Is Malachi 2:16 Referring to Wife Beating?

by JL P | September 05, 2007
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How should the first part of Malachi 2:16 be understood?

In the NIV, the first part of the verse reads: '"I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself [a] with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty.' (2:16, emphasis added) The footnote to this verse in the NIV says '[a] or his wife.'

In the TNIV, the first part of the verse reads: '"I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate it when people clothe themselves with injustice," says the LORD Almighty.' There is no footnote reading 'or his wife.'

If you look at the ESV, it’s translated this way: '"For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "covers his garment with violence," says the LORD of Hosts.'

Somewhere in the past, I heard that 'garment' was a Hebrew slang term of the time for 'wife.'

In the NIV, it appears that the word 'himself' could be translated 'his wife.' In this version it could be argued that God hates it when a man beats his wife. The TNIV doesn’t allow for this translation at all. It doesn’t even mention men or violence.
The ESV mentions that the man who does not love his wife but divorces her covers his garment with violence. In this case 'garment' appears to refer to the man himself. Or, does it really refer to the slang term 'wife?' If so, is divorce being compared to a man doing violence to either himself or his wife?

With so many Bible translations to pick from, sometimes it’s hard to know which version most accurately represents the thought being expressed in the original language.

My question is: does this verse indicate that God hates it when a man is violent towards his wife, or that God is comparing divorce to violence, or does it mean something else? And, if it does mean something else, what is it?