Issues Surrounding Mal. 2:16

Paul Zellmer zellmer at
Thu Jun 17 18:44:01 EDT 1999

Dear Edgar,

I have followed your questions on the NT viewpoint of divorce on the Greek list.
While I have initial opinions on these questions that you bring up here (hey, I have
opinions on a wide variety of issues!), I by no means feel that I have studied them
out enough to respond with any authority here.  So, in case the fact was not clear
that you intended the entire group to participate in this discussion, I expressly make
it clear that all input is requested.


Edgar Foster wrote:

> Dear Paul,
> Thanks for your valuable contributions to the thread on Mal. 2:16. I
> now want to take this time to list some of the issues involved in this
> significant passage.
> (1) In Smith's discussion of Mal. 2:15, 16, the following questions are
> posed: "Does "marrying the daughter of a foreign god" mean marrying a
> foreign woman, or does it mean worshiping a female deity (idol)? Does
> divorcing the wife of one's youth refer to husbands divorcing their
> wives or does it refer to Israel's unfaithfulness to the covenant
> religion?" (Smith 32:322. Word Series Commentary).
> After raising these questions, he then references the 1898 JBL article
> by CC Torrey who suggests a cultic interpretation for Mal. 2:16. Torrey
> writes that Mal. 2:16 is neither castigating marriages with foreign
> women nor divorce from one's wife: "The rebuke is rather directed
> against the encroachment of some foreign cult in Israel. The
> unfaithfulness of a part of the people threatens to forfeit for all the
> covenant of the fathers (v 10). Judah has dealt falsely with the wife
> of his youth, the covenant religion, and is wedding a strange cult"
> (Torrey, JBL 17 [1898] 4-5).
> To sum matters up, Torrey would say that "There is one, and only one,
> admissible interpretation of the passage; namely that which recognizes
> the fact that the prophet is using figurative language. Judah, the
> faithless husband, has betrayed the wife of his youth, the covenant
> religion, by espousing the daughter of a strange god" (Torrey 9-10).
> (2) On the other side of the spectrum, Lars Kruse Blinkenberg writes:
> "In my opinion, the meaning of 2:16 is that Yahweh hates divorce. This
> is undoubtedly the most characteristic feature of M[alachi]: First the
> author of M seems to protest against the dissolving of mixed marriages
> in his time; secondly his proclamation contrasts with Deuteronomy that
> allows a divorce"
> Personally, I find Blinkenberg's explnation more cogent; the only
> criticism I would have with his argument at present would be his
> understanding of Deuteronomy over against Malachi 2:16. I see no
> contradiction between Deut. 24 and Mal. 2:16. I think the circumstances
> of each passage are different, and what is being condemned in Mal. 2:16
> is the sending away of one's wife without a good reason: just "trading
> her in," as it were, for a new "model" (to be colloquial about it).
> These are some issues involved in the translation and interpretation of
> Mal. 2:16. I would like to know your thoughts on this issue.
> Thanks,
> Edgar
> ===
> Edgar Foster
> Classics Major
> Lenoir-Rhyne College
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On June 17:
  1873  Susan B Anthony fined $100 for attempting to vote for President
  1903  1st transcontinental auto trip begins in SF; arrives NY 3-mo later
  1961  CBS radio cancels Gunsmoke

Paul and Dee Zellmer, Jimmy Guingab, Geoffrey Beltran
Ibanag Translation Project
Cabagan, Isabela, Rep. of Philippines

zellmer at

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