God Hates Marital Unfaithfulness

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. – Malachi 2:16, NRSV

“I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat. -Malachi 2:16, MSG

“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. – Malachi 2:16, NIV

wpid-img_20140912_150104.jpgFor anyone who is a Christian and divorced or considered divorce, this verse is likely a familiar verse. Notice how different the translations/paraphrases are! I tackle the proper interpretation of this passage in my post entitled “Divorce is not sin” (click here).

I feel it is worth revisiting. To be honest, I am so sick of the abuse of this passage!

The verse is tortured to mean divorce is what God is always rejecting. However, the full witness of Scripture denies that use: God Himself divorces in light of repeated adulteries after all (e.g. Jeremiah 3:8 and Isaiah 50:1).

For all the pastors and Christian counselors that utilize this one verse to discourage divorce with shame, I would exhort them to spend–at least–as much time thinking about and counseling from passages where God Himself divorces. As I have just pointed out, more passages exist talking about God divorcing than passages saying God hates divorce (if indeed that is what it says–see the NIV translation above).

Since God metaphorically divorces Israel, that means divorce can de facto be a godly act. Any position that states otherwise is simply not Biblical in my pastoral and professional opinion. This revelation alone is contrary to much of what I heard growing up and experienced as the modus operandi interacting with various Christian counselors. So, I suggest a shift must happen for such counsel to align with the full witness of Scripture.

Back to Malachi 2:16 itself:

Do you notice how the verse ends?

It ends in an exhortation: “do not be faithless” or “Don’t cheat” or “do not be unfaithful.” If this was really about never divorcing or avoiding divorce at all costs, this is a very strange exhortation to give.

I would expect God to say: Do not divorce.

He doesn’t.

God tells His people essentially to not commit adultery exhorting them to be faithful to their spouses.

As I have said before (see link), Malachi 2 is a chapter dealing with adultery. God is condemning the use of divorce as a cover for the wickedness of adultery and abandonment of vulnerable Jewish wives. He is consistent in condemning religious people who would try to manipulate Him in order to look good while being wicked. That is what was going on in Malachi 2.

Telling a faithful spouse that God hates divorce is like telling a rape survivor that God hates prisons. It misses the point and is cruel. Ideally, we would live in a world where no one is raped, and prisons where thereby unneeded to house rapists. Ideally, we would live in world where no one committed adultery, and divorce was thereby unneeded to deal with the heart-hearted, contempt of a remorseless cheater.

We do not live in that world. 

God hates sin.

Adultery is always a sin.

Divorce is not.