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Malachi complaineth of Israel's unkindness, of their irreligion, and profaneness.
Before Christ about 400.
Malachi 1:1. The burden— The charge, or message.
Malachi 1:2-3. Yet I loved Jacob, &c.— These words are not to be taken according to modern ideas; for in Scripture, when love and hatred are spoken of God, are set in opposition to each other, and applied to his dispensations towards particular people, the propositions are not to be understood separate, but are to be taken together; and they will then only imply a preference of one to the other, or that he loved Esau less than Jacob, or shewed him less favour, when he gave him and his posterity the desert mountains, and Jacob and his sons a land flowing with milk and honey; for God is the supreme arbiter of his own gifts. St. Paul accommodates the present sentence to his subject, Rom 9:13 proving by this example that God hath mercy, or shews his distinguished favour to whom he will, and in like manner withholds it. The reader will observe, that this is not spoken of Esau and Jacob personally, but of their posterity. Houbigant renders the latter part of Malachi 1:3. And made his mountains desert, and his inheritance the habitations of the wilderness.
Malachi 1:4. They shall build, &c.— "The Edomites may rebuild their cities, but the Lord will raise against them the Maccabees, who shall subject them, and constrain them to receive circumcision, and the other laws and customs of the Jews." See 1Ma 5:3. 2Ma 10:16-17 and Joseph. Antiq. lib. 13: cap. 17.
Malachi 1:5. And your eyes shall see, &c.— That is, the eyes of Israel, who are here addressed. See Malachi 1:1. The latter clause should be rendered, The Lord hath done wonderfully for the borders of Israel.
Malachi 1:6. A son honoureth his father, &c.— "Those degrees of respect which were due to human authority, are in a more eminent manner to be paid to the supreme Lord of all. So the priests, who are dedicated to my service in a peculiar manner, behave themselves undutifully by that disrespect which they show to my name and worship." See Lowth.
Malachi 1:7. In that ye say, &c.— Houbigant puts a semicolon at the end of this verse, and begins the eighth thus, And when ye bring the blind for sacrifice, this seems not evil, nor when ye offer the lame and the sick. The prophet reproves them for paying no reverence to the altar of God, but admitting victims of every kind, however contrary to the law, that they might make as much gain as possible.
Malachi 1:9. This hath been by your means— Since this seem easy to you, will he, &c. Houbigant. The avaricious priests deny that there was any thing in the choice of victims, and aver that God would be as propitious to them upon the offering of an unclean as of a clean sacrifice. Therefore the prophet calls upon them to make the trial, and to ask some sign of God, that they may prove his attention and regard to them.
Malachi 1:10. Who is there even among you, &c.— Yea, truly the doors will be shut because of you, that you may not kindle fire, &c. The similitude is continued which was taken from a prince or governor, Mal 1:8 who would reject a blind or sick animal brought to him for tribute, and shut his doors against the offerer and his gift. Houbigant.
Malachi 1:11. For, from the rising of the sun, &c.— In this and the preceding verse, we have two important points of our religion declared in the fullest manner: First, the abolition of the sacrifices and ceremonies of the ancient law. The second, a pure sacrifice offered to the Lord in every place and in every nation; the synagogue rejected, and the church of the Gentiles chosen. The prophet describes the Christian sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving, by the external rites of the Jewish worship. Incense was considered as an emblem or figure of prayer by the Jews themselves. This spiritual service, the prophet says, shall be offered up in every place; whereas the Jewish worship was confined to the temple. The words of our Saviour, Joh 4:21-22 are a good commentary on this passage. Nothing can be more simple than the principle here enforced, or more agreeable to the rules of just interpretation, than to suppose that the language of the law is employed to convey these prophetic intimations of the Gospel. This offering is said to be pure, to intimate, that it would not be less acceptable for not being at the temple. See the note on Zechariah 14:18. Div. Leg. book 6: sect. 6 and Calmet.
Malachi 1:12. And the fruit thereof, &c.— And even the meat of it also is contemptible. Houbigant.
