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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Malachi 2

Verses 1-10

SECTION II

Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:10

Rebuke of the Priests

6A son honoreth7 his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father [but if I am] where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you, O [ye] priests, that despise my name. And ye say, 7 Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer8 [offering] polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. 8And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice. It is not evil.9 And if ye offer the lame and sick, It is not evil. Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person, saith the Lord of Hosts? 9And now, I pray you, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means10 [hand]; will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of 10Hosts.11 Who is there12 even among you [O, that there were one among you !] that would shut the doors for nought?13 Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. 11For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and [ indeed, Keil and Köhler] a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts. 12But ye have profaned it, in the ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, [its food] is contemptible. 13Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it ! and ye have snuffed [puffed] at it, saith the Lord of Hosts: and ye brought that which was torn14 [stolen], and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should15 I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. But 14[And] cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing16 [an unsuitable animal]; for I am a great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.

2

1And now, O ye priests, this commandment17 [sentence, decree] is for you. If ye Will not hear, and 2if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of Hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings : yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. 3Behold, I will corrupt18 [rebuke, as in Malachi 3:11; Psalms 106:9; Isaiah 17:13] your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.19 4And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of Hosts. My 5covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. 6The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. 8But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted20 [or made void] the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of Hosts. 9Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as21 [because] ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Malachi 1:6. A son honoreth his father, etc. Jehovah expostulates with the priests for the unnaturalness of their disobedience. They stood in a peculiar relation to Him, were under peculiar obligations to sanctify Him in the eyes of the people, and yet they had profaned his name, and made Israel to sin. Jehovah begins with an indisputable moral principle. No one would deny that a son was bound to love and obey a father, and a servant to fear and obey his master. But if I am a father. He speaks in a conditional form, though Israel could not deny it, as though He would leave it to Israel to acknowledge Him as such or not. Jehovah was the Father of Israel, and Ephraim was his son. He was without dispute their master.

My honor, my fear. The suffixes are used here in an objective sense, the honor due me, the fear of me. The priests, instead of confessing their guilt, with hypocritical self-righteousness deny the charge of despising Jehovah’s name, and demand the proofs of this charge. Yet ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? A new sentence should begin with this clause.

The answer to this question is to be found in the first clause of Malachi 1:7 : Offering polluted bread.

This we regard, with Maurer and Ewald, as an answer to the question proposed in the last clause of the preceding verse. By bread is meant here not the shew bread, which was not offered upon the altar, but any sacrifices, as the mention of the blind and lame shows. Sacrifices are often called in the law, the bread or food of God; Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8; Leviticus 21:17; Leviticus 21:21-22; Leviticus 22:25; Numbers 28:2; Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 3:16. The bread is called impure, or polluted, because it does not correspond to the offering of a sacrifice with any blemish, such as blindness, or lameness, or any evil-favoredness; Leviticus 22:20; Leviticus 22:25; Deuteronomy 15:21. To pollute Jehovah is to offer polluted sacrifices. In poof of the charge against the priests, which they denied, Jehovah refers to what they said and did. They represent the altar as contemptible by their practice of offering sacrifices expressly forbidden.

The words, There is no evil, are not to be taken as a question, this would weaken their force, but are used in the sense of the priests, and in the mouth of the prophet are words of angry rebuke and bitter irony.

Malachi 1:8. The prophet now uses an argumentum ad hominem, to show that they had treated Jehovah with less respect than they would have treated any human governor. Offer it now to thy governor.

The word translated, governor, is found in Jeremiah 51:28; 1 Kings 10:15; Nehemiah 2:7; Nehemiah 5:14, and means a heathen governor of a province. To accept a person, is to be favorably disposed towards any one, to espouse his cause.

Malachi 1:9. And now I pray you, beseech God, etc. The prophet proceeds to make an application of the illustration in. Malachi 1:8. If the governor will not receive worthless gifts, how much less will Jehovah!

The challenge to the priests to beseech God has been regarded by Jerome, J. H. Michaelis, and Hitzig, as an earnest call to repentance, and prayer for God’s mercy. But as the parenthesis (This has been by your hand!) most naturally means, Such sins have been committed by you ! and seems to be inserted to reiterate the charge, and silence any reply; as the question, Will he accept your persons? intimates that God will not do so, which is never the case where there is sincere prayer for his mercy, and as the next verse expresses a wish that the doors of the Temple were altogether closed, it is better to regard it with Calvin, Maurer, Ewald, Keil, Köhler, and Henderson, as conditional, and with a shade of irony. Should you intercede with God, will He accept any? The Septuagint puts it in the first person; “Shall I accept of you your persons?” The word מִכֶּם is understood by Keil and Köhler as meaning, on your account, but it is better to regard it, with the LXX. and Maurer, as partitive and emphatic: No one of you. The prophet adds; Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, that we may not forget that what he says was inspired of God.

Malachi 1:10. Who is there among you, or rather, O, that some one among you would even shut the doors of the temple! The first clause is to be explained in accordance with a well-known Hebrew idiom as a wish, 2Sa 15:4; 2 Samuel 23:15; Psalms 4:7; Job 19:23. Jehovah is so provoked by their illegal offerings, and the spirit which actuated them, that He would gladly see his whole worship discontinued. גַם, though placed first, belongs to the whole sentence, and is emphatic. By the doors are meant the folding doors, which led from the outer court to the court of the priests, where was the altar of burnt offerings. The reason for this wish is given, that the priests may not light a fire uselessly, to no purpose, upon Jehovah’s altar. The for nought, in the first clause in our version, is unnecessary. Jehovah characterizes their sacrifices as vain, because they did not accomplish their end. Jerome, Grotius, Henderson, understand by it in vain, gratis, without payment, and refer it to the avaricious disposition of the priests; but it is better to consider it to mean, without an object, An offering (מִנְהָה), by this is meant not the unbloody sacrifice of fine wheat-flour, mentioned in Leviticus 2:1-15, but all kinds of sacrifice, as the context shows where only animal victims are spoken of, and from its use in this sense in Genesis 4:4, where Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb is called מִנְהָה, 1 Samuel 2:15; Isaiah 1:13; Zephaniah 3:10.

Malachi 1:11. For from the rising of the sun, etc. In contrast with the sacrifice which Jehovah rejects, he declares, that the hour is coming when the true worshippers, not in Jerusalem only but in every place, shall offer a pure, a sincere offering in spirit and truth, and a living sacrifice of their souls and bodies to the name of Jehovah, which has been despised. What an insight into the most distant future! How much is involved in this prophecy? The kingdom of God taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, the abrogation of the old dispensation wherein the worship of the Father was confined to one place (Deuteronomy 12:13), the coming of the hour “when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth:” the universal spread of Christianity. This prophecy is regarded by some of the Jewish Commentators, and by the Septuagint, and by Hitzig, Ewald, Maurer, Umbreit, and Köhler as a declaration of what was already the fact among the heathen who worshipped ignorantly the unknown Jehovah, under different names. If so, it would amount to the lines in Pope’s universal Prayer:—

“Father of all! in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!”

