Malachi 2

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  • Malachi 2:1.
  • Masoretic Text: And now this command [is] for you, the priests.

    Septuagint: And now this command [is] for you, the priests.


    The priests are singled out as the ones to whom the “command,” “decree,” “sentence,” “charge,” or “admonition” is directed. Whatever YHWH decrees has the force of a command or law.

  • Malachi 2:2.
  • Masoretic Text: If you do not listen and if you do not lay [it] to heart to give glory to my name, said YHWH of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings, and indeed I will curse it because you [are] not laying [it] to heart.

    Septuagint: If you do not listen and if you do not set [it] in your heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord Almighty, then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessing—indeed I will curse it—and I will scatter your blessing, and it will not be among you, because you do not set [it] in your heart.


    If the priests refused to repent, paying no attention to the reproof and failing to take to heart their responsibility to honor or glorify God’s name (YHWH himself), they would experience adverse divine judgment. YHWH of hosts (the Supreme Sovereign with a great host of angels at his command) would make the priests the recipients of his curse. Any blessing they pronounced would prove to be ineffectual. The very opposite of the blessing’s intent would occur. In this manner, the blessing itself would be cursed.

    YHWH would, for a certainty, curse the blessing. (Compare Deuteronomy 28:23, 24, 38-40.) The reason for his doing so would be the priests’ failure to take to heart the clear directive in the law about their responsibilities. Contrary to the divine command, they accepted blemished sacrifices and thereby demonstrated that they did not appreciate their sacred duties.

  • Malachi 2:3.
  • Masoretic Text: Look! To you, I am rebuking the seed, and I will scatter dung on your faces, the dung of your festivals, and [one] will take you to it.

    Septuagint: Look! I am separating the shoulder from you, and I will scatter offal on your faces, the offal of your festivals, and I will take you to the same [place].


    The Septuagint reading may be explained on the basis of a similarity in the Hebrew letters for the words “rebuke,” “cut off,” and “remove,” and a different choice of vowels for the expression “the seed.” A number of translations follow the Septuagint (or Vulgate) reading but convey varying meanings. “I will deprive you of the shoulder” (NAB), meaning that the priests would not receive the portion granted them by the law. (Deuteronomy 18:3) Siehe, ich will euch den Arm zerbrechen (Look! To you, I will break the arm) (Luther, 1984 revised edition), which could mean that YHWH would deprive them of their strength or render them unfit for continuing to serve as priests. The Vulgate uses the term brachium (arm, lower arm, forearm). “Arm of yours I will strike motionless” (Ronald Knox, based on the Vulgate). The Septuagint reading could also be understood to mean that YHWH would separate his shoulder from the priests, turning his back on them.

    The Hebrew “seed” has been translated to mean either “seed that is sown” or “offspring.” “I will rebuke your descendants” (NIV). “I will rebuke your offspring” (NRSV). “I will put your seed under ban” (Tanakh, and the footnote reads: “Meaning of Heb. uncertain”). Siehe, ich bedrohe euch die Saat (Look! To you, I threaten the seed [the German word applies exclusively to seed that is sown]) (revised Elberfelder).

    In the commentary, the Masoretic Text is being followed, with the meaning of “seed that is sown.” The priests, not their descendants or offspring, were the guilty ones. Rebuking the descendants would not fit Jeremiah 31:29, 30, and Ezekiel 18:4-18. Moreover, in the book of Haggai, poor crops are attributed to the neglect of temple rebuilding, providing a basis for concluding that the “rebuking of seed” could refer to YHWH’s withholding his blessing on crops because of priestly failures.


    YHWH purposed to rebuke the seed, possibly meaning that his blessing would be withdrawn, resulting in poor harvests. The priests would be treated with the greatest disrespect, comparable to having their faces besmeared with dung and then being carried to the place where the dug was deposited. The dung is called “dung of your festivals,” evidently meaning the dung of the sacrificial animals offered during the festivals. (Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 16:27) The expression “your festivals” may indicate that YHWH did not acknowledge them as his festivals because they brought no honor to him. By their conduct, the priests had turned the festivals into “dung.”

