Malachi Bible Study Guides
Mal | 1 | 2 | 3a | 3b | 4

MALACHI 2:1-16 (kjv)

Warning to the Priests

1 "And now this admonition is for you, O priests.
2 If you do not listen, and
if you do not set your heart to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, 4 And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue," says the LORD Almighty.

Warning Against Intermarriage with Unbelievers

10 Have we not all one Father?
Did not one God create us?
Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?
11 Judah has broken faith.
A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem:
Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god.
12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be,
may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob--even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.

Warning Against Divorce

13 Another thing you do: 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.
14 You ask, "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant."

Cross References

Matt 6:19-21 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"

2Cor 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

1Cor7:39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.

Mr 10:11,12 He answered, "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him."

1Cor 7:10-13 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.

Discussion Questions

vs 2 Consider something you have set your heart on. What was the process you went through in setting your heart on that thing?
How might we set our hearts to honor God's name?
How might Matt 6:19-21 help in this process?
vs 6-9 How would you describe the role of a priest from these verses?
How can you prepare yourself to take up this role?
Have you ever taught something and later found out that you passed on incorrect information? How might you avoid this? What role does partiality play in passing on
incorrect information?
What kind of a person makes you feel uncomfortable about your sin?
What kind of a person makes you feel comfortable about your sin?

vs 10-12 In view of this section and 2Cor 6:14 and 1Cor 7:39, what should be a Christian's attitude in deciding whether to marry a non-Christian?

vs 13-16 In view of this section and Mark 10:11,12 and 1Cor 7:10-13, what should a Christian's attitude be towards divorce.


Priests vs 1-9

The Jews would have been quite sensitive to the curse given in vs 3 upon their descendants and that they would be "carried off" (into captivity by a foreign nation), for they themselves had been subject to this curse. Their ancestors had broken faith with God and were carried off to captivity and they had experience a great deal of hardship because of the sins of their ancestors. The curse upon the descendants, which is a common theme in the Old Testament, was not generally due to the sins of the descendants, but rather the descendants experience the result of their ancestors sins, as they are the product of their ancestors.

vs 4 Both the priests (descendants of Aaron, Moses brother), and the Levites (who helped out with the religious duties) were descended from Levi, one of Jacob's sons. The covenant made with them is covered extensively in the entire book of Leviticus.

Intermarriage vs 10-12

vs 11 God is not speaking against intermarriage in general, but against intermarrying with those who worship other gods.

Divorce vs 13-16

Mal 2:14 You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

Might God have been rebuking those who under Ezra's direction divorced their foreign wives?

Ezra 9:1-3 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.

Ezra 10:2-5 Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it." So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath.

Was this really a proper application of the Law of Moses?

Deut 7:1-4 When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations-- the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you-- and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.

Notice that the Ammonites, Moabites, and Egyptians aren't mentioned, but Ezra includes them anyhow, besides was it really the race of the people that God was concerned about, or whether they followed other gods?

Ruth 1:4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years,

Mt 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,

2Sa 11:3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isnít this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"

2Sa 24:18 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite."

And if their wives did follow other gods and attempted to entice their husbands to do the same, in the Law of Moses did God say that divorce was the solution, or something else?

Deut 13:6-9 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.

Notice Nehemiah had a similar attitude as Ezra. Was his objection really based on the Law of Moses?

Neh 13:23-25 Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God's name and said: "You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.

New Testament Revelation

We further note that in 1Corinthians 7 Paul advises believers not to separate from their unbelieving spouses for the marriage is sanctified before God and the children of such a marriage reckoned legitimate

A Possible Interpretation: Though they were great men of God and accomplished great things for God, Nehemiah and Ezra were guilty of the sin of racism - an attitude which was to be predominant among the Jews even up to the time of Christ. It was improper for them to encourage the people to divorce their foreign wives for purely racist reasons.

Differences with the Septuagint

The New Testament authors more commonly quote the Septuagint (LXX) rather than what we have today as our Old Testament text, namely the Masoretic text. At times these differ, and at times such differences impact the meaning. Let us consider verse 15 and verse 16. (The NIV is derived from the Masoretic text)
NIV vs 15  Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

LXX vs 15  And did he not do well? and there was the residue of his spirit. But ye said, What does God seek but a seed? But take ye heed to your spirit, and forsake not the wife of thy youth.

There are some who justify their divorce based upon the NIV translation with the idea that they are seeking a more godly spouse for their children. And while that application is itself questionable from the text, the LXX says something completely difference. "But you said, 'What does God seek but a seed.'" The Jews considered the priority in marriage godly offspring, but God says that such is not the case. The priority in marriage is the covenant, not the children. Even today when marriage vows are taken, a covenant is made between husband and wife, children are not even mentioned in the vows.
NIV vs 16  "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a manís covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

LXX vs 16  But if thou shouldest hate thy wife and put her away, saith the Lord God of Israel, then ungodliness shall cover thy thoughts, saith the Lord Almighty: therefore take ye heed to your spirit, and forsake them not,

Contrary the NIV God is not saying here explicitly that he hates divorce. He himself divorced Israel as He says in Jeremiah 3:8 "I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries." The situation he is dealing with in verse 16 is first of all one who takes action to put away his spouse. It is not a passive divorce situation. In fact the word "divorce" is not in the LXX in verse 16, rather the word which literally means "send away" is used. Although Isaiah correlates the two in Isaiah 50:1 "Where is your motherís certificate of divorce with which I sent her away?" But he himself did send away Israel, divorcing her. But what verse 16 adds is the idea of the divorce being motivated out of illegitimate hatred. In the case of Ezra and Nehemiah, for example, they were advocating divorce on the basis of racial hatred. For even though they invoked the Law of Moses yet they didn't actually examine the behavior of the wives on an individual basis but simply based on race alone they universally condemned all foreign wives to be sent away. When divorce is a result of illegitmate hatred, ones thoughts become covered with ungodliness.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jul 29,2015