A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Translations of Malachi 2:16 – Appendix 7 in the first edition of “Not Under Bondage”

I am publishing this material here because I decided to remove it from the revised edition of my book Not Under Bondage in order to make room for other things. I did not want the revised edition to have more pages than the first edition. To increase the page length would have required an expensive and time-consuming update to the index.

The first edition of Not Under Bondage came out in 2008. Since then, new English versions of the Bible have been published: NIV2011 and CSB. The CSB was merely an update to the HCSB;  it did not alter what the HCSB had at Malachi 2:16. I have added these two Bibles to the list and indented them to indicate what I added that was not in the 2008 book.

I will also publish this material at Academic.edu and put a link here when I’ve uploaded it to Academia. Footnote numbers are shown thus: (1)

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Appendix 7 from the first edition of Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion

Translations of Malachi 2:16

This appendix presents eighteen translations of Malachi 2:16 where the one who hates is the divorcing husband. The date of each translation is shown.

• 1868 (Ewald) For he who from hatred breaketh wedlock, saith Yahweh Israel’s God, — he covereth with cruelty his garment, saith Yahweh of Hosts. To arrive at his translation, Ewald repointed the perfect verb śānē’ as a Qal participle śōnē’ and the infinitive construct šallah as an infinitive absolute šallēah. (1)

• 1908 (van Hoonacker) Quand quelqu’un répudie par aversion, dit Jahvé le Dieu d’Isräel, il se couvre d’injustice par-dessus son vêtement, dit Jahvé des Armées. Hoonacker repoints śānē’ to the Qal active participle śōnē’ (like Ewald), but repoints the infinitive construct šallah as a Piel perfect “to send away, divorce” to match the perfect “covers” in the latter part of the verse. (2)

• 1927 (J. M. P. Smith) “For one who hates and divorces,” says the Lord God of Israel, “covers his clothing with violence,” says the Lord of Hosts. (3)

• 1934 (Lattey) For he that putteth away with hatred… (4)

• 1970 (New English Bible) If a man divorces or puts away his spouse, he overwhelms her with cruelty, says the Lord of Hosts the God of Israel.

• 1981 (René Vuilleumier) En effet, répudier par haine, c’est couvrir son vêtement de violence, dit YHWH Sabaot. (In fact, to repudiate through hatred is similar to covering one’s garment with violence says YHWH Sabaot.) (5)

• 1986 (Westbrook) For he has hated, divorced … and covered his garment in injustice… Westbrook follows J. P. M. Smith and takes the two verbs as finite. (6)

• 1987 (Glazier-McDonald) “For one who divorces because of aversion,” says Yahweh, the God of Israel, “thereby covers his garment with violence.” Glazier-McDonald says “making Yahweh the subject is wholly arbitrary and requires too many inferences.” (7)

• 1994 (Hugenberger) If one hates and divorces, says Yahweh, God of Israel, he covers his garment with violence, says Yahweh of hosts. Hugenberger spends thirty-five pages analyzing the various interpretations and translations of verse 16 made prior to his time of writing, and presenting reasons why his translation is the most supportable. He leaves both śānē’ and šallah unchanged, suggesting that šallah be interpreted “as a Piel infinitive absolute functioning as a substitute for a finite form, in this case a perfect … in the Piel conjugation the infinitive construct often provides an alternative form for the infinitive absolute.” (8)

• 1994 (D. C. Jones) Translation of the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament made in the intertestamental period). The Septuagint has the first clause in the verse in the second person: If you divorce out of hatred, says the Lord God of Israel, then ungodliness covers your thoughts. Jones says:

The Septuagint … is widely and mistakenly assumed to have the same rendering as the Targum and the Vulgate: “If you hate, divorce!”… Correctly parsed, however, the Septuagint is not a subjunctive and an imperative, but a participle and a subjunctive. It does not say, “If you hate, divorce!” It says, “If hating you divorce,” with the apodosis [result] still to come, as in the Hebrew. …This rendering is congruent with Malachi’s general style as Malachi often inserts “says the Lord” before completing the thought (1:10, 14; 3:10, 17). In one other verse he places it as here, between the protasis [condition] and the apodosis [result] of a conditional sentence (2:2). (9)