  • Malachi 2:4.
  • Masoretic Text: And you will know that I have sent this command to you, my covenant being with Levi, said YHWH of hosts.

    Septuagint: And you will know that I have sent this command to you, my covenant being with the Levites, says the Lord Almighty.


    The linkage of the expression “to be” (being) with the “command” is obscure. These words have been rendered to mean that the objective of the command was for the covenant to continue (provided the priests and Levites heeded the command and amended their ways). “I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may hold.” (NRSV) “I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue.” (NIV) “I have sent this charge to you that My covenant with Levi may endure.” (Tanakh) “I am telling you this, so that I can continue to keep my agreement with your ancestor Levi.” (CEV) It may be, however, that YHWH, in keeping with the covenant, sent the “command” of rebuke through his messenger. The existence of the covenant would then have been the basis for YHWH to call attention to violations on the part of the priests and Levites. The New American Bible reads, “because I have a covenant with Levi,” which is also the rendering of the German Einheitsübersetzung (weil ich einen Bund mit Levi habe). Young’s translation conveys the same thought, “for my covenant being with Levi.”


    Upon seeing YHWH’s words fulfilled, the priests would be forced to know or recognize that it was the Supreme Sovereign who had directed the “command,” “charge,” “sentence,” “decree,” or “admonition” to them. The command, in the form of a severe rebuke, served to remind them of the existence of the covenant with Levi and the need for them to conduct themselves in harmony with its purpose.

    On the basis of the covenant, the tribe of Levi, including the priestly house of Aaron, had been chosen to perform sacred duties at the sanctuary. The priests should have perceived that the words of correction directed to them constituted a call to repentance. By taking the “command” to heart, they would continue to enjoy their God-given role according to the terms of the covenant with Levi.

  • Malachi 2:5.
  • Masoretic Text: My covenant with him was [one] of life and peace (and I gave them to him), of fear, and he feared me. And he was terrified before my name.

    Septuagint: My covenant with him was [one] of life and peace, and I gave [it] to him in fear [that he] fear me, and keep a [respectful] distance before my name.


    The relationship of the word “fear” to the preceding thought has been variously understood. This is reflected in the renderings found in modern translations.

    “I had with him a covenant of life and well-being, which I gave to him, and of reverence, which he showed Me.” (Tanakh) This rendering represents the “reverence” or “fear” as being linked to the covenant—a covenant of reverence.

    “My covenant with him was one of life and peace; fear I put in him, and he feared me.” (NAB) In this case, YHWH is represented as instilling fear in Levi, resulting in his showing the proper fear.

    “My covenant with him was a covenant of life and well-being, which I gave him; this called for reverence, and he revered me.” (NRSV) The “reverence” or “fear” is here represented as being a requirement associated with the covenant.

    The Septuagint reading “in fear” could be understood to mean that the giving of the covenant was accompanied by fear-inspiring developments. Awe-inspiring manifestations were associated with Israel’s receiving the law (which included provisions for a priesthood), the purpose being that the people come into possession of a wholesome fear. “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain smoke, they trembled with fear....Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’” (Exodus 20:18-20, NIV)

    Both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint use the expression “face of my name,” meaning before God’s name or before the person of YHWH.


    By reason of the covenant, Levi (collectively; in particular, the priesthood) was assured of life and peace. YHWH gave “them” (life and peace) to Levi in the sense that the priesthood would continue to have life (existence) and peace (well-being).

    The enjoyment of a continued existence and a state of genuine well-being, peace, was dependent on Levi’s having a wholesome fear or reverential awe of YHWH. When the covenant with Levi first went into effect, this fear was in evidence. Before the “name,” the One represented by the name, the very person of YHWH, Levi manifested a wholesome terror or a proper fear of displeasing him.

  • Malachi 2:6.
  • Masoretic Text: The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found on his lips. In peace and uprightness, he walked with me, and he turned many from iniquity.

    Septuagint: The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found on his lips. In peace, he walked uprightly with me, and he turned many from unrighteousness.


