Bible and Divorce (Mal. 2:16)

The book of Malachi contains a dialogue between God and His people—a nasty dialogue on the part of Israel. For instance: “I have loved you.” – “How have you loved us?” (Mal. 1:2). “Return to me, and I will return to you.” – “How shall we return?” (Mal. 3:7). “You are robbing me.” – “How have we robbed You?” (Mal. 3:8). God as loving Father (Mal. 1:6) deals with His rebellious children and demonstrates great patience.

In Malachi 2:10-16, God accuses His people of marrying pagan women (v. 11) and divorcing their wives (vv. 14-16). Again, there is an arrogant response (Mal. 3:14).

The two issues, mixed marriage and divorce, may be related. Most likely, at that time, polygamy was no longer an issue among the Jews. Some may have married attractive Gentile ladies and—not to live in polygamy—divorced their first and long-term wives. But this is unacceptable to God. Mixed marriages are forbidden (Deut. 7:3-4). The penalty was being cut off from the covenant community (Mal. 2:12). Divorce is a violation of God’s institution of marriage and a breach of the marriage covenant.

But in spite of this evil, these people were still involved in worship, as if nothing had happened. The Lord is not impressed by religious activities while His will is ignored. So He tells them that He is seeing what is going on. He is a witness of their unfaithfulness, a witness of a broken promise, and He takes sides with their wives. By twice talking about “the wife of your youth” (Mal. 2:14-15), God may emotionally appeal to His people. How can you do this? How can you send away and abandon the girl with whom you have spent your life as your wife, the wife of the covenant that you are supposed to protect? But He also warns and commands them twice: Do not deal treacherously/unfaithfully with her (Mal. 2:15-16)!

In addition to all the good reasons against a divorce, there is a reason that is directly related to God and our relationship with Him. God hates divorce. His children will hate it too. God hates divorce because it disregards His institution of marriage and His plan for humanity, thereby disregarding Him; it breaks the covenant; it is unfaithfulness, treachery, and possibly even adultery (Mal. 3:5; see Matt. 5:32); it hurts and possibly destroys the spouse. Divorce is not a solution to problems. God hates it. But He loves us. So, we love too—Him and our spouses.