In most English translations we read something like this: “For I hate divorce (כִּי-שָׂנֵא שַׁלַּח),” says the Lord (NASB, Mal.2:16-17)

Perhaps what is most interesting is that the Hebrew grammar of the main verse under consideration does not support the now traditional translation “‘For I hate divorce’, says the Lord God of Israel”. Instead, the original Hebrew states כִּי-שָׂנֵא שַׁלַּח, which means something like “because/for he hates” and “he sends”. The translation found in the Christian Standard Bible captures this phrase quite well, reading: “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Armies (Mal. 2:16-17).

This language in the Christian Standard Bible closely matches the phraseology of God’s laws for divorce, spelled out with some clarity in Deuteronomy:

“If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house.  If after leaving his house she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the second man hates her, writes her a divorce certificate, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house or if he dies, the first husband who sent her away may not marry her again…. (CSB, Deut. 24:1-4)

There is another explanation that may be given to the statement, “I hate divorce” if, (in the unlikely case) most traditional translations correctly assume YHWH is referring to Himself. In ancient times, the Hebrew word שנא does not always mean “hate” in the modern sense.

For example, “Jacob I loved… Esau I hated” (Mal. 1:2-3) is rendered quite literally in modern terms. However, when translated from ancient Hebrew into our modern way of speaking it could arguably be rendered as “Esau I loved, but Jacob I favored with my great covenantal love.” The same is the case with Jesus’ statement that one must love Him and hate his parents (Luke 14:26). This is an idiomatic Hebraism that makes a comparison and does not actually instruct one to express hatred towards one’s parents. That would be absurd, given God’s explicit commandment to honor them.

 

 

63 COMMENTS

  1. If you please, apart from the issue of divorce and given the apparent mistranslations about the subject… what are the common faithful to do to follow, with some sense of surety, the scriptures we have in our hands reach?
    J.

    • Jerry, are you asking what are Christians to believe about this? Then hold on we will be exploring this together in weeks to come. I invite you to be a part of this conversation on this forum!

      • I would love to participate in that conversation. How can I get notified when it is initiated, or where can I watch to see when it begins?

        • Dr Eli, Thank you for this true hebrew bible translation. Just the little of what I have been reading there’s much deference between the two. Its just matter of time I am going for Hebrew bible study. Shalom bornwell.

      • In the Catholic church if you want to divorce your spouse for whatever reason then you have to write a letter to the Pope and ask for permission to divorce and if he disagrees then you have no choice but to remain together.

          • It’s called annulment not divorce. Catholic does not believe in divorce doctrine. She calls it annulment as if marriage never occurred. They don’t go see the judge. It’s called ecclesiastical tribunal and takes time first to investigate the matter from all angles.

      • I thoroughly enjoy the conversations in this forum, I do not want to take this one off topic. My question is a general one, of searching for truth of scriptures with so many of the bible translations available to the non-academic believer being tainted as demonstrated in this article.
        J.

        • Marriage is the pattern that God instituted because He knows best what we need. Common, faithful people should therefore remain married and work out any differences they have. For no less than infidelity (including abuse, abandonment, etc.) should divorce even become an option.

          • So are you saying if somebody physically beats me and abuses me all the time and verbally abuses me I should never divorce that person and put up with the meetings for the rest of my life

          • Dear Arlene, I think you may be objecting not to the article but to one of the comments clear not made by me (the author). I am clearly on your side of the issue.

  2. I think having a good study Bible helps greatly in interpreting scripture, Keeping in mind that all scripture is inspired by God and, therefore, would never be in conflict with other scripture. If it appears to be that way, we obviously need to go back and re-study those passages.

  3. I divorced my husband because of alcoholic abuse..because it was not adultery..does that mean I can never remarry as long as he is alive?

    • Serious and prolonged alcohol abuse is a form of spousal abandonment – the second reason for biblical based divorce (NEGLECT) that Jesus assumes and Paul explicitly affirms. But to understand how this hands together follow our continual study on this. Yes, you can freely remarry! (it does not mean that all Christians will agree to this, but this is how I see it).

      • I have long been interested in where in the Bible (both Tanach and NT) do we have explicit reference to the three reasons to allow divorce: Adultery, abuse and abandonment (I hope I state them right). And what exactly does abandonment mean ? Thank you for your profound thoughts !

      • Thank you for your comments and explanation. I have been divorced due to adultry, abuse, and abandonment. I have struggled for years carrying guilt and shame because I, according to many in the church, did not pray enough to bring victory. I have carried the burden instead of my ex.

  4. Who interpreted and put it down in words?Divorce is only one of many subjects that need further in depth studies and come up with senseable interpretations.For want of a figure I Imagine that 70 to 90% of the Old Testament is suspect and this goes for the New Testament also.