    Levi imparted instruction to the people based on YHWH’s law, which was truth or fully trustworthy. The mouth of Levi expressed, not falsehood, but the “law of truth.” Unrighteousness or injustice did not pass his lips. Peace and uprightness characterized his walk with YHWH or the way he conducted himself. In his proper walk, Levi experienced a true sense of well-being or peace, and carried out righteousness or justice. While thus walking, Levi discharged his God-given duty toward the people, turning many away from a wrong course to a path of faithful adherence to the law.

  • Malachi 2:7.
  • Masoretic Text: For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and the law they should seek from his mouth, for he [is] a messenger of YHWH of hosts.

    Septuagint: Because the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and the law they should seek from his mouth, for he is a messenger of the Lord Almighty.


    A priest should be a depository of knowledge, that is, knowledge of God’s law and will. This kind of knowledge a priest should provide with his lips. The people should be able to approach a priest, confident that he would express exactly what God’s law set forth. By reason of his God-given assignment, a priest was a messenger of YHWH of hosts. As a messenger, he was obligated to convey YHWH’s word set forth in the law, not a distorted version thereof.

  • Malachi 2:8.
  • Masoretic Text: And you have turned aside from the way. You have stumbled many in the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, said YHWH of hosts.

    Septuagint: But you have turned aside from the way, and you have weakened many in the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord Almighty.

    Note: The Hebrew word for “stumble” can also mean “weaken,” causing others to fall.


    The priests had failed seriously in discharging their duties. They had strayed from the way, the proper course of conduct. Instead of directing people to obey YHWH’s law, the priests misrepresented it by their wrong conduct and erroneous teaching. Thus they caused the people to stumble into sin.

    When accepting blemished animals for sacrifice, the priests misrepresented the law’s clear directives regarding animals suitable as offerings. They allowed those who brought defective animals to sin, while giving such offerers the impression that they were fulfilling God’s requirements. These priests did not discharge their duties in harmony with the purpose of the covenant of Levi, thereby ruining or corrupting it.

  • Malachi 2:9.
  • Masoretic Text: And also I have made you despised and low before all the people because of your not keeping my ways but showing partiality in law.

    Septuagint: And I have caused you to be despised and disregarded among all the nations because you have not observed my ways but have shown partiality in law.

    Note: The Hebrew expression (probably an idiom) rendered “because” is “by mouth.” Both the Hebrew idiom “to lift faces” and the corresponding expression in the Septuagint “to accept faces” denote showing partiality.


    YHWH would allow the priests to experience loss of respect among the people. The priests would be despised. Instead of enjoying a dignified standing, they would be regarded as low. This would happen because of their failure to keep YHWH’s ways, that is, observe the requirements set forth in his law. Also, in law, the priests were guilty of showing partiality. This may have been by their accepting blemished animals for sacrifice from those who granted them favors but rejecting such animals when there was no personal gain for them.

  • Malachi 2:10.
  • Masoretic Text: [Is there] not one father of us all? Did not one God create us? Why do we deal treacherously, a man with his brother, to profane the covenant of our fathers?

    Septuagint: Did not one God create you? [Is there] not one father of all of you? Why did you forsake, each [of you], his brother, to profane the covenant of your fathers?


    Manuscripts of the Septuagint vary in the arrangement of the first two questions, either following the order of the Masoretic Text or reversing the order. Although not affecting the meaning, Septuagint manuscripts use the second person plural (“you”), not the first person plural (“we”).

    Instead of a word meaning “deal treacherously,” the extant Septuagint manuscripts read “forsake.” To forsake or abandon a brother in his time of need or to turn one’s back on him would be an act of treachery. Accordingly, the basic thought remains the same as in the extant Hebrew text.


    The first two questions of verse 10 call for an affirmative reply. According to 1:6, YHWH is the “father” of Israel. Viewed, however, from the standpoint of an earthly forefather, all members of the nation were descendants of Abraham through Jacob. Therefore, either Abraham or Jacob could be regarded as the father of Israel. The nation itself owed its existence to YHWH, for he had formed or created it as a special covenant people.