In opposing this view we first deny the fact. So far from the name of Jehovah being great among the heathen, and a pure worship offered Him, they were sunk into the most abominable and inexcusable idolatry, they worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is God over all, blessed forever! It would be in conflict with other prophecies, Isaiah 11:10; Zephaniah 2:11.Zechariah 9:10; Isaiah 66:20, and many others, which speak of such a worship as in the future.

Pocock, speaking of this Jewish interpretation, adopted by Ewald and others, well says, “What is it less than even an excuse, or apology for, if not a commendation of idolaters, and idolatry, as from the mouth of God himself, who all along showed them and their ways to be all most abominable to him.”

By incense is here meant prayer, of which it is a frequent symbol. This is admitted by the Roman Catholic commentator, Reinke, who observes. “that Malachi could not refer to literal incense is evident from the fact that the offering of incense could only take place in the temple.” If this is true of incense, why is it not true of the offering in the same sentence, associated with it here and in the law (Leviticus 2:15)? Yet Reinke understands it with the Church of Rome, as referring to the “bloodless sacrifice of the New Testament, the holy sacrifice of the Mass.” It is well known that the Church of Rome makes use of this text as its principal proof-text for the doctrine of the Mass. “That in the Mass is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead.” In the Canons of the Council of Trent, Sess. 22, we read, “that the Mass is that pure sacrifice which the Lord predicted by Malachi should be offered to his name in every place.”

Whately remarks of such a use of Scripture to support certain practices, that “the misinterpretation has sprung from the doctrine.” The doctrine has arisen first, and then the texts of Holy Writ are assigned to support it.

“In religion,
What error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text?”
The Church of Rome appeals here as elsewhere, to the almost unanimous consent of the Fathers. We may spend a little time in showing the unfairness of such an appeal, by quoting the principal passages in which they refer to this verse. They were governed by no fixed rules in their interpretation of Scripture, and were in the habit of accommodating every text which came to hand, to serve their purpose. An important distinction should be made between their interpretation and application of texts. They were given to a florid and ornate style, and their rhetoric has often been converted into logic. Köhler has very briefly brought together the principal passages from the Fathers, a synopsis of which we here give. Justin Martyr speaks of “the heathen offering to God, according to Malachi 1:11, the bread and cup of thanksgiving,” but he proceeds to explain it, as used by metonymy for the true sacrifice of prayer and praise.

Irenæus also refers one passage to the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but only in the sense, “that Christians symbolically offer bread and wine to God in proof of their thankfulness, and after the offering pray the Holy Ghost that he would render them the body and blood of Christ, so that those who received them might obtain forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.” Irenæus regards faith, obedience, praise, righteousness, and prayer as the true sacrifices.

Origen, on Prayer, proves from our passage, “that every place is adapted to prayer.”
The Apostolic Constitutions require “the faithful to assemble for prayer on the Lord’s day, in order that, according to Malachi, their sacrifice may be acceptable to God.”
Eusebius Pamphilus sees in Malachi 1:11 a prophecy of the abrogation of the Jewish ritual, “while Christians would offer to God the sacrifices of love, prayer, and remembrance of the great sacrifice, ἡ μνήμη τοῦ μεγάλου θύματος.”

Jerome, in his Commentary, explains this passage as, “spirituales victimœ sanctorum orationes Domino offerendœ.”

Augustine understands it of “works of mercy either to ourselves or to others.” “We ourselves are the best and noblest sacrifice” He speaks of the Lord’s Supper as shadowing forth the self-sacrifice of the Church to its Lord.
Chrysostom quotes this passage in proof, that the worship of God in spirit and truth should take the place of the Jewish service. He calls the Lord’s Supper only so far a sacrifice, as by the invocation of the Holy Ghost, the body and blood of the Lord are present for the enjoyment of the believers.
Cyril Alex., understands by this text in Malachi “the sacrifices of faith, hope, love, and good works which the heathen in the future shall offer.”
We thus see with what justice the Church of Rome appeals to the Fathers, and from this case we may judge of others, ab uno disce omnes. Then is not the slightest warrant to suppose any allusion to the Lord’s Supper in this verse; nothing is more common than to use sacrificial terms borrowed from the Old Testament ritual, in a spiritual sense, of the sacrifices of praise and good works, of the royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, and of the bodies of believers as living sacrifices.

Malachi 1:12. But ye profane it. The prophet renews the charge of Malachi 1:7 against the priests, that they profane the name of the Lord by offering defective animals.

And the fruit thereof, even its food. Its provision, that is, of the table, or altar, even its food.

Malachi 1:13. Ye say also, Behold what weariness! Instead of regarding their service at the altar as an honorable privilege, they look upon it as an oppressive drudgery. Ye snuff at it, you show without any concealment and publicly your contempt.

Ye bring that which was torn, or rather plundered. Two bringings are mentioned, the first preparatory to the second, when the victim was presented, ready for sacrifice. The verse closes with an appeal to the priests, as in Malachi 1:8, as to Jehovah’s acceptance of such sacrifices.

Malachi 1:14. And cursed be the deceiver. The ו here should be translated, And cursed, cursed be he, who, when the law requires a male, brings one of less value. The law permitted and enjoined sacrifices of female animals in some cases (Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 4:32; Leviticus 5:6).

We had better understand corrupt or blemished, (as in Leviticus 22:25), with Keil and Köhler, as masculine, and not as feminine, as Ewald, Maurer, Hitzig, and regard the curse as pronounced upon any one who redeemed his vow with an inferior animal.

The argument by which this rebuke is enforced is, that Jehovah is a great king, “Rex tremendœ majestatis,” and must therefore be served with reverence and godly fear.

Malachi 2:1. And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. The rebuke to the priests is now followed by a threatening of the punishment which would ensue, if they did not repent. The word מִצוָה, commandment, is to be understood as in Nahum 1:14 in the sense of decree, sentence.

Malachi 2:2. I will curse your blessings. This has been understood by De Dieu, Rosenmüller, Hitzig, in the sense of revenues. Keil and Köhler interpret it of the blessings pronounced upon the people by the priests; these God will turn into curses; but it is not necessary to depart from the common and general sense of the word. Yea, I have cursed them. This is not a simple emphatic repetition of the proceeding “I will curse, as the LXX. (Κατάρασομαί), the Targum, Vulgate, Hitzig, Umbreit, Reinke, and Henderson maintain, but as the וְגַם, requires, is to be understood of what has already taken effect, the curse has begun. So Ewald, Keil, Köhler. The singular suffix attached to blessings is distributive, referring to every blessing.

