Malachi 2:16 God hates divorce……
Ever heard that one? Ever quoted it? I included a survey of this verse in an earlier post, but got only two answers. One respondent answered “other” but I couldn’t access a comment. The other respondent said they had never heard the verse. One of the multiple choice answers was, “have you ever heard the SECOND HALF of the verse?”
I found the complete verse, book, and context when I read through the Bible cover to cover the first time. Trying to see God and Jesus in context. The version I remember reading is different than what pops up when I access Bible Gateway. So I went to other, older versions (like me), and voila! Here it is! So, let’s look at Malachi 2:16 in several versions:
- New International Version 1984
“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. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
- New Revised Standard Version
For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.
- New International Version
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
NOT ONCE in 20+ years was this verse quoted to me, in its entirety or in context, by friends or clergy. Just the God Hates Divorce part.
Why was that? When so much care is taken to quote some other passages in context? Was it because the “God Hates Divorce” part came first in the verse, and was therefore more important? If God hates divorce AND he hates a man who covers himself with violence as with a garment….which does He hate most? And reading the entire book of Malachi, I saw that this related not only to a husband and wife, but to Godly offspring, and God’s covenant with an entire race. And what should I DO based on that? I chose caution, conservative (legalistic) interpretation, that man meant person, and didn’t want to take any chances with Godly offspring. And, aside from any Biblical admonition, to protect my kids from their dad and the court system.
Then I wondered why, if marital unfaithfulness (meaning sexual unfaithfulness as defining adultery) was the only acceptable reason for divorce, did marriage ceremonies (which sanctify the covenant of marriage) include words such as “love, honor and cherish?” I wondered why we didn’t just stand before the preacher and say “I promise not to have sex with another till we die,” and leave it at that…since that is what seemed to be the actual substance of the arrangement. Since meanness, coldness, fear, financial ruin….verbal and physical abuse, are often considered non-sufficient grounds for divorce. Or for accountability within the church. And since Ephesians marriage verses seemed to be recommendations, rather than contractual requirements.
Matthew 5:32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
Matthew 19:9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
At the time of my divorce, I understood it this way: I will go to hell more surely by taking my own life than by divorcing my husband. I was shocked and bewildered by God’s silence, my unanswered prayers for healing (not just of Peter; I was willing to change, too) and for guidance. And had come (from a start of open-hearted faith) to believe that God was a harsh taskmaster, demanding colossal sacrifice and endurance in the form of testing and somehow displaying His glory, demanding no shrinking back or He would be displeased, and that fearing Him is a good thing (even after checking out the word “fear” in Strong’s Concordance for many verses hoping it really meant “respect” or “honor”). And that once divorced, I would, Biblically speaking, be forever in a poor plan B. These are some of the ideas, views of God, that come from some skewed interpretations of scripture and Christian counsel. And formed part of the gauntlet I ran.
I didn’t understand much about covenant, Biblically speaking. Thanks to Joe Pote (http://josephjpote.com/) I understand much better NOW. I wouldn’t dream of trying to express the content of Joe’s book, So You are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce…, because I could in no way accurately abbreviate the points he so clearly makes. But I will say that I have now been introduced to a kinder view of God’s interest in my former marriage and my life, which gives me greater peace in the present. This is what I learned (my understanding): God doesn’t use covenants to enslave or abuse – He redeems us from bondage, including that of marital abuse (and the word redeemed means a lot more than I thought it did); divorce isn’t sin (treachery IS sin); I have not missed God’s best plan for my life because I have been through divorce; I am not to blame for my divorce (it is not always the fault of both parties); “divorced” is not an eternal condition that overshadows me or defines me – I am not Peter’s ex-wife – the marriage covenant no longer exists, so I am just Diane; my second marriage is not sin (my covenant with Peter no longer existed; there was no covenant to violate); my husband and I are each married to one person – the husband of one wife – the wife of one husband (we are not bigamists married to each other AND to our previous spouses – our former marriages no longer exist) and any evaluation for ministry can be made on that basis.
(If you want to do a very good thing, buy this book for your church library.)
There were two sides as I Ran the Gauntlet: my abusive Christian husband with his destructive and misinformed words and control on one side, and the Church with its destructive and misleading scriptural interpretations and control on the other.
As I am blogging and listening, both sides of the gauntlet are beginning to disarm and go away. Some of the harmful ideas used by both sides are now useless weapons, rusting on the grass. I’m listening. And feeling the breeze of freedom and the sun on my face.
Good Sabbath, my Blogger Church.
Tagged: abuse, advice, Bible, Christian wife, church, Compassion, counsel, decisions, divorce, Domestic Abuse, faith, fear, Healing, prayer, Psychological Abuse, religion, scripture, support, Survivors, violence in families, words