Malachi 1:13. Ye said also, Behold— And in that ye say, depart hence; and while you reject some, you afterwards bring that which is torn, or lame, or sick, for an offering. Should I, &c. Houbigant. Those who understand it according to our translation, explain it thus; "You who have complained that a constant attendance on my altar was a wearisome employment, and that the victims which you offered were not given by the people, but were the fruits of your own labours, and were bestowed out of your tithes." See Lowth, and Grotius.
Malachi 1:14. Which hath in his flock a male— Who, having in his stock that which is strong and sound, afterwards, having made a vow, sacrificeth into the Lord that which is sick; for, &c. Houbigant.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, This word of the Lord to Israel is called a burden: it contained sharp rebukes, and bound upon the impenitent a load of wrath, which would sink them into the belly of hell. The charge against Israel here advanced is, their ingratitude. God asserts his love, which he had shewed them from the days of old. I have loved you, saith the Lord; but they seemed insensible of the mercy, and unaffected with it: Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? as if the instances of his regard were so slight and so few, that they had little or no obligations to him: to convince them of their baseness, he proves, by the distinguishing favours shewn them, the love that he had had towards them.
1. He had preferred Jacob, though the younger brother, to Esau, and entailed upon him the covenant of promise in respect to the birth of the Messiah, and the variety of distinguishing privileges flowing therefrom. Was not Esau Jacob's brother? and, as his elder, should in the common course of things have succeeded to the birthright; but God had been pleased to choose the younger, and reject the first-born. Yet I loved Jacob; chose him when yet unborn to be the great progenitor of the Messiah, and of that nation which I had chosen to preserve the purity of my worship and the glory of my great name: and I hated Esau; so far as to deprive him of the birthright, and of the peculiar honour and privileges bestowed upon Jacob and his posterity.
2. Their posterity were deeply affected by this original difference which God had made between their great progenitors, not only in respect to the spiritual privileges of their respective dispensations, but also in respect to temporal blessings. I laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness: as was done by the Chaldeans: and though Judaea was also desolated by them; yet there was a distinguishing difference; the ruins of the one were for a while only; of the other perpetual. Both nations had sinned with a very high hand: but as the Messiah should come of the Jews, they should be preserved as a nation, while the others should be obliterated from the face of the earth. For, though the Edomites attempted to repair their breaches, God disappointed their endeavours: They shall build, but I will throw down; God was against them: and who ever hardened their hearts against him, and prospered? and they shall call them, The border of wickedness; their sins will be notorious, and read in their sufferings: the people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever. The offers of grace made to them, will render them utterly inexcusable on the great day of account: but their sins were so enormous as a nation, that they most completely filled up the measure of their iniquities, and provoked God to cut them off for ever. And your eyes shall see the desolations of Edom; and ye shall say the Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel; he justly deserves and demands their praises: not to have offered them, must prove their base ingratitude.
2nd, The bad example of the priests being of most pernicious consequence to the people, God sends to them a severe rebuke.
1. God tells them what he might justly have expected from them. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; at least, all admit that this ought to be, and they are accounted unnatural, undutiful, and wicked, who act otherwise. If then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? If reverence, respect, and fear, be paid to an earthly parent or master, how much more due are they to our Father and Master in heaven? and to rob him of this his honour, how much more criminal?
2. He charges them with the insolent contempt with which they had treated him. They despised his name; paid no regard to his honour, and neglected his worship and service; and profaned it, by their irreverent use of it, and perverting it to serve their own pride, covetousness, and luxury, bringing the highest reproach upon it by their whole conduct; for nothing so deeply dishonours God as the bad lives of those who call themselves his ministers. And yet with daring effrontery they deny the charge: Ye say, wherein have we despised thy name? either they were so ignorant of the divine law, as to think that they had observed it; or so atheistical, as to imagine that God could not detect them. Thus hardened sinners justify themselves in evil, and say, like the adulterers, I have done no wickedness; but God will reprove them, and set in order the things that they have done.
