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They who explain משא, mesha, burden, as signifying prophecy, without exception, are mistaken, as I have elsewhere reminded you; for prophecy is not everywhere called a burden; and whenever this word is expressed, there is ever to be understood some judgment of God; and it appears evident from Jeremiah 23:38, that this word was regarded as ominous, so that the ungodly, when they wished to brand the Prophets with some mark of reproach, used this as a common proverb, “It is a burden,” intimating thereby that nothing else was brought by the Prophets but threatenings and terrors, in order that they might have some excuse for closing their ears, and for evading all prophecies by giving them an unhappy and ominous name.
As we proceed it will become evident that the doctrine of Malachi is not without reason called a Burden; for as I have stated in part, and as it will be more fully seen hereafter, it was necessary that the people should be summoned before God’s tribunal, inasmuch as many sins had again begun to prevail among them, and such as could not be endured: and for this reason he says that God’s judgment was at hand.
But under the name of Israel he refers only to those who had returned to their own country, whether they were of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, or of the tribe of Levi. It is nevertheless probable that there were also some mixed with them from the other tribes: but the Jews and their neighbors, the half tribe of Benjamin, had almost alone returned to their country, with the exception of the Levites, who had been their guides in their journey, and encouraged the rest of the people. They were yet called Israel indiscriminately, since among them only pure religion continued: but they who remained dispersed among foreign and heathen nations, had as it were lost their name, though they had not wholly departed from the pure worship of God and true religion. Hence, by way of excellency, they were called Israel, who had again assembled in the holy land, that they might there enjoy the inheritance promised them from above.
The word hand, as we have observed elsewhere, means ministration. The meaning then is, that this doctrine proceeded from God, but that a minister, even Malachi, was employed as an instrument; so that he brought nothing as his own, but only related faithfully what had been committed to him by God from whom it came. It then follows —
I am constrained by the context to read all these verses; for the sense cannot be otherwise completed. God expostulates here with a perverse and an ungrateful people, because they doubly deprived him of his right; for he was neither loved nor feared, though he had a just claim to the name and honor of a master as well as that of a father. As then the Jews paid him no reverence, he complains that he was defrauded of his right as a father; and as they entertained no fear for him, he condemns them for not acknowledging, him as their Lord and Master, by submitting to his authority. But before he comes to this, he shows that he was both their Lord and Father; and he declares that he was especially their Father, because he loved them.
We now then understand the Prophet’s intention; for God designed to show here how debased the Jews were, as they acknowledged him neither as their Father nor as their Lord; they neither reverenced him as their Lord, nor regarded him as their Father. But he brings forward, as I have already said, his benefits, by which he proves that he deserved the honor due to a father and to a master.
Hence he says, I loved you. God might indeed have made an appeal to the Jews on another ground; for had he not manifested his love to them, they were yet bound to submit to his authority. He does not indeed speak here of God’s love generally, such as he shows to the whole human race; but he condemns the Jews, inasmuch as having been freely adopted by God as his holy and peculiar people, they yet forgot this honor, and despised the Giver, and regarded what he taught them as nothing. When therefore God says that he loved the Jews, we see that his object was to convict them of ingratitude for having despised the singular favor bestowed on them alone, rather than to press that authority which he possesses over all mankind in common. God then might have thus addressed them, “I have created you, and have been to you a kind Father; by my favor does the sun shine on you daily, and the earth produces its fruit; in a word, I hold you bound to me by innumerable benefits.” God might have thus spoken to them; but as I have said, his object was to bring forward the gratuitous adoption with which he had favored the seed of Abraham; for it was a less endurable impiety, that they had despised so incomparable a favor; inasmuch as God had preferred them to all other nations, not on the ground of merit or of any worthiness, but because it had so pleased him. This then is the reason why the Prophet begins by saying, that the Jews had been loved by God: for they had made the worst return for this gratuitous favor, when they despised his doctrine. This is the first thing.
There is further no doubt but that he indirectly condemns their ingratitude when he says, In what hast thou loved us? The words indeed may be thus explained — “If ye say, or if ye ask, In what have I loved you? Even in this — I preferred your father Jacob to Esau, when yet they were twin brothers.” But we shall see in other places that the Jews by evasions malignantly obscured God’s favor, and that this wickedness is in similar words condemned. Hence the Prophet, seeing that he had to do with debased men, who would not easily yield to God nor acknowledge his kindness by a free and ingenuous confession, introduces them here as speaking thus clamorously, “He! when hast thou loved us! in what! the tokens of thy love do not appear.” He answers in God’s name, Esau was Jacob’s brother; and yet I loved Jacob, and Esau I hated. ”
We now see what I have just referred to, — that the Jews are reminded of God’s gratuitous covenant, that they might cease to excuse their wickedness in having misused this singular favor. He does not then upbraid them here, because they had been as other men created by God, because God caused his sun to shine on them, because they were supplied with food from the earth; but he says, that they had been preferred to other people, not on account of their own merit, but because it had pleased God to choose their father Jacob. He might have here adduced Abraham as an example; but as Jacob and Esau proceeded from Abraham, with whom God had made the covenant, his favor was the more remarkable, inasmuch as though Abraham had been alone chosen by God, and other nations were passed by, yet from the very family which the Lord had adopted, one had been chosen while the other was rejected. When a comparison is made between Esau and Jacob, we must bear in mind that they were brothers; but there are other circumstances to be noticed, which though not expressed here by the Prophet, are yet well known: for all the Jews knew that Esau was the first-born; and that hence Jacob had obtained the right of primogeniture contrary to the order of nature. As then this was commonly known, the Prophet was content to use only this one sentence, Esau was Jacob’s brother
But he says that Jacob was chosen by God, and that his brother, the first-born, was rejected. If the reason be asked, it is not to be found in their descent, for they were twin brothers; and they had not come forth from the womb when the Lord by an oracle testified that Jacob would be the greater. We hence see that the origin of all the excellency which belonged to the posterity of Abraham, is here ascribed to the gratuitous love of God, according to what Moses often said, “Not because ye excelled other nations, or were more in number, has God honored you with so many benefits; but because he loved your fathers.” The Jews then had always been reminded, that they were not to seek for the cause of their adoption but in the gratuitous favor of God; he had been pleased to choose them — this was the source of their salvation. We now understand the Prophet’s design when he says, that Esau was Jacob’s brother, (202) and yet was not loved by God.
We must at the same time bear in mind what I have already said — that this singular favor of God towards the children of Jacob is referred to, in order to make them ashamed of their ingratitude, inasmuch as God had set his love on objects so unworthy. For had they been deserving, they might have boasted that a reward was rendered to them; but as the Lord had gratuitously and of his own good pleasure conferred this benefit on them, their impiety was the less excusable. This baseness then is what our Prophet now reprobates.
Then follows a proof of hatred as to Esau, the Lord made his mountain a desolation, and his inheritance a desert where serpents dwelt. Esau, we know, when driven away by his own shame, or by his father’s displeasure, came to Mount Seir; and the whole region where his posterity dwelt was rough and enclosed by many mountains. But were any to object and say, that this was no remarkable token of hatred, as it might on the other hand be said, that the love of God towards Jacob was not much shown, because he dwelt in the land of Canaan, since the Chaldeans inhabited a country more pleasant and more fruitful, and the Egyptians also were very wealthy; to this the answer is — that the land of Canaan was a symbol of God’s love, not only on account of its fruitfulness, but because the Lord had consecrated it to himself and to his chosen people. So Jerusalem was not superior to other cities of the land, either to Samaria or Bethlehem, or other towns, on account of its situation, for it stood, as it is well known, in a hilly country, and it had only the spring of Siloam, fiom which flowed a small stream; and the view was not so beautiful, nor its fertility great; at the same time it excelled in other things. for God had chosen it as his sanctuary; and the same must be said of the whole land. As then the land of Canaan was, as it were, a pledge of an eternal inheritance to the children of Abraham, the scripture on this account greatly extols it, and speaks of it in magnificent terms. If Mount Seir was very wealthy and replenished with everything delightful, it must have been still a sad exile to the Idumeans, because it was a token of their reprobation; for Esau, when he left his father’s house, went there; and he became as it were an alien, having deprived himself of the celestial inheritance, as he had sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. This is the reason why God declares here that Esau was dismissed as it were to the mountains, and deprived of the Holy Land which God had destined to his chosen people.
