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FAQ: Malachi 2:16

Here’s Malachi 2:16 in the ESV:

“For the man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Here’s Malachi 2:16 in the RSV:

“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.”

You can see the different emphasis of the verse in these two translations. Why did the ESV translators translate this verse this way?

The answer turns on some fairly technical points in Hebrew, but it boils down to three arguments, as explained by ESV Old Testament Chairman C. John Collins:

  1. The translation of this verse found in the AV [KJV] (and most English Bibles since then), with God hating divorce, represents a departure from the translation tradition of the previous centuries.
  2. The rendering of the ESV, which has a Judean man “hating” his wife and divorcing her, does the best job of handling the details of the Masoretic Text, with no corrections. It also enables us to see how this fits into the context of profaning the calling of the people of God.
  3. This way of reading Malachi 2:16 allows us to see how the verse fits into the overall promotion of covenant fidelity as the ideal of marriage, an ideal for which the faithful among the people of God—whether in ancient Israel or in the Christian Church today—will seek all the resources of grace, of forgiveness, of fellowship with the saints, and of the Holy Spirit’s enabling power.

That’s the short answer. For the long answer, read this 25-page article (pdf) by C. John Collins. You can also find this article (and others) on the Articles page elsewhere on this website.

August 22, 2005 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:37 am | (3) Comments »


  1. Who hates divorce?

    I’m sure God hates divorce and I’m sure that the ESV translators believe God does, but they believe that the Hebrew text of Malachi 2:16 does not support a translation wording that God hates divorce. In an interesting blog post ESV Old Testament Chai…

    Trackback by Better Bibles Blog — August 22, 2005 @ 11:38 pm

  2. Dave at Hold the Phone hypothesizes about the reasons behind the ESV’s popularity:. Ok so I admit, the rage for the ESV probably started when a bunch of young people saw these Bibles with really sweet covers…. Then the Greek students

    Trackback by Hold the Phone: “ESV Revolution" — January 18, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  3. In this recent post on the ESV blog, they mention their translation of Malachi 2:16 as it differs from most other translations (NIV/KJV/NASB). Some of the thoughts seem to make sense on one level, but does that invalidate the thought

    Trackback by ESV: divorce - God's view is unchanging — January 18, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

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