This infographic shows that from 450 BC to AD 1600, no known Bible translation interpreted Malachi 2:16 at "God hates divorce" or "I have divorce."

Hasn't the Bible Always Said, "God hates divorce"? No.

 

This comparison chart (below) of 18 translations of Malachi 2:16 from before the time of Christ (the Septuagint) to today shows something remarkable.

In the first 2,000 years of Bible translation prior to the King James Version (AV), Malachi 2:16 was NEVER translated as "God hates divorce" or "I hate divorce."

The Bibles of the previous 2,000 years—the Septuagint, Aramaic, Latin Vulgate, Masoretic Text, Wycliffe Bible, Coverdale Bible, Great Bible, Bishop's Bible, and Geneva Bible—didn't translate Malachi 2:16 that way. The KJV interpretation is not the traditional view. It's far outside the norm. It's a radical departure.

Below the chart you'll find links to two conservative scholars discussing the Hebrew, and the history of translation, from 100 years before Jesus to today.

Dr. C. Jack Collins of Covenant Theological Seminary suggests (see his conclusions below, and link) that wording closer to the ESV is preferable.

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel,... — ESV

 

He knows that people will object and say this translation weakens the meaning of the verse, but he says this (see link below):

It therefore does not follow that the interpretation found in the ESV in any way

“weakens” Biblical morality: rather, careful attention to the syntax and context

helps us to see just how the prophet is urging the people to ethical faithfulness.

21 Bible translations of Malachi 2:16. Table based on the work of Dr. C. Jack Collins "Malachi 2:16 Again" and Kyle Pope "'He Hates' or 'God Hates.'"
21 Bible translations of Malachi 2:16. Table based in part on the work of Dr. C. Jack Collins "Malachi 2:16 Again" and Kyle Pope "'He Hates' or 'God Hates.'"

2400 Years of Translating Malachi 2:16:  How Ancient, Early and Modern English Bibles Interpret It

The chart above shows that the interpretation "God hates divorce" is not the traditional view. When you look at 2400 years of Bible translations, you see that it is a very odd wording.

The Hebrew in this passage says:

if he hates (verb) divorce (verb)

The word "divorce " is a verb not a noun. No one is hating divorce (noun). And God is not speaking about himself, because the next phrase is that "he" (the person doing the hating) is covering his clothing with violence. So it cannot be talking about God. Plus God speaks in the first person in Malachi. He uses "I" when he speaks to the people, not "he," followed by the phrase "says the Lord" (sixteen times) in Malachi. So "God hates divorce" is not the time-tested traditional translation even though people may claim it is.

Here are the 4 main ways the major English Bibles interpreted Malachi 2:16 over the past 2400 years

1) “If you hate your wife, divorce her...” - Wycliffe, Coverdale, Matthew, The Great Bible, Bishop's Bible, Geneva Bible, some Septuagint, etc.

2) “If he hates and divorces [his wife].” Septuagint, Masoretic, CSB, 2011 NIV, and ESV.

3) “God hates divorce...”  KJV (AV), even though the word in Hebrew is he, not God. Also, despite the online Hebrew interlinear Bibles, the Hebrew language doesn't have upper- and lowercase letters. So the capitalized "H" in he, does not really exist.

4)  "I hate divorce"-  Young's, ERV, ASV, RSV, 1984 NIV, NASB, NRSV, NLT  (even thought the word "I" is not in the Hebrew; it's the word he)

 

 

 

2 Scholars Discuss the Hebrew: Problems with the Interpretation "God Hates Divorce."

 

From Collins's abstract: "Most English Bibles, beginning with the AV , render Malachi 2:16 in such a way that God is saying that he hates divorce – either in the first person (“I hate divorce,” NASB, NIV, NRSV) or in the third person (“he [= the LORD] hates divorce,” AV). Most acknowledge that this is extremely difficult to get from the Masoretic Text, and offer some set of corrections (re-vocalizing, emending the consonants)"

 

From Collins's conclusion:

I believe the discussion here shows the following:

1. The translation of this verse found in the AV (and most English Bibles since then), with God hating divorce, represents a departure from the translation tradition of the previous centuries.

