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1-5. These verses are introductory to the whole prophecy. God had shown His love to Israel; Israel ought to have made a proper return, but, on the contrary, Israel had abused God’s loving-kindness.
(1) The burden.—See Notes on Isaiah 13:1; Jeremiah 23:33-24.23.40; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1.
(2) I have loved—i.e., shown abundant proof of my love. The prophet goes on to show how God has shown so great proofs of His love.
Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?—And would not one suppose from that fact they would have similar privileges? But not so.
I loved Jacob, (3) and I hated Esau . . .—The ethical reason for God’s love of Jacob and hatred of Esau is not touched upon here, nor is it necessary to the argument. It is God’s love for Israel that the prophet wishes to dwell on, and he mentions the hatred towards Esau merely for the sake of a strong contrast. The nations, Israel and Edom, are here referred to, not the individuals, Jacob and Esau. This passage receives a graphic illustration from the words of Psalms 137:7, composed after the return from the captivity: “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.” (On St. Paul’s application of the words of Malachi, see Notes on Romans 9:13.)
Laid his mountains . . . waste . . .—It is a somewhat disputed point to what historical fact this refers. But, on the whole, we may reasonably infer from Jeremiah 49:7; Jeremiah 49:17-24.49.21, compared with Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 25:21, that the subjugation of the Edomites by Nebuchadnezzar is here referred to.
Dragons.—Better, jackals. The LXX. and Gesenius render the word “habitations,” by comparison with a similarly sounding Arabic word.
(4) Whereas . . . saith.—Better, If Edom say.
We are impoverished.—Better, we are broken to pieces. Edom’s ineffectual attempts to restore itself will be looked on as proofs of God’s wrath against the nation on account of its wickedness, and will acquire for it the titles “border of wickedness,” “the people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.” “Border” means “confines,” “territory;” Latin, fines.
Keith, Evidence of Prophecy, pp. 309, 310, in reference to the literal fulfilment of this prophecy, writes as follows:—“In recording the invasion of Demetrius, about three hundred years before the Christian era, into the land of Edom, Diodorus describes the country as a desert, and the inhabitants as living without houses; nor does he mention any city in that region but Petra alone. Yet the names of some of the cities of Arabia Petræa, enumerated by Josephus, as existing at the time when the Romans invaded Palestine—the names of eighteen cities of Palestina Tertia, of which Petra was the capital, and the metropolitan see, in the times of the Lower Empire—and the towns laid down in D’Anville’s map, together with the subsisting ruins of towns in Edom, specified by Burckhardt, and also by Laborde, give proof that Edom, after having been impoverished, did return, and build the desolate places, even as ‘the ruined towns and places,’ still visible and named, show that though the desolate places were built again according to the prophecy, they have, as likewise foretold, been thrown down, and are ‘ruined places’ lying in utter desolation.”
(5) And your eyes shall see.—Comp. such expressions as Psalms 37:34; Psalms 52:6; Psalms 91:8. As with the individual, so with a nation: to stand in safety and be a witness to the destruction of the enemy is looked on as a sign of God’s favour.
The Lord will be magnified . . . Israel.—Some render, let the Lord be magnified, as in Psalms 35:27; Psalms 40:16; others, the Lord is great: i.e., has exerted His greatness. The latter seems the more appropriate rendering here.
From the border.—Some say, beyond the border. This translation is not in accordance with the usage of the expression, which means simply “over” or “above.” (Comp. Jeremiah 4:6.) The meaning seems to be this: The Lord, whose protecting presence hovers specially over the border of Israel, is now great, in that He has restored Israel, but hath destroyed the nationality of the wicked descendants of the godless Esau. “Border of Israel” is purposely used in contrast to “border of wickedness.”
Malachi 1:6; Malachi 2:9.—The priesthood rebuked. A close connection subsists between the different parts of this section; it ought therefore to be read as one continuous paragraph. The sub-divisions of it are Malachi 1:6-39.1.14; Malachi 2:1-39.2.9.
(6) A father.—God is distinctly called the Father of Israel in Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy 32:18. (Comp. Exodus 4:22 : “My son, my firstborn, is Israel.”)
A master.—Comp. Isaiah 1:3.
Mine honour—i.e., the respect due to me.
My fear—i.e., your dread of me. Fear is twofold: servile, whereby punishment, not fault, is dreaded; filial, whereby fault is feared. The fear and love required by God of his children, are that reverence which loveth to serve Him, and that love which dreadeth to offend Him.
(6-14) The prophet’s rebuke for the dishonouring of God’s name is addressed to the priests as the responsible persons, but applies to the whole nation.
(7) Ye offer.—Literally, offering.
Bread.—This is not the shewbread, which was not offered upon the altar. The word rendered “bread” means in Arabic “flesh;” in Hebrew, “food generally.” This word is applied (Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 3:16) to the fat portions of the peace offerings, which were burned, and is there translated “food.” (See references there.) In Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8; Leviticus 21:17; Leviticus 21:21-3.21.22; Leviticus 22:25, it is used of the sacrifices generally, but is there inconsistently translated “bread.”
Polluted.—The Hebrew word does not occur in this sense in the Pentateuch, but we have it in Daniel 1:8 in the reflexive conjugation: “to allow himself to be defiled” with food, and in the active (“polluted thee”) in this verse. The context shows that the words “polluted bread” means “food unfit to be offered.” “Polluted me” is the same as “profaned [my name]” (Malachi 1:12); for in the Hebrew Scriptures “God” and “God’s name” are often equivalent expressions (Comp. Malachi 2:5). Keil takes the words, which he wrongly translates, “ye that offer polluted bread,” as parallel to the words “despisers of my name,” and to a certain degree explanatory of them; while he finds the actual answer to the questions, “Wherein have we despised?” “Wherein have we polluted?” is given in the words, “In that ye say,” &c. He renders the passage thus:—
Saith the Lord of hosts unto you,
“Ye priests, who despise my name!”
