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God hates divorce?
taking a second look at this common Christian phrase

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A fresh look at Proverbs 31

The Virtuous Woman?

If you have been around the church for any length of time, you've heard this phrase. "God hates divorce." This is a direct quote from Malachi 2:16, therefore it seems pretty open and shut. You might be surprised to learn though, that this is yet another example of mistranslation of the Hebrew.   

There are 2 different Hebrew words, with 2 very different meanings used in the Old Testament, that have been translated into the same English word: divorce. The Hebrew word kerithuth refers to divorce as we understand it. It is only used 4 times in the Old Testament, and is always accompanied by the word 'certificate' - Sepher kerithuth: "certificate of divorce." However, the word shalach refers to the practice of 'sending away' your wife. In ancient cultures (and sadly, some cultures even today), a man could end a marriage simply by sending the woman out of his home. He would have already collected a dowry from her family, although he was not obligated to return it or give her anything as he sent her away. She would be absolutely destitute unless she had family to take her in. Remember the story of Ruth and Naomi? It is THIS word (and practice) that is used in the verse in Malachi: 

 "For I hate divorce (shalach - sending away),” says the LORD, the God of Israel,

“and him who covers his garment with violence,” says the LORD of armies.

“So be careful about your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”   Malachi 2:16

Back in Deuteronomy, when God established the laws that would govern His people, He corrected this practice and ensured women were protected from this fate by commanding that men issue a certificate of divorce and not turn her out destitute. However, it is clear that they returned to the practice of 'sending away' when we zoom out and read more of the passage in Malachi. (I encourage you to read the whole chapter for more complete context, but we are just going to zoom out a little...)

14 Yet you say, “For what reason?”

Because the Lord has been witness

Between you and the wife of your youth,

With whom you have dealt treacherously;

Yet she is your companion

And your wife by covenant.

15 But did He not make them one,

Having a remnant of the Spirit?

And why one?

He seeks godly offspring.

Therefore take heed to your spirit,

And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

16 “For the Lord God of Israel says

That He hates divorce,

For it covers one’s garment with violence,”

Says the Lord of hosts.

“Therefore take heed to your spirit,

That you do not deal treacherously.”

 Malachi 2:14-16 (NKJV)

See, this is the problem when verses are 'cherry-picked.' People will often say, "The Bible is very clear about...." And a lazy reading of Malachi 2:16, would seem that the Bible is very clear that God hates divorce when actually, just a little digging into the Hebrew will show that the Bible IS very clear - but not on the point of God's feelings towards divorce, in general. What He "clearly" hates is for men to treat their wives 'treacherously.' And that sounds more like the heart of a loving Father, and if what we are reading doesn't align with that, then there's a problem. And we better begin digging! 

Note: The Word has more to say about the topic of divorce, and this page is not meant to do a deep dive into that study - only to clarify the misleading phrase that "God hates divorce." 

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