Malachi 2:3. Behold I will rebuke your seed. For you the seed, is emphatic. In Malachi 3:11 we find the same word גָעַר used in the promised blessing. I will rebuke the devourer, or the locust. In Joel 1:13 the priests are called upon to lament for the meat-offering withholden, because the seed is rotten. In Haggai 2:17 we find, “I smote you with blasting and mildew.” The passage in Joel shows, that though the priests did not till the ground, yet they were dependent for their tithes upon the harvest, so if the seed was cursed they would themselves suffer. This renders it unnecessary to change the punctuation of זֶרַע (seed) to זְרֹע (arm), with the LXX., Vulgate, Ewald, Reinke, Keil, Köhler, Pressel. Köhler has a peculiar view, that it refers to the arm which the priests raised to bless the people, but the hand would more naturally have been mentioned. It is understood by other Commentators to refer to the perquisite of the priests—the shoulder, but they were entitled not only to the shoulder but to other parts (Deuteronomy 18:3; Leviticus 7:32).

Still further to show how displeasing the conduct of the priests was in his eyes, Jehovah threatens that the dung of the victims, which was to be burned without the camp (Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 16:27), should be spread on their faces.

And ye shall be carried to it. This clause has been differently understood, some making the dung the nominative, as the Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, Ewald, Reinke, Bunsen; others, Jehovah. It is better to regard the subject as indefinite, they, some one—the people, as in John 15:6. “They shall gather them, and cast them into the fire,” or, more according to our idiom, it is to be translated ye shall be taken away with, or to it, where it is deposited, ye shall be treated as dung, as God said to Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:10). The LXX. have, “I will take you to the same.”

Malachi 2:4. Ye shall know that I have sent this sentence, etc. The word commandment is to be understood as in the first verse, as sentence, decree of punishment.

That my covenant may continue with Levi. Different interpretations have been put upon this sentence. Ewald, Reinke, Henderson, Rosenmüller translate it, Because my covenant was with Levi. Hitzig, Maurer, De Wette, Noyes, That my covenant might rémain with Levi.

The view more generally adopted and advocated by Luther, Calvin, Umbreit, Keil, Köhler, Pressel, is, that my covenant is the predicate, and that the decree of punishment is to be henceforth God’s covenant, that according to which he should deal with Levi, or the priests; the decree of punishment shall take the place of the earlier covenant with the priests. The objections to this interpretation are, that it is not plain and simple; that a different form of expression would have been made use of had this been the meaning, such as—My decree shall be instead of my Covenant; that covenant is immediately after used in its common sense; and that Levi, or the priesthood, is regarded as one throughout.

We may understand it as an elliptical construction. This decree is sent to you, that by your laying it to heart my covenant may be, may continue to be with Levi, as it was in the beginning, which he goes on to speak of; that you may not make null and void the covenant made in the beginning with Levi, and which Jehovah would have continued in his posterity.

Malachi 2:5. My covenant with him was (of) life and peace, etc. Jehovah now speaks of the nature of the covenant made with Levi, or the priesthood, in order to contrast the character of the priests with that of their pious predecessors.

My covenant with him was life and peace. These nouns are not in the genitive, as the Septuagint, Vulgate, and the English Version make them, but are the nominative of the predicate. It is not necessary to confine this description to Phinehas, as Henderson does, though in Numbers 25:12 they are specially addressed to him.

And I gave them to him for fear. The design of the Covenant was to inspire him with holy fear and reverence. For fear, put by metonymy for the effect of fear; and the original priesthood corresponded to this divine intention: And he reverenced my name.

Malachi 2:6. The law of truth was in his mouth, etc. His exposition of the law was according to truth, its true nature, and there was found in him no perverseness, no self-seeking, nor partiality. Thus he walked in most intimate and endearing communion with Jehovah, as did Noah and Enoch, in integrity of heart and life, and by his faithful instructions and warnings turned many to righteousness. Thus he fulfilled the design of the priesthood, which was to expound and apply to every case the will of God, as expressed in his law, and to be always ready to instruct the people. It was for this end the priesthood was appointed of God.

Malachi 2:7. The priest is an angel, or messenger of Jehovah to negotiate the grand concerns of judgment and of mercy. This is the only passage, with the exception of Haggai 1:14, where it is applied to the prophet, where we meet with such an application. Elsewhere it is applied to the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the Presence, the Angel of the Covenant, in whom God revealed Himself, and through whom He transacted with man from the beginning.

Malachi 2:8. But ye have departed from the way. Jehovah now reminds the priests how very different they were from their pious fathers. They had respect of persons; they had taught for hire (Micah 3:11). By their example and false expositions of the law they had misled many, and plunged them into sin, guilt, and perdition. They had made the law itself, instead of being a light and lamp to the people, a stumbling-block. As a just retribution for their sin, Jehovah will abandon them to the contempt of all Israel. According, in our version, should be rather, because.

DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL

Matthew Henry: “Nothing profanes the name of God more than the misconduct of those whose business it is to do honor to it.”

Malachi 2:7 (1). What is the duty of ministers? The priests’ lips should keep knowledge, not keep it from his people, but keep it for them. Ministers must be men of knowledge, for how are they able to teach others the things of God who are themselves unacquainted with these things, or unready in them? They must keep knowledge, must furnish themselves with it, and retain what they have got, that they may be like the good householder, who brings out of his treasury things new and old. Not only their heads, but their lips must keep knowledge; they must not only have it but they must have it ready, must have it at hand, must have it, as we say, at their tongues’ end, to be communicated to others, as there is occasion.

(2.) What is the duty of the people? They should seek the law at his mouth; they should consult the priests, and not only hear the message, but ask questions upon it, that they may the better understand it. We must not only consult the written Word, but must have recourse to God’s messengers’ and desire instruction and advice from them in the affairs of our souls, as we do from physicians and lawyers concerning our bodies and estates.

Malachi 2:8. The feeling of proper reverence for God and the services of his altar would indeed alone have dictated that what was offered to him should be the best and most perfect of its kind. Even the heathen were sensible of this propriety, and were careful that their victims were without blemish or imperfection. Thus, Homer in the Iliad, 1:66, makes Achilles propose to consult some priest, prophet, or interpreter of dreams to know whether the angry Apollo might not be, “Soothed with steam of lambs or goats unblemished.” Cowper’s Transl.)

Maimonides says: “There were no less than fifty blemishes, enumerated by him, which rendered an animal unfit to be offered on the Lord’s altar.”

Wordsworth: On Malachi 2:7. The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, a memorable statement. The offering of sacrifices was indeed an essential part of the priestly office; but Malachi declares that all sacerdotal sacrifices are of no avail without religious knowledge, sound learning, and wholesome teaching. The first duty of the Levitical Priests,—and how much more of the Christian!—was to keep, or preserve knowledge; the knowledge of God as revealed in his holy Word, and so to discharge their sacred office, that, according to the Word of God, the people should resort to them for instruction in holy things, and not resort in vain, and unless this was done by them all their offerings and sacrifices were nugatory, and God would “spread dung on their faces,” in token of his displeasure. Here is a solemn warning to the Christian clergy. If such was the duty of the Levitical priesthood, and such the penalty of not performing it aright, how much more imperative is the obligation of the Christian Priest to “keep knowledge,” and to instruct the people in sound doctrine; or, as St. Paul expresses it, “to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, to meditate on these things, and give himself wholly to them,” to speak the things which become sound doctrine, to hold fast the faithful word, so that he may be able by sound doctrine to convince the gainsayers. And how much surer will be his punishment if he fails to discharge it! It is to be feared that this warning is greatly needed at the present day. The clergy of the Eastern Church, especially in Asia and Greece, have been degraded to a low condition with regard to religious and secular knowledge. Celebrated Roman Catholic writers deplore the ignorance of a great part of their clergy, consisting of mere illiterate Mass-Priests. See Dr. Dollinger’s The Church and the Churches.

