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.





  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?
    • My studies indicate that he is talking about a much broader, but equally serious, problem. Scripture needs to be interpreted by scripture. Divorce is never good, but there are some times when it is the lesser of two evils. Only then is it permissible.

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  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).

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  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.
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