    Treacherous dealing with one another was inconsistent with the people’s relationship to one father and one God. All were brothers and sisters. Therefore, treacherous dealing was a serious violation of the family relationship. It constituted a profanation or desecration of the covenant YHWH had concluded with their forefathers at Mount Sinai.

  • Malachi 2:11.
  • Masoretic Text: Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the holiness of YHWH, which he loved, and he has married the daughter of a foreign god.

    Septuagint: Judah has been forsaken, and an abomination has occurred in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the holy things of the Lord, in which he loved, and he has pursued foreign gods.


    As in the previous verse, the Septuagint rendering for “deal treacherously” is “forsake.” The verb, however, is in the passive voice, signifying that Judah had been forsaken. It would appear, however, that the active voice would fit the context better, as Judah was guilty of forsaking YHWH. If the extant Septuagint reading preserves the original, the thought would be that, because of what Judah had done, YHWH abandoned him, withholding his blessing.

    The wording of the partially preserved Dead Sea Scroll text reads “house” (not “daughter”). In view of the context, this appears to be a scribal error.

    The Vulgate reading also indicates that Judah is guilty of the wrong. Instead of “treacherous dealing,” the word used is transgressus, meaning “to cross,” “to go beyond,” or “to transgress.”

    Another difference in the Septuagint reading is the plural “holy things,” not the singular “holiness.” Modern translations have represented “holiness” as meaning the “temple” (NAB) or “sanctuary” (NIV, NRSV) or “what is holy to” YHWH (Luther, l984 revised edition; Tanakh). In view of the Septuagint rendering “holy things” and the use of the Hebrew word for “temple” in 3:1, the preferable rendering may be “what is holy to YHWH.” The more general sense of “holiness” would also fit the fact that Israelite men had made themselves guilty of profaning YHWH’s holiness by marrying women devoted to the worship of foreign gods.

    The Septuagint use of the plural “gods” does not change the meaning of the Hebrew. Both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint include the word for “strange” or “foreign,” establishing that the “daughter” is not a worshiper of YHWH.


    Judah (collectively of the nation) made himself guilty of treachery. The name “Israel” is used in parallel with Judah and points to the special relationship into which YHWH had brought the people. They were his chosen nation and were to be holy or clean from his standpoint. Jerusalem, as the capital, represented the entire nation.

    What had been done by a major segment of the nation was disgusting or abominable to YHWH. What he loved was “holiness” or purity in the people’s conduct and in their relationship with one another. (Leviticus 19:2-37) By failing to live up to what was required of them as a holy people, they profaned YHWH’s holiness, everything that he regarded as holy. This included the conduct of husbands toward their wives. Israelite men made themselves guilty of profanation by marrying women who were devoted to the worship of foreign gods, deities that were strange or foreign to the people whose God was YHWH.

  • Malachi 2:12.
  • Masoretic Text: YHWH will cut off the man who does it—the one [who is] awake and the one [who is] responding—from the tents of Jacob, and [who is] bringing a gift to YHWH of hosts.

    Septuagint: The Lord will destroy the man doing these things until he even be brought down from the tents of Jacob and from among those presenting a sacrifice to the Lord Almighty.


    In the Septuagint, the expression “cut off” is “destroy.”

    Regarding the expression “the one [who is] awake and the one [who is] responding,” a footnote in the Tanakh says, “Meaning of Heb. uncertain.” The rendering in the main text is “no descendants.” Other modern translations read “whoever he may be” (NIV), “witness and advocate” (NAB), “any to witness or answer” (NRSV), “kith and kin” (Moffatt), and “nomads or settlers” (NEB). The Vulgate reads “master and disciple [scholar, pupil].” None of these reflect the very different extant Septuagint rendering, “until he even be brought down from the tents of Jacob and from among those presenting a sacrifice to the Lord Almighty.” This rendering seems to suggest that the man doing so would be destroyed and that nothing of him (any survivors) would be found in the tents of Jacob and among those offering sacrifices to YHWH.

    The phrase “the one [who is] awake and the one [who is] responding” may be a proverbial saying based on the circumstances existing in a defeated army’s camp. A man approaches the camp and shouts to determine whether anyone is alive (“awake”). No one responds, indicating that all are dead. Accordingly for no one to be awake and for no one to answer would indicate that there is no survivor.