In Protestant Germany the theological chairs of the universities are filled by those who have no pastoral experience in the cure of souls, and have none of that wisdom which is found at the side of sick beds and death-beds, and in church-yards at the grave, and have no mission from Christ, and no unction from the Holy Ghost; and many among them treat the Holy Scriptures as if they were a mere common book. Hence the theological teaching of the Schools has been divorced from the Christian Priesthood.”

W. Pressel: The requisition of the Old Covenant that the sacrifices offered should be unblemished and perfect, and that by a defective sacrifice the altar of God and the offerer himself were polluted, grew out of the truth which Malachi here in most convincing language represents to the priests, that defective offerings betray a defective disposition, a want of reverence for the Holy God. In the New Covenant, where all sacrificial worship has ended, this rebuke applies to all divided service of God, to all half Christianity, and to all those Christians, who, not influenced by reverence of the Holy One, and by earnestness in sanctification, think to discharge their Christian duty by certain ceremonies or good works. Where this is the case with ministers of the Gospel there is, as in the case of the Priests, double guilt, partly because they preach what they themselves do not practice, and partly, because they thereby cause a special scandal. The motives of the majesty of God, the example of the first priests, and the dignity of their calling to be a messenger of Jehovah, apply with no less force to those under the New Covenant. These arguments will have little effect, where personal thankfulness to God for his great love to us in Christ, and concern for our salvation through Him are wanting, but where they animate ministers of the Gospel, they must urge them to fulfill more truly and actively their high calling.

HOMILETICAL REMARKS BY PRESSEL

The close connection of the first and fourth commandments. He only, who has a lively sense of the presence of his God and Father, will honor and obey the fourth commandment, and he only, who knows what an earthly Lord and Father must require of his own, will feel himself impelled to obey the first commandment. In what way can we now pollute the table of the Lord? (1.) In the Sacrament, when we ourselves partake of it unworthily, or do not enough arouse the consciences of others. (2.) In life, when we allow in ourselves or in others committed to us, a half-way devotedness to the Lord.

How far does the seventh verse apply to a minister of the Gospel? He is still a Priest, so far as he should point to the sacrifice on Golgotha, and should bear his Church upon his interceding heart, and should bless them in the name of Jesus Christ. He is still a messenger of God to those committed to him, and should preserve his Word in the Church, should teach young and old out of it, and should testify fearlessly and faithfully what the Lord bids him testify.

Footnotes

Malachi 1:6; Malachi 1:6.—יְכַבֵּד is not to be understood as Jussive, in the sense of a should honor, but as a future of custom or usage. The suffix in כְּבוֹדִי, my honor, is objective, as in Genesis 9:2; Exodus 20:17; Psalms 90:11.

Malachi 1:7; Malachi 1:7.—The first clause is the answer to the last clause of Malachi 1:6 מַנִּיש is used in Malachi 2:12; Malachi 3:3, and in Leviticus 2:8, Amos 5:25, of offering. קַרב, used in Malachi 1:8 : Offer it now to thy governor, is the more common word for offering.

Malachi 1:8; Malachi 1:8.—No question. This greatly weakens its force.

Malachi 1:9; Malachi 1:9.—Means (Hebrew יָד, hand.)

Malachi 1:10; Malachi 1:10.—מִכֶּם, not causal, but emphatic, and partitive.

Malachi 1:10; Malachi 1:10.—Who is there, etc., for: O, that there were! For the Hebrew idiom, expressing a wish, see Psalms 4:7; 2 Samuel 15:4; 2 Samuel 23:15; Job 29:23.

Malachi 1:10; Malachi 1:10.—הִנָּם, to no purpose, not gratis.

Malachi 1:13; Malachi 1:13.—גָזוּל, stolen, not torn.

Malachi 1:13; Malachi 1:13.—מַתְּלָאָה for מה־תְּלָאה.

Malachi 1:14; Malachi 1:14.—מָשְׁחַת. Fem. Part. Hophal. The old versions, and many modern commentators, punctuate it with a final Kamets, as masculine. It occurs in this form in Proverbs 25:26. It corresponds to זַכָר, male.

Malachi 2:1; Malachi 2:1.—מִצְוָה, sentence.

Malachi 2:3; Malachi 2:3.—גָרַו. This verb, translated “corrupt,” occurs twelve times elsewhere, and is always translated: rebuke.

Malachi 2:3; Malachi 2:3.—לָכֶם. Dative of disadvantage.

Malachi 2:8; Malachi 2:8.—שָׁתַת, to make void.

Malachi 2:9; Malachi 2:9.—כְּפִי, because (De Wette, dafür) (Köhler, Dieweil).

Verses 10-16

SECTION III

Against unlawful Divorce, and Marriages with Heathen Wives

Malachi 2:10-16

10Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the1 [holy people] of the Lord, which he loves, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar2 [the waker and the answerer], out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of Hosts. 13And this have ye done again3 [as a second thing], covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 14Yet ye say, Wherefore4 [doth he not accept]? 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. 15And did not he make one [flesh]? 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. 16For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth [I hate divorce] putting away; for one covereth violence with his garment [covers his garment with cruelty], saith the Lord of Hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

We have here a new subject without any connection with what precedes. The Prophet, in the name of Jehovah, rebukes their marriages with foreigners, and their divorce of their lawful wives. As his manner is, he first lays down an indisputable axiom as the basis of his reproofs.

Malachi 2:10. Have we not all one Father? Jerome, Calvin, and others understand by one father here, Abraham: Pocock, Scott, and Henry, Jacob. The obvious objection to this view is that Abraham was the father not of the Jews only, but of the Ishmaelites and Edomites. The best recent Commentators understand by it Jehovah. This makes it parallel with Malachi 1:6, where Jehovah styles himself the Father of Israel.

Divorce is a violation of the relation sustained to Jehovah, as a common father, and it is dealing treacherously with our fellow creature, one against another (literally, a man against his brother); it is further a profanation of the covenant which Jehovah made with his chosen people, out of which there grew specific duties and obligations not to marry idolatresses, or the daughters of a strange God. The Prophet classes himself with the offenders, as it was a national sin. The Septuagint has changed the suffixes here, “Has not one God created you? Why have ye forsaken,” etc.

The law of Moses prohibited all marriages with the heathen, lest the Israelites should be led into idolatry (Exodus 34:11; Deuteronomy 7:1-4).

