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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Malachi 1

 

 

Verse 1

This chapter begins with a statement of the name of the prophet and the identification of his message as the Word of God Himself (Malachi 1:1). The next four verses (Malachi 1:2-5) develop the thought that "God had loved Israel, a truth then denied by the people, but proved by God's citation of what he "had done" for them, illustrating it by a comparison of their state with that of Edom. We reject the notion that this is the whole message of Malachi, and even the allegation of "God's eternal, undying, perpetual love for faithless Israel." This prophecy is addressed to Israel, but it is the New Israel that shines in certain of its passages; and any supposition that God was now willing to forget all about his divorcing Israel (as Gomer in Hosea), and that he was now to be happily married for all eternity with the old whore whom he had divorced centuries earlier is nothing but a nightmare of misunderstanding. None of this is to deny that God indeed loves forever the true Israel, the righteous seed of Abraham (in the spiritual sense), and that there were surely some of this sacred number within the group of returnees from Babylon which then constituted the Israel mentioned here; but absolutely none of that love pertained to wicked and arrogant sinners whose only claim upon it was a mere racial connection with the patriarchs of the Old Testament.

What we are looking at in this chapter is Gomer back at home, no longer a trusted wife, but a slave, condemned to "sit still" for God until his purpose of redemption is assured in the birth of Messiah through her flesh. The view of the "Israel" which dominates Malachi is simply not that of a loving and repentant people, but that of the same old Israel that had gone into captivity. God simply would not renew their status as of old. "No king, no prince, no sacrifice, etc." That condition would be substituted for the old and lost intimacy. (See Hosea 3:4.)

The chapter continues with a stinging indictment of the whole people, especially their reprobate priesthood (Malachi 1:6-14).

Malachi 1:1

"The burden of the word of Jehovah to Israel by Malachi."

A literal reading of the Hebrew text here gives "by the hand of Malachi,"[1] and not merely "by Malachi." This indicates that Malachi is a person and that his proper name is given in this verse. See my introduction for full discussion of this.

"Burden of the word of Jehovah ..." This prophecy is thus called because the shameful and sweeping indictment of Israel is indeed a mighty weight upon the once-Chosen people; and yet, there is consolation in it also. "It is not a burden "against Israel," but a burden addressed "to Israel"; and in that profound truth lies the inherent glory of the remnant in the remnant who "feared Jehovah and thought upon his name" (Malachi 3:16ff). That group is the true Israel, still submerged in and indistinguishable (externally) from fleshly Israel, a condition that would continue until Pentecost. These two Israels must be kept continually in mind if one is to understand the prophets.

In all ages, God's Word has been "a burden" in various senses: (1) It is burden for those who are ashamed of it. (2) It is a burden for those who despise it, a burden that "will sink them to the lowest hell, unless they repent."[2] (3) It is a burden even for them that love and keep it, because of the obligations and duties imposed, as Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30); but in this connection, it should ever be remembered that Jesus' burden is the one that makes all other burdens light!

Before leaving Malachi 1:1, we stress that, "There is no adequate reason for rejecting Malachi as the name of this prophet."[3] "Responsible scholarship will not ignore information contained in such verses (as this one)."[4]


Verse 2

"I have loved you, saith Jehovah. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith Jehovah: yet I loved Jacob; but Esau I hated, and made his mountain a desolation, and gave his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness."

"I have loved you, saith Jehovah ..." What does this mean? Does it carry the affirmation mentioned by Lewis? "The prophet writes to encourage the people by affirming that GOD STILL LOVES ISRAEL (caps added)."[5] In these verses, "The prophet shows that Jehovah still loves Israel."[6] "The tense of the verb indicates not only a love that has operated in the past, but is also in effect at the present."[7] Regardless of the basic truth that God loves all mankind, and with due deference to the learned men whose opinions we have just cited, it must be pointed out that this text simply does not say the things it is alleged to mean. Mitchell went further and stated that, "It was not a new idea in any sense, but had been the accepted teaching regarding Jehovah's attitude toward his own people for centuries."[8] Mitchell, however, overlooked the stern declarations of Hosea 9, where the great Merciful God told Israel:

"Your iniquity has never for a moment ceased ... Therefore I hate you ... and I shall not love you any more ... your nation is rotten root and branch ... I your God do cast you away (Hosea 9:15,16)."

We receive such declarations as being also the Word of God, even as we do all the rest of the Bible; and it is our unwavering conviction that the light of a couple of hundred other such declarations as that just cited in Hosea certainly casts some additional light upon what is actually meant by "I have loved you" (past tense). All of us are tempted to go right on reading into the Bible what we think is there, whether it is or not.

We do not dare to believe God's undying love for fleshly Israel is in this passage at all. Therefore, the only sense in which we can accept it as a pledge of God's undying love, operative in the future as well as in the present and in the past, is by understanding the "Israel" here as spiritual Israel, some of whom most certainly were among Malachi's hearers.

Something else: The stress of Israel's fleshly and racial relationships in the same passage naturally brings that Israel into focus; but it is nullified by the example of God's love given in the same passage. Did God here stress any of the special promises of the covenant? No! As McFadyen said:

"The proof the prophet offers them of the love of God is as unlovely as it could be: it is that, "I hated Esau" Edom (Genesis 36:1); and the proof of that again is that Edom's mountainous land had been recently devastated!"[9]

These considerations make us certain that God was not here affirming any thing at all with reference to his love for the secular state or fleshly race of the Jews. What God said is, "I have loved you"; and that was profoundly true, as indicated by countless preferences and blessings bestowed upon the Jews, whereas the Edomites, in the fleshly sense, were as fully entitled to the very same preferences as were the people called Jews. At this point in history, the old Israel had already run its course; and the focus of prophecy in this very Book of Malachi looked to the new era when God would marry another Israel, the Church of Jesus Christ.

"I loved Jacob, but Esau I hated ..." For ages, theologians have been involved in disputes relative to what they call "election," and concerning which subject many wild and irresponsible things have been written. The apostle Paul quoted this passage in Romans 9:10-13, in which chapter surfaces several theological mountains: Foreknowledge, Predestination, Election, etc. We have written extensively upon these topics in our New Testament series, Commentary on Romans, pp. 337ff; and those who might be interested in a further pursuit of these topics may find it there. We shall cite, however, a few basics here:

This choice between Jacob and Esau had nothing at all to do with individuals, but concerned whole nations of people. "The selection of Jacob was the selection of a people rather than an individual."[10]

There is no problem here over what God did, but only with the reasons men suppose that God had for doing it. Although we have not received any insight regarding those reasons in the Bible, it must be allowed as a fact that "the foreknowledge of God" would have provided the Father with a righteous basis for making his decision. Certainly we may reject the notion that "Esau was discriminated against and made to serve his brother through no fault of his own."[11] We may be absolutely sure that God's decisions were righteous and that they were not capricious.

Furthermore, the eternal destiny of Jacob or Esau is not connected in any way with what is written here. This passage in Malachi was written centuries after Isaac's twins were born; and it was the posterity of those brothers concerning which the prophet wrote.

The argument of Malachi is simple enough. If the Jews cannot think of any reason to believe that God has loved them, let them look about them. Both Israel and Esau (Edom) had sinned; and both had been severely punished; but Israel had been privileged to return to their homeland in the person of the remnant, whereas Esau would continue to suffer judgment until he was destroyed from the earth. God's judgment upon nations that forget God has continually been revealed throughout human history. As Gailey said:

"With a wider vision of history, the contemporary Christian should be able to provide himself with far more satisfactory evidence of the love of God."[12]

"Hated Esau ..." Many have pointed out that the word "hate" as used in the Bible has a meaning of "to love less" (See Genesis 24:23); but Keil was sure that it did not have that softened application here. "The complete desolation of the Edomitish territory is here cited as proof of this hatred";[13] is and from this, we may ascertain what is meant.

From this it is clear that the very example of God's love cited by Malachi was calculated to strike awe and apprehension into the heart of the hearer. This is in complete harmony with the whole prophecy, which, as Keil said, "is condemnatory throughout."[14]

The destruction of Edom mentioned in Malachi 1:3 had evidently occurred recently enough for Malachi to have accepted it as an example fresh in memory; but nothing is known of the exact events that may have been the object of his reference. Throughout history, Edom suffered many defeats and eventually perished from the earth as a separate people. Their wickedness was very great as detailed by the prophet Amos (Amos 1:11-12).


Verse 4

"Whereas Edom saith, We are beaten down, but we will return and build the waste places; thus saith Jehovah of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and men shall call them the border of wickedness, and the people against whom Jehovah hath indignation forever."

The arrogant over-confidence of Edom is like that of all wicked men.

"We are beaten ... but we will return ..." This was exactly the same attitude as that of Ephraim and Samaria who "in pride and stoutness of heart" boasted:

"The bricks are fallen, but we will build with hewn stone; the sycamores are cut down, but we will put cedars in their place. Therefore Jehovah will set up on high against him the adversaries of Rezen, and will stir his enemies (Isaiah 9:10-11)."

But what is wrong with such strong determination and confidence? Nothing is wrong, except that there is no deference to God's will. God only, is able to bless the labors of men. "Except Jehovah build the house, They labor in vain that build it: Except Jehovah keep the city, The watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalms 127:1).

"Thus saith Jehovah of hosts ..." Baldwin noted that this popular title of God, "Jehovah of hosts," is found almost 300 times in the Old Testament, some 247 of these being in the prophetic books, including 91 in the last three of the minor prophets.[15] Haggai used it 14 times; Zechariah used it 53 times; and Malachi used it 24 times. What does the title mean? Who are the "hosts"?

There appear to be three basic applications of the word "hosts," a word that primarily means "armies." Although no prophet of God ever limited that thought to the armies of Israel. All the armies belong to God. Jesus spoke of "God's armies" (Matthew 22:7) which would execute judgment upon Jerusalem; and in that instance "his armies" were those of pagan Rome.

Also, there are some usages of the word which show that, "The `hosts' were angelic beings," a glimpse of innumerable angels under God's control being afforded in Hebrews 12:22.

Again, as indicated in a comparison of Genesis 2:1; Isaiah 40:26; and Isaiah 45:12,13, "The created `hosts,' the stars were primarily in mind."[16] Significantly, there would appear to be a similar multiple meaning in the words regarding Christ in Romans 9:5, where the proper translation is "Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen." "Over all" in this passage means "over all things,"[17] an expression comprehensive enough to include both the animate and inanimate creations, which is exactly the implication found in the title "Jehovah of hosts." What hosts? All of them! Armies, nations, peoples, suns, stars, and galaxies, all of the infinite myriads of creation are God's. From the waving of a blade of grass to the explosion of galaxies, all things are of God (and of Christ). Amen.

"Men shall call them the border of wickedness ..." "Wickedness gives its name to Edom's border, as in Zechariah's vision it was removed and settled in Babylon."[18] As we would say, Edom's border is where wickedness begins!

"Against whom Jehovah hath indignation forever ..." Surely, the historical record of that incorrigibly wicked people must be seen as the proof of this prophecy. "As a matter of record, Edom never returned to her former status or territory ... It is of more than passing interest that the family of the Herods of Christ's time was descended from these same Idumaeans."[19] Keil's comment is also true:

"The threat in verse 4 is equivalent to a declaration that Edom will never recover its former prosperity and power. This was soon fulfilled, the independence of Edom being destroyed, and their land made an eternal desert, especially from the times of the Maccabees onwards."[20]


Verse 5

"And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, Jehovah be magnified beyond the border of Israel."

Continuously, throughout history, God's name has been magnified "beyond the border of Israel," and in all the world by the execution of his judgments upon the wicked. "His fulfilled prophecies in the nations of history magnify Him even today."[21] One thing that this verse definitely does not say is that, "The Messianic age for which Israel has so long looked in vain is thus to come within the lifetime of the prophet's audience."[22] How strange it is that scholars who cannot even find the Messianic age in Malachi 1:11 would discover it here!


Verse 6

"A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I am a father, where is mine honor? and if I am a master, where is my fear? saith Jehovah of hosts unto you, O priests that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?"

The people of the returned Israel were led by a corrupt and reprobate priesthood who despised the name of God; and the prophet Malachi exposed and denounced them in this stinging indictment. The question raised here is whether or not the priests considered God to be either their father or their master, since in either case, there were inescapable obligations which they were violating.

"A son honoreth his father ..." This is an appeal to the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue, indicating that the Pentateuch was the accepted authority which the people supposedly honored. By these words we can understand that the problem in Israel was that of dishonoring the ancient covenant with God.

"Wherein have we despised thy name ...?" It is ever thus with wicked men. "They affect to themselves innocence and are unconscious of any sin."[23] Like Cain of old who asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" and like many who will be turned away from the gates of life at the Last Day, these ancient sinners had presumptuously judged themselves to be innocent of any wrong-doing. Jesus warned:

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord did we not prophecy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works ? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:22-23)."

The psychology of evil men is apparent in the delusion of those evil priests.


Verse 7

"Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar. And ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of Jehovah is contemptible."

"Polluted bread upon mine altar ..." The word "bread" here is a reference to the bloody sacrifices of the Mosaic law, and not to "bread" as ordinarily used. "The offerings of Jehovah made by fire, the bread of their God" (Leviticus 21:6), and "My bread, the fat and the blood" (Ezekiel 44:7), as cited by Hailey, indicate clearly that the "table of Jehovah" is the altar, a fact also inherent in the words of this first clause.

"The table of Jehovah ..." suggests "The Lord's table" of the New Testament. "This expression is used only by Malachi in the Old Testament, though the idea is present in Psalms 23:5, and Ezekiel 44:16."[24] Note than an offense committed against the Lord's table was an offense against God Himself. "Wherein have we polluted thee?" The touching of anything unclean made the one who touched unclean; and the wicked priests at once applied the principle by their denial that they had polluted God. In a figure, of course, they had; and the New Testament applications of this principle are startling. Infidelity at the Lord's table is actually called an insult against the Holy Spirit, "One who hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing ... hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:29).

If those ancient priests offended God by their lack of respect for the necessity of the proper offerings upon the Lord's table in their generation, how much more serious is the offense in our own day when Christians despise their obligations with reference to the Lord's table in his kingdom!


Verse 8

"And when ye offer the blind for sacrifice, it is no evil! and when ye offer the lame and sick, it is no evil! Present it now to thy governor; will he be pleased with thee? or will he accept thy person? saith Jehovah of hosts."

The sin evident in this passage is that, "They failed to give God the very best, attempting to offer to God that which was of no value to men."[25] Every spiritually minded person who ever lived instinctively accepted the principle that, to God one must give the very best. David also understood the inherent principle of sacrificing in all worship, saying, when he might have received the threshing floor of Ornan as a gift upon which to build the temple, chose rather to pay for it, saying, "Nay, but I will verily buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burnt offerings unto Jehovah my God which cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24). Also, when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, king of Salem, it is recorded that, "He gave a tenth of all." That means, of course, a tithe of the best and most valuable spoils procured in the victory. The law of Moses defined the character of offerings to God as being of the most valuable possessions, "without spot or blemish," etc. The reprobate priesthood of Malachi's times were accepting the sick, the lame, and the blind, and doing many other things forbidden.

"Present it now unto thy governor ..." "The word here rendered 'governor' meant lieutenant or viceroy ([~pechath]) among the Chaldeans, Syrians, and Persians; for neither at this time, nor ever after, was there a king in Israel."[26] Arguments regarding the date of Malachi suppose that this passage means that Nehemiah was not the governor; for he had specifically stated that he refused to accept gifts. However, Nehemiah could have changed that policy, announced at the beginning of his administration; or even at that time, it might not have applied to all types of gifts. Besides that, Malachi was hero merely appealing to a principle valid throughout the Orient in all ages and until the present day. It is a mistake to build a case for the date of this prophecy on a statement like this.

"Is it no evil ..." Indeed, nothing could be more evil than the perversion of God's worship through the offering of inferior and forbidden sacrifices. Christianity has fallen into the same abuse, offering to God as worship and obedience, all kinds of forbidden and inferior substitutes for what the Lord commanded. This warning to ancient Israel should be heeded today, Moreover, the practitioners of such abuses arrogantly deny that they do anything wrong, just as did these priests of old. We shall not attempt any elaborate list of such abuses; but, as an example, may we cite "a saxophone duet" offered to God instead of the singing he commanded!


Verse 9

"And now, I pray you, entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he accept any of your persons? saith Jehovah of hosts."

"Some Jewish and other commentators accept this verse as a genuine plea for repentance; but the ironic interpretation best agrees with the context. In any case, the offerings of gifts was not a means of securing God's favor (Psalms 40:6-8)."[27]

If the ironical view is correct, the passage might be paraphrased thus: Seeing that you have accepted and used all these worthless sacrifices and offered them upon God's altar, why don't you now pray for God's favor? You really must have impressed God with the type of offerings you have placed upon his altar!

"This hath been by your means ..." You really have produced a brand new way to please God!


Verse 10

"Oh that there were one among you that would shut the doors, that ye might not kindle fire upon mine altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand."

Hosea has prophesied that Israel should abide many days "without sacrifice"; and that surely seems fulfilled in the proposition that God laid down here, to the effect that the sacrifices being offered in the newly constructed temple were not about to be accepted.

"Oh that one ... would shut the doors ..." God even yearned for the physical temple to be closed. It had never been God's choice to have a physical temple, subject to all of the abuses to which any such thing is prone, but David was determined to build it. God accommodated it, and allowed it, upon the same basis that he had allowed the monarchy; but the physical temple idea never worked out in practice for anything except disaster.

One may plainly read in this last book of the Old Testament the disaster already taking place in the temple. It would grow and increase, until at last, the whole thing, denominated by the Saviour as "a dean of thieves and robbers," would become the principal instrument in the hands of God's bitter enemies who would crucify the Son of God! The godless "false shepherds of Israel" are already in control, and it had hardly been a century since the temple had been rebuilt. For awhile, `their house' would remain in their abusive hands; but God had an appointment with them in that bitter August of A.D. 70!

There is an amazing correspondence between this passage and the passage in Hosea already cited (Hosea 3:4,5). In both passages, the long desert of "no sacrifice" is followed in the very next breath by the promise of the Davidic King, the Messiah, to whom the children of the New Israel will return. Thus, Malachi 1:10-11 fits Hosea 3:4-5 as snugly as the bone fits in the socket. This is not surprising, for the same God gave both passages.

It is difficult indeed to find anything encouraging in the picture of returned Israel as starkly revealed in Malachi.

This verse particularly raises the question of the validity of the worship as carried forward in the regime of the second temple. We have already noted that Hosea prophesied that Israel would be "without sacrifice" for a very long period of time; and here we have a desire on God's part for the closing of the second temple. It was upon the basis of such scriptures as these that the Qumran Community, "rejected the validity of the sacrificial system at Jerusalem."[28] The record of this appears in The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Penguin, 1962).


Verse 11

"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 a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the Gentiles, saith Jehovah of hosts." (American Standard Version)

(Malachi 1:11) For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts (Revised Standard Version).

There is no better example in all the Bible of the manner in which, here and there, the RSV has corrupted the text of the Holy Scriptures. The excuse which the scholars give in defending this bastard translation is that, in the Hebrew language, the tense of verbs must sometimes be selected by the translator, the option here being between the future tense (which is correct) and the past tense (which makes the passage into an impossible falsehood). As Dr. Jack Lewis said, "The present tense could just as well be supplied as has been done in the RSV."[29] Notice that the future tense is not required, it is the deliberate choice of the revisers! As we shall see, in this study, this bold choice violated the conviction of at least two thousand years that the passage here relates to the future. Of course, as Lewis said, it was the supplying of the future tense that converted the passage into a Messianic prophecy; but the choice of the RSV scholars converted the passage into a monstrous falsehood. How is one to know which tense should have been chosen? Certainly, we dare not trust scholars to do it who will lean over backwards to make a passage contradict the truth. "The context has to be the deciding factor."[30] The only objection that we have ever seen that is related to the context was also given by Baldwin who interpreted the future tense if used here as having the sense of, "Is about to be offered, indicating that the event is near at hand and sure to happen";[31] but all of the prophets spoke of the Messianic age in the same language, being absolutely true, of course, in the cosmic sense. Besides that, the simple use of the future tense carries no such meaning, as a hundred Biblical examples illustrate. Thus, there is no objection at all in the context that forbids understanding the passage as a prophecy of the acceptance of the Gentiles into the kingdom of Christ.

But what about the objections (from the context) to the alternative option of making the passage to be a statement of conditions then prevailing on earth? They are as follows:

1. If read as a statement in the present tense, the verse states an abominable falsehood.

"At the time of Malachi the name of Jehovah was not great from the rising to the setting of the sun, nor were incense and sacrifice offered to him in every place ... consequently we must understand the words prophetically."[32]

"Incense shall be offered to my name ..." "This expression, 'my name' presupposes the knowledge of God, who to this point in history was known only to Jews."[33]

2. At the moment when Malachi was .written (or actually, at anytime prior to the coming of Christ in the first advent), "a pure offering for God's name" was not found anywhere on earth!

"And in every place ... a pure offering ..." The only pure offering for sin in the whole history of the world is the blood of Christ; and the celebration of Christ's atoning death in the institution of the Lord's Supper honors that event every Sunday in every village all over the world.

"The Fathers and medieval writers, and many commentators of modern times see in this verse a prophecy of the Holy Eucharist, "the pure offering" commemorative of Christ's sacrifice."[34]

Or course, some Roman Catholic writers went overboard on this with all kinds of speculations about the sacrifice of the mass, etc. But if one feels that the prophecy could be fulfilled only by an offering, it lies in the "presentation" of themselves by Christians (Romans 12:1), such an offering indeed being made "pure" by the blood of Christ celebrated in their observance of the Lord's Supper. If this is not the "pure offering," where would one look to find it? "At their best, the Levitical sacrifices (of the Old Testament) were never described in these terms; but to maintain that pagans (all over the world) could offer `pure offerings' to God, when not even the God-given sacrifices were so described, is indefensible."[35] The word for "pure" in this passage is not used elsewhere in the Bible and therefore refers to a unique offering then unknown on earth.

3. The most potent objection of all to the use of the present tense in this passage is seen in the implications of it. We shall cite a few of these in which men have really gone wild in their postulations:

"Malachi virtually recognizes all sincere worship, wheresoever and by whomsoever offered, as in reality offered to Jehovah, the God therefore not of the Jews only but of all the earth,[36] The view that the gods of the heathen were only so many different names for the one great God, and that the nations were therefore in reality worshipping Yahweh finds many supporters."[37]

The acceptance of such views, founded solely upon the use of the present tense here, nullifies everything that the sacred Bible teaches. If all of the debaucheries, licentiousness, shame, drunkenness, and sacred prostitution being practiced at the pagan shrines of an entire worldwide Pantheon of godless gods and goddesses, in the times of Malachi, if all that is here endorsed as "a pure offering" to the one true and Almighty God, it is as bold and contradictory a denial of the Word of God as may be found at any time in history since Satan said to Eve, "Thou shalt not surely die!" Such a contradiction cannot be what God said here.

With these observations, we shall let the RSV rest in peace. What does this passage mean, as properly translated in the ASV? Before taking that up, it should be remembered that throughout history the unanimous consent of Jewish and Christian scholars alike for thousands of years accepted this verse as a prophecy of the future. Among them were: Justin (133 A.D.), Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Augustine, etc. Jamieson's summary of the meaning is:

"`In every place,' implies the catholicity of the Christian Church; `the incense' is figurative of prayers (Revelation 5:8); `sacrifice' is used metaphorically (1 Peter 2:5,12); in this sense, the reference to the Lord's Supper maintained by many of the ancients, may be seen, metaphorically, as a spiritual offering."[38]

The most practical statement of the meaning we have seen is that of Hailey:

"The prophecy looks to the time when, under the Messiah, not in any one locality, but from one end of the earth to the other, God's name would be great among the Gentiles. The incense offered are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8); and the "pure offering" is the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips, and the doing of good in a holy life (Hebrews 13:15,16). Through the gospel of Messiah, Jehovah's name would be reverenced as great."[39]

A number of other current interpretations by respected authors are:

"The Mosiac system was seen by Malachi as about to be transcended, as indeed it was in the sacrifice of Christ. Through this sacrifice those who were strangers to the covenants of promise would be reconciled to God.[40] This prophecy would be fulfilled only when Christ would be received into Gentile hearts the world around.[41] It is ... a reference to the Messianic age, when the Gentiles come to know God and worship him outside the narrow confines of the land of Palestine.[42] We must understand the words prophetically as relating to the spread of the kingdom of God among all nations."[43]


Verse 12

"But ye profane it, in that ye say, The Table of Jehovah is polluted, and the fruit thereof, even its food, is contemptible."

As Jamieson noted, "The priests did not actually say, `The table of Jehovah is polluted ... contemptible'; but their acts virtually said so."[44] What is seen in this verse is a reiteration of charges already made a few lines previously.


Verse 13

"Ye say also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith Jehovah of hosts; and ye have brought that which was taken by violence, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye bring the offering: should I accept this at your hand? saith Jehovah."

The thing in view here is the inferiority and unacceptability of the animals being offered as sacrifices to God.

"That which was taken by violence ..." means either that which was taken through violence like robbery or theft, or any maimed or damaged animal torn by a wild beast, or any other unsuitable animal.

"The lame ... the sick ..." Such animals were forbidden to be presented as sacrifices.

"Ye have snuffed at it ..." This is a homely metaphor taken from the experience of those familiar with the care and feeding of livestock. Clarke explained it thus:

"It is a metaphor taken from cattle that do not like their fodder. They blow strongly through their nose upon it; and after this, neither they nor any other cattle will eat it!"[45]

A similar symbol of contempt is seen in the current idiom, "He turned up his nose at it." This is the attitude of one who presumes upon the favor of God. "It is the notion of cheap grace, summed up before that phrase was coined in Heine's words, `God will forgive me; it's his job.'"[46]


Verse 14

"But cursed be the deceiver, who hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a blemished thing; for I am a great King, saith Jehovah of hosts, and my name is terrible among the Gentiles."

"Cursed be the deceiver ..." Gill interpreted this thus:

"For `deceiver' here, read `hypocrite'; for it was not poverty, as some pretended, which caused such niggardly sacrifices. It was greed which placed personal gain above God's required service. They possessed "a male," that is, such as required by lawful sacrifice; but yet they offered God blemished animals" (Leviticus 1: 3-10).[47]

We should not leave this without observing that the curse of God rests upon people who offer to God inferior, blemished service. How many Christians are there today who do nothing at all for the work of God, except a few trivial offerings, lip-service, and perfunctory and irregular attendance at divine worship? There is a warning in this for those who receive the grace to see it.

"I am a great King, saith Jehovah ..." Dummelow said that, "The title `King' was applied to Jehovah in post-exilic writings composed when the Jews had not an earthly king."[48] It is all the more pathetic, therefore, that, in time, they would cry, "We have no king but Caesar!" "If such conduct (just described) toward an earthly king be reprehensible and certain to arouse his anger, how much more so in the case of the King of Kings?"[49]

"My name is terrible among the Gentiles ..." This, in Malachi's day was a simple statement of fact. Rahab on the wall of Jericho affirmed the truth of it (Joshua 2:8-11). The royal family of Pharaoh knew it; and the royal kings of Babylon also had quailed before the moving fingers of the Lord upon the wall. Yes, God's name was indeed known throughout the pre-Christian Gentile world, but not in the sense of any saving knowledge of him. (See the article in my commentary on Romans, pp. 32-40, for a full discussion of this.) What a strange paradox was it that the Jews who had every opportunity to know God the best of all, nevertheless refused all honor and respect in their response to his love!

This chapter has a number of exceedingly important revelations:

1. The final apostasy of the fleshly Jews was in full progress as revealed in this chapter. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians of Jesus' day were the moral and spiritual successors of the evil priests appearing in almost every line here.

2. The Jews are effectually "without sacrifice," as they were also "without king, and without prince" (Hosea 3:4,5). The divine rejection of the whole system built around the Second Temple is all but bluntly stated in God's exclamation, "Oh that one of you would close it."

3. One of the most magnificent Messianic prophecies in all the Bible is given in Malachi 1:11, signaling the coming of the Gentiles into the kingdom of Christ, the universality of Christianity, the replacement of the bloody sacrifices of Judaism with the "pure offering" in Christ Jesus, etc.

It is indeed an appropriate message for a people who would never again have another prophet until John the Baptist would proclaim, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!"

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Malachi 1:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/malachi-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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