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.
14. Et dixistis, In quo (vel, super quo)? Quoniam Iehova testificatus est inter te et inter uxorem adolescentiae tuae, quam tu fraudasti, (vel, erga quam tu praevaricatus es.) cum tamen ipsa esset consors tua, et uxor foederis tui.
The Prophet tells us here as before how prone the priests were to make a clamor, and it is a very common thing with hypocrites immediately to set up a shield to cover their vices whenever they are reproved; and hence it appears, that men are in a manner fascinated by Satan, when they attain such hardness as to dare to answer God, and with obstreperous words to repel all warnings. Malachi has several times already used this mode of speaking; we may hence conclude, that the people had become then so hardened that warnings were of no account with them. But he mentions one particular, by which it seems evident that they had lapsed into vices which were not to be borne. There is indeed no doubt but that he points out one of the many vices which prevailed. There is then in this verse an instance of stating one thing for the whole, as though he had said, |Your hypocrisy is extremely gross; but, to omit other things, by what pretext can you excuse this perfidy -- that there is no conjugal fidelity among you? Were there any integrity and a sense of religion in men, they would surely appear in their conjugal connection; but ye have cast away all shame, and have taken to yourselves many wives. There is then no ground for you to think that you can escape by evasions, because this one glaring vice sufficiently proves your guilt.| This is the import of the Prophet's answer.
We have indeed seen that the priests were implicated in other vices; the Prophet then does not now charge them with perfidy as though they were free from other sins, but he meant to show, as I have already said, by one thing, how wickedly and shamelessly they sought to evade God's judgment, though they had violated the marriage pledge, which was wholly to destroy the very order of nature; for there can be, as it has been already said, no chastity in social life except the bond of marriage be preserved, for marriage, so to speak, is the fountain of mankind.
But in order to press the matter more on the priests, he calls their attention to the fact that God is the founder of marriage. Testified has Jehovah, he says, between thee and thy wife He intimates in these words, that when a marriage takes place between a man and a woman, God presides and requires a mutual pledge from both. Hence Solomon, in Proverbs 2:17, calls marriage the covenant of God, for it is superior to all human contracts. So also Malachi declares, that God is as it were the stipulator, who by his authority joins the man to the woman, and sanctions the alliance: God then has testified between thee and thy wife, as though he had said, |Thou hast violated not only all human laws, but also the compact which God himself has consecrated, and which ought justly to be deemed more sacred than all other compacts: as then God has testified between thee and thy wife, and thou now deceivest her, how darest thou to come to the altar? and how canst thou think that God will be pleased with thy sacrifices or regard thy oblations?|
He calls her the wife of his youth, because the more filthy is the lust when husbands cast away conjugal love as to those wives whom they have married in their youth. The bond of marriage is indeed in all cases inviolable, even between the old, but it is a circumstance which increases the turpitude of the deed, when any one alienates himself from a wife whom he married when a girl and in the flower of her age: for youth conciliates love; and we also see that when a husband and his wife have lived together for many years, mutual love prevails between them to extreme old age, because their hearts were united together in their youth. It is not then without reason that this circumstance is mentioned, for the lust of the priests was the more filthy and as it were the more monstrous, because they forsook wives whom they ought to have regarded with the tenderest love, as they had married them when they were young: Thou hast dealt unfaithfully with her, he says, though she was thy consort and the wife of thy covenant
He calls her a consort, or companion, or associate, because marriage, we know, is contracted on this condition -- that the wife is to become as it were the half part of the man. As then the bond of marriage is inseparable, the Prophet here goads the priests, yea, touches them to the quick, when he reproves them for being unmindful of what was natural, inasmuch as they had blotted out of their minds the memory of a most sacred covenant. The wife of thy covenant is to be taken for a covenanted wife, that is, |The wife who has been united to thee by God's authority, that there might be no separation; but all integrity is violated, and as it were abolished.| He then adds