    The Dead Sea Scroll may present a reading that requires less conjecture. It says “one who witnesses or one who answers.” The one who witnesses or testifies would be the one taking the initiative, and the one who answers would be one affirming the testimony. An example is the testimony given to the Israelites about what would befall them for disobedience, to which they were to answer, “Amen.” (Deuteronomy 27:14-26) In the context of the prophecy of Malachi, then, this could mean that the one witnessing would be the initiator of the wrong course, and the one answering would be the one either imitating or condoning it. This is the meaning conveyed in the translation by Ronald Knox, which departs considerably from the literal reading of the Vulgate: “Doer of such a deed, set he or followed the ill example, shall be lost to the dwelling-place of Jacob, for all his offerings to the Lord of hosts.”

    In view of the general agreement of the Masoretic Text with the partially preserved Dead Sea Scroll text, the commentary basically follows the Hebrew wording.


    Adverse judgment would befall all who profaned YHWH’s holiness. They would be “cut off” or destroyed from the “tents of Jacob,” ceasing to have any residence among YHWH’s people. This judgment would be expressed both against the witness and the respondent, possibly meaning the initiator of the wrong course and the one imitating or condoning it. Or, the reference to the “witness” and the “respondent” could mean that those guilty of the wrong would have no descendants to survive them.

    If the phrase “bringing a gift to YHWH of hosts” is associated with what the one who would be cut off has done, this may suggest that, once the adverse judgment was executed, he would no longer be offering sacrifices. Any offering from one who had sullied his hands by treacherous dealing would never have been divinely approved. (Compare Isaiah 1:11-17.) Despite his having offered sacrifices, he would be “cut off.” The words about “bringing a gift” could also mean that, because of his being cut off from the tents of Jacob, he (or his descendants) would not be among those offering a sacrifice.

  • Malachi 2:13.
  • Masoretic Text: And this [is] the second [thing] you do, to cover the altar of YHWH with tears, weeping and sighing, so that [there is] no more [favorable] looking to the offering and accepting [it] from your hand [with] pleasure.

    Septuagint: And these things, which I have hated, you have done. You covered the altar of the Lord with tears and weeping and sighing because of troubles. [Is it] still fitting [for me] to look upon the sacrifice [favorably] or receive [it] acceptably from your hands?


    The partially preserved Dead Sea Scroll text has an “and” before “weeping.” As in the case of the Septuagint, there is a reference to troubles after the Hebrew word for “sighing.” The Dead Sea Scroll reading is, in fact, closer to the Septuagint than it is to the Masoretic Text. At the start of the verse, however, the Dead Sea Scroll reading and the Masoretic Text are in agreement, with the Septuagint alone including the thought that YHWH hated what was being done.

    The verse has often been translated to indicate that the reason for the weeping and sighing is YHWH’s refusing to accept the sacrifices. “You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands.” (NIV) It seems more fitting, however, to understand the weeping and sighing to be that of the Israelite wives whom their husbands had unjustifiably and hatefully divorced.


    The men’s first serious wrong was their marrying non-Israelite women who were devoted to the worship of foreign gods. Their “second” or other sin was divorcing their older Israelite wives, evidently to marry young, more attractive foreign women. Apparently the Israelite wives went to the temple to express their hurt before YHWH. They wept and sighed because of the hateful way in which their ex-husbands had treated them. The ex-husbands thus became responsible for covering the altar of sacrifice with tears, the tears of the women whom they had callously divorced. Therefore, YHWH could not give any favorable consideration to the sacrifices offered by those who were guilty of such hateful action. He could find no pleasure in anything they presented to him.

    Though apparently a matter of literary style, the question raised in response to YHWH’s regarding the sacrifices as unacceptable suggests a minimizing of the serious wrong. The offerers appear not to have recognized that their actions would have made their sacrifices unacceptable.

  • Malachi 2:14.
  • Masoretic Text: And you say, “Why?” Because YHWH has witnessed between you and between the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously, though she [is] your partner and the wife of your covenant.

