I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel, and the one who is guilty of violence – Malachi 2:16
9:2 Indeed, they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has become intermingled with the local residents. Worse still, the leaders and the officials have been at the forefront of all of this!”…10:10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have behaved in an unfaithful manner by taking foreign wives! This has contributed to the guilt of Israel. 10:11 Now give praise to the Lord God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the local residents and from these foreign wives.” – Ezra 9:2; 10:10-11
Skeptics use these two passages from the books of Malachi and Ezra to try to discredit the reliability of the Bible. They say this is a contradiction.
Though the statement ‘I hate divorce’ (Malachi 2:16) may (and should) be understood as a comprehensive biblical principle, the immediate context suggests that the divorce in view is that of one Jewish person by another in order to undertake subsequent marriages. The injunction here by no means contradicts Ezra’s commands to Jewish men to divorce their heathen wives (Ezra 10:10).
Ezra simply ordered them to divorce their strange wives in accordance with God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 7:2-4, that they should not have married them in the first place:
9:10 “And now what are we able to say after this, our God? For we have forsaken your commandments 9:11 which you commanded us through your servants the prophets with these words: ‘The land that you are entering to possess is a land defiled by the impurities of the local residents! With their abominations they have filled it from one end to the other with their filthiness. 9:12 Therefore do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons, and do not take their daughters in marriage for your sons. Do not ever seek their peace or welfare, so that you may be strong and may eat the good of the land and may leave it as an inheritance for your children forever.’…10:2 Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, from the descendants of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the local peoples. Nonetheless, there is still hope for Israel in this regard. 10:3 Therefore let us enact a covenant with our God to send away all these women and their offspring, in keeping with your counsel, my lord, and that of those who respect the commandments of our God. And let it be done according to the law. – Ezra 9:10-12; 10:2-3 (c.f. Deuteronomy 7:2-4)
As we see, these two passages do not contradict themselves at all.
What about Deuteronomy 24:1? You may ask.
If a man marries a woman and she does not please him because he has found something offensive in her, then he may draw up a divorce document, give it to her, and evict her from his house. – Deuteronomy 24:1
Well, the answer is right in the Bible. The Pharisees asked Jesus this same question, so let’s hear what Jesus Himself said:
19:3 Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, 19:5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 19:7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” 19:8 Jesus said to them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts, but from the beginning it was not this way. 19:9 NOW I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” – Matthew 19:3-9
Moses gave them the permission to divorce their wives because of their hard hearts. It is worth pointing out also that Jesus said that they can divorce their wives if they (the wives) committed “sexual immoralities”; which by the way, is very lenient since this kind of an act is worthy of death sentence according to the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 22:22). But this is not the case of them divorcing their wives in Malachi though:
Yet you ask, “Why?” The Lord is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young, to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion and wife by law. – Malachi 2:14
It was them who were unfaithful, not their wives. This is why Jesus said, Moses allowed them because of their hard hearts; meaning they wanted to divorce their wives simply because they wanted to marry other one.
These Jews were very hypocritical and selfish because according to the law, the people should stone them to death (Deuteronomy 22:22). But thank be to God for His fairness, He exposed their hypocrisy in John 8 when they brought a woman they caught committing adultery. They only brought the woman to Jesus but according to the law (Deuteronomy 22:22), both the man and the woman should be stoned to death. Jesus, willing to save the woman, said to them that the one who had never sinned should be the first to cast a stone at her.
God was not happy about what Moses did at all (Deuteronomy 7:1-4); and exposing their hypocrisy through the Prophet Jeremiah, He said:
They say, if a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. – Jeremiah 3:1
There is a reason why the Bible consists of the Old and New Testaments. John 1:17 says, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” This means that the Law of Moses is replaced by the grace and truth Jesus came with.
For example, as we see, Ezra, in Chapter 9-10 of his book, executed the law Moses gave (Deuteronomy 7:3) and urged the Jews to divorce their foreign wives; but Paul, in the same circumstance, dealt with the situation differently. He did not want us to “divorce” our spouses, simply because we could save them (Unless of course they (the unbelieving spouses) want the divorce). The Jews during the time of Ezra were deceived by their strange wives but we (the saved ones) could and should save our “unsaved” spouses:
7:10 To the married I give this command – not I, but the Lord – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife. 7:12 To the rest I say – I, not the Lord – if a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is happy to live with him, he should not divorce her. 7:13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is happy to live with her, she should not divorce him. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wife, and the unbelieving wife because of her husband. Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 7:15 But if the unbeliever wants a divorce, let it take place. In these circumstances the brother or sister is not bound. God has called you in peace. 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will bring your husband to salvation? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will bring your wife to salvation? – 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (NET Bible)
As we see, Paul did not only address the husbands but the wives as well which is very different from what we see in the Old Testament.
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