And yet say, “Wherein have we despised thy name?”
“Ye who offer on mine altar polluted food.”
And yet say, “Wherein have we polluted thee?”
(Ans.) [Ye have despised my name and polluted me], in that ye say, “The table of the Lord is contemptible.”
The error of this rendering consists in supposing that “offering polluted food,” which is anathrous, can be parallel to “Ye priests who despise my name,” which is defined by the definite article. In truth, the English Version is perfectly correct. We will repeat it with only the slightest possible verbal alterations. and with such parenthetical explanations as are required to make it quite intelligible:—Saith the Lord of hosts unto you, “O priests, that despise my name!”
[This is the commencement of a prophetic rebuke to the priests; but they, in accordance with the prophet’s graphic style of writing, are supposed to catch him up at the first clause of his utterance.]
“But” [despisers of God’s name!] say ye, “wherein have we despised thy name?”
(Ans.) “Offering [as ye do] polluted food upon mine altar.”
“ But,” say ye, “wherein have we polluted thee?”
(Ans.) “When, now, ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?” &c.
Say—i.e., show by your conduct that such is your feeling. “This was their inward thought . . . he puts these thoughts into abrupt, bold, hard words, which might startle them for their hideousness, as if he would say, this is what your acts mean. He exhibits the worm and the decay which lay under the whited exterior.”—Pusey.
Table—i.e., altar, as in Ezekiel 41:22 : “The altar . . . this is the table that is before the Lord.” (Comp. Ezek. 49:16.)]
(8) If.—Better, when.
Blind . . . lame . . . sick.—This was contrary to Leviticus 22:22, &c. And now, to show them the heinous nature of their offence against the majesty of God, the prophet asks them whether they could offer such unsound animals to their civil ruler with any chance of acceptance.
Governor.—The word in the Hebrew is probably of foreign origin, but it occurs as early as to refer to the governors of Judah in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 10:15). On the date of the book of Kings see Introduction to that book.
(9) This verse is severely ironical. The word “God” is expressly used, rather than “the Lord,” as a contrast to the human “governor” mentioned above. The meaning is: “You know you dare not treat thus contemptuously your human governor, what hope then is there of such disrespectful conduct finding favour with God—the Judge of all the earth?”
That he will be gracious.—These words refer, perhaps, to the wording of the sacerdotal benediction (Numbers 6:24).
Unto us.—The prophet includes himself with the people, as Moses did (Exodus 34:9): “And pardon our iniquity and our sin;” and as, in fact, God Himself included Moses (Exodus 16:28): “And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments?”
This hath been by your means.—Better, by your means hath this been. “By your means” is emphatic by position. The meaning is: “By means of you (priests), who ought to have directed the people aright, has this disgraceful conduct been occasioned.” Or, perhaps, in view of Malachi 1:8, and the wording of Malachi 1:10, we should render the words thus: “From your hands is this [despicable offering] !” This being used contemptuously like Lat. istud. In either case the clause is parenthetical, so that “will he regard” must be taken in close connection with the preceding, “beseech God that he will be gracious unto us.”
Will he regard your persons?—Better, will he, on your account, show favour to ‘any one? That is, can ye be deemed worthy intercessors, when these are the actions ye perform? The question is, of course, a practical negation. (Comp. Zechariah 4:10.)
(10) The prophet is now supposed by many commentators to say that the Temple might as well be closed, as far as concerns any pleasure the Lord takes in their offerings.
Who is there even among you . . . doors . . . altar for nought.—Those that take the above-mentioned view of the passage would render, O that there were one among even you who would shut the doors, that ye might not light mine altar to no purpose. “To no purpose,” like δωρεάν (Galatians 2:21). The rebuke contained in this verse is, according to this interpretation, very similar to that of Isaiah 1:11-23.1.15. But the word “even,” which can only refer to “you” (Keil thinks differently), seems to us almost fatal to this interpretation. For we could only explain its use in the forced sense of: “Would that some one, among even you (who ought to be the promoters of God’s service), would (since His service has now become a mockery) shut, &c.” We are therefore inclined to retain the simple rendering of our venerable English Version. In that case, “even among you” (perhaps better, among even you) would mean: “even among you whose duty it is, and chief pleasure it ought to be, to minister unto Me,” which, in that context, so far from being forced, would be most natural.
For nought.—Comp. the attitude of the priests in 1 Samuel 2:13-9.2.16.
(11) This verse contains no verb, and, as far as the rules of grammar are concerned, its participles may be rendered either by presents or futures. If we take the words as referring to the present, we are met by the insurmountable difficulty that in no sense, at the time of Malachi, could the Lord’s Name be said to be great over all the earth, or pure sacrifices to be offered to Him in every place. Nor can we, with many commentators, suppose that heathen rites are here referred to as being offered ignorantly, through idols, to the one true God. (Comp. Pope’s universal prayer:—
“Father of all, in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!”)
For there is no hint given of any such meaning being intended; and, moreover, such a sentiment would be quite foreign to the Old Testament, which always represents heathen rites as being an utter abomination, and always speaks of the adhesion of the Gentiles to the worship of the true God as a thing of the future. We are compelled, therefore, to take the words as a prophetic announcement of the future rejection of Israel and calling of the Gentiles.
In every place.—In contradistinction to the one place (Deuteronomy 12:5-5.12.7). (Comp. our Lord’s words to the woman of Samaria: John 