  5. Different things I read states that I cannot marry again. If I did it would be my ex husband. My ex husband cheated on me from day one and beat me for no reason. Then he moved his girlfriend into our home with her children my children and I left

  6. Thank you Dr Eli. Hope you will develop this theme and link it to what Yeshua said in Mathew 19 in response to a question about divorce. In fact may be yo will explain to us what the real question means. Shalom Lucile

  7. Dr Eli, I’m very interested in the subject of divorce & remarriage..Where can we get more info on this subject ! Not everyone can afford Hebrew classes…

  8. A similar use of 8130. שָׂנֵא is found in Gen 29 in talking about Jacob’s wives Rachel and Leah: [30] So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the LORD saw that Leah was 𝒉𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒅, he…

  9. It’s worth noting that the ESV and NIV (2011 ed) translate the passage in Malachi in basic agreement with the translation you have given. Also the NASB has the literal translation in the marginal notes.

  10. Based on my study of Malachi, I would agree with the first translation. Furthermore, “garment” is often used in scripture as a metaphor for “behavior,” so Mal2:16 is simply a poetic way of saying that he who hates and sends his wife away behaves unjustly/violently (within the context of Mal2).

  11. I was trapped in a marriage to an abusive wife for 12 years because I was afraid of the opinions of fellow christians until I eventually had to concede defeat and filed for divorce. Today I realize that I enslaved myself to the unbiblical opnions of people

  12. Dr Eil, you mentioned the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is it a better translation than the New American Standard Bible (NASB)? Or were you just relating to this translation concerning the verse in Malachi in terms of interpretation?

    • I generally think that NASB is very good, but there is no way around it, some other translations are bound to be better in some cases like this one. Especially when translating goes against several thousand years of anti-pretty-much-all divorce theology, providing a faithful to the text translation.

  13. Thanks to heard this topic, we have discussed it today in our church, but No common understanding. Could I listen to you the way you explained for,divorce and remarriage.

  14. I appreciate the nuance you have offered here. But, even if one were to cede the initial ground to those who hold that divorce is to be understood as a sin, as all sins other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can be forgiven, it follows that divorce is forgivable.

  15. Hi Dr. Eli. I have been married for 22 years when she walked out, I hunged my head in shame and remarried her 2 years later, and she walked again. After a while I found favour for another woman. I fasted for 10days to seek advice from our GOD. Interresting response HE gave me: HE did not replt with a yes or no, “”HE stated let’s see how you are going to make this work.”” As if GOD dont want to bind HIMSELF with a yes or no, because men tend to give HIM the blame if things don’t work out. We are living in our own will. A wise man once said: Inlove only lasts a short while, from there on it is a matter of respect towards each other and because we love GOD we must see the good above the mistake of each other.

  16. Dr. Eli, I notice you didn’t get a reply to the wording in NASB. In the margin, literal translation is given as “He hates sending away” , which sounds closer than either NIV “ I hate divorce…and I hate a man’s covering himself (or “his wife” in margin) with violence as well as his garment”
    ESV “ The man who does not love his wife but divorces her….covers his garment with violence”
    But without knowing the norms of the time , ie. historical context, we probably still wouldn’t get it even if it was in the primary text. These posts are very valuable.

  17. Those who have never known the pain of arranged marriage can not judge those who may not have survived almost 2000 years without it. This is a Jewish discussion alone, and not from 33 A.D.. The Gospel will now recieve it’s balance due. Shalom.

  18. This is interesting to see another blog article w/all the comments & responses. I haven’t seen any of these in a while. Thanks also, for the link to “Jubilee-Centre”. The hosts have a variety of modern world topics addressed from a Biblical perspective.
    I look forward to seeing other blogs here. I’m glad to remain “in the loop”!

  19. An interesting interpretation regarding God’s hate of Esau. But what about its context in Mal 1:3b-4? That sounds like a major curse on Esau (and his descendants)?

    • Thanks, Ian. I agree this may put a dent into Jacob point :-). Don’t know exactly how to answer it just yet. But I do think that at least in Genesis the picture of Esau is different (when the reader follows the logic of Genesis he can not help but to actually wish Esau well… Esau get’s the readers sympathy and that is how it was designed to be read). Also keep in mind the warning of God to Israelites not to traspass the Edomite territories or risk God himself turning against them. Malachai is much later text than Genesis and in fact it may have a different perspective from that in Genesis story. This is me shooting from the hip :-).

  20. I reluctantly divorced my husband of 12 yrs after he would not stop lying to me, stealing from me, cheating on me, and much more. What is my standing before God, and am I allowed to remarry? Thank you for clarifying this.

    • If you did not take part in his sins against your joined marriage and it is he alone here that is at fault and if your assessment of that is more or less accurate (AND YES IT IS POSSIBLE!), than – yes!

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