    Septuagint: And you said, “Why?” Because the Lord has witnessed between you and between the wife of your youth, whom you have forsaken, though she [is] your partner and the wife of your covenant.

    Note: In the partially preserved Dead Sea Scroll, the words about treacherous dealing are not included. The Septuagint, however, does include them and, as earlier in this message, uses “forsake” instead of “deal treacherously.”


    YHWH was a witness to the manner in which the men had treated their Israelite wives whom they had married while young. These men had acted treacherously by divorcing their wives without any justification. They had dealt hatefully with their “partners,” women whom they had brought into the most intimate relationship with themselves. Besides being a partner, a wife was also one with whom a solemn covenant had been concluded, that is, a marriage covenant for life. Divorce, however, broke that covenant.

  • Malachi 2:15.
  • Masoretic Text: And not one, [with] the remainder of the spirit, has done [this]. And what was [that] one seeking? Seed of God. And guard your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously with the wife of your youth.

    Septuagint: And another one did not do [it], and the remainder of his spirit [he had]. And you said, “What but the seed does God seek?” And guard your spirit, and do not forsake the wife of your youth.


    The obscure Hebrew text requires the addition of words to convey a meaning in English and other languages, and this accounts for a variety of renderings.

    “Did not the One make [all,] so that all remaining life-breath is His? And what does that One seek but godly folk? So be careful of your life-breath, and let no one break faith with the wife of his youth.” (Tanakh) This translation represents YHWH as the One who acts and who is in control of the spirit or “life-breath.”

    According to other renderings, God is the Maker and bestowed the spirit. “Did he not make one being, with flesh and spirit: and what does that one require but godly offspring? (NAB)

    According to a free paraphrase, the marriage arrangement is in view. “Didn’t God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God’s people.” (CEV) A somewhat similar rendering is: “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring?” (NIV)

    The initial question of the New Revised Standard Version relates to the woman. “Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring.”

    Although not a literal translation, the German Gute Nachricht Bibel conveys the significance of the Masoretic Text without adding God as the subject. Das tut keiner, in dem noch etwas von der Gesinnung dieses Bundes lebt. Denn solch einem Menschen liegt alles daran, Nachkommen hervorzubringen, die zum Volk Gottes gehören. (No one, within whom something of the disposition of this covenant lives, does this. For the concern of a such a person is to have offspring belonging to God’s people.) The 1984 edition of Luther’s translation reads similarly but adheres even more closely to the extant Hebrew text. Nicht einer hat das getan, in dem noch ein Rest von Geist war. Denn er sucht Nachkommen, die Gott geheiligt sind. Darum so seht euch vor in eurem Geist, und werde keiner treulos der Frau seiner Jugend. (No one, in whom there was a remainder of the spirit, has done this. For he is seeking offspring who are holy to God. Therefore, be on guard respecting your spirit, and let no one be disloyal to the wife of his youth.)

    For the opening sentence, not all Septuagint manuscripts read, “And another one did not do [it].” A variant reading is, “And has he not done well?” Neither reading, however, would support introducing God as the subject here, as have a number of modern translations in their renderings of the Hebrew text.


    Not all Israelite men were guilty of callously divorcing their wives. The man who did not think of engaging in such treacherous action had what was “remaining of the spirit.” This appears to mean that he possessed the motivating force for which God’s spirit is responsible. The spirit was involved at the time of creation and, by means of it, the light of conscience was imparted to the first man Adam, being thereafter passed on through him to all members of the human family. Accordingly, this inherent sense of right and wrong would be what is remaining of the spirit, and this internal sense of right and wrong served as a motivating force to those who responded to it.

    The man who was guided by a godly conscience had the right view of marriage. He desired godly seed, offspring devoted to YHWH. Divorcing a worshiper of YHWH in order to marry an attractive non-Israelitess did not have this noble purpose. The man who did this merely yielded to fleshly desire and gave no thought to rearing godly offspring.

    Because of what had occurred respecting marriage, Israelite men were admonished to guard their spirit, that is, the motivating force within them. The wife who had been taken while a man was young should never have become the object of treacherous action or hateful dismissal.

