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by John Calvin
CALVIN’S PREFACE TO MALACHI
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-ninth
The Book Of Malachi follows, whom many have imagined to have been an angel, on account of his name. We indeed know that מלאך, Melac, in Hebrew is an Angel; but how absurd is such a supposition, it is easy to see; for the Lord at that time did not send angels to reveal his oracles, but adopted the ordinary ministry of men; and as י, is added at the end of the word, as it was usual in proper names, we may indeed hence conclude that it was the name of a man; at the same time I freely allow that it may have been added for some particular reason not known to us now. I am more disposed to grant what some have said, that he was Ezra, and that Malachi was his surname, for God had called him to do great and remarkable things.
However this may be, he was no doubt one of the Prophets, and, as it appears, the last; for at the end of his Book he exhorts the people to continue in their adherence to the pure doctrine of the Law: and this he did, because God was not afterwards to send Prophets in succession as before; for it was his purpose that the Jews should have a stronger desire for Christ, they having been for a time without any Prophets. (201) It was indeed either a token of God’s wrath, or a presage of Christ’s coming, when they were deprived of that benefit which Moses mentions in Deuteronomy 18:0; for God had then promised to send Prophets, that the Jews might know that he cared for their safety. When therefore God left his people without Prophets, it was either to show his great displeasure, as during the Babylonian exile, or to hold them in suspense, that they might with stronger desire look forward to the coming of Christ.
However we may regard this, I have no doubt but he was the last of the Prophets; for he bids the people to adhere to the doctrine of the Law until Christ should be revealed.
The sum and substance of the Book is, — that though the Jews had but lately returned to their own country, they yet soon returned to their own nature, became unmindful of God’s favor, and so gave themselves up to many corruptions; that their state was nothing better than that of their fathers before them, so that God had as it were lost all his labor in chastising them. As then the Jews had again relapsed into many vices, our Prophet severely reproves them, and upbraids them with ingratitude, because they rendered to God their deliverer so shameful a recompense. He also mentions some of their sins, that he might prove the people to be guilty, for he saw that they were full of evasions. And he addresses the priests, who had by bad examples corrupted the morals of the people, when yet their office required a very different course of life; for the Lord had set them over the people to be teachers of religion and of uprightness; but from them did emanate a great portion of the vices of the age; and hence our Prophet the more severely condemns them.
He shows at the same time that God would remember his gratuitous covenant, which he had made with their fathers, so that the Redeemer would at length come. — This is the substance of the whole: I come now to the words. —
(201) “It is probable that he was contemporary with Nehemiah. Compare Malachi 2:11 with Nehemiah 13:23; and Malachi 3:8, with Nehemiah 13:10.”— Newcome. He must then be several years after Zechariah, who began his Prophecy in the second year of Darius Hystaspes, about sixteen years after the first return from captivity, and Nehemiah returned from Persia in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, about ninety years after the first return, and about seventy-four year after Zechariah began to prophesy. — Ed.
the Second Week of Advent