Malachi 2:11. Judah hath dealt treacherously. He now proceeds to specify their sins. Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem are here only different designations of the same persons. Jerusalem is probably mentioned, to show that the sin was aggravated by being committed in the holy city.

The Prophet stigmatizes their unlawful divorce as an abomination, and as such to be classed with idolatry, witchcraft, and adultery. In the last clause he characterizes their intermarriages with the daughters of a strange god (or worshippers, by a well-known Hebrew idiom), as a profanation of the holy seed (Ezra 9:2), for Israel was holiness to the Lord (Jeremiah 2:3).

Malachi 2:12. Jehovah will cut off, etc. The Prophet denounces the judgment of Jehovah upon every one out of the tents of Jacob, who commits this sin. We must connect “out of the tents of Jacob” with cut off.”

The apocopated form of the future expresses a wish that such may be the case. To express the universality of this judgment that no one should escape, not even in their posterity, we have a proverbial phrase, which has been variously interpreted. Our version has translated it, the master and the scholar, as the Vulgate, magistrum et discipulum. This too is the Rabbinical explanation followed by Luther, Pocock, Henry, Scott. Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Maurer, Reinke, Keil, Noyes, Henderson, De Wette, J. D. Michaelis, translate it, the watcher and the answerer. Calvin understands it of the master and servant: “Every one who was in power, and could command others,” and by the answerer, “the servant, who received and obeyed orders.” The Targum, Syriac, Ewald, son and grandson. Fürst, Munster, Hitzig, Dietrich, the caller and the answerer.

Malachi 2:13. And this ye do as a second thing. Henderson understands this of time, that the people had relapsed into their old sins in the time of Ezra, but it is better to understand it of a second sin, in addition to marrying heathen wives, of divorcing their Jewish wives. The Septuagint reads it, I hated, and mistook the word.

The greatness of their sin is enlarged upon Their divorced wives repair to the altar of Jehovah, there to pour out their hearts before Him, and to complain of their cruel treatment, and to seek his help. The last clause of Malachi 2:13 shows that Jehovah will not accept the sacrifice, nor bless the worshipper.

Malachi 2:14. Yet ye say, wherefore? That is, wherefore doth He not accept?

The people addressed refusing to be ashamed, and to confess their guilt, shamelessly ask the reason of their rejection. The Prophet now addresses each one personally. Jehovah has been a witness. Köhler understands this, as in Malachi 3:5, of an avenging witness, but as we have in Genesis 31:48 a similar expression. “This heap is a witness between me and thee,” where the same words occur in Hebrew, we must regard it with Keil, Henderson, and others, as meaning that God was a witness to the marriage, or to the covenant made between the parties. The divorced wife is now tenderly called the wife of thy youth, who has been the choice of thy youth, the partner of thy joys and sorrows, and the wife of thy covenant, with whom thou didst make a covenant for life.

Malachi 2:15. But did not he make one only. And yet had he a residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? He sought a godly race. We come now to the most difficult verse of all others in the prophecy. There has been an extraordinary difference of opinion as to its construction and sense. Köhler styles it most justly a crux interpretum. The Septuagint translator seems to have given his understanding a holiday, and made his pen supply its place. Not a spark of light can be struck from the words, and nothing but words. The subject under discussion is divorce. In the preceding verse, to add sanctity to the marriage tie, Jehovah is said to have been a witness of it, and the wife is to be regarded as bound by a solemn covenant to the husband. What more natural now than that the prophet should recall the institution of marriage in the beginning, as of divine sanction? This would be a conclusive argument, and is the very one our Saviour made use of, when speaking of divorce, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, wherefore, they are no more twain, but one flesh.” The argument is introduced abruptly. Did not Jehovah make one? The word אֶחָד, to a Jew, perfectly familiar with בָּשָר אֶחָד in Genesis, would immediately suggest the one flesh, the one pair, of Genesis 2:24.

And wherefore one? In the Hebrew, one has the article, הָאֶחָד, and must be understood of the same subject with the preceding, אֶחָד. And wherefore did he make one pair? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit? This applies most naturally to the life-giving spirit of God—his creative power, not exhausted, for He might have made many women for one man.

That he might seek a godly seed. The design of God was to perpetuate a godly seed. This is counteracted by frequent divorce.

Most English commentators adopt this interpretation. Another view has been advocated by Jerome, Ewald, Reinke, Böttcher, and others, which makes Jehovah the subject, instead of the object. They are led to this view by Malachi 2:10, “Hath not one God created us?” They therefore translate it, “And did not one (the same God) create them, And what did the one seek?”

Another class of commentators refer the one to Abraham, and translate the clause, But did not the single one do it? And yet a divine Spirit remained to him. But what did the single one do? They regard the one as a designation of Abraham, and found their opinion on Isaiah 51:2, I called him alone, and Ezekiel 33:24, where Abraham is spoken of as one in opposition to the many of the people. In both these passages there is an express mention of Abraham, which is not the case here. They consequently understand, Yet had he the residue of the Spirit as meaning, that he remained a good man.

Still another interpretation is adopted by a considerable number of commentators, that there is no question but a simple affirmation: לֹא אֶחָד is to be translated no one, that the object of made is to be supplied from the previous sentence, that by the residue of the spirit is meant, any portion of reason, any sense of right and wrong. The one of the second clause they refer to Abraham. The whole verse would then be translated, “No one, who has a sense of right and wrong, has done what you are doing. And what did the one do?” They suppose that the guilty parties were wont to appeal to the case of Abraham to justify their conduct, and that the answer shows that his case was no precedent. There are very serious objections to this view. We have to supply the object of עָשָה, made, and the predicate of הָאֶחָד in the second clause. The position of וְלֹא, and the question in the second clause, render it probable that it is a question. Had the Prophet meant to say, that no one ever did so, he would have used אֵין אִיש, as Genesis 39:11, or simply אֵין.

Further, to understand the residue of the spirit of any reason, or moral sense, is strained, and lastly, אֶחָד refers to two different subjects, according to this view, first, to “no one,” and, secondly, to Abraham, though the article is used, referring it back to the former.

There is an interpretation adopted by Fairbairn and Moore, which refers the one to the one chosen seed, the holy nation, but this strikes us as by no means so consistent and forcible as the one which refers it to the one flesh.

Malachi 2:15. Therefore take heed. Then follows a warning against the sin rebuked. The perfect with vav must be translated as imperative, as is often the case. To take heed to your spirit is to take heed to yourself (Deuteronomy 4:15; Joshua 23:11).

Let no one deal treacherously. The third person is here used for the second in the previous clause. This is often the case where there is no change of subject. There is no advantage in following the LXX. and retaining the second person.

Malachi 2:16. For I hate divorce. The Prophet here gives the reason of the warning. Jehovah says, “I hate divorce.” The LXX., Vulgate, and Luther, construe this very differently as a permission of divorce; If thou hate her put her away. But this is inconsistent with the context, which condemns divorce; it is in opposition to the law which permits divorce only for some great misconduct, “some unclean thing,” and which (Deuteronomy 21:15) requires the husband to maintain a hated wife. In favor of the translation, adopted by Köhler, Keil, Henderson, I hate divorce, may be urged, that the form may be considered as a participle, that the first person is often understood before participles, that, saith Jehovah, God of Israel, which follows in the Hebrew, implies that Jehovah is speaking directly in his own person.

