Malachi – Chapter 2

Bigamy and Getting on G-d's Nerves

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Through Malachi, G-d charges the kohanim (priests) with accepting unfit sacrifices. If they do not listen, He will curse what otherwise would be blessed. In fact, He has already begun to do so! G-d will stop the grain from growing and G-d will toss the manure of their sacrifices in their faces. G-d reminds the kohanim how He forged a covenant specifically with the Tribe of Levi, to administer to Him in the Temple. Pinchas, who was zealous for G-d, earned this covenant, which is called one of peace, for himself and his descendants. The kohanim should be pure, and they should be like representatives of G-d on Earth. The kohanim of Malachi’s day, however, have been negligent of their duty and corrupted G-d’s word; they have caused people to stumble in Torah. As they have failed to bring people closer to G-d, He has made them insignificant in the view of the nation.

Now Malachi criticizes the people for the rampant intermarriage of the day, specifically, the men took Babylonian “trophy wives,” leaving the Jewish women without mates. In response to this, G-d will prevent the offenders from having sons who are scholars or, if they are kohanim, sons who can perform the Temple service. The next complaint Malachi delivered was that already-married men took non-Jewish wives in addition to their Jewish wives. This caused them to neglect their Jewish wives in favor of the other women. This will cause G-d to refuse their sacrifices. G-d created a single couple: Adam and Eve, from whom we are all descended. Monogamy is the preferred and natural order of things. The fact that Abraham married Hagar in addition to Sarah is not a justification, as Abraham had different motivations than these people. (If anything, he did not do so until he was prodded to by Sarah, quite the opposite of what was going on in Malachi’s day!) The people must not mistreat their wives this way. If a man has a real complaint, then he should divorce her so she can marry someone else, rather than ignore and neglect her in favor of another woman.

The people have “tired” G-d by saying that G-d is okay with sin, since we’ve seen evil people prosper and good people suffer. Either G-d is okay with sinning, they figure, or there just must not be any judgment at all. This kind of talk is wrong and it really “grates on G-d’s nerves,” metaphorically speaking.

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