2. The rendering of the ESV, which has a Judean man “hating” his wife and divorcing her, does the best job of handling the details of the Masoretic Text, with no corrections. It also enables us to see how this fits into the context of profaning the calling of the people of God .

3. This way of reading Malachi 2:16 allows us to see how the verse fits into the overall promotion of covenant fidelity as the ideal of marriage, an ideal for which the faithful among the people of God – whether in ancient Israel or in the Christian Church today – will seek all the resources of grace, of forgiveness, of fellowship with the saints, and of the Holy Spirit’s enabling power.

 

  • Kyle Pope Compares the two Hebrew texts (the Masoretic and the Dead Sea 4QXIIa), "He Hates" or "God Hates" The Text of Malachi 2:16 see: https://focusmagazine.org/he-hates-or-god-hates-the-text-of-malachi-216.php.Kyle Pope notes, "Is Malachi quoting the Lord? If so, who is the “he” the Lord says “hates”? Is Malachi summarizing the declaration of the Lord? We do this all the time—“He says that he hates onions!”—rather than, “He says, ‘I hate onions!’” The next phrase raises further questions. The Hebrew speaks of “his clothing.” About whose clothing is this speaking? If God hates and God says, is this speaking of God’s clothing? If not, where is the shift?"

 

Scholar Discusses the Pastoral Aspects of Malachi 2:16

Summary: "Divorce is hard, horrible, and heartbreaking, but we should stop saying that God hates divorce, as this is misquoting and misrepresenting scripture. Moreover, pronouncing that “God hates divorce” brings only hurt, confusion, and feelings of condemnation to Christians who are divorced or contemplating divorce. This pronouncement does nothing to help the church’s mission of bringing healing and hope through the gospel. Furthermore, we simply must stop using Malachi 2:16 to coerce or guilt a wronged or abused spouse to remain in a harmful marriage."

 

Malachi 2:16 – Has the Bible Always Said, “God Hates Divorce”?  No! 

This chart shows that the interpretation "God hates divorce" is not the traditional view. When you look at 2100 years of Bible translations, you see that it is a very odd view.

ANCIENT, EARLY and MODERN TRANSLATIONS Who does the hating? What does he hate? What should

he do?

Septuagint LXX 3rd-1st Century BC (Brenton) The husband his wife But if thou shouldest hate thy wife and put her away, saith the Lord God of Israel,
Septuagint (LXX) 3rd-1st Century BC The husband his wife But if having hated you divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel,
Septuagint (LXX) 3rd-1st Century BC - alternate The husband his wife If, having hated, divorce! says the Lord the God of Israel, 
Aramaic (AD 2nd Century) The husband his wife But if you hate her, divorce her, says the LORD God of Israel,
Latin Vulgate

AD 382

The husband his wife “When you have hate, divorce! 

 

Masoretic Text (AD 10th Century) The husband His wife For the man who hates and divorces, says

the LORD, the God of Israel,

Wycliffe Bible 1395 The husband his wife when thou hatest her, leave thou her, saith the Lord God of Israel.
Coverdale Bible 1535 The husband his wife Yf thou hatest her, put her awaye, sayeth the LORDE God of Israel
Bishop's Bible 1568 The husband his wife If thou hatest her, put her away, saith the lorde God of Israel:
Geneva Bible 1587 The husband his wife If thou hatest her, put her away, sayeth the Lorde God of Israel,
Roman Catholic Rheims-Douay 1582 The husband his wife When thou shalt hate her put her away.
King James Bible 1611 God divorce For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away
Young’s Literal Translation 1862 God (I) divorce For [I] hate sending away, said Jehovah, God of Israel,
English Revised Version 1881 God (I) divorce For I hate putting away, saith the LORD, the God of Israel,
American Standard Version 1901 God (I) divorce For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel,
Revised Standard Version 1973 God (I) divorce  "For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel,
New International Version 1984 (later updated 2011) God (I) divorce “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel,…
New American Standard Version 1989 God (I) divorce "For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel,

 

New Revised Standard Version 1989 God (I) divorce For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel,
New Living Translation 1996 God (I) divorce  “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel.
Christian Standard Bible 2003 The husband his wife “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the Lord God of Israel,
New International Version 2011 update The husband his wife “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel
English Standard Version 2011 The husband His wife “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel,

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