Malachi 2:16. And him who covers with violence his garment. The design of this clause, parallel to and coördinate with, I hate divorce, is to express more emphatically the consequences and enormity of the sin, that it is exceedingly heinous, and the height of cruelty. We read in Psalms 109:18; Psalms 109:29, of being clothed with cursing as with a garment, of being clothed with shame. We find the same construction of כִּסָּה with עַל in Numbers 16:33; Psalms 106:15; Habakkuk 2:14, where the object covered is preceded by עַל as here. “The earth covered them,” “And covered the company of Abiram,” “As the waters cover the sea.” We therefore understand the relative, which is frequently omitted, and regard this clause as the continuation of the preceding, “I hate divorce,” only with a more emphatic statement. Most of the recent commentators understand by his garment, his wife. This, says Köhler, is a very uncertain and rare Arabic idiom, and contrary to all Hebrew usage. Nor is it at all necessary, as the interpretation we have given does not introduce a different idea, and is confirmed by the following, “saith the Lord of Hosts.”

DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL

The frequency of divorce in the United States, so that in one of the States divorce is allowed for “misconduct,” reveals the same state of things existing now, as was here condemned by Jehovah, and must bring with it the same evils, and the same punishment. What tongue can adequately tell, what heart conceive, the untold misery from this cause, especially to the deserted wives, and the children left without a mother’s care! How little is the indissoluble nature of the marriage relation regarded! and the fact, that the Lord was the witness of it, and will be a swift witness against those who violate it! The Saviour only allows of one cause of divorce, and regards divorce for any other as adultery.

Matthew Henry: “The poor wives were ready to break their hearts, and not daring to make their case known to any other, they complained to God, and covered the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying. This is illustrated by the case of Hannah, who, upon the account of her husband’s having another wife (though otherwise a kind husband) and the discontent thence arising, fretted and wept, was in bitterness of soul, and would not eat. It is a reason given why husbands and wives should live in holy love, that their prayers be not hindered. The Lord has been witness to the marriage covenant between thee and her, for to Him you appealed concerning your sincerity in it and fidelity to it; He has been a witness to all the violations of it, and is ready to judge between thee and her. It is highly aggravated by the consideration of the persons wronged and abused. First, she is thy wife, thy own, bone of thy bone, and flesh of thy flesh; the nearest to thee of all the relations thou hast in the world, and to cleave to whom thou must quit the rest, Secondly. She is the wife of thy youth, who had thy affections when they were at the strongest, was thy first choice, and with whom thou hast lived long. Let not the darling of thy youth be the scorn and loathing of thy age. Thirdly. She is thy companion; she has long been an equal sharer with thee in thy cares and griefs and joys. Fourthly, she is the wife of thy covenant, to whom thou art so firmly bound, that, while she continues faithful, thou canst not be loosed from her, for it was a covenant for life. Married people should often call to mind their marriage vows, and review them with all seriousness, as those that make conscience of performing what they promised.

Moore: The phrases, “wife of thy youth,” and “companion” are thrown in to show the aggravated nature of this offense. “She whom you thus wronged was the companion of those earlier and brighter days, when in the bloom of her young beauty she left her father’s house, and shared your early struggles, and rejoiced in your later success; who walked arm-in-arm with you along the pilgrimage of life, cheering you in its trials by her gentle ministry; and now, when the bloom of her youth is faded, and the friends of her youth have gone, when father and mother whom she left for you are in the grave, then you cruelly cast her off as a worn-out, worthless thing, and insult her holiest affections by putting another in her place.” There is something very touching in these allusions to the aggravations of this wrong, arising from the tender associations and memories of youth.

Pressel, on Malachi 2:10 : Have we not all one Father? No faith without love, arid no love without faith. He who keeps the Father and Creator of all men before his eyes must love all men as his brethren, and he who recognizes in other men his brethren must in the Creator of all men love the Father. The prophet’s mode of reasoning is not unlike that of the Apostle John in his First Epistle, John 3:17; John 4:20-21; John 4:20-21. The reference of the prophet to the Heavenly Father is a glimpse in the Old Testament of a doctrine which was not fully brought to light till the time of the New Testament.

On Malachi 2:14. Jehovah is witness between thee and the wife of thy youth. This might be made use of as a solemn warning by a minister against divorce, whether intended or accomplished, as it represents to us the sanctity of marriage, and at the same time awakens in the hearts of the married all lovely and sweet recollections.

On Malachi 2:15. He who regards the divine Spirit within us will be proof against the lusts of the flesh. He who indulges these lusts drives away from his heart more and more the residue of the divine Spirit.

Footnotes:

Malachi 2:10; Malachi 2:10.—בּגַד to deal treacherously, to be unfaithful, is used in Malachi 2:11; Malachi 2:14-16.

Malachi 2:11; Malachi 2:11. בַּת—is used here, as often, in the sense of worshipper, or servant. קֹדֶש means here, holy seed, not holiness, as Henry, Scott.

Malachi 2:12; Malachi 2:12.—יַכְרֵת jussive form. The master and the scholar. So Vulgate. A proverb like: none shut up or left (Deuteronomy 32:36); the deceicer and deceived (Job 12:16; Job 18:19); son nor nephew, to express totality by opposites. Out of the tents, is to be connected with “cut off.”

Malachi 2:16; Malachi 2:16.—The perfect with vav con. must here be translated as imperative, as in 1 Kings 2:6.

Verse 17

SECTION IV

The sending of Jehovah’s Messenger. The coming of the Angel of the Covenant to judge, but not to utterly destroy Israel (Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 3:7)

17Ye 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?

Malachi 3:0

1Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly1 [unexpectedly] come to his temple, even the messenger [angel, ἀγγελός, LXX.] of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts. 2But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap [lye]; 3And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. 4Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old, and as in former years. 5And I will come near to you to judgment: and I will be a swift2 witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress3 the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside [ plural. The Keri reads singular] the stranger from his right, and 6fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts. For I am the Lord, 4I change not [For I, Jehovah, change not]; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Malachi 3:17. Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. This verse should have been the first verse of the third chapter, for a new subject begins here, having no very close connection with what precedes. The prophet is here opposing the unbelief of a class, who, like the Pharisees, served God, kept his ordinance, and walked mournfully before Him, but who lost their faith in Providence, when God delayed to punish the wicked, and who complained, not in words perhaps, for, as Cocceius remarks, “Scripture is wont to ascribe to the wicked expressions suitable to their character,”—that He treated all alike, for if this was not the case, why did He not punish the wicked? That by the “doers of evil” here, and by the sorcerers, adulterers, false swearers, and oppressors of Malachi 3:5, and by the proud (Malachi 3:15), are meant sinners of the Jews, and not of the Gentiles, seems perfectly evident, for these were offenses against the law of Moses. The prophecy had nothing to do with the heathen, who were without the pale of the Covenant. Such a denunciation of God’s judgment upon the heathen would have gratified the haughty and intolerant spirit of the Jews. Strange to say, this reference has been made by Jerome, Hengstenberg, Hitzig, Reinke, Bunsen, Keil. The burden of the third chapter is, Maranatha! The Lord cometh!

