Jesus did NOT quote Malachi 2:16 on divorce…


“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel….

-Malachi 2:16a, NASB

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

-Matthew 19:9, NASB

Jesus did not quote the infamous passage from Malachi on divorce: “I [God] hate divorce.”

This is an important observation to note. Jesus did not reiterate this teaching when presented with a golden opportunity to do just that. This opportunity came when he was challenged regarding interpreting the contested Deuteronomic text on divorce (see Matthew 19 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Instead, Jesus frames the conversation regarding divorce as problematic primarily regarding whether or not it leads to a spouse committing adultery. 

This connection between unbibilical divorce and adultery is at the core of Jesus’ objection to an overly permissive religious acceptance of divorce. So, I find it odd how often adultery is excluded or omitted in a pastoral discussion of divorce. Clearly, Jesus thought adultery was front and center to the question of permissible or illicit divorce. Hence, he mentioned it as the sin happening when someone did not divorce over sexual immorality already committed.

Jesus did not simply prohibit all divorce by talking about God’s hate for divorce citing Malachi 2:16 as some Christians do today.

His stance on divorce was more nuanced and merciful than that. Jesus did not treat all parties in an infidelity ravaged marriage the same. His words in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 gives clear direction that a victim of adultery–or other sexual immorality–is not treated as an adulterous spouse if he or she chooses to divorce and remarry. The distinction matters to Jesus.

And it ought to matter to Jesus’ followers.

Shouting “God hates divorce!” to end any consideration of divorce collapses a distinction Jesus clearly taught His followers to maintain!

3 thoughts on “Jesus did NOT quote Malachi 2:16 on divorce…”

  1. You go, DM!

    Additionally, it is often forgotten that at the time Jesus spoke these words recorded by Mathew, the penalty for adultery was DEATH!

    And, as you yourself have pointed out, the passage at Malachi was written in reference to the Israelite “men” who were divorcing ‘the wife of their youth’ so as to marry younger, foreign women.

    THIS was waaaaay out of line with God’s direction& purpose, as these Israelite wives had done nothing wrong to merit divorce. Most important, the marrying of foreign women was diluting the lineage leading to the Messiah. THAT was why God hated those divorces!!! Yo! Kinda an important distinction, uh?!?!

    I am sooooo glad you continue to do this blog! If it will help even one person survive with their sanity intact, it is a job well done!

    Love to you……as you ForgeOn!

  2. I just reread Matt 19 last night. In verse 3, the question posed by the Pharisees was “Is it lawful for a a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” I find it high manipulative when anti-divorce “Christians” conveniently leave out this very vital premise when referring to anything in this chapter. They also tend to leave out the “except for sexual immorality” part in verse 9. Given that Mark 10 is also about divorce but omits these point. But God’s word is additive since it doesn’t contradict itself. I think anit-divorce christians tend to use Mark 10 to support their own non-biblical belief.

    1. Precisely, Mike. Jesus is likely engaging in the debate over Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where Moses allowed divorce over discovering “something indecent” in the wife. However, that was provided IN ADDITION TO the MANDATE (see Deuteronomy 22:22) to put to death adulterous spouses! Adultery was already a settled reason to end a marriage and wasn’t really up for debate as if it wasn’t in Jesus’ day. Adultery was assumed as legitimate grounds for divorce…if not death.

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