But the Prophet also adds another thing, — that God’s hatred as manifested when the posterity of Esau became extinct. For though the Assyrians and Chaldeans had no less cruelly raged against the Jews than against the Edomites, yet the issue was very different; for after seventy years the Jews returned to their own country, as Jeremiah had promised: yet Idumea was not to be restored, but the tokens of God’s dreadful wrath had ever appeared there in its sad desolations. Since then there had been no restoration as to Idumea, the Prophet shows that by this fact the love of God towards Jacob and his hatred towards Esau had been proved; for it had not been through the contrivance of men that the Jews had liberty given them, and that they were allowed to build the temple; but because God had chosen them in the person of Jacob, and designed them to be a peculiar and holy people to himself.
But as to the Edomites, it became then only more evident that they had been rejected in the person of Esau, since being once laid waste they saw that they were doomed to perpetual destruction. This is then the import of the Prophet’s words when he says, that the possession of Esau had been given to serpents. For, as I have already said, though for a time the condition of Judea and of Idumea had not been unlike, yet when Jerusalem began to rise and to be repaired, then God clearly showed that that land had not been in vain given to his chosen people. But when the neighboring country was not restored, while yet the posterity of Esau might with less suspicion have repaired their houses, it became hence sufficiently evident that the curse of God was upon them.
(202) The order of the words in the original gives a peculiar emphasis to the sentence —
Was it not a brother that Esau was to Jacob?
The Welsh will express it word for word —
(lang. cy) Onid brawd oedd Esau i Jacob ?
These two verses may be thus rendered —
2. “I have loved you,” saith Jehovah; But ye say, “How hast thou loved us?”— “Was not Esau a brother to Jacob,” saith Jehovah?
3. “Yet I loved Jacob, and Esau I hated; And I have set his mountains a waste, And his heritage for the serpents of the desert.”—
And to the same purpose he adds, If Edom shall say, We have been diminished, but we shall return and build houses; but if they build, I will pull down, saith God. He confirms what I have stated, that the posterity of Edom had no hope of restoration, for however they might gather courage and diligently labor in rebuilding their cities, they were not yet to succeed, for God would pull down all their buildings. This difference then was like a living representation, by which the Jews might see the love of God towards Jacob, and his hatred towards Esau. For since both people were overthrown by the same enemy, how was it that liberty was given to the Jews and no permission was given to the Idumeans to return to their own country? There was, as it has been said, a greater ill-will to the Jews, and yet the Chaldeans dealt with them more kindly. It then follows, that all this was owing to the wonderful purpose of God, and that hence it also appeared, that the adoption, which seemed to have been abolished when the Jews were driven into exile, was not in vain.
Thus then saith Jehovah of hosts, They shall build, that is, though they may build, I will overthrow; and it shall be said to them, Border of ungodliness, and a people with whom Jehovah is angry for ever. By the border of ungodliness he means an accursed border; as though he had said, “It will openly appear that you are reprobate, so that the whole world can form a judgment by the event itself.” By adding, A people with whom Jehovah is angry or displeased, he again confirms what I have said of love and hatred. God might indeed have been equally angry with the Jews as with the Edomites, but when God became pacified towards the Jews, while he continued inexorable to the posterity of Esau, the difference between the two people was hence quite manifest.
Noticed also must be the words, עד עולם, od-oulam, for ever: for God seemed for a time to have rejected the Jews, and the Prophets adopt the same word זעם, som, angry, when they deplore the condition of the people, who found in various ways that God was angry with them. But the wrath of God towards the Jews was only for a time, for he did not wholly forget his covenant; but he became angry with the Edomites for ever, because their father had been rejected: and we know that this difference between the elect and the reprobate is ever pointed out, that when God visits sins in common, he ever moderates his wrath towards his elect, and sets limits to his severity, according to what he says, “If his posterity keep not my covenant, but profane my law, I will chastise them with the rod of man; but my mercy will I not take away from him.” (Psalms 89:31 2 Samuel 7:14.) But with regard to the reprobate, God’s vengeance ever pursues them, is ever suspended over their heads, and ever fixed as it were in their bones and marrow. For this reason it is that our Prophet says, that God would be angry with the posterity of Esau.
He adds, Your eyes shall see. The Jews had already begun in part to witness this spectacle, but the Prophet speaks here of what was to continue. See then shall your eyes; that is, “As it has already appeared of what avail gratuitous election has been to you, by which I have chosen you as my people, and as ye have also seen on the other hand how it has been with your relations the Edomites, because they had been rejected in the person of their father Esau; so also this same difference shall ever be evident to you in their posterity: see then shall your eyes
And ye shall say, Magnified let Jehovah be over the border of Israel; that is, “The event itself will extort this confession, — that I greatly enhance my goodness towards you.” For though tokens of God’s grace shone forth everywhere, and the earth, as the Psalmist says, is full of his goodness, (Psalms 104:24;) yet there was in Judea something special, so that.our Prophet does not in vain say, that there would be always reasons for the Jews to celebrate God’s praises on account of his bounty to them more than to the rest of the world. And the Prophet no doubt reproves here indirectly the wickedness of the people, as though he had said, — “Ye indeed, as far as you can, bury God’s benefits, or at least extenuate them; but facts themselves must draw from you this confession — that God deals bountifully with the border of Israel, that he exercises there his favor more remarkably than among any of the nations.”
After having briefly referred to those benefits which ought to have filled the Jews with shame, he comes at length to the subject he had in view; for his main object, as I have already stated, was to show, that it was God’s complaint that he was deprived of his own right and in a double sense, for the Jews did not reverence him as their Father, nor fear him as their Lord. He might indeed have called himself Lord and Father by the right of creation; but he preferred, as I have already explained, to appeal to their adoption; for it was a remarkable favor, when the Lord chose some out of all the human race; and we cannot say that the cause of this was to be found in men. Whom then he designs to choose, he binds to himself by a holier bond. But if they disappoint him, wholly inexcusable is their perfidy.
As we now understand the Prophet’s meaning, and the object of this expostulation, it remains for us to learn how to accommodate what is taught to ourselves. We are not indeed descended fronm Abraham or from Jacob according to the flesh; but as God has engraved on us certain marks of his adoption, by which he has distinguished us from other nations, while we were yet nothing better, we hence see that we are justly exposed to the same reproof with the Jews, if we do not respond to the calling of God. I wished thus briefly to touch on this point, in order that we may know that this doctrine is no less useful to us at this day than it was to the Jews; for though the adoption is not exactly the same, as it then belonged to one seed and to one family, yet we are not superior to others through our own worthiness, but because God has gratuitously chosen us as a people to himself. Since this has been the case, we are his; for he has redeemed us by the blood of his own Son, and by rendering us partakers, by the gospel, of a favor so ineffably great, he has made us his sons and his servants. Except then we love and reverence him as our Father, and except we fear him as our Lord, there is found in us at this day an ingratitude no less base than in that ancient people. But as I wished now only to refer to the chief point, I shall speak tomorrow, as the passage requires, on the subject of election: but it was necessary first briefly to show the Prophet’s design, as I have done; and then to treat particular points more at large, as the case may require.
God as already proved that he had by many favors been a Father to the Jews. They must have felt that he had indeed bound them to himself, provided they possessed any religion or gratitude. He now then concludes his address to them, as though he had said, that he had very ill bestowed all the blessings he had given them; and he adopts two similitudes; he first compares himself to a father, and then to a master. He says, that in these two respects he had a just cause to complain of the Jews; for he had been a father to them, but they did not in their turn conduct themselves as children, in a submissive and obedient manner, as they ought to have done. And farther, he became their master, but they shook off the yoke, and allowed not themselves to be ruled by his authority.
As to the word, Father, we have already shown that the Jews were not only in common with others the children of God, but had been also chosen as his peculiar people. Their adoption then made them God’s children above all other nations; for when they differed nothing from the rest of the world, God adopted them. With regard to the right and power of a master, God, in the first place, held them bound to him as the Creator and former of the whole world; but he also, as it is well known, attained the right by redemption. That he might then enhance their crime, he not only expostulates with them for having abused his favors, but he charges them also with obstinacy, because they disobeyed his authority, while yet he was their Lord.
He says, that a son who honors his father, and a servant his master. He applies the same verb to both clauses; but he afterwards makes a difference, ascribing honor to a father and fear to a master. As to the first clause, we know that whenever there is authority, there ought to be honor; and when masters are over servants, they ought to be honored. But in a subsequent clause he speaks more distinctly, and says, that a master ought to be feared by a servant, while honor is due to a father from a son. For servants do not love their masters; not being able to escape from their power, they fear them: but the reverence which sons have for their fathers, is more generous and more voluntary. But God shows here, that the Jews could by no means be kept to their duty, though so many favors ought to have made it their sweet delight. God had indeed conciliated them as much as possible to himself, but all was without any benefit. The majesty also of God ought to have struck them with fear. It was then the same, as though he had said, that they were of so perverse a nature, that they could not be led to obedience either by a kind and gracious invitation, or by an authoritative command.
The Lord then complains that he ass deprived by the Jews of the honor which sons owe to their fathers, as well as of the fear which servants ought to have for their masters; and thus he shows that they were like untameable wild beasts, which cannot be tamed by any kind treatment, nor subdued by scourges, or by any kind of castigation.
He then adds, To you, O priests. It is certain that this complaint ought not to be confined to the priests alone, since God, as we have seen, speaks generally of the whole race of Abraham: for he had said that Levi was advanced to the sacerdotal honor, while the other brethren were passed by; but he had said also, that Jacob was chosen when Esau was rejected; and this belonged in common to the twelve tribes. Now it ought not, and it could not, be confined to the tribe of Levi, that God was their father or their master. Why then does he now expressly address the priests? They ought indeed to have been leaders and teachers to the rest of the people, but he does not on this account exempt the whole people from blame or guilt, though he directs his discourse to the priests; for his object was to show that all things had become so corrupt among the people, that the priests were become as it were the chief in contempt of religion and in sacrileges, and in every kind of pollution. It hence follows that there was nothing sound and right in the community; for when the eyes themselves are without light, they cannot discharge their duty to the body, and what at length will follow?
God then no doubt shows that great corruptions prevailed and had spread so much among the people, that they who ought to have been examples to others, had especially shaken off the yoke and given way to unbridled licentiousness. This then is the reason why the Prophet condemns the priests, though at the beginning he included the whole people, as it is evident from the context.
We must at the same time bear in mind what we have elsewhere said -that the fault of the people was not lessened because the sin of the priest was the most grievous; but that all were involved in the same ruin; for God in this case did not absolve the common people, inasmuch as they were guilty of the same sins; but he shows that the most grievous fault belonged to the teachers, who had not reproved the people, but on the contrary increased licentiousness by their dissimulation, as we shall presently find again.
He says that they despised his name; not that the fear of God prevailed in others, but that it was the duty of the priests to reprove the impiety of the whole people. As then they allowed to others so much liberty, it appeared quite evident that the name of God was but little esteemed by them; for had they possessed true zeal, they would not have suffered the worship of God to be trodden under foot or profaned, as we shall presently find to have been the case.
It then follows, Ye have said, In what have we despised thy name? As the Prophet at the beginning indirectly touched on the hypocrisy and perverseness of the people, so he now no doubt repeats the same thing by using a similar language: for how was it that the priests as well as the people asked a question on a plain matter, as though it were obscure, except that they were blind to their own vices? Now the cause of blindness is hypocrisy, and then, as it is wont to do, it brings with it perverseness; for all who deceive themselves, dare even to raise their horns against God, and petulantly to clamor that he too severely treats them; for the Prophet doubtless does not here relate their words, except for the purpose of showing that they had such a brazen front and so hard a neck, that they boldly repelled all reproofs. We see at this day in the world the same sottishness; for though the crimes reproved are sufficiently known, yet they, even the most wicked, immediately object and say that wrong is done to them; and they will not acknowledge a fault except they be a hundred times convicted, and even then they will make some pretense. And truly were there not daily proofs to teach us how refractory men are towards God, the thing would be incredible. The Prophet then did no doubt by this cutting expression goad and also wound the people as well as the priests, intimating that so gross was their hypocrisy, that they dared to make shifts, when their crimes were openly known to all.
Ye have said then, by what have we despised thy name? They inquired as though they had rubbed their forehead, and then gained boldness, “What does this mean? for thou accuses us here of being wicked and sacrilegious, but we are not conscious of any wrong.” Then the answer is given in God’s name, Ye offer on mine altar polluted bread. A question may be here asked, “Ought this to have been imputed to the priests as a crime; for had victims been offered, such as God in his law commanded, it would have been to the advantage and benefit of the priests; and had fine corn been brought, it would have been advantageous to the priests?” But it seems to me probable, that the priests are condemned because like hungry and famished men they seized indiscriminately on all things around them. Some think that the priests grossly and fraudulently violated the law by changing the victims — that when a fat ram was offered, the priests, as they suppose, took it away, and put in its place a ram that was lean, or lame, or mutilated. But this view appears not to me suitable to the passage. Let us then regard the meaning to be what I have stated — that God here contends with the whole people, but that he directs his reproofs to the priests, because they were in two ways guilty, for they formed a part of the people, and they also suffered God to be dishonored; for what could have been more disgraceful than to offer polluted victims and polluted bread?
If it be now asked, whether this ought to have been ascribed as a fault to the priests, the answer is this — that the people then were not very wealthy; for they had but lately returned from exile, and they had not brought with them much wealth, and the land was desolate and uncultivated: as, then, there was so much want among the people, and they were intent, each on his advantage, according to what we have seen in the Prophet Haggai, (Haggai 1:4,) and neglected the temple of God and their sacrifices, there is no doubt but that they wished anyhow to discharge their duty towards God, and therefore brought beasts which were either lame or blind; and hence the whole worship of God was vitiated, their sacrifices being polluted. The priests ought to have rejected all these, and to have closed up God’s temple, rather than to have received indiscriminately what God had prohibited. As then this indifference of the people was nothing but a profanation of divine worship, the priests ought to have firmly opposed it. But as they themselves were hungry, they thought it better to lay hold on everything around them — “What,” they said, “will become of us? for if we reject these sacrifices, however vicious they may be, they will offer nothing; and thus we shall starve, and there will be no advantage; and we shall be forced in this case to open and to close the temple, and to offer sacrifices at our own expense, and we are not equal to this burden.” Since then the priests spared the people for private gain, our Prophet justly reproves them, and says, ye offer polluted bread
It was indeed the office of the priests to place bread daily on the table; but whence could bread be obtained except some were offered? Now nothing was lost to the priests, when they daily set bread before God, for they presently received it; and thus they preferred, as it was more to their advantage, to offer bread well approved, made of fine flour: but as I have said, their own convenience interposed, for they thought that they could not prevail with the people — “If we irritate these men, they will deny that they have anything to offer; and thus the temple will be empty, and our own houses will be empty; it is then better to take coarse bread from them than nothing; we shall at least feed our families and servants with this bread, after having offered it to the Lord.” We hence see how the fault belonged to the priests, when the people offered polluted bread, and unapproved victims.
I have hitherto explained the Prophet’s words with reference chiefly to the shew-bread; not that they ought to be so strictly taken as many interpreters have considered them; for under the name of bread is included, we know, every kind of eatables; so it seems probable to me that the word ought to be extended to all the sacrifices; but one kind is here mentioned as an example; and it seems also that what immediately follows is added as an explanation — ye offer the lame and the blind and the mutilated. Since these things are connected together, I have no doubt but that God means by bread here every kind of offering, and we know that the shew-bread was not offered on the altar; but there was a table by itself appointed for this purpose near the altar. And why God designates by bread all the sacrifices may be easily explained; for God would have sacrifices offered to him as though he had his habitation and table among the Jews; it was not indeed his purpose to fill their minds with gross imaginations, as though he did eat or drink, as we know that heathens have been deluded with such notions; but his design was only to remind the Jews of that domestic habitation which he had chosen for himself among them. But more on this subject shall presently be said; I shall now proceed to consider the words.
Ye offer on my altar polluted bread; and ye have said, In what have we polluted thee? The priests again answer as though God unjustly accused them; for they allege their innocency, as the question is to be regarded here as a denial: In what then have we polluted thee? They deny that they were rightly condemned, inasmuch as they had duly served God. But we may hence conclude, according to what has been before stated, that the people were under the influence of gross hypocrisy, and had become hardened in their obstinacy. It is the same at this day; though there be such a mass of crimes, which everywhere prevails in the world, and even overflows the earth, yet no one will bear to be condemned; for every one looks on others, and thus when no less grievous sins appear in others, every one absolves himself. This is then the sottishness which the Prophet again goads — Ye have said, In what have we polluted thee? He and other Prophets no doubt charged the Jews with this sacrilege — that they polluted the name of God.
But it deserves to be known, that few think that they pollute God and his name when they worship him superstitiously or formally, as though they had to do with a child: but we see that God himself declares, that the whole of religion is profaned, and that his name is shamefully polluted when men thus trifle with him.
He answers, when ye said, literally, in your saying, The table of Jehovah, it is contemptible. Here the Prophet discovers the fountain of their sin; and he shows as it were by the finger, that they had despised those rites which belonged to the worship of God. The reason follows, If ye offer the blind, he says, for sacrifice, it is no evil. Some read the last clause as a question, “is it not evil?” but he, the mark of a question, is not here; and we may easily gather from the context that the Prophet as yet relates how presumptuously both the priests and the whole people thought they could be acquitted and obtain pardon for themselves, “It is no evil thing if the lame be offered, if the blind be offered, if the maimed be offered; there is nothing evil in all this.” (203) We now then understand what the Prophet means.
But the subject would have been obscure had not a fuller explanation been given in these words, The table of Jehovah, it is contemptible (204) God does here show, as I have before stated, why he was so much displeased with the Jews. Nothing is indeed so precious as his worship; and he had instituted under the law sacrifices and other rites, that the children of Abraham might exercise themselves in worshipping him spiritually. It was then the same as though he had said, that he cared nothing for sheep and calves, and for any thing of that kind, but that their impiety was sufficiently manifested, inasmuch as they did not think that the whole of religion was despised when they despised the external acts of worship according to the law. God then brings back the attention of the Jews from brute animals to himself, as though he had said, “Ye offer to me lame and blind animals, which I have forbidden to be offered; that you act unfaithfully towards me is sufficiently apparent; and if ye say that these are small things and of no moment, I answer, that you ought to have regarded the end for which I designed that sacrifices should be offered to me, and ordered bread to be laid on my table in the sanctuary; for by these tokens you ought to have known that I live in the midst of you, and that whatever ye eat or drink is sacred to me, and that all you possess comes to you through my bounty. As then this end for which sacrifices have been appointed has been neglected by you, it is quite evident that ye have no care nor concern for true religion.
We now then perceive why the Prophet objects to the priests, that they had called the table of Jehovah contemptible; not that they had spoken thus expressly, but because they had regarded it almost as nothing to pervert and adulterate the whole of divine worship according to the law, which was an evidence of religion when there was any.
Now it may seem strange, that God one while so strictly requires pure sacrifices and urges the observance of them, when yet at another time he says that he does not seek sacrifices, “Sacrifice I desire not, but mercy,” (Hosea 6:6;) and again, “Have I commanded your fathers when I delivered them from Egypt, to offer victims to me? With this alone was I content, that they should obey my voice.” He says afterwards in Micah,“
Shall I be propitious to you if ye offer me all your flocks? but rather, O man, humble thyself before thy God.” (Micah 6:6.)
The same is said in the fiftieth Psalm, in the first and the last chapters of Isaiah, and in many other places. Since then God elsewhere depreciates sacrifices, and shows that they are not so highly esteemed by him, why does he now so rigidly expostulate with the Jews, because they offered lame and maimed animals? I answer, that there was a reason why God should by this reproof discover the impiety of the people. Had all their victims been fat or well fed, our Prophet would have spoken as we find that others have done; but since their faithlessness had gone so far that they showed even to children that they had no regard for the worship of God — since they had advanced so far in shamelessness, it was necessary that they should be thus convicted of impiety; and hence he says, ye offer to me polluted bread, as though he had said, “I supply you with food, it was your duty to offer to me the first-fruits, the tenths, and the shew-bread; and the design of these external performances is, that they may regard themselves as fed by me daily, and also that they may feed moderately and temperately on the bread and flesh and other things given them, as though they were sitting at my table: for when they see that bread made from the same corn is before the presence of God, this ought to come to their minds, ‘it is God’s will, as though he lived with us, that a portion of the same bread should ever be set on the holy table:’ and then when they offer victims, they are not only to be thus stirred up to repentance and faith, but they ought also to acknowledge that all these are sacred to God, for when they set before the altar either a calf, or an ox, or a lamb, and then see the animal sacrificed, (a part of which remains for the priests,) and the altar sprinkled with blood, they ought to think thus within themselves, ‘Behold, we have all these things in common with God, as though clothed in a human form he dwelt with us and took the same food and the same drink.’ They ought then to have performed in this manner their outward rites.”
God now justly complains, that his table was contemptible, as though he had said, that his favor was rejected, because the people, as it were in contempt, brought coarse bread, as though they wished to feed some swineherd, — a conduct similar to that mentioned in Zechariah, when God said, that a reward was offered for him as though he were some worthless hireling, (Zechariah 2:12) — “I have carefully fed you,” he says,” and I now demand my reward: ye give for me thirty silverings, a mean and disgraceful price.” So also in this place, Ye have said, the table of Jehovah, it is polluted. There is an emphasis in the pronoun; for God shows that he by no means deserved such a reproach: “Who am I, that ye should thus despise my table? I have consecrated it, that ye might have a near access to me, as though I dwelt in the visible sanctuary; but ye have despised my table as though I were nothing.”
He afterwards adds, Offer this now to thy governor; will he be pleased with thee? God here complains that less honor is given to him than to mortals; for he adduces this comparison, “When any one owes a tribute or tax to a governor, and brings any thing maimed or defective, he will not receive it.” Hence he draws this inference, that he was extremely insulted, for the Jews dared to offer him what every mortal would reject. He thus reasons from the less to the greater, that this was not a sacrilege that could be borne, as the Jews had so presumptuously abused his kindness; and hence he subjoins
(203) It is rather an ironical language, as it will appear from the following literal version —
8. And when ye bring the blind for a sacrifice, no evil! And when ye bring the lame and the sick, no evil! Offer, it, I pray, to thy governor; Will he be pleased with thee or accept thy person, Saith Jehovah of hosts?
The whole is in the strain of irony; and the first lines are much more striking than when the interrogative particle is introduced. So is the rendering of the Septuagint, οὐ κακὸν — no evil. It was the Targum that introduced the interrogative form. — Ed.
(204) So ought this sentence to be rendered; and it is thus rendered by Newcome, only for “contemptible” he has “despicable,” while Henderson retains the former, as it is in our version. — Ed.
He wounds here the priests more grievously, — because they had so degenerated as to be wholly unworthy of their honorable office and title; “Go,” he says, “and entreat the face of God. ” All this is ironical; for interpreters are much mistaken who think that the Prophet here exhorts the priests humbly to ask pardon from God, both for themselves and for the people. On the contrary, he addresses them, as I have said, ironically, while telling them to be intercessors and mediators between God and the people; and yet they were profane men, who on their part polluted the whole worship of God, and thus subverted the whole of religion: go thou and entreat, he says, the face of God. This duty, we know, was enjoined on the priests; they were to draw nigh to the sanctuary and present themselves before God as though they were advocates pleading the cause of the people, or at least intercessors to pacify God. Since then they were in this respect the types of Christ, it behoved them to strive themselves to be holy; and though the people abandoned themselves to all kinds of wickedness, it yet became the priests to devote themselves with all reverence to the duties of their calling; and as God had preferred them to their brethren, they ought especially to have consecrated themselves to him with all fear; for the more excellent their condition was, the more eminent ought to have been their piety and holiness. Justly then does the Prophet here inveigh so severely against them, because they did not consider that they were honored with the priesthood, that they might entreat God, and thus pacify his wrath, and reconcile to him miserable men: Go, he says, and entreat the face of God; forsooth! he will accept your face. We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.
And now, he says, he will have mercy on us. Here also the Prophet derides them, because they boasted that they could prevail through their own high dignity to render God propitious; forsooth! he says, he will have mercy on us. But this is done by your hand, i.e., by you. “Do ye raise up your hands to God? and will he on seeing you be pacified towards you? As then ye are polluted, ye are unworthy of the honor and office, in which ye so proudly glory.”
He does not however, as we have already said, extenuate the fault of the people, and much less does he exempt them from guilt who were implicated in the same crimes; but he shows that the state of things was wholly desperate; for the common people disregarded God, and the priests, neglecting to make any distinctions, received every sort of victims, only that they might not be in want: he shows them that the state of the people was extremely bad, as there was no one who could, according to what his office required, pacify God. Will he then receive your face ? The Prophet seems to allude to the person of the Mediator; for as Christ had not as yet appeared, when the priest presented himself before the altar, it was the same as though God looked on the face of one, and became thus propitious to all. On this account he says, that the priests were not worthy that God should look on them, since they had polluted his sanctuary and corrupted his whole service. (205) For the same purpose he subjoins —
(205) It is generally admitted that this verse is ironical. The second line has been differently interpreted: some regard the impure sacrifices before mentioned as being referred to, “from your hand have these come,” following the Septuagint, where זאת is rendered “ ταυτα — these:” but the most obvious meaning is that given by Calvin, that the sentence is a concession as to what the priests are ironically exhorted to do. I give the following version, —
And now, intreat now God’s face that he may favor us; By you ( literally by your hand) has this been done: Will he on your account lift up the face? Saith Jehovah of hosts.
To “lift up the face” is to show favor. The words seem to be spoken by the Prophet, and by saying, “saith Jehovah,” at the end, he identifies what he says with the mind of God, as though he said that what he addressed to them was communicated to him from above. Instead of מכם, “on your account,” some MS., have לכם, “for you,” or “for your sake.” — Ed.
He goes on with the same subject, — that the priests conducted themselves very shamefully in their office, and that the people had become hardened through their example, so that the whole of religion was disregarded. Hence he says, that the doors were not closed by them. Some interpreters connect the two things together — that they closed not the doors of the temple, nor kindled the altar for nothing; and thus they apply the adverb, חנם, chenam, to both clauses; as though he had said, that they were hirelings, who did not freely devote themselves to serve God, but looked for profit and gain in everything: and this is the commonly received explanation. (206) But it seems better to me to take them separately and to say, Who does even shut the doors? not however for nothing, and the copulative, ו, vau, as in many other places, may be rendered even: and yet ye kindle not for nothing my altar; as though God had said, “I have fixed your works; ye are then to me as hired servants; and now since I have ordered a reward to be given to you whenever ye stand at my altar, why do ye not close my door?” Some render חנם, chenam, in vain, and give this explanation “Who closes the doors? then kindle not afterwards in vain my altar;” as though God rejected the whole service, which had been corrupted by the avarice or the sloth of the priests, and by the presumption of the people.
It is indeed certain that it is better to separate the two clauses so that the adverb, חנם, chenam, may be confined to the letter; but there may yet, as I have said, be a two-fold meaning. If we render, חנם, chenam, in vain the import is that the Prophet declares that they labored to no purpose while they thus sacrificed to God contrary to his law for they ought to have attended especially to the rule prescribed to them: as then they despised this, he justly says, “Offer not to me in vain;” and thus the future tense is to be taken for the imperative, as we know is the case sometimes in Hebrew.
But no interpreter seems to have sufficiently considered the reason why the Prophet speaks of not closing the doors of the temple. The priests, we know were set over the temple for this reason — that nothing polluted might be admitted; for there were of the Levites some doorkeepers, and others stood at the entrance; in short, all had their stations: and then when they had brought in the victim it was the office of the priests to examine it and to see that it was such as the law of God required. As then it was their special office to see that nothing polluted should be received into the temple of God, he justly complains here that they indiscriminately received what was faulty and profane: hence he rightly declares (for this seems to me to be the true exposition) “Offer not in vain.” He then draws the conclusion, that the priests lost all their labor in thus sacrificing, because God would not have his name profaned, and justly preferred obedience to all sacrifices. He therefore denies that they did any good in slaying victims, because they ought in the first place to have attended to this — not to change anything in God’s word and not to deviate from it in the least. But I cannot now proceed farther.
(206) Adopted by Jerome, Cyril, and in our version, and by Henry, Scott, Adam Clarke, and Henderson. But Marckius takes another view, previously taken by Drusius, Gataker, and Cocceius, according to the following version —
Who is there moreover among you? let him even close the doors, That ye may not kindle my altar in vain.“
What he seems to say is this,” observes Drusius, “I wish there were some one so inflamed by a pious zeal, as to close the doors, and thus to exclude all unlawful sacrifices.” To kindle or light the altar was to light the fire under it to consume the sacrifice. The Targum favors “in vain,” or to no purpose, “Offer ye not on my altar an execrable oblation.” The word הכם is used in both senses — “for nothing” or without gain, Genesis 29:15; Exodus 21:2,—and “in vain” or uselessly, Proverbs 1:27; Ezekiel 6:10
It is difficult to know which of these views is the right one. What seems against our version is the negative לא in the second line. The sense given would be better brought out without it; and so Jerome leaves it out in his explanation. The form also of the sentence being changed renders it improbable that חנם belongs to the former clause. The version of Drusius comes nearest to the original, and is countenanced by the Septuagint and the Targum. — Ed.
Here God shows that he no longer cared for the Jews, for he would bid altars to be reared for him everywhere and through all parts of the world, that he might be purely worshipped by all nations. It is indeed a remarkable prophecy as to the calling of the Gentiles; but we must especially remember this, — that whenever the Prophets speak of this calling, they promise the spread of God’s worship as a favor to the Jews, or as a punishment and reproach.
The Prophets then promised to the Jews that the Gentiles would become allied to them; so does Zechariah,“
In that day lay hold shall ten men on the skirt of the garment, and will say to a Jew, Be thou our leader; for the same God with thee will we worship.” (Zechariah 8:23.)
It would have been then the highest honor to the Jews had they become teachers to all nations, so as to instruct them in true religion. So also Isaiah says, that is, that those who were before aliens would become the disciples of the chosen people, so that they would willingly submit to their teaching. But as the Jews have fallen from their place, the Gentiles have succeeded and occupied their position. Hence it is that the Prophets when speaking of the calling of the Gentiles, often denounce it as a punishment on the Jews; as though they had said, that when they were repudiated there would be other children of God, whom he would substitute in their place, according to what Christ threatened to the men of his age,“
Taken away from you shall be the kingdom of God, and shall be given to another nation.” (Matthew 21:43.)
Such is this prophecy: for our Prophet does not simply open to the Gentiles the temple of God, to connect them with the Jews and to unite them in true religion; but he first excludes the Jews, and shows that the worship of God would be exercised in common by the Gentiles, for the doctrine of salvation would be propagated to the utmost extremities of the earth.
This difference ought to be noticed, which interpreters have not observed, and yet it is what is very necessary to be known; and for want of knowing this has it happened that passages wholly different have been indiscriminately blended together. The Prophet then does not here promise, as we have often stated in other places, that the whole world would be subject to God, so that true religion would everywhere prevail, but he brands the Jews with reproach, as though he had said, “God has repudiated you, but he will find other sons for himself, who will occupy your place.” He had repudiated in the last verse their sacrifices, and we know how haughtily the Jews gloried in the holiness of their race. As then they were inflated with so much pride, they thought that God would be no God except he had them as his holy Church. The Prophet here answers them, and anticipates their objection by saying, that God’s name would be celebrated through the whole world: “Ye are a few people, all the nations will unite in one body to worship God together; God then will not stand in need of you, and after he rejects you his kingdom will not decay. Ye indeed think that his kingdom cannot be safe, and that his glory will perish except he is worshipped by you; but I now declare to you, that the worship of God will flourish everywhere, even after he shall cast you out of his family.”
We now then see what the Prophet means when he says, that Great will be the name of God from the rising to the setting of the sun (208) It is simply said in Psalms 113:3“
From the rising to the setting of the sun wonderful shall be the name of God.”
There indeed it is only a promise, but here the Prophet includes the punishment which the Jews had deserved, as though he had said, that after they were rejected by God on account of their ingratitude, the Gentiles would become holy to God, because he would adopt them instead of that wicked and ungodly people.
But I have said, that the calling of the Gentiles is here clearly proved, or may with certainty be elicited from this prophecy, for this reason, because the name of God cannot be great without the teaching of the truth. It is therefore the same thing as though the Prophet had said, that the law which had been given to the Jews would be proclaimed among all nations, so that true religion might spread everywhere: for the basis of true religion is to know how he is to be worshipped by us, inasmuch as obedience is better than all sacrifices. And it is necessary always to begin with this principle — to know the God whom we worship: and hence Christ himself, in the fourth chapter of John, condemns all the religions which then prevailed in the world, because men presumptuously worshipped gods devised by themselves. Since then it is necessary that the worship of God should be based on the truth, then God declares that his name would become renowned in every place, he doubtless shows that his law would be known to all nations, so that his will might be known everywhere, which is, as we have said, the only rule of true religion.
He afterwards adds — Everywhere shall be offered incense to my name, and a clean offering. Why? Because my name shall be great. The repetition is not useless; for it was a thing then incredible, inasmuch as God had not in vain separated the Jews from the rest of the world; nor was it an ordinary commendation, when Moses said in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy — “Show me a nation to whom God draws nigh as lie does to you: this then is your nobility and your excellency, to have a God nigh and friendly to you.” Hence also it is said in Psalms 147:20 —“
He has not done thus to other nations; his judgments has he not made known to them.”
It was then the peculiar privilege of the race of Abraham that God was known and worshipped by them. The very novelty, then, of what is here said might have closed the door against this prophecy; and this is the reason why the Prophet repeatedly confirms what it was then difficult to believe — the name of God, he says, shall be great in every place
We must also bear in mind that God cannot be rightly worshipped except he is known, which Paul confirms when he says — “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” for except the truth shines forth, we shall grope like the blind, and wander through devious ways. There is therefore no religion approved by God except what is based on his word.
Moreover the Prophet, by מנחה, meneche, offering, and by incense, means the worship of God; and this mode of speaking is common in the Scriptures, for the Prophets who were under the law accommodated their expressions to the comprehension of the people. Whenever then they intend to show that the whole world would come to the faith and true religion — “An altar,” they say, “shall be built to God;” and by altar they no doubt meant spiritual worship, and not that after Christ’s coming sacrifices ought to be offered. For now there is no altar for us; and whosoever builds an altar for himself subverts the cross of Christ, on which he offered the only true and perpetual sacrifice.
It then follows that this mode of speaking ought to be so taken, that we may understand the analogy between the legal rites, and the spiritual manner of worshipping God now prescribed in the gospel. Though then the words of the Prophet are metaphorical, yet their meaning is plain enough — that God will be worshipped and adored everywhere. But what are the sacrifices of the New Testament? They are prayers and thanksgivings, according to what the Apostle says in the last chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. There was also under the law the spiritual worship of God, as it is especially stated in the fiftieth psalm; but there were then shadows connected with it, as it is intimated in these words of Christ —“
Now is come the hour when the Father shall be worshipped in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:13.)
He does not indeed deny that God was worshipped in spirit by the fathers; but as that worship was concealed under outward rites, he says that now under the gospel the simple, and, so to speak, the naked truth is taught. What then the Prophet says of offering and incense availed under the law; but we must now see what God commands in his gospel, and how he would have us to worship him. We do not find there any incense or sacrifices.
This passage contains nothing else than that the time would come when the pure and spiritual worship of God would prevail in all places.
And thus it appears how absurd are the Papists, when they hence infer that God cannot be worshipped without some kind of sacrifice; and on this ground they defend the impiety of their mass, as though it were the sacrifice of which the Prophet speaks. But nothing can be more foolish and puerile; for the Prophet, as we have said, adopts a mode of speaking common in Scripture. And were we to allow offering and incense to be taken here literally, how could, מנחה, meneche, offering, be the body and blood of Christ? “Oh!” they say, “it is a sacrifice made of bread, and wine was added. Oh! Christ has thus commanded.” But where has he said “sacrifice?” (209) They again deny that it is bread? for they say that it is transubstantiated into the body of Christ: now then it is not a sacrifice of bread, nor of fine flour; for the form only, visible to the eyes, and without substance, remains, as they imagine. There is in the meantime no reason for us carefully to discuss a subject so clear; for as we have seen in Joel —“
In the last days I will pour my Spirit on all flesh, and prophesy shall your sons and your daughters; your old men dreams shall dream, and your young men visions shall see.” (Joel 2:28.)
So also we find what is similar in this place; for the Apostles, though not taught by visions, were yet we know illuminated; and then visions were not given commonly at the commencement of the gospel, nor dreams; they were indeed very rare things. What then does Paul mean? For he speaks of the whole body of the Church, as though he had said that all, from the least to the greatest, would be Prophets. Did they become Prophets by visions and dreams, whom God illuminated by the doctrine of the gospel? By no means. But Joel, as I have said, accommodated what he said to the time of the law. So also in this place the Prophet, by offering and incense, designates the spiritual worship of God. Let us now proceed-
(208) The verse begins with כי, which Calvin suggests may be rendered “ certe — surely,” or verily; and this would be most suitable here —
Verily, from the rising of the sun to it setting, Great shall be my name among the nations; And in every place incense shall be brought To my name, and a pure offering: Verily, great shall be my name Among the nations, saith Jehovah of hosts.
The Septuagint render the first part as past, “glorified has been my name;” and the second in the present, “is brought.” But the future is intended, as the last verb is in that tense, “I will not accept:” for when there is no verb in a sentence, and the auxiliary verb is understood, as is often the case in Hebrew, the tense is regulated by the context. “I will not accept your offering, but an offering shall be brought to me,” and has been or is, but shall be. — Ed.
(209) As an instance of a gradual deviation from the truth, Justin Martyr, in the second century, rendered the word “incense,” θυσια, a sacrifice, while in the Septuagint it is θυμιαμα, incense.
This verse may be confined to the priests, or it may be extended to the whole people; for both views are appropriate. As to my own view, I doubt not but that the Prophet here reproves with additional severity the priests, and that at the same time he extends his reproof to the people in general. We saw in our yesterday’s lecture how religion had been polluted by the priests, and how impiously they had profaned the worship of God: but this was the general sin of the whole people, as we shall presently see. Let us then know that the whole people, as well as the priests, are here reproved: but as a crime in the priests was more grievous, they being the occasion of sacrilege to others, the Prophet assails them in an especial manner, Ye, he says, have polluted my name
He gives a reason, and at the same time enhances their guilt: for they might have complained, that God not only put them on a level with the Gentiles, but also rejected them, and substituted aliens in their place. He shows that God had a just cause for disinheriting them, and for adopting the Gentiles as his children, for they had polluted God’s name. He at the same time amplifies their sin, when he says, “The Gentiles, by whom I have been hitherto despised, and to whom my name was not made known, will soon come to the faith; thus my name shall be great, it shall be reverently worshipped by all nations; but ye have polluted it.” It was certainly very strange, that the Jews, peculiarly chosen and illuminated by the doctrine of the Law, so presumptuously polluted God’s worship, as though they despised him, and that the Gentiles, being novices, rendered obedience to God as soon as they tasted of the truth of religion, so that his glory became through them illustrious.
He afterwards shows how the name of Gog was polluted, Ye say, The table of Jehovah is polluted; that is, ye distinguish not between what is sacred and profane: for he repeats what we noticed yesterday, — that the Jews thought it a frivolous matter, when the Prophets taught them that God was to be worshipped with all reverence. It is not however probable, that they openly uttered such a blasphemy as that the table of God was polluted; but it is easy to conclude from what is said, that God’s table was profaned by them, for they made no account of it. The holiness of the table ought to have been so regarded by the Jews, as not to approach the sanctuary without true repentance and faith; they ought to have known that they had to do with God, and that his majesty ought to have deeply touched them. When therefore they came to the temple, and brought with them their uncleanness like swine, it was quite evident that they had no reverence for the temple, or the altar, or the table. According to this sense then are the words of the Prophet to be understood, — not that the Jews openly mocked God, but that the holiness of the temple was with them of no account.
With regard to the Table, we stated yesterday, that when God ordered sacrifices to be offered to him, it was the same as though he familiarly dwelt among the Jews, and became as it were their companion. It was the highest honor and an instance of God’s ineffable goodness, that he thus condescended, so that the people might know that he was not to be sought afar off. And for this reason the less excusable was their impiety, as they did not consider that sacrifices were celebrated on earth, that their minds might be raised up above the heavens: for it is to this purpose that God descends to us, even to raise us above, as we have elsewhere stated. It was then an extremely base and shameful senselessness and stupidity in the Jews, that they did not consider that God’s table was set among them, that they might by faith penetrate into heaven, and know it to be even before their eyes.
As to the words, Its fruit is his contemptible food, we must observe, that some render, ניב, nib, word, and bring this passage from Isaiah, “I have created the fruit of the lips, peace, peace,” (Isaiah 57:19.) The verb, נוב, nub, means to fructify; hence, ניב, nib, is fruit or produce. Were we to grant that it is metaphorically taken for word, yet I see no reason why we should depart from its simple and real meaning. For first there will be a relative without an antecedent, ניבו, nibu, his word; and then there will be a change of number; for they apply it to the priests, his word, that is, the word of them — of whom? of the priests. It is common, I know, in Hebrew, to put a relative without an antecedent; but as I have said, nothing requires this here. The most suitable rendering then is, Its provision, that is, of the altar, is the contemptible food of God. (210) I take then the words to mean this, that a speech of this kind was often in the mouth of the people as well as of the priests, — “Oh! the provision for the altar is any kind of meat; be not so anxious in your choice, so as to offer the best animals; for God is satisfied even with the lean and the maimed.”
And here again God reproves the impiety and contempt of the people; and at the same time he condemns their avarice, because they took the worst of their animals to offer in the temple, as though they lost everything they consecrated to God.
Why he calls the sacrifices the meat or food of God, we now sufficiently understand. Only this ought to be observed, that the impiety of the people was evident, as they were so unconcerned in their duties; for God had not in vain instituted sacrifices and other rites. The contempt then of the signs openly showed not only the negligence of the people, but also their contempt of all religion. Were any one at this day to regard as nothing outward teaching and the sacraments, would he not prove himself to be an impious despiser of God? Yet religion, I allow, does not consist in these things; for though hypocrites pretend the most ardent zeal, they yet profane the name of God, whenever the truth sounds in their ears and the heart is not touched, and when they come to the Lord’s table and are at the same time alienated from Christ. These things I allow; but as no true servant of God can despise these ordinances, which on account of our common infirmity are useful to us, and without which we cannot be as long as we sojourn in this world, whosoever derides our simplicity in frequenting God’s house, or if silent abstains from doing so, and regards such a practice as nothing or as unimportant, he is thus, as I have said, proved guilty of impiety. This is the reason why the Prophet so sharply reproves the Jews, because they said that the provision for the altar was God’s contemptible food. It follows —
(210) And what is offered thereon, even its food, is despicable.— Newcome. This is nearly the version of the Septuagint.
And its fruit, even his food, is contemptible. —Henderson
The table of Jehovah, polluted it is and his (or, its) fruit; contemptible is his (or, its) food. —Marckius
The last comes nearest to the original, and is the most obvious construction. The verse may be thus rendered:
But ye profane it by saying, “The table of Jehovah, Polluted is it and its fruit, Contemptible is its food.”—
He pursues the same subject — that the worship of God was despised by them and regarded as almost worthless. We must bear in mind what I have before stated — that the Jews are not reprehended here as though they had openly and avowedly spoken reproachfully of God’s worship; but that this was sufficiently evident from their conduct; for they allowed themselves so much licentiousness, that it was quite manifest that they were trifling with God, inasmuch as they had cast off every fear of him and all reverence towards him.
Ye have said, Behold, labor. This may apply to the whole people, or to the priests alone. It is commonly explained of the priests — that they complained that they had a hard office, because they were continually in the temple and constantly watched there, and were much occupied in cleaning the vessels.
The monks at this day under the Papacy, and the priests, boasting of themselves, say, “While all others sleep, we are watching; for we are constant in prayers.” Forsooth! they howl at midnight in their temples; and then by massing and by doing other strange things they imagine that they are seriously engaged in pacifying God. In this sense do some understand this passage, as though the priests, in order to commend their work, alleged that they labored much in God’s service, and as though God had enjoined on them many and difficult things. But I prefer applying this to the whole people, and yet I do not exclude the priests; for the Prophet here condemns both, and shows that it was wearisome to them to spend labor in worshipping God, that they considered it weariness, as we commonly say, Tu le fais par courvee. (211)
And the import of what follows is the same, Ye have snuffed at it, that is, through disdain. Some give this rendering, “With sorrow have ye moved him;” and the verb is in Hiphil, and is often taken in this sense. The verb, נפח, nephech, is properly to snuff; and it is here in another conjugation; but even in Hiphil it has this meaning, and cannot be taken otherwise. Now they who render it, to move or touch with sorrow, are under the necessity of turning the words of the Prophet to a sense the most foreign and remote, even that the priests, extremely greedy of gain, compelled the common people to bring sacrifices, and thus extorted sacrifices, but not without sorrow and lamentation. We see how forced this is: I therefore wholly reject it. Some have hammered out a very refined sense, which is by no means suitable, “Ye have snuffed at it,” that is, Ye have said indeed that the victims are good and sufficiently fat; and yet ye may by breath blow them into the air. Others render it, to cast down, because they threw the sacrifices on the ground. But what need there is of departing from the common meaning of the word, since it is easy to conclude that both the priests and the people are here condemned, because the worship of God was a weariness to them, as we snuff at a thing when it displeases us. The behavior then of the fastidious is what the Prophet meant here to express. The passage will thus be very appropriate, Ye have said, Behold weariness! Ye have snuffed at it: then he adds, —
Ye have offered the torn, and the lame, and the weak. These words prove the same thing — that they performed their duty towards God in a trifling manner by offering improper victims: when they had anything defective or diseased, they said that it was sacred to God, as we find it stated in the next verse. Some improperly render, גזול, gazul, a prey, what had been unjustly procured, as though he had said, that they offered victims obtained by plunder: but I wonder how they could thus distort the words of the Prophet without any pretense. He mentions here three kinds — the torn, the lame, and the maimed or the feeble. Who then does not see that the torn was an animal which had been torn by wild beasts? When therefore they had an animal half dead, having been torn by wolves, they thought that they had a suitable victim: “I am constrained to offer a sacrifice to God, this lamb is very suitable, for the wolf has devoured a part of it, and it has hardly escaped: as then it is maimed, I will bring it.” The Prophet then calls those torn victims which had been lacerated by the teeth of wild beasts.
We now understand the import of the words; but we must remember what I have said — that God required not the performance of external rites, because he had need of meat and drink, or because he set a great value on these sacrifices, but on account of their design. The sacrifices then which God demanded from his ancient people had in themselves nothing that promoted true religion; nor could the odour of sacrifices of itself delight God; but the end was to be regarded. As then God ordered and commanded sacrifices to be offered to him, that he might exercise his people in penitence and faith, it was for this reason that he valued them. But when the people had fallen into gross contempt of them, that they brought to God, as it were to insult him, the maimed and the lame, their extremely base and intolerable impiety, as I have already said, was made fully evident. This is the reason why the Prophet now so vehemently chides the priests and the whole people; they offered to God such sacrifices as man would have rejected, according to what we noticed yesterday. It then follows —
(211) Variety of meanings has been given to the word מתלאה Calvin takes it as one word with two letters added to לאה, to be weary or tired. But Drusius, Marckius, Parkhurst, Henderson, and others, regard it as a contraction for מה and תלאה, according to some other instances in Hebrew, and render it “What weariness!” and this corresponds with the context more than any other view. The Septuagint and the Targum considered the מ as a preposition, and this mistake has been followed by Jerome and the fathers, and also by Grotius and Newcome. “Behold, from weariness,” or from labor, or from affliction: and it has been regarded as an excuse made by the priests on account of their poor and depressed condition. But there is nothing to countenance this notion in the context.
Calvin adopted the past tense in this and the preceding verse, and so has Henderson; but Marckius and Newcome, with more correctness, render the verbs in the present tense, for they are all in this verse preceded by a conversive ו, vau; and the last line shows that the present time is intended, —
13. And ye say, “What weariness!” And ye snuff at it, saith Jehovah of hosts; And ye bring the torn, and the lame, and the sick, When ye bring an offering: Shall I accept it from your hand, saith Jehovah?
There are two evils ascribed to the priests—they were discontented with their office and performed it as a drudgery — and they allowed forbidden victims to be offered.“
Offering,” מנחה, signifies a gift or a present, whether a victim or meat-offering. See Genesis 4:2. Here evidently it comprehends “the torn,” “the lame,” etc., as it is clear from the words, “Shall I accept it?” that is, the offering, including those specified; for if it meant a meat-offering, as some suppose, non-acceptance would be confined to it alone. — Ed.
I come now to the kind of fraud they practiced, If there be, he says, in his flock a male, that is, a lamb or a ram, when he vows, then what is corrupt he offers to Jehovah. He then means, that though they pretended some religion, yet nothing was done by them with a sincere and honest heart; for they immediately repented of the vow made to God; they thought that they might be reduced to poverty, if they were too bountiful in their sacrifices. Hence then the Prophet proves that they offered to God with a double mind, and that whatever they thus offered was polluted, because it did not proceed from a right motive.
We said yesterday, that the Prophet did not require fat or lean beasts, because God valued either the blood or flesh of animals on its own account, but for the end in view; for these were the performances of religion by which God designed to train up the Jews for the end contemplated, and in the duty of repentance. As then they were so sordid as to these sacrifices, it was easy to conclude, that they were gross and profane despisers of God, and had no concern for religion.
The reason follows, For a great king am I, saith Jehovah, and my name is terrible (212) among the nations. God declares here that his majesty was of no account among the Jews, as though he had said, “With whom do you think that you have to do?” And this is what we ought carefully to consider when engaged in God’s service. We indeed know that it is a vice which has prevailed in all ages, that all nations and individuals thought that they worshipped God, when they devised foolish and frivolous rites according to their own fancies. If then we have a desire to worship God aright, we must remember how great he is; for his majesty will raise us up above the whole world, and cease will that audacity which possesses almost all mankind; for they think that their own will is a law, when they presumptuously obtrude anything on God. The greatness of God then ought to humble us, that we may not worship him according to the perceptions of our flesh, but offer him only what is worthy of his celestial glory.
He again repeats what we have before observed, though it was disregarded by the Jews, — that he was a great king through the whole world. As then the Jews thought that sacrifices could not be offered to God, such as he would accept, in any other place but at Jerusalem, and in the temple on Mount Sion, he testifies that he is a great king even in the farthest parts of the world. It hence follows, that God’s worship would not be confined to Judea, or to any other particular part of the world; for by the gospel the Lord would receive to himself all nations, and come into the possession of his kingdom. Now follows
(212) Rendered “illustrious — επιφανὲς,” by the Septuagint, — “powerful,” by the Targum, — “dreadful — horrible,” by Jerome, — “terrible — terrible,” by Marckius, — “shall be feared,” by Henderson, — “shall be had in reverence,” by Newcome, and the same with Drusius, “ reverendum.” The word is literally “to be feared,” נורא; it is often rendered “terrible,” what causes dread or terror. Some take the present tense, “my name is terrible,” i.e., is dreaded on account of my greatness, manifested by my judgments. But if we take the future, then we must render the words — “my name shall be feared” or reverenced. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Malachi 1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34