Jones notes how two distinct Septuagint readings dating from the fifth century have been confused. One reading said “If you hate, divorce!” the other said “If hating you divorce…”. The former came to be regarded as “the LXX” of Mal. 2:16 to the neglect of the other reading. Jones says there is overwhelming manuscript evidence for the latter reading. (10)

• 1994 (C. John Collins) renders the Septuagint as If having hated you should divorce… because “the participle is an aorist, and an adverbial aorist participle before the main verb normally denotes action prior to that of the main verb.” (11)

• 1994 (C. John Collins) translates the Hebrew: For he hated, he divorced [his wife] … and he will [consequently] cover his garment with wrongdoing. Collins suggests that šallah (‘divorce’) be taken “as a Piel perfect, with a rare but not wholly unattested a in the first syllable rather than the usual i.” This suggestion would give two perfect verbs (hated, divorced) denoting consecutive past action. He concludes: “Taken this way, Malachi 2:16 shows how the sin condemned but not named in verses 13 and 14 is a violation of the marital unity described in verse 15.” (12)

• 1997 (Sprinkle) When he hates so as to divorce, says the LORD God of Israel, then he covers himself with lawlessness. Sprinkle says I hate divorce is “an impossible translation of the MT, one that can only be retained on the basis of conjectural emendation without any manuscript support.” He takes the infinitive šallah as a result clause. (13)

• 1998 (Stuart) If one hates and divorces (Yahweh, Israel’s God, said), he covers his clothes with crime (Yahweh of the Armies said). Stuart sees both Hoonacker and Hugenberger’s suggestions as reasonable and does not arbitrate between them. He describes Malachi 2:16 as a conditional sentence with a typical “if … then” structure. The condition (if he hates and divorces) reflects the reference to divorce for aversion in Deuteronomy 24:3. The result (then he covers his clothes with crime) is the consequence of divorce for aversion. (14)

• 1999 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts.

• 1999 (Shields) For the one who hates and divorces, says Yahweh, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says almighty Yahweh. (15)

• 2001 (English Standard Version) For the man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. (16)

• 2003 (Zehnder) For the one who hates and divorces, covers his garment with violence, says YHWH of hosts. Zehnder says “The widespread rendering of the clause with ‘For I hate divorce’ is … untenable.” He interprets śānē’ as “either a verbal adjective or (with revocalization) as a Qal participle, šallah as an infinitive Piel or (with revocalization) as a third person singular perfect Piel.” He also gives, as an alternative translation, the same wording used by Hugenberger. (17)

Added (not listed in the first edition of Not Under Bondage)

• NIV 2011 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”[a] says the Lord Almighty. Note [a] says: Or “I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence,”

• CSB “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he[a] covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts. Note [a] says: Or The Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce and the one who

These translations supply a weight of evidence against the common rendering “I hate divorce” and they all read the text as condemning a husband who both hates and divorces his wife. Since 1986, when the wave of these new translations began in earnest, an impressive degree of agreement has been developing amongst scholars.

DIFFERING VIEWS

There is not complete unanimity, however. For the sake of fairness, the scholars who have taken differing views will now be briefly canvassed. It will be seen that their various solutions have far less unanimity than the scholars listed above.

• Wilhelm Rudolph did not emend or revocalise śānē’ but argued that it could be construed as a verbal adjective acting as a participle, with an elided first person singular pronoun “I” as the subject. He read “sallah” as the object and arrived at “Because I hate divorce”. (18) Hugenberger refuted this, saying there are “no other first person pronouns in the context, and … a verbal adjective of śānē’ is otherwise unattested”. (19) Rudolph also repointed “covers” as an infinitive construct and added a prepositional prefix to it. Martin Shields refuted this by saying, “When a participle constitutes the predicate of a verbless clause, the subject is usually explicitly represented in the clause. The absence of such explicit representation in Malachi 2:16 is a serious difficulty for this view.” (20)

• In 1984, Ralph L. Smith emended śānē’ to the first person perfective form (“I hate”) as found in Malachi 1:3. (21)

• In 1986, A. S. van der Woude rejected the “I hate divorce” reading because it required emendation of “he covers”. He recognized the third person of “hates” but rejected Hoonacker’s translation on the grounds that “it must sincerely be doubted whether in Old Testament times even a prophet would have denounced divorce as a crime. Deuteronomy 24 tells against this interpretation.” His solution was to translate šallah not as divorce, but as “a morally detestable hostile act”. (22)

• In 1987, Pieter Verhoef rejected the translation “he hates” because he thought it must lead to “if he hates, let him send away” — which would contradict all that the prophet was seeking to convey. He argued for “I [God] hate divorce”, positing an elided “I” and repointing śānē’ to make it the Qal participle śōnē’. (23)

• In 1993, Andrew Cornes echoed Verhoef and Rudolph. He rejected a posited translation, “if he hated when divorcing it would be as bad as covering his garment with violence”, because “it would imply that divorce was perfectly acceptable if there were no hate involved and that would undermine all that Malachi is wanting to say about not breaking faith with your partner…” (24)

• In 1994, Eugene Merrill argued for “I hate divorce”, simply because he claimed that that translation seemed to be preferred by the majority of scholars. He saw no difficulty in rendering “he hates” as “I hate” because “one must allow for fluidity in such grammatical forms”. (25)

• In 1995, David Petersen translated verse 16a as “Divorce is hateful!” reading ki as asseverative and šallah as either a Piel imperative or an infinitive absolute. However, he read the passage as a metaphorical comment about Yahweh’s relationship to Israel rather than taking a literal divorce interpretation. (26)

• In 1995, John J. Collins reviewed Hugenberger’s book, applauding the new translation, but questioning the conclusion that Malachi was making a distinction between divorce based on aversion and divorce that is justified:

He [Hugenberger] is surely right to reject the traditional translation “for I hate divorce,” since the term “hate” is very widely associated with divorce in the extrabiblical sources. Despite the support of Westbrook, however, the term “hate” does not imply that divorce is “merely on the ground of aversion”. In the context of divorce, to “hate” means to repudiate without further qualification. The term is used as a technical term for divorce in the Elephantine papyri and the technical sense is reflected in such expressions as “silver of hatred” = divorce money, and “judgment of hatred” = divorce proceedings. The fact that the longer expression “hate and divorce” is also used at Elephantine does not prove that “hate” implies something beyond mere divorce. Marriage formulae are often redundant (cf. “to have and to hold, to love and to cherish”). We need not conclude that Malachi condemned divorce without qualification. Prophetic speech does not lend itself to legal niceties. We can only conclude that he was unhappy with the current practice of divorce in his day. We cannot attribute to him, on the basis of the verb “to hate”, a distinction between divorce based on aversion and divorce that is justified. (27)

Against John J. Collins, the view of Douglas Stuart may be relevant:

For those who recognize the overt dependency of the prophets on the Pentateuch and of Malachi specifically on Deuteronomy, it is entirely reasonable to expect that Malachi would be careful in the process of condemning what his contemporaries were doing — divorcing their first wives to marry pagans — not to state that all divorce was illegal. He might do this in the most semantically economical way (by the use of a single adjective [“hating”] to pin down the type of divorce under attack), but he would certainly want to do it. (28)

• In 1998, Andrew Hill argued that: “śānē’ makes excellent sense if one presumes that the subject, hā’ehād [‘The One,’ i.e., Yahweh], of the verb has been gapped from verse 15 (‘Indeed, The One hates divorce…’).” Yet Hill seemed to contradict himself by implying that the divorcing husband was the one doing the hating: “The occurrence of the verbs śn’ and šlh [hate/divorce] in Deuteronomy 24:3 gives rise to the interpretation that ‘hating’ or ‘aversion’ was the motive for divorce.” (29)

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Footnotes

1 H. Ewald, Die Propheten des Alten Bundes, (2nd ed. 1868, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 3. 224). I have quoted the English edition Commentary on the Prophets of the Old Testament (trans. J. F. Smith, London: Williams,1881) cited by David Clyde Jones in “A Note on the LXX of Malachi 2:16”, 1990.

