covereth violence with his garment; rather, and covering violence, &c., which God hates as much as divorcing or putting away. This superinducing of violence by a second wife taken in upon, or with, or over the first wife, called here a garment, God hateth. In sum, neither your divorces nor your polygamy may with safety be practised, for God hateth both.

Therefore take heed to your spirit, and therefore be advised, take heed, as you love your life, your souls, your peace, and welfare, that ye deal not treacherously; neither on dislike divorce, nor yet, with unbridled lust, take another wife in to the former; both are perfidious treachery against her, thy covenant, and thy God; and what canst thou expect from such courses that God hateth, but to be cut off.

The prophet enforceth his former exhortation, Malachi 2:15, with the arguments laid here close together from the odiousness of the thing he exhorts them to forbear. It is odious to the Lord, who changeth not, but resents this evil practice as much as ever. God, Judge of wrongs and the wronged, hates such wrong.

God of Israel by covenant, and in peculiar relation, and so much more engaged to punish it; and he now declares his hatred of these things.

Putting away; divorce, such putting away of wives as these petulant Jews used to make way for some new wives.

For one covereth violence with his garment; rather, and covering violence, &c., which God hates as much as divorcing or putting away. This superinducing of violence by a second wife taken in upon, or with, or over the first wife, called here a garment, God hateth. In sum, neither your divorces nor your polygamy may with safety be practised, for God hateth both.

Therefore take heed to your spirit, and therefore be advised, take heed, as you love your life, your souls, your peace, and welfare, that ye deal not treacherously; neither on dislike divorce, nor yet, with unbridled lust, take another wife in to the former; both are perfidious treachery against her, thy covenant, and thy God; and what canst thou expect from such courses that God hateth, but to be cut off.

For the Lord the God of Israel saith, that he hateth putting away,.... The divorcing of wives; for though this was suffered because of the hardness of their hearts, it was not approved of by the Lord; nor was it from the beginning; and it was disagreeable, and even hateful to him, Matthew 19:8 in the margin of some Bibles the words are rendered, "if he hate her, put her away"; and so the Targum,

"but if thou hatest her, put her away;''

to which agree the Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, and Arabic versions; and this sense made mention of in both Talmuds, and is thought to be agreeable to the law in Deuteronomy 24:3 though the law there speaks of a fact that might be, and not of what ought to be; wherefore the former sense is best; and this other seems to have been at first calculated to favour the practice of the Jews, who put away their wives through hatred to them. The Jews were very much inclined to divorce their wives upon very trivial occasions; if they did not dress their food well, were not of good behaviour, or not so modest as became the daughters of Israel; if they did not find favour with their husbands; and, especially, if they had entertained a hatred of them: so says R. Judah (k),

"if he hate her, let him put her away:''

but this is by some of them restrained to a second wife; for of the first they say,

"it is not proper to be hasty to put away a first wife; but a second, if he hates her, let him put her away (l)''

and R. Eleazer says (m), whoever divorces his first wife, even the altar sheds tears for him, referring to the words in Malachi 2:13 and divorces of this kind they only reckon lawful among the Israelites, and found it upon this passage; for so they make God to speak after this manner (n),

"in Israel I have granted divorces; among the nations of the world I have not granted divorces. R. Chananiah, in the name of R. Phinehas, observes, that in every other section it is written, "the Lord of hosts"; but here it is written, "the God of Israel", to teach thee that the holy blessed God does not put his name to divorces (or allow them) but in Israel only. R. Chayah Rabba says, the Gentiles have no divorces.''

But some of them have better understanding of these words, and more truly give the sense of them thus, as R. Jochanan does, who interprets them,

"the putting away of the wife is hateful (o);''

it is so to God, and ought not to be done by men but in case of adultery, as our Lord has taught, Matthew 5:32 and which was the doctrine of the school of Shammai in Christ's time, who taught,

"that no man should divorce his wife, unless he found in her filthiness;''

i.e. that she was guilty of adultery; though this Maimonides restrains to the first wife, as before: but the house of Hillell, who lived in the same time, was of a different mind, and taught that

"if she burnt his food;''

continued...

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he {b} hateth putting away: for one covereth {c} violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

(b) Not that he allows divorce, but of two faults he shows which is the less.

(c) He thinks it sufficient to keep his wife still, even though he takes others, and so as it were covers his fault.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. the God of Israel] who has given them His law. His relation to the people aggravates their guilt.

hateth putting away] Lit. For he (Jehovah) hateth putting away (divorce), saith Jehovah, &c.