  • Malachi 2:16.
  • Masoretic Text: For he hated [when] dismissing [her], said YHWH the God of Israel, and he covered his garment with violence, said YHWH of hosts. And you should guard your spirit and not deal treacherously.

    Septuagint: But, if hating, you should dismiss [her], says the Lord, the God of Israel, then ungodliness will cover your thoughts, says the Lord Almighty. And you must guard your spirit, and by no means forsake [your wife].


    The rendering “I hate” found in many modern translations is based on an emendation of the Hebrew, literally reading “he hated.” The partially preserved Dead Sea Scroll text can be translated to read, “For if you hate and divorce.” The Greek, in the Septuagint, could be rendered, “But if out of hatred you should divorce.” Likely, therefore, the censure is directed against those who manifested a hateful attitude toward their wives and, for no valid reason, divorced them. This basic thought is conveyed in commonly used French and German translations. Examples in German are: Wer ihr aber gram ist and sie verstößt, spricht der HERR, der Gott Israels, der bedeckt mit Frevel sein Kleid. (Whoever is grievous to her and dismisses her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with iniquity.) (Luther, 1984 edition) Wenn einer seine Frau aus Abneigung verstößt, [spricht der Herr, Israels Gott,] dann befleckt er sich mit einer Gewalttat. (If someone dismisses his wife out of antipathy, [says the Lord, Israel’s God,] then he sullies himself with a violent deed.) (Einheitsübersetzung)

    As Jesus Christ pointed out, when answering a question about divorce, the arrangement set forth in the Mosaic law was a concession. It served to protect the woman from the kind of hateful abuse that would have resulted if divorce had not been permitted. (Matthew 19:3-10) Therefore, if the emendation “I hate divorce” is representative of the original text (though the evidence appears to point to the contrary), it should evidently be understood in the context of the kind of divorcing being censured. It could not mean that YHWH detested the provision about divorce included in his law.

    The Septuagint is consistent in using a verb meaning “forsake” when rendering the Hebrew term meaning “act treacherously.” There is a possibility that a copyist misread the Greek word for “garments” (endymata) and wrote enthymématá (thoughts). The Septuagint uses two different words for “not,” the second one serving as an intensifier, and the two negatives may be translated “by no means.”


    Divine disapproval rested on the man who, out of hatred, callously dismissed or divorced his wife. Instead of using his garment protectively, such a man covered it with violence, depriving his wife of her home and family by divorcing her without valid reason. (Compare Ruth 3:4; Ezekiel 16:8.) The Israelite men generally are again admonished to guard their spirit, resisting the development of a hateful desire that would lead to treacherous action, that is, divorcing their wives.

  • Malachi 2:17.
  • Masoretic Text: You have wearied YHWH by your words, and you say, “How have we wearied [him]? By your saying, “Everyone doing evil is pleasing in the eyes of YHWH, and he delights in them”; or, “Where [is] the God of justice?”

    Septuagint: O provokers of God by your words, and you have said, “How have we provoked him?” By your saying, “All doing bad [are] good before the Lord, and he is pleased with them”; and, “Where is the God of justice?”

    Note: The partially preserved Dead Sea Scroll text starts the verse with the word “and.” In the first reference, this ancient text reads “God” instead of “YHWH.”


    Among many Israelites, worship had become mere formalism. They offered sacrifices (often blemished ones) and did not wholeheartedly support YHWH’s worship by tithing. Although not enjoying an approved standing before YHWH as a result, they expected him to act in their behalf. They assumed that their formalistic worship entitled them to this. When, however, they saw no evidence of blessing upon them, they murmured against YHWH.

    In attitude, word, and action, they troubled, wearied, or provoked the Most High. In response to the censure that they had troubled YHWH, the people asked, “How have we wearied him?” This stylistic question suggests that they did not view their situation in the way YHWH’s messenger portrayed it.

    Because there seemed to be no reward to those engaging in formalistic worship, they accused YHWH of being unjust and taking delight in those practicing what is bad. As nothing was happening to set things straight according to their estimation of matters, they challengingly asked, “Where is the God of justice?”