2 A. van Hoonacker, Les Douze Petits Prophètes, J. Gabalda & Cie., 1908, cited in Beth Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), p. 110. A. S. van der Woude notes that Junker, Nötscher and Chary have each advocated similar repointing to Hoonacker’s.

3 J. M. P. Smith, The Old Testament, An American Translation, University of Chicago, 1927, cited in Jones, Biblical Christian Ethics, p. 191.

4 Lattey, The Book of Malachy (London, New York, Toronto: Longmans Green & Co., 1934), p. 12.

5 Réné Vuilleumier, “Malachie” in Commentaire de L’Ancein Testament XIc, eds Delachaux & Niestlé, (Paris: Neuchatel, 1981), p. 237.

6 Westbrook, “The Prohibition on Restoration of Marriage”, p. 403.

7 Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, pp. 82, 110.
127

8 Hugenberger, Marriage as Covenant, pp. 69, 72-3, 83.

9 Jones, Biblical Christian Ethics, p. 191.

10 See Jones, “A Note on the LXX of Malachi 2:16”. Also Russell Fuller, “Text Critical Problems in Malachi 2:10-16” Journal of Biblical Literature 110/1 (1991): 54-7.

11 C. John Collins, “The Intelligible Masoretic Text of Malachi 2:16”, p. 40.

12 Ibid., pp. 37-9.

13 Sprinkle, “Old Testament Perspectives on Divorce and Remarriage”, p. 539.

14 Stuart, “Malachi”, pp. 1339, 1343-4.

15 Martin A. Shields, “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2:10-16”, Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 111 (1999): 76.

16 Heth, “Jesus and Divorce, How my mind has changed”, p. 7, comments that the ESV is “the most probable translation”.

17 Zehnder, “A Fresh Look at Malachi 2:13-16”, pp. 251-2.

18 Wilhelm Rudolph, Haggai, Sacharja 1-8, Sacharja 9-14, Malachi, Kommentat zum Alten Testament (Gutersloh: Gutersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1976) p. 270; ibid., “Zu Mal. 2:10-16”  Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 93 (1981): 90.

19 Hugenberger, Marriage as Covenant, p. 64.

20 Shields, “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2:10-16”, p. 82.

21 Ralph L. Smith, Micah: Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary Series vol. 32 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1984), p. 320.

22 A. S. van der Woude, “Malachi’s Struggle for a Pure Community: Reflections on Malachi 2:10-16”, in Tradition and Re-Interpretation in Jewish and Early Christian Literature ed. van Henten, de Jonge, van Rooden, & Wesselius (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986), pp. 65-71.

23 Pieter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), p. 278.

24 Cornes, Divorce and Remarriage, p. 167.

25 Eugene Merrill, An Exegetical Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 420-25.

26 David L. Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi: A Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), pp. 194-5.

27 John J. Collins, “Review of Marriage as Covenant by Hugenberger” Journal of Biblical Literature 114/2 (1995): 307.

28 Stuart, “Malachi”, p. 1342.

29 Andrew E. Hill, Malachi: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1998), pp. 250-1.

2 Comments

  1. Ruth M. Davis

    Thanks for that Barb. Interesting. And inconclusive. Reading this I had to chuckle, remembering Luther’s comment that he would leave the grammarians to their ambiguities and quarrels. He of course did not deny the importance of grammar, but it seems someone has a grammatical argument to support every position.

    • Thanks Ruth. I like your chuckle — and your reasons for chuckling. 🙂

      My upcoming paper on the translation of Malachi 2:16 is very close to being published. I’ve just sent it off to my assistant for a final proofreading. I know you (Ruth) have already subscribed to my Academia.edu account, so you will be notified when it is published.

      Anyone can create their own account at Academia.edu. Once you have logged on to your academia account, search for Barbara Roberts and click the ‘follow’ button.

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