Sometimes I use this platform so I don’t have to keep typing the same thing over and over.
Several years ago, I posted about Malachi 2:16 “God hates divorce?”
And I followed it up here:
Every few years, someone brings up objections to my exegesis. If they are not reviling me (which is fairly common) I answer them. Generally like this:
Every translator translated it like I mentioned until the King James, and then they all followed suit. It became hallowed with use, but it, respectfully, is wrong.
The KJV also translated it assuming that the word “to send away” was an infinitive construct, as you do.
The problem is that the hebrew almost always uses the preposition “lamed” attached to the verb to indicate it as a helping verb. For an infinitive construct to stand alone without a preposition (as is the case here) it only admits of a very few uses, and a helping verb is not one of them. The infinitive construct without a verb is relatively rare in Hebrew.
So, when I translated this some years ago, I struggled with it. It was awkward, it wasn’t how Hebrew was normally used.
And then it occured to me – the 2s imperative has the exact same spelling and vowel points. Why do we assume it is an infinitive construct when the imperative is spelled exactly the same?
So I looked at the semantics that way
“Because” – or “that” (depends on context)
“He hates” – really can’t be translated honestly any other way – but I’ve read comments that say that it is a mistake, and the first person consonant dropped off by scribes centuries ago….)
Run a quick search, with vowel points, on the word “send away” with the exact same spelling.
it comes up about 10 times, if I remember, and every time it means “set loose” send away, and almost always it was used by Moses while speaking to Pharaoh.
Thus sayeth the Lord “Let my people go”
Translated, let go, in this instance.
In Deuteromony 24 – the word to send away and the word “divorce” are contrasted to one another and not identical.
Quite frankly it just doesn’t mean what the KJV said it meant – other modern translations kept it the same because most evangelicals (those who buy bibles) don’t want to hear it. It is their favorite verse.
I know that I lost friends, lost church members, and was reviled publicly because of it. That is hard to go through.
But the Hebrew says what it says.
And thank you for the discussion. I have been reviled on it so many times, that an honest and intelligent discussion on it is a breath of fresh air.
Anyway, one other point – the “he”, which is the subject of “hates” can only refer to the treacherous man.
If it is referring to God, why does the Lord God refer to himself in the third person? Sometimes that is the case, but then it is clear that he is speaking of his triune persons. Here it is not at all that clear.
Also, if the first clause IS referring to God, “he hates”, then why does the second clause revert back to the treacherous man “For he covers violence with his garment…”
So the whole context – he is speaking in the third person of the treacherous man and then, all of the sudden, for three words, he is referring to the Lord God of Israel, and then back to the treacherous man.
It is just awkward.
This is why one grammar that I was checking on it posited that the “aleph” indicating first person must have dropped off in the copying process over the centuries and it REALLY says, “For I hate (to send away) – which, by the way, STILL doesn’t say, I hate divorce.
You would then have to change the infinitive construct to a participle to get it there and say, For I hate THE sending away – )
And that is closer, but still not there….so let’s make “send away” the same as “divorce”
For I hate divorce…”
And now you have something that isn’t there at all, but is repeated over and over and over again until it is believed to be biblical.
A couple of final points:
It matters. If you translate it correctly, you have not become a “liberal”, you have not become a white knight, and you are not, all of the sudden, against marriage and for easy divorce. Please try to separate what the scripture says from your modern social agenda.
What God hates is the treachery that leads up to divorce. What God hates is covenant breaking and hard hearts that sometimes makes divorce necessary.
What God hates is twisting his words to call the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent.
When you translate the verse correctly, you see God’s heart in this difficult passage. God hates treachery, violence, and hatred and he will come to judge the living and the dead. He is giving the opportunity for repentance, “Take heed to your spirit and do not act treacherously.”
To twist this around to “God hates divorce”, you turn it into a catch phrase to turn against the suffering and to send them back to their abuser.
“God hates divorce. So you have to suffer for his sake, just like Jesus did.”
Absolutely horrible and it really has to stop. WE’VE become the treacherous man that God is so strongly condemning.
Why do you think so many are willing to suffer so much reviling to get this passage right?
6 responses to ““I hate divorce” follow up…”
“This is why one grammar that I was checking on it posited that the “aleph” indicating first person must have dropped off in the copying process over the centuries”
Does God’s word stand forever? Or is the Muslims correct or the Mormons who say it was lost? Thus the Koran and the Mormon book replaces it?
Isa 40:7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.
