Category Archives: Malachi 2:14

DOES MALACHI 2:14 TEACH MARRIAGE CAN’T BE DISSOLVED?

In Malachi 2:14, the Bible says:

“Yet you say, ‘For what reason? ”Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion. And your wife by covenant.”

Some use this passage to teach that divorce doesn’t dissolve a marriage. However, this passage does not teach that marriage can’t be dissolved. Under the Old Testament, a divorce clearly dissolved the marriage (Deut. 24:1-4; see also: Exodus 21:1-11). Malachi 2 is speaking of the former wife and not a current wife. Professor Luck comments on this verse:

“Hebrew verbs are not so much concerned with point of time as with completeness of action. As in Greek, it was common for the writer to omit verbs altogether when the action had the effect of the English present tense. Though they had a particle that could convey the idea of the present, they more often than not omitted it and expected the reader to supply it. Supplying the present tense in a verb-less clause is inappropriate if the previous clauses convey the sense of another tense. The Hebrew “perfect” (i.e., completed action) is as close to the English “past” as one could expect. Though the action could have ongoing implications, the stress is on the fact that the action is finished. Combining these grammatical elements and applying them to the text of Malachi 2:14, we note that ‘is your companion and your wife’ is a verb-less clause, without the particle, but in the context of a prior perfect (i.e., “you have dealt treacherously”). Thus, the translation of choice would be ‘though she was your companion and your wife.’ This matches quite nicely with the concept of relation subsequent to divorce in Hosea 2:2: ‘she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.’ (http://www.peacemakers.net/RevWmLuck/DivorceAndRe-Marriage.html).

In other words, based upon syntax, there is no problem understanding Malachi 2:14 to refer to the wife here as the former wife. The phrase “you have dealt treacherously” is perfect (which is typically past, completed action) in the Hebrew. The text doesn’t say that they were still dealing treacherously. This was an action done in the past to their former spouse(s) that had been completed.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible says:

“Yet you ask, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant.” (Mal. 2:14). 

Interestingly enough, the Douay-Rheims Bible also translates this passage as the wife being a former wife. This is especially interesting because the Douay-Rheims Bible is a translation from the Latin Vulgate into English. It is basically a Catholic translation of the Bible and is the foundation on which nearly all English Catholic versions are still based. Why is this so interesting? Because most Catholics actually do believe that marriage is indissoluble. Yet, even they translated Malachi 2:14 as the wife being a former wife:

“And you have said: For what cause? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee, and the wife of thy youth, whom thou hast despised: yet she was thy partner, and the wife of thy covenant” (Mal. 2:14)

To attempt to use Malachi 2:14 to allegedly prove that the woman was still a current wife after divorce took place is to overstate a point from the English translation that cannot be sustained from the original Hebrew.

– Kevin Pendergrass

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