I’ve written previously about the modern Christian cross-dressing view of marriage, where wives are in absolute headship and regularly need to give their husbands wakeup calls to establish their authority. While wives punishing disobedient husbands is a universal modern Christian fetish, there is a divergence of opinion on which method wives should use to make their husbands submit. Some favor smashing household items in an insane rage. Others favor denial of sex to control husbands, and some even go so far as to teach that God speaks to husbands through their wives vaginas.
While the above methods are (modern) Christian favorites, secular culture tends to instead prefer threats of divorce, or actual divorce, so that the family courts become the method of punishment. Economists Stevenson and Wolfers explain how the new marriage model facilitates the feminist agenda in their paper Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress (emphasis mine):
In the literature on the economics of the family there has been growing consensus on the need to take bargaining and distribution within marriage seriously. Such models of the family rely on a threat point to determine distribution within the household. The switch to a unilateral divorce regime redistributes power in a marriage, giving power to the person who wants out, and reducing the power previously held by the partner interested in preserving the marriage.
Modern Christians of course love this method as well; if you’ve seen the cherished movie Fireproof, you will recall that the wife brings her husband to heel (and to God) by filing for divorce and taking up with a new man. But there is a problem, and that problem is that the Bible tells us in Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce*. Realistically, most get around this by pretending to detest divorce themselves; all modern Christians really need to do to facilitate the threatpoint is to remain silent on the issue, to wash their hands of it. But for some modern Christians, this isn’t enough. So long as Christian leaders aren’t actively encouraging wives to divorce or threaten to divorce, some wives will be unwilling to use this tool to bring their husbands to submission.
Fully embracing the modern view of marriage, as a semi-permanent pairing where the wife retains the option to nuke the family should she become displeased, requires reworking Malachi 2:16 to a meaning that provides God’s blessing, if not his outright encouragement, for unhappy wives to divorce their husbands.
Joel and Kathy Davisson explain to their readers that Malachi 2:16 has been twisted by evil men who would deprive wives of the power of the threatpoint:
Yes, God hates divorce. That is obvious. God hates anything that destroys. BUT, this is NOT the central message of Malachi 2.
Years ago, Kathy experienced a rage. It lasted one day. She was totally confused as to where this rage came from and what it was all about. That evening, while we were ministering, (this was in our early years, when the marriage was rough) God spoke to Kathy and said, “The anger that you feel is what I feel about divorce. I hate divorce.” The word-picture was perfect for the message that we were sharing that night (even though our marriage was having severe troubles!) Instantly, the anger lifted and Kathy shared the experience with those in attendance.
Yes, God hates divorce. But that is NOT the central message of Malachi 2.
The REAL message of Malachi 2 has been totally ignored.
A bit further down they reveal what that real meaning is:
The real message is this:
“Men, quit all of your praying, crying and giving offerings. I am not receiving them from you. Why? Because you have dealt treacherously with your wife. You deal treacherously with your wife and then you end up divorced. This is bad. Why? Because I, God hate divorce. So, quit dealing treacherously with your wives.”
As Joel and Kathy explain, everything a husband does that displeases his Christian wife is treacherous and abusive. This is by definition, because wives are according to Joel and Kathy, responders. If a wife is treating her husband badly, or is even just unhappy, this is a sign from God that the man needs to change.
God has equipped every woman with a marriage manual in her heart, designed to instruct her husband in how to meet her unique needs.
What is so diabolically brilliant about this new feminist meaning of Malachi 2:16 is they** have twisted the passage from a condemnation of (male) divorce theft to a blessing of (female) divorce theft. At the time Malachi was written, the more common problem of divorce was men pretending to commit to their wives for life, but once the beauty and fertility of her youth was gone they would cast the wife out. The wife was duped into thinking her marriage was for life, but once it was to her husband’s advantage, she was cast out (put away), ending up destitute and separated from her children. This is the treachery the passage refers to men committing against the wives of their youth (emphasis mine):
14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
17 Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
In our modern era we are still very aware of just how treacherous this (male) form of divorce theft is. We call it “trading her in for a younger model”, and it is widely (and rightly) condemned. However, the male form of divorce theft is no longer what is driving the vast majority of divorces. In fact, divorce rates are highest when women are young, beautiful, and fertile:
The reason divorce rates drop to next to nothing when we would expect a surge of “trading her in for a younger model” divorce is that men aren’t the ones driving the modern divorce racket. A woman’s strategy for divorce treachery requires that she divorce her husband while she still has her beauty and fertility, so that she can still hope to attract another man. This is no less treacherous than the male form of divorce theft, as it also involves conning a spouse into an ostensible lifelong marriage, only to cast them out and rob them of their wealth and children.
It is this new form of divorce theft/treachery that modern Christians want to condone, and this is why Malachi 2:16 must be twisted to condone divorce theft so long as the wife is the one committing it. Joel and Kathy explain that the point of Malachi 2:16 is misapplied when it is used to tell unhappy wives they should honor their marriage vows, because the real message of the passage is that men need to keep their wives happy or the wife will be justified in casting the husband out (emphasis mine):
We have wrongly lifted three words out of context and as a result, the entire EMPHASIS of the passage has changed. As we have already pointed out, the pressure often goes on suffering women to “buck up” instead of being placed upon men to treat their wives right the way that God intended.
The message of Malachi 2 is this:
“Men, obey the Word: Quit dealing treacherously with your wives. Why? Because if you don’t, you are going to end up divorced and God hates divorce. We are not going to applaud you as a great man of God anymore if you cannot keep one little wife happy.”
*This is of course not the only place in Scripture where Christians are told that marriage is for life, but the twisting of this specific Scripture is the topic of this post.
** I’ll provide another example in part two.