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Monday, August 22, 2005

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 Chairman C. John Collins explains why the ESV team revised the RSV wording of:
“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.”
to the ESV wording:
“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.”
The evidence given by Dr. Collins for the exegetical choice made by the ESV team in this verse seems strong to me, but there is also strong evidence for the traditional wording. This is one place where the ESV team decided to make a choice different from a traditional rendering, when there is a lack of consensus among biblical exegetes. Fortunately, there is a footnote in the ESV which shows that there is not total certainty about what was written and meant by the original author:
Probable meaning (compare Septuagint and Deuteronomy 24:1-4); or For the LORD, the God of Israel, says that he hates divorce, and his who covers
The ESV team may be right in the exegetical choice they have made here, although their choice is by far in the minority among Bible versions, including recent ones. The REB and HCSB are the only other versions I have found so far that make the same exegetical choice as the ESV. Here is the REB translation:
If a man divorces or puts away his wife, says the LORD God of Israel, he overwhelms her with cruelty, says the LORD of Hosts. Keep watch on your spirit, and do not be unfaithful.
The HCSB wording is:
"If he hates and divorces [his wife]," says the LORD God of Israel, "he covers his garment with injustice," says the LORD of hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not treacherously.
The HCSB includes a footnote about the exegetical issue at hand:
Or The LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce and the one who
The NET Bible words Malachi 2:16 in accord with exegetical tradition as:
“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the sovereign Lord. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.”
And it footnotes the word "divorce" detailing the evidence that leads to the traditional rendering in the NET and also to the non-traditional wording in the ESV:
The verb an}c* (sane’) appears to be a third person form, “he hates,” which makes little sense in the context, unless one emends the following word to a third person verb as well. Then one might translate, “he [who] hates [his wife] [and] divorces her…is guilty of violence.” A similar translation is advocated by M. A. Shields, “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2,10-16,” ZAW 111 (1999): 81-85. However, it is possible that the first person pronoun yk!n{a* (’anokhi, “I”) has accidentally dropped from the text after yK! (ki). If one restores the pronoun, the form an}c* can be taken as a participle and the text translated, “for I hate.”
I am thankful for translators like those of the ESV, NET Bible (in other passages), and other recent Bibles who are willing to break with traditional exegesis of some verses for the sake of what they believe to be increased accuracy in translation.

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At Tue Aug 23, 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

It seems to me, from a rather quick look, that there is a rather obvious interpretation here - although it is of course presumptuous to suggest that I can do better in a quick look than many experts in their deep study. I think the experts may have been led astray by the verse division before v.16. Verses 13-15 seem to describe the LORD's attitude to offerings and to divorce in the third person. He, the LORD, is probably the subject of the first part of v.15. And it seems to me that this continues into verse 16. In fact there is apparently no direct speech at all here, only the words of the LORD reported in the third person.

So I would suggest a translation something like this, based on NIV:

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. 16 He hates divorce - this is what the LORD God of Israel says. And he hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment - this is what the LORD Almighty says. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

I accept that "says the LORD" is usually used with the LORD speaking in the first person, but I am sure there are precedents for it being used following third person discourse. In fact Malachi 3:1 would seem to be a case of this if "the Lord whom you are seeking", who is apparently the owner of the Temple, is God himself - as would seem most likely unless this verse is reinterpreted in the light of the New Testament.

At Tue Aug 23, 12:36:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Not a comment on the exegetical issue but a technical plea, could you use Unicode Hebrew rather than some proprietary system which looks like this to me: an}c* which is not easy to discipher! There is a good Hebrew keyboard see the (latest online I think) Tyndale Tech newsletter, or you can cut and paste from Unicode Bible programs or online at בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ which looks slightly ugly in some fonts, but great in the free SBL font or the SIL one... BUT it is quite readable even in Arial!

Legacy fonts are so twentieth century (except for Mac users and there is a biblioblog devoted to telling them how to catch up with the PC's ease of use for non-Roman scripts ;) !

At Tue Aug 23, 01:12:00 PM, Blogger Don B. Johnson said...

Hugenberger and Instone-Brewer prefer the "He hates and divorces" reading, which is good enough to convince me.

At Tue Aug 23, 05:37:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

In reply to Tim: I suspect that Wayne simply pasted this from the NET Bible site. I found the following in the HTML source: <span style="font-family:Hebrew;">an}c*</span> (<span style="font-family:Scholar;">sane’</span>) So your comment about Unicode Hebrew, which I fully agree with, should really be directed to the But for me, on Windows XP, the correct Hebrew font was picked up automatically, because somehow I have suitable fonts called "Hebrew" and "Scholar" installed on my system.

At Tue Aug 23, 07:28:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter, is right. I simply copied and pasted from the NET Bible site. The Hebrew characters display fine on both of my browsers, IE and Firefix. It would be nice if everyone were already using Unicode and everything was standardized, but we're not there yet. I suspect that your browser will display OK also with another Hebrew font. I forget which ones I have on my system. I do know I have some Unicode fonts, as well, of course, as many legacy fonts.

Sorry for the lack of standardization. We've done some experimenting with Unicode on the Bible Translation discussion list and not everyone's email programs were compatible for displaying Greek or Hebrew.

This would a good topic for a blog post or two. I don't feel qualified to do the post, however. It would need to be someone who understands Unicode better than I do, and how to help people set their computers up to display the characters properly.

At Tue Aug 23, 09:38:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

But that's my point "an}c*" (cut and pasted from above) is not Hebrew it is Roman characters that in some proprietary font map to Hebrew characters בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ also cut and pasted from above IS Hebrew in any Unicode font that includes Hebrew, and the "system" will find a font on your machine that does...


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