Isa 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
Absolutely, Bob. It stands forever. It’s why I cannot accept an interpretation that posits errors in the text
Thank you, Sam, for continuing to fight for truth on this verse. I was one of the women abused in the church, then by the church. This verse morphed over the years in my church life from “God gates divorce” to “God hates divorcees”
I was instructed that divorced mothers will suffer poverty, further abuse by many men, illnesses, and will lose their children to the devil. Staying in my daily hell of a marriage or casting my children and myself to worse hell were my only choices.
So many church friends and pastors told me God would hate me and by extension my children if we “came out from under” my abusive husband’s “protection”.
All because God hates divorce and any WOMAN who brings it on her family.
It is real and refreshing to read posts like this (it is not my first time) but it always matters to be reminded.
By the way, A Cry for Justice’s website has a wonderful section of common questions and answers about abuse in the church; some of them directly deals with topics like: “God hates divorce. So you have to suffer for his sake, just like Jesus did.” The notion being abused means you are “suffering for His righteousness” is often misunderstood or straight up mangled up!
The previous comment touched on the horrible lie of: “All because God hates divorce and any WOMAN who brings it on her family.” Not only does He hate divorce, He hates the ones who do the divorcing.
To feel hated by your earthly husband is bad enough, the notion of being hated by your heavenly Husband is unthinkable, right? They are saying that dissolving your temporal marriage will be dissolving your eternal marriage. You have to endure the wrath of your man or endure the wrath of your God.
Professing Christians are often more concerned about preserving the institution of the church rather than worshipping He who is the Head of the church. Too easily the name of an earthly shepherd is equalized or exalted above the name of our heavenly Shepherd. The goal is NOT to truly represent Christ, but to represent the name of church that happens to include His name.
This is the kind of thinking that is applied to marriage. It results in untold and unnecessary amounts of suffering among the very ones He suffered and died for, among the very ones who weaponize His sufferings to demonize their sufferings. The name of an earthly husband is equalized and exalted above the name of our heavenly Husband.
If a car rammed into an actual church building, would the first question be, did anyone get hurt? Or would be it be, was anyone IMPORANT hurt? Then it would be, did the car hurt the “costly, most valuable” parts of the church? How about concern about who was driving, who got hurt, but the questions revolve around avoiding creating a scandal, uncovering a scandal, while calling for privacy and dodging bad publicity.
I was a part of a church with a very popular pastor and after many years his sinful doings were eventually exposed. It was a larger church so a lot of people felt the ripple effects. But: why would anyone really think that NOT bringing his doings to light, would be BAD for the name of Christ? BAD for those who professed Him? BAD for those who suffered because of him?
To be sure, it would have been bad no matter what, but the notion that Christ Himself would look look “‘bad,” so let’s make this pastor looks “good’ only multiplied the badness over time. Causing pain is one thing, covering up that pain in the name of exalting Christ results in lost sheep who may or may not be lost for good.
Apply this thinking to marriage. You are not going to hurt the name of Christ if the institution of marriage is “hurt” by uncovering the MANY hurts that were allowed to be inflicted and infected within such marriages. You are actually doing the exact opposite. You’d be honoring His name by honoring those who are hurt by those who claim His name.
Those who insist otherwise do not care if Scripture is translated properly. They will resent that they are being disempowered as the oppressors, and revile the ones who are being empowered as the oppressed.
To be sure, at first I saw the “idea” of God hating divorce (even before digging deeper into what that verse really meant) as somewhat empathizing. It is an escape from evil, not the cause of evil, but never easy to engage in. Something to not be happy for, not NEVER hateful about. But it didn’t take long to be swept up in the tide of “hate the sin, not the sinner”—because it was assumed that if He hates divorce, it must be a sin since He hates sin!
Divorce is a noun and a verb: I got a divorce. I am being divorced. I am divorced. But when it is used as a definition, not a description, that is where it becomes a scarlet letter that is both a huge and heavy burden. Everyone sees it from the outside in, and thinks they can see you from the inside out.
It took me years to really glimpse His hatred of treachery of humanity regarding how we treat the treacherous treatment of humanity.
I don’t know if this has already been said, but it seems to me as if many church people today treat marriage like the Pharisees treated the Sabbath. It must be kept at any cost. But if the Sabbath was made for man (I mean people, here) and not the other way around, wasn’t marriage also made for man and woman, and not the other way around? We’re not here to serve marriage. And I think that if you’re in an abusive or destructive marriage, it’s not really a marriage anyway. It’s really more of a bondage, and Christ came to set us free.
I haven’t read it specifically anywhere, but you are exactly correct. It was actually bad exegesis, as well. Because they didn’t see Christ in the Sabbath, they missed everything.
The Sabbath points to the one who gives rest – rest from infirmity, from sin, from bondage – so it was fitting for Christ to do his work on the Sabbath.
thanks for the comment