Malachi 3:1. Behold, I will send my Messenger. The prophet now opposes to the unbelief of the people Jehovah’s own word. He will come for judgment, but before his coming, He will send his messenger to prepare his way. It is not said, a Messenger, but his Messenger, the one familiar to them from Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 40:3), where the Hebrew words, to prepare the way, are identical with those here. The crier of Isaiah is here described as the Messenger of Jehovah. In both prophecies his office is the same. That Malachi is not here speaking of himself, nor of an ideal person, in whom the whole prophetic order culminated, as Hengstenberg maintains, is clear from the fact that this messenger is called in ch 4:5 Elijah, the prophet; that our Lord, speaking of John the Baptist, declares, “This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27), and that Mark makes use of this prophecy as fulfilled in John, quoting it, indeed, as from Isaiah, because he was the Major Prophet, according to Tregelles’ text of Mark 1:2 : “Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord, their God, and he shall go before him (i. e., the Lord, their God, the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord of Malachi 3:1) in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:16).

Malachi 3:1. The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the Angel of the Covenant. The Lord, whom ye seek, refers back to the preceding verse, where is the God of Judgment? The word Lord, אָדוֹן, with the article, is applied only to God. In the parallel clause, even the angel of the covenant, he is designated by a peculiar title expressing his office, as this is the only place where this official title occurs, it requires explanation.

From a very early period we find mention of an extraordinary Messenger, or Angel, who is sometimes called the Angel of God, at others, the Angel of Jehovah. He is represented as the Mediator between the invisible God and men in all God’s communications and dealings with men. To this Angel divine names, attributes, purposes, and acts are ascribed. He occasionally assumed a human form, as in his interviews with Hagar, Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Gideon, Manoah, and his wife. He went before the camp of Israel on the night of the Exodus. In Exodus 23:20, Jehovah said, “Behold, I send an angel before thee to bring thee into the place, which I have prepared. My name is in him.” In Isaiah 63:9 he is called the Angel of his Presence, or face, where there is a reference to Exodus 33:14-15, where Jehovah said to Moses, “My presence (or Hebrew, My face) shall go with thee, and Moses said, If thy face go not with us, carry us not up hence.” He is called the face of God, because though no man can see his face and live, yet the Angel of his face is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. In him Jehovah’s presence is manifested, and his glory reflected, for the glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ. There is thus a gradual development in the Old Testament of the doctrine of the incarnation, of the distinction of persons in the Godhead, not brought to light fully, lest it should interfere with the doctrine of the unity of God. (For a more full discussion of the Angel of Jehovah, see Hengstenberg’s Christology, vol. 1. p. 161, Keith’s Translation; Lange On Genesis, p. 386; Keil On Genesis, p. 184).

We would further remark that of the Covenant has been understood by most Commentators, as referring to the New Covenant of which Jesus is the Mediator (Hebrews 9:15). Köhler and Keil understand by it the Old Covenant, in which God promised to dwell with his people. In that case, the Angel is the Mediator of the Old Covenant. But we need not restrict it to either, but consider it applicable to both, to all God’s covenant relations to man. Behold he shall come must be predicated of the covenant angel.

Malachi 3:2. But who may abide the day of his coming. We find similar language in Joel 2:11 : “The day of the Lord is great and very terrible, and who can abide it?” The question, who shall abide it, is an emphatic negative, no one can abide it. As the Lord is a righteous judge, the day in which He comes must be a day of decisive judgment. As Augustine says, “The first and second advent of Christ are here brought together.” Malachi sees the great white throne in the background. In the last clause of this verse he gives the reason why it is impossible to endure it, since He is like the fire of the refiner, which separates all dross, and like the lye of the washer, which cleanses all stains.

The word ברִית, which is translated in our version soap, occurs only here and in Jeremiah 2:22. Soap was unknown to the ancients, and this was a vegetable substance, from the saltwort, which was burned and water poured on its ashes.

Malachi 3:3. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. In the second verse the Lord is the fire; here by a flight change in the figure, he is the smelter, who lets the pure metal flow off, while the dross remains behind. He shall sit is pictorial to make the figure more striking.

This judgment begins at the house of God, with the priests who stand in the closest relation to Him. This purification will result in the cutting off the impenitent, and in the reformation of those who repent, so that they offer sacrifices in a proper state of heart, in righteousness.

Malachi 3:4. Then shall the offering, etc. When the priests are thus purified, then the sacrifice of the whole nation will be acceptable, as in the early and better times, as in the days of David, to the Lord. The Masora remarks, that the prophetic lesson for the Sabbath before the Passover begins here and ends with the prophecy. This lesson was selected because of the injunction in Malachi 3:4, to remember the law of Moses.

Malachi 3:5. And I will come near to you to judgment. The prophet proceeds to show that the coming judgment will not be only upon the priests but upon all the people. He will practically convince the wicked by his judgment, and that too unexpectedly, and thus will be a swift witness. The sins specified here were all sins against the law of Moses, some of them to be capitally punished. The Jews were very much addicted from this time onward, as Josephus and the New Testament testify, to sorcery, or witchcraft. The oppressors are mentioned. Those who oppress the wages of the hireling. This verb is followed by the accusative of the person, excepting here, and in Micah 2:2. That turn aside the stranger (Deuteronomy 27:19), or oppress him. The tenderest love to the stranger is everywhere breathed in the law (Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Deuteronomy 27:19).

Malachi 3:6. For I Jehovah change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Jehovah is not here the predicate, as in our version and Luther’s, but is in apposition with the pronoun I, in contrast with the sons of Jacob. For is causal. It is because Jehovah is unchangeable in his gifts and calling, that He will not suffer Israel wholly to perish, though their sins deserved their destruction. He must accomplish his purposes of mercy. Köhler finds in the phrase sons of Jacob, an intimation that they resembled Jacob in character before he became Israel, but it is better to regard it as an emphatic expression for the covenant nation. These do not perish, because their existence rests upon the promise of the unchangeable God, as Moore remarks, “The sons of Jacob shall not be consumed, the seed of Christ shall not perish. The unchangeableness of God is the sheet-anchor of the Church.”