[1.] Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; the shew-bread or the meat-offering, which accompanied their daily sacrifice, was made either of the refuse of the wheat, or of flour damaged and unfit for use: and yet ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? as if there was no harm in what they had done: and this attempt to vindicate themselves was an aggravation of their crime.
[2.] Ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible; perhaps not publicly, but among themselves, they treated the divine institutions with ridicule; and though it was for their interest to keep up the form of religion, they talked of it as a mere juggle designed to keep the vulgar in awe: or if they said not so much, their conduct spoke aloud their sentiments. They paid no veneration to the sanctuary, or its ordinances: Ye say, the table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible, as if it was no better than any other table: their own tables were better served than his; and the fat and the blood, which were the Lord's portion, were in their eyes contemptible, and very little deserving of so many laws concerning them.
[3.] They offered the blind and the lame, and the torn and the sick, for sacrifices to God; such as they would not have dared to have presented to their governor, because he would have esteemed it an affront. And is not this evil? contrary to God's express command, and a designed insult. Note; They who think that God will be satisfied with careless, cold, negligent, hasty prayers, the labour of the lips or the book, where all the life of devotion, of faith and love, is wanting, are but offering the blind and lame for sacrifice, and their services will be accounted but an abomination.
[4.] They were perfect mercenaries, and served merely for hire. They would not shut a door of the temple, nor kindle a fire there, unless they were well paid: the work of the sanctuary was no delight to them; the wages was all that they looked at. Note; Though God would have us live by the altar that we serve, yet to have an eye to this as the inducement to undertake the ministry, is in God's sight most abominable; and such hirelings will be abhorred and disowned by the great Bishop of souls.
[5.] The service in which they were obliged to be employed was a weariness to them. They were always complaining of the hard duty: to be so constant in attendance on the temple, so strict in the observance of the forms and ordinances prescribed, they thought quite tiresome, and snuffed at it, with discontent and reluctance dragging themselves to the task, and hurrying it over as fast as possible. Would to God these had been the only ministers of the sanctuary on whom such things were chargeable!
3. He expostulates with them on this conduct of theirs. Should I accept this of your hands? can such sacrifices and services be pleasing? No, saith God; I have no pleasure in you; neither will I accept an offering at your hand; since they had made themselves vile, and this had been by their means, with their connivance and encouragement, that such despicable sacrifices were offered; Shall I regard your persons? saith the Lord of Hosts. It was impossible that he should, and therefore their prayers, which the prophet ironically calls them to offer, must needs be unavailing and rejected. Note; If our persons are not accepted of God through the blood of atonement, all our prayers must needs be fruitless.
Some understand Mal 1:9 as containing a serious exhortation to the priests, who had been the chief authors of all the evil, to repent of their sins, and cry to God for mercy on the behalf of themselves and the people, and not to flatter them with vain hopes that God accepted their persons more than others, seeing that the holiness of their office aggravated their sins, and would increase their punishment.
4. Since they thus dishonoured God, he will glorify himself, rejecting them, and turning to the Gentiles, setting up his church from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same. My name, saith he, shall be great among the Gentiles; they shall render him that glory of which Israel had robbed him: and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, the incense of prayer and praise, arising from all the worshipping assemblies of true believers, who are consecrated spiritual priests, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, and a pure offering, even themselves, their bodies, souls, and spirits, a living sacrifice: for my name shall be great among the heathen: it is repeated, to assure them of the certainty of the event; and that, when the time came that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, they might remember that the mouth of the Lord had spoken it.
5. A curse is pronounced on these careless and wicked priests, and on all others who are deceivers like them. Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing. Though they might think thus to satisfy their consciences, and the corrupt priests, indulgent casuists, flattered them that it would be accepted; they were both deceivers and deceived. God is not to be thus mocked; they would put a cheat upon him, but in fact deceived themselves, and brought wrath upon their souls. He will be served with the best, or not at all: to attempt to put him off with the refuse, is increasing our provocations; For I am a great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and therefore to be honoured according to his excellent greatness; and my name is dreadful among the heathen; the judgments that he had executed upon them made it so; and their more provoking wickedness would bring down still heavier vengeance upon their heads.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Malachi 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany