Rev. Haak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington.

In the first part of chapter 2, Malachi beautifully describes God’s covenant, the bond of friendship He makes with us in Christ. Malachi showed that this was an eternal covenant established by Jehovah out of pure grace. In the covenant God blesses His people with life and peace. And those in the covenant have the calling walk with God, turn from iniquity, oppose evil, and love God’s truth.

Against this background the sin of the people of Malachi’s day stood out in all its naked ugliness. Their religious attitude was cold and indifferent. A corrupt priesthood failed to teach God’s law. They dealt fraudulently with their brothers.

Now we learn that their sin against the covenant of God was especially in the evil practice of mixed marriages, divorce and remarriage. This is the burden of the Word of the Lord in verses 11-16.

The sinful abuses of marriage were twofold:

1. The young men of Judah had profaned the covenant of God by marrying the daughters “of a strange god” (vs. 11, 12). This was not new to Malachi’s day. From the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the sons of God had been warned against this and exhorted to marry in the Lord (see Gen. 24:1-9Gen. 26:34, 35Gen. 28:2). It was especially this sin which led to Israel’s problems and to a generation which knew not the Lord or His mighty acts (Exodus 34:15, 16Deuteronomy 7:3, 4I Kings 11:1-13). As late as the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, Israel had committed this sin. No sooner had God brought Judah back from Babylon’s captivity than the men of Judah began to marry heathen wives (Ez. 9:1-12Neh. 10:30Neh. 13:26, 27). Now, some 60 years after Ezra, the men of Judah were again looking for their wives outside the boundaries of Israel. They contracted mixed marriages, spiritually mixed. They built their marriage on the sand and mire of carnal lust and set aside the rock of spiritual oneness in the promise of Christ (Matt. 7:24-27).

2. The sins against marriage, were not confined to the youth, for the married men violated the sacred bond of marriage in divorce. Literally, verse 13 reads, “And a second thing ye do.” That second thing was the sinful practice of “putting away,” divorcing “the wife of thy youth.” The men of Judah grew tired of their wives. The weaknesses and problems which every marriage encounters were not overcome with God’s Word. Rather they let their personal desires and the difficulties of marriage overrule the Word of God.

We should ask the question as to why Malachi zeros in on this evil rather than some other. There were certainly other gross violations of God’s law present (see ch. 3:5). Why does he concern himself especially with the sinful abuses of the marriage bond? The answer is this: Marriage is a picture of Jehovah’s covenant. It mirrors God’s intimate bond between Himself and His people (Hosea 2:19, 20Eph. 5:21-33). By establishing mixed marriages and being unfaithful in marriage, they had profaned the covenant of God. Because of what marriage is, God requires holiness of His people in the marriage bond. This He loves. All profaning of marriage He hates (vs. 16).

Jehovah looked upon, these abuses as treachery (vss. 11, 15, 16). Treachery is being false to the one you confess to love; and secretly working to destroy them. Judah’s treachery was saying, “I am God’s friend” (note vs. 12 mentions they still offered to the Lord), and yet making a mockery of that confession in the way they married and lived in marriage. You could not see devotion to God in the way they selected a wife, or in the way they lived with their wives. It was “an abomination” to the Lord, something He “hated.” God would “cut off the man that doeth this” (vs. 12).

How urgent this Word of God becomes to us today! In our passage God shows how sacred the bond of marriage is, how pleasing it is to Him, and how He hates and punishes all violation of the marriage vow. God will uphold marriage. He will aid and support married persons, even when we are the least deserving, because it is an institution pleasing to Him. (See the Form for Marriage, in the back of The Psalter.)

“Take heed to your spirit that ye deal not treacherously” (vs. 16). Love the sacred bond of marriage! This means we will daily desire to be clean before God in all we do in marriage. We must remember that the Lord stands witness over our marriages (vs. 14). Then, rather than establishing our marriages carnally and living in marriage selfishly, we will live consciously for His approval and glory.

Verse 17 stands somewhat in isolation from verses 11-16. It is yet another complaint of Jehovah against His people. This time it is directed against their attitude. The Jews thought that Jehovah favored the wicked in that He did not punish them. They accuse God of injustice (cp. Ps. 73). Most likely this stemmed from the fact that they were experiencing severe economic hardships and the lack of any national prominence.

Memory Work:

Hosea 2:19, 20 

And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 

I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.

Questions for Study:

1. First, we must remember what marriage is and how it serves as a picture of God’s covenant with us. Only then can we see the “treachery” of mixed marriage and divorce and remarriage. Only then can we see how we must live in marriage.

a. Look up the following texts and state briefly what they say about what marriage is: Genesis 2:24I Cor. 6:16;Proverbs 18:22Ephesians 5:32I Corinthians 11:11, 12I Timothy 4:1, 3

b. How is marriage a picture of God’s covenant? (SeeHosea 2:19, 20Eph. 5:21-23)

c. Explain how the following elements are necessary for marriage if it is to picture the covenant of God. (Find texts to support your answer.)

1) Spiritual oneness

2) Faithfulness

3) Forgiveness

4) Companionship (friendship and communication)

2. The treachery of mixed marriage (vss. 11, 12)

a. Look up the following passages to determine whom a child of God is to marry. Also, state the importance for this restriction: Genesis 24:1-9Genesis 26:34, 35Genesis 28:2;Deuteronomy 7:3, 4Exodus 34:16I Corinthians 7:39II Corinthians 6:14

b. Why is spiritual oneness a necessity for marriage? (I Pet. 3:7)

c. What does the Word of God mean in verse 12, “The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this. . . .”?

d. How can we teach our children the necessity of establishing solid Christian marriages?

3. The treachery of putting away the wife of thy youth:

a. Explain what is meant by the expressions used in verse 14 to describe marriage, and then apply them to marriage:

1) “wife of thy youth”

2) “thy companion”

3) “the wife of thy covenant” (Prov. 2:17)

b. Explain what verse 15 means and tell how it is such a powerful argument against “putting away.” (A little help. God is referring to Genesis 2:18-24 and the fact that He created one woman for the man, even though He could conceivably have made more. “Yet had he the residue of the spirit.”)

c. “He hates putting away”:

1) Look up the following passages and take brief notes on what they teach; Matthew 5:33Matthew 19:3-12Mark 10:3-13Luke 16:18I Corinthians 7:29Romans 7:2-4Deuteronomy 24:1-4

2) Answer now the following: Is divorce ever permissible? Is remarriage ever allowable while one’s first spouse lives? Why is it important to maintain that marriage is a lifelong bond broken only by death?

d. The women who were wrongly divorced brought their anguish to the Lord (vs. 13).

1) Explain verse 13.

2) Compare it to I Peter 3:7.

3) Explain how our own spiritual life and health are tied to our marriages.

4. Verse 17:

a. Explain what this verse means.

b. Compare it with Psalm 73, and then express how we often give this same complaint and thus weary the Lord.

5. Can you write from memory Hosea 2:19, 20?