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

E. Pocock: On Malachi 3:1. He should come unawares when men should not think on or be aware of Him. By the temple no doubt is meant the temple at Jerusalem, then lately built after their return from the Babylonish captivity, which, whatever alterations were made in it, was still looked upon as one till the time it was destroyed by the Romans; and by the Jews called the Second Temple in respect to that former, built by Solomon, and destroyed by the Chaldæans. To this temple it is here said, that the Lord here, spoken of should come; and so did Christ whom we say o be that Lord; and of his coming to it and his appearances there at several times we read, He was there first presented by his mother (Luke 2:22); there again, when He was twelve years old, found sitting among the doctors (3:46), where, in his answer to his mother who told him that they had sought Him sorrowing, He may seem to allude even to this prophecy, “Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?” Was it not foretold that He should come to the temple? Was not that the proper place for Him to be in, and or them to look after Him in? Several other times we read of his going to it, preaching in it, received with Hosannahs, exercising his authority in it, in purging it, and vindicating the dignity of it, and driving out thence those that profaned it. Any of these appearances there is sufficient to prove in and by Him to have been made good that which we take to be the main drift of this expression in this prophecy, namely, that the Lord (Christ or Messiah) here spoken of was to come while the temple (that temple then built) was standing; which is likewise evidently foretold by the Prophet Haggai (Malachi 2:7), that into it should come the desire of all nations, and it should be filled with glory, yea, that thereby the glory of that latter house should be greater than that of the former (Malachi 3:9), though it were then in their eyes as nothing in comparison with it (Malachi 3:3).

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Pressel, on Malachi 3:17. Where is the God of judgment? The judgment of the world and of Scripture as to the riddle of human destiny; or, there is a God, who lives to avenge and punish,—a truth which even men of the world admit, but which only lovers of the truth rightly understand. Ye have wearied, etc. Whereby is the God of infinite patience wearied? Not by our prayers. Not even by our infirmities, but indeed by our hardness and stubbornness, which will not confess our guilt, and be converted.

On Malachi 3:1. Though there are quotations from the Old Testament in the New, which are to be regarded only as an application, though never a random one, of the language of the Old, yet, in all the quotations, which are accompanied by an explanation from the Lord Himself, or his Apostles, we have the most certain commentary, which informs us how the Old Testament writer himself understood, and how he would have others understand his prophecy. On this ground, such an interpretation of Malachi 3:1, as Hengstenberg and others have given, is untenable; for when the Lord Himself (Matthew 9:10; Luke 7:27) says, “This is he of whom it is written,” we must understand by, “my messenger,” a definite person, first named by Malachi, and not the collective body of the prophets, extending down to John the Baptist. If there is to be a second coming of our Lord, it may be assumed that the prophecy before us will be fulfilled in all its particulars, and for the very reason that Malachi knows no difference between a first and second coming of the Lord, and his Messiah. Now it cannot but be expected, that the second coming of the Lord will be accompanied with the same purification as the first was in the children of Israel and that the process of this purification will have the same general cause and result. Though this is to be expected, it by no means follows that this will be accomplished by a second sending of John the Baptist, or by the sending of only one man, after the manner of Elijah, since the person of the Lord Himself is carefully to be distinguished from that of his forerunner: the Lord is one; the forerunner, whether John an Elijah, may be more than one; the Lord is for all nations; Elijah and John only for the people of Israel; and when the second coming of the Lord is at hand, there may be also among the different nations of the world, different messengers, like Elijah and John, to prepare the way of the Lord, as indeed the Revelation of John speaks, in the eleventh chapter, of two such witnesses.

On Malachi 3:5. We need only further remark, that between the first and second coming of our Lord, a process of purification takes place in portions of Christendom, by virtue of which the impure elements will be cast off, the hollowness and profanation of God’s service and the Christian character will be exposed, and the true Christian will go to meet his future glory, as after all his inevitable, and often fiery trials, he reflects the image of his God and Saviour.

Among the commentators on the Prophets, we must reckon the great Handel, for he has in such a way illustrated to the world their most weighty prophecies in his Oratorio of the Messiah, that we cannot read them without being reminded of his musical commentary, and thereby be inspired, as it were, to interpret them. This is specially true of this last prophecy of the Old Testament.

On Malachi 3:1 : Behold, the day cometh! Two Advent questions: Dost thou believe in the coming of the Lord in humiliation? and dost thou hope for his coming in glory? The world may believe or not, the Lord cometh: the world may prepare itself, or not, the Lord judges. This first Advent teaches us the former, and his second Advent the latter. After perhaps the hymn has been sung, “All Christians wait for thee, O Son of God !” can we also say, “And love thy appearing”

The Lord once said, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed,” and it remains true down to the second coming. Notwithstanding God calls to his people, Behold! for true faith has its eyes open for that which happened at the first coming of the Lord, for that which will happen at his second, and for that which must happen in us, in order that the first as well as the second coming may prove our salvation. He shall prepare the way before me. Every minister of the Church, and every Christian, in the most private circle, can prepare the way of the Lord by warning and teaching, by example and intercession, but he is only a servant, and must wait in the humility and patience of the Lord Himself. Every thing in the world is easier to be calculated, than the day when the Lord comes, and easier to be endured than his coming. He shall sit as a refiner’s fire. The refining of the Lord has its day, and the day of the Lord has its refining. What salutary terror, and what strong consolation must this comparison of the divine refiner work in us!

The purifying fire is at hand to us all. It brings with it a torture, for which the world has no soothing balm; it penetrates what is most secret and inmost; it makes manifest whether we shall be acknowledged by the Lord, or cast away. If we would be the Lord’s, then we may say, The Lord sits, and has his eyes fixed upon me even in the furnace, and especially there. He intends only my purification, and should the smallest grain of gold in faith and love be found in me, He does not cast me away with the dross of this world; and his design is that his image may be reflected in me, and that I may be acceptable to Him. The prayer of humility and faith is, O Lord, though thou shouldst, find no gold in me, let me only be found as useful silver.

Malachi 3:5. How suddenly and how deeply will the day of judgment interrupt the pursuits of the world! How suddenly! for the prophet says, “suddenly,” and “a swift witness,” so that the world will be surprised in the midst of it pursuits. How deeply ! for all unrighteous actions and causes, however great, or little, will be rejudged, and brought to light in their ungodliness. Job was able to comfort himself with the word, “My witness is in heaven !”—the opposite of the threatening word, “a swift witness:” hence the question comes up, Have I a witness in heaven to fear? What does He see with his all-seeing eye? and what sentence will He hereafter pass upon me with his all-decisive lips?

Footnotes:

Malachi 3:1; Malachi 3:1.—פִּהְאֹם, not immediately (statim Jerome), but unawares, unexpectedly, LXX. suddenly. Messenger, corsponding to angel in Greek, Angel of the Covenant, identical with the Lord, הָאָדוֹן. This form is always spoken of Jehovah; Exodus 23:17; Psalms 114:7; Isaiah 1:24.

Malachi 3:5; Malachi 3:5.—מִמַהֵר, swift, corresponding to פִּתְֹאם, Malachi 3:1, unexpectedly.

Malachi 3:5; Malachi 3:5.—עָשק, followed by a neuter object only here, and in Micah 2:2.

Malachi 3:6; Malachi 3:6.—Jehovah is not the predicate, but in apposition with I: the parallel, ye sons of Jacob, shows this.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Malachi 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/malachi-2.html. 1857-84.