Malachi and Divorce

In Deuteronomy 24.1-4, God, through Moses, permitted a man to divorce his wife if he found “some uncleanness” in her. A generation before Christ, the great Jewish teacher, Shammai, taught that this referred to immorality and moral lewdness; consequently, it was a sin to put away one’s wife for any cause other than immorality.

A generation later, during Jesus’ time, Hillel, a disciple of Shammai, took a far more liberal view of the phrase “some uncleanness” which caused the wife to “lose favor” in her husband’s eyes. Basically, he taught divorce was permissible for any reason, for such trivial things as the way she prepared the food or if her husband found a prettier woman. That view, though espoused by Hillel, was not new. Without question it was practiced at least four hundred years before, because God, through His prophet Malachi, addressed the problem (Malachi 2.13-16).

God’s attitude toward divorce is not hard to understand:

“And this is another thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant…For I hate divorce, says the LORD God of Israel…”(2.13-14, 16).

Divorce leaves nothing but anguish and despair and heartache in its wake. Just like a killer tornado that wrecks havoc and horror on anything in its way, so divorce leaves in its path the shattered wrecks of broken hearts, broken lives, and broken homes. God, who established marriage and provided the laws and principles which govern this most intimate relationship, does not ignore this disaster which harms so many innocent lives. So to the ancient Hebrews He declared He would not accept their worship nor their service nor their sacrifices. Neither would He hear their prayers, because they were being drowned out by the anguished cries of those against whom they had broken the marriage covenant!

Why is it different now? It’s not! There are just more people; that’s why it seems so much worse. The problems and the reasons are always the same – selfishness, immorality, and a lack of regard for what God has said. People have always thought that individually they were different, that their case or situation was the exception, that God would excuse them because…well, just because. Oh how sad, how tragic, how foolish indeed it is to take so lightly that which God hates. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (2.16).

– Bill