It is true that divorce was permitted by the Law of Moses, in certain cases (Deuteronomy 24:1-4); but that, as our Lord teaches, was only a concession to “the hardness of their hearts” (Matthew 19:8), and “from the beginning it was not so”. The rendering of A.V. margin, which is also that of the LXX. and Targum, “if he hate her, put her away”, makes the prophet call upon those whom he is rebuking to avail themselves of the provision of the Law, as the least of two evils: q.d. “better divorce her if you hate her, as the Law allows you to do, than retain her as your wife only to subject her to insult and cruelty”. But apart from other objections, this interpretation loses sight of the fact that the motive of divorce in the two cases was entirely different, and that such advice, in the case here under consideration, is tantamount to saying, “If you wish to marry a heathen woman, get rid of your lawful wife first by divorcing her.”

for one covereth … his garment] Rather, and him that covereth his garment with violence (R.V.) (do I hate), saith the Lord of hosts. Two things, in relation to the subject in hand, Almighty God declares that He hates. He hates “putting away”, for it is a violation of His primæval law, “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” And He hates ill-treatment by the husband of his wife, which stains and pollutes, as it were, the garment of protection which he is bound to spread over her. By “his garment” many commentators understand “his wife”. But no such Hebrew use of the word has been adduced, and the Arabic use which is alleged is not conclusive.

Verse 16. - He hateth putting away. This is another reason against divorce: God hates it. It is contrary to his original institution, and was only allowed for the hardness of men's hearts (see Deuteronomy 24:1, etc.; Matthew 19:3-9). Septuagint, "If thou hate her and dismiss her," etc.; Vulgate, "If thou hate her, put her away," which seems to encourage divorce, whereas in the context divorce is strongly condemned. Hence Jerome considers these words to be spoken by the Jews, quoting in their defence Moses' precept. Others think that they are ironical - Put her away, if you please; but you must bear the consequences. For one covereth violence with his garment. He who thus divorces his wife shows himself openly to all beholders as an iniquitous man. So the clause is better rendered, And one (who does so) covereth his garment with violence, or, violence covereth his garment. Iniquity attaches itself to him plainly, encircling and enfolding him; the clothing of iniquity is the mark of the foul soul within. 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 2:16Malachi 2:13. "And this ye do a second time: cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping and signs, so that He does not turn any more to the sacrifice, and accept the well-pleasing thing at your hand. Malachi 2:14. And ye say, Wherefore? Because Jehovah has been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, towards whom thou hast acted treacherously; whereas she is nevertheless thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. Malachi 2:15. And not one did so who had still a remnant of spirit. And what (did) the one? He sought seed of God. Therefore shall ye take heed for your spirit, and deal not faithlessly to the wife of thy youth. Malachi 2:16. For I hate divorce, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel; and he will cover wickedness over his garment, saith Jehovah of hosts. Thus shall ye take heed to your spirit, and not deal treacherously." In these verses the prophet condemns a second moral transgression on the part of the people, viz., the putting away of their wives. By shēnı̄th (as a second thing, i.e., for the second time) this sin is placed in the same category as the sin condemned in the previous verses. Here again the moral reprehensibility of the sin is described in Malachi 2:11, before the sin itself is named. They cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, namely, by compelling the wives who have been put away to lay their trouble before God in the sanctuary. The inf. constr. introduces the more minute definition of זאת; and בּכי ואנקה is a supplementary apposition to דּמעה ot , added to give greater force to the meaning. מאין עוד, so that there is no more a turning (of Jehovah) to the sacrifice, i.e., so that God does not graciously accept your sacrifice any more (cf. Numbers 16:15). The following infinitive ולקחת is also dependent upon מאין, but on account of the words which intervene it is attached with ל . רצון , the good pleasure or satisfaction, used as abstractum pro concreto for the well-pleasing sacrifice. Malachi 2:14. This sin also the persons addressed will not recognise. They inquire the reason why God will no more graciously accept their sacrifices, whereupon the prophet discloses their sin in the plainest terms. על־כּי equals על־אשׁר, as in Deuteronomy 31:17; Judges 3:12, etc. The words, "because Jehovah was a witness between thee and the wife of thy youth," cannot be understood as Ges., Umbreit, and Koehler assume, in accordance with Malachi 3:5, as signifying that Jehovah had interposed between them as an avenging witness; for in that case העיד would necessarily be construed with ב, but they refer to the fact that the marriage took place before the face of God, or with looking up to God; and the objection that nothing is known of any religious benediction at the marriage, or any mutual vow of fidelity, is merely an argumentum a silentio, which proves nothing. If the marriage was a berı̄th 'Elōhı̄m (a covenant of God), as described in Proverbs 2:17, it was also concluded before the face of God, and God was a witness to the marriage. With the expression "wife of thy youth" the prophet appeals to the heart of the husband, pointing to the love of his youth with which the marriage had been entered into; and so also in the circumstantial clause, through which he brings to the light the faithless treatment of the wife in putting her away: "Yet she was thy companion, who shared thy joy and sorrow, and the wife of thy covenant, with whom thou didst made a covenant for life."

In Malachi 2:15 the prophet shows still further the reprehensible character of the divorce, by rebutting the appeal to Abraham's conduct towards Hagar as inapplicable. The true interpretation of this hemistich, which has been explained in very different, and to some extent in very marvellous ways, is obvious enough if we only bear in mind that the subordinate clause וּשׁאר רוּח לו, from its very position and from the words themselves, can only contain a more precise definition of the subject of the principal clause. The affirmation "a remnant of spirit is (was) to him" does not apply to God, but only to man, as L. de Dieu has correctly observed. Rūăch denote here, as in Numbers 27:18; Joshua 5:1; 1 Kings 10:5, not so much intelligence and consideration, as the higher power breathed into man by God, which determines that moral and religious life to which we are accustomed to give the name of virtue. By 'echâd (one), therefore, we cannot understand God, but only a man; and לא אחד (not any one equals no one, not one man) is the subject of the sentence, whilst the object to עשׂה must be supplied from the previous sentence: "No man, who has even a remnant of reason, or of sense for right and wrong, has done," sc. what ye are doing, namely, faithlessly put away the wife of his youth. To this there is appended the objection: "And what did the one do?" which the prophet adduces as a possible exception that may be taken to his statement, for the purpose of refuting it. The words וּמה האחד are elliptical, the verb עשׂה, which may easily be supplied from the previous clause, being omitted (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:12). האחד, not unus aliquis, but the well-known one, whom it was most natural to think of when the question in hand was that of putting away a wife, viz., Abraham, who put away Hagar, by whom he had begotten Ishmael, and who was therefore also his wife (Genesis 21). The prophet therefore replies, that Abraham sought to obtain the seed promised him by God, i.e., he dismissed Hagar, because God promised to give him the desired posterity, not in Ishmael through the maid Hagar, but through Sarah in Isaac, so that in doing this he was simply acting in obedience to the word of God (Genesis 21:12). After meeting this possible objection, Malachi warns his contemporaries to beware of faithlessly putting away their wives. The Vav before nishmartem is the Vav rel., through which the perfect acquires the force of a cohortative as a deduction from the facts before them, as in ועשׂית in 1 Kings 2:6 (see Ewald, 342, c). נשׁמר בּרוּחו is synonymous with נשׁמר בּנפשׁו in Jeremiah 17:21, and this is equivalent to נשׁמר לנפשׁו in Deuteronomy 4:15 and Joshua 23:11. The instrumental view of ב ("by means of the Spirit:" Koehler) is thus proved to be inadmissible. "Take heed to your spirit," i.e., beware of losing your spirit. We need not take rūăch in a different sense here from that in which it is used in the clause immediately preceding; for with the loss of the spiritual and moral vis vitae, which has been received from God, the life itself perishes. What it is that they are to beware of is stated in the last clause, which is attached by the simple copula (Vav), and in which the address passes from the second person into the third, to express what is affirmed as applying to every man. This interchange of thou (in wife of thy youth) and he (in יבגּד) in the same clause appears very strange to our mode of thought and speech; but it is not without analogy in Hebrew (e.g., in Isaiah 1:29; cf. Ewald, 319, a), so that we have no right to alter יבגּד into תּבגּד, since the ancient versions and the readings of certain codices do not furnish sufficient critical authority for such a change. The subject in יבגּד is naturally thought of as indefinite: any one, men. This warning is accounted for in Malachi 2:16, first of all in the statement that God hates putting away. שׁלּח is the inf. constr. piel and the object to שׂנא: "the sending away (of a wife), divorce." שׂנא is a participle, the pronominal subject being omitted, as in maggı̄d in Zechariah 9:12, because it may easily be inferred from the following words: אמר יי (saith the Lord of hosts). The thought is not at variance with Deuteronomy 24:1., where the putting away of a wife is allowed; for this was allowed because of the hardness of their hearts, whereas God desires that a marriage should be kept sacred (cf. Matthew 19:3. and the comm. on Deuteronomy 24:1-5). A second reason for condemning the divorce is given in the words וכסּה חמס על ל, which do not depend upon כּי שׂנא, but form a sentence co-ordinate to this. We may either render these words, "he (who puts away his wife) covers his garment with sin," or "sin covers his garment." The meaning is the same in either case, namely, that wickedness will adhere irremoveably to such a man. The figurative expression may be explained from the idea that the dress reflects the inward part of a man, and therefore a soiled garment is a symbol of uncleanness of heart (cf. Zechariah 3:4; Isaiah 64:5; Revelation 3:4; Revelation 7:14). With a repetition of the warning to beware of this faithlessness, the subject is brought to a close.

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