To "send her out" is a translation into English of the Hebrew word "shalach." It means that the husband has abandoned her by either passively letting her leave, or actively by casting her out. If the wife were ejected permanently from the house without receiving a bill of divorcement, she would remain married to her husband. Of course, he could remarry by taking an additional wife. Family styles among the ancient Hebrews were very flexible. Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth, along with hundreds of concubines.
It is important to realize that before these bills of divorcement were instituted, a man who was displeased with his wife would simply toss her out of the house. This placed her stranded in an untenable position:
The bill of divorcement at least released her bond to her original husband. It changed her status to a single woman, and allowed her to marry another man. Still, as The New Commentary on the Whole Bible states: "The abandonment of one's wife in the ancient Near East usually meant that she and her children would suffer poverty and oppression. In order to survive they were often forced into slavery."
It is also important to realize that divorce involved two steps. As implied in this passage it may have usually been done in the following order:
At this point, she would be in a precarious position unless she married another man.
These procedures are very similar to modern day separations and legal divorces.
|The King James Version: "For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that
he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his
garment, saith the LORD of hosts."
|The 21st Century King James
Version did not change the King James Version.
|Young's Literal Translation of the Bible: "For I hate sending
away, said Jehovah, God And he who hath covered violence with his
clothing, said Jehovah of Hosts."
At least two versions of the Bible translate "shalack" as applying to both the issuance of a bill of divorcement and a sending away:
|The Amplified Bible: "For the Lord, the god of Israel, says: I
hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment
[his wife] with violence."
|The Revised English Bible: "If a man divorces or puts away his wife, says the Lord God of Israel, he overwhelms her with cruelty, says the Lord of Hosts."|
Most other translations render the Hebrew word "shalach" as divorce -- apparently in error.
|James Moffatt Translation: "For I detest divorce and cruelty
to a wife, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel declares."
|Living Bible: "For the Lord, the God of Israel, says he hates divorce and cruel men."
|Modern Language: "For I hate divorce, says the Lord the God
of Israel, and the one who covers his clothing with cruelty, says the
Lord of Hosts."
|The New International Version: "I hate divorce, says the Lord God of
Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as
with his garment" says the Lord Almighty."
Living Translation: " 'For I hate divorce!' says the Lord, the God of Israel. 'It is as
cruel as putting on a victim's bloodstained coat,' says the Lord Almighty."
|Revised Standard Bible: "For I hate divorce, says the Lord the God of Israel, and covering one's garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts.|
Before a "keriythuwth" (a "bill of divorcement") became possible, the practice was for husbands to eject their wives from the matrimonial home. This would have been a vicious act, leaving her still married and probably destitute. He alone was free to marry another spouse.
After the keriythuwth was introduced, the husband could institute a divorce, leaving his ex-wife and himself single. Both were free to marry others.
The passage in Malachi is critical to the understanding of divorce in the centuries before the rise of Christianity.
|A literal interpretation of Malachi 2:16 is that God hates husbands
"putting away" or ejecting their wife from the family home, without giving
her a bill of divorcement. As the verse states, this would be an act of real
cruelty to the wife. Being still married, she was not free to remarry. Yet
being away from the matrimonial home, she had no way to support herself.
Verse 14 seems to confirm this. In the King James Version it states: "...Because
the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against
whom thou hast deal treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of
thy covenant." That is, God witnessed the original marriage. She remains
his wife and companion, until he issued a bill of divorcement. The rest of
the chapter discusses the practice of Jewish men getting rid of their wives
in order to marry foreign women -- brides from other lands who followed
|Malachi really intended to write that God hates bills of divorcement.
That is, he should have written in the original Hebrew, "keriythuwth"
instead of "shalach" in verse 16. He either made a mistake, or some
later copyist changed the wording.
|Malachi really intended to write that God hates both marital separation and divorce. That is, he should have written both "keriythuwth" and "shalach" in this passage.|
One often hears the phrase "God hates divorce" -- extracted directly from Malachi -- in sermons. But whether it is an accurate reflection of Malachi's original writing is in doubt.
Copyright © 2005 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-SEP-11
Latest update: 2011-MAY-30
Author: B.A. Robinson
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