Midnight Linguistic Rant: Malachi 2:16

One of the problems with English translations is that you have to take the word of the translators for what the Hebrew (or Greek) text of the bible says, and sometimes they get it so so so wrong. Worse yet, they get it wrong in ways that result in entrenched doctrinal positions. The case in point here is the text of Malachi 2:16
 
NKJV says “For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce …”
NASB and NRSV says “For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel …”
NET bible says “I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel …”
JPS says “For I detest divorce – said the LORD, the God of Israel …”
 
Now, if you looked at all these versions – you’d pretty much come to the conclusion that God hates divorce, and who can blame you for it. All the English translations here seem to be saying exactly that.
 
But when you look at the Hebrew text, this is what it actually says:-
כִּֽי־שָׂנֵ֣א שַׁלַּ֗ח אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל
[Note that Hebrew reads right to left.] Translated literally and word for word, it actually reads as follows:-
 
ki_sane               shalach  amar  YHWH elohei     Israel
“for_he-hates divorce” says   YHWH God (of) Israel
 
The operative word here is “sane” which is the third-person masculine verb for “hate”, ie. “he hates”. It is significant that while this was God speaking in the first person, he does not use a first person verb such as “seneti” which would have been correctly translated “I hate”. This means that God wasn’t referring to himself hating divorce here, but was referring to someone else who hated divorce.
 
Who was this person? If you look at the context of Malachi 2 as a whole, you will notice that God was addressing errant priests who had corrupted the covenant of Levi. They misled the people. This person dealt treacherously with the wife of his youth, a wife by covenant.
 
Even though he has gone off gallivanting with other women, he had not released his wife properly through divorce. It was this refusal to release his wife. Judah had run off with the daughter of a foreign God even though he was in covenant with God not to do so. Yet he pretends to still be “married” to God. This was the “treachery” of Judah (Mal 2:11 NKJV). So when the narrative comes to Mal 2:16, God was referring to this person saying that “he refused/hated divorce” even though that was the right thing to do for his wife given his treachery.
 
Why doesn’t he want to divorce his wife by covenant? Because he would be obliged to ensure that she is properly compensated if he divorced her. By not divorcing the wife, the poor woman is left neither here nor there, unloved by the husband and yet bound to an unfaithful man.
 
Now, I am not trying to make a case about divorce here. I’m just pointing out how bad some of the English translations can be – leading to completely different (and distorted) readings of the original text. Why can’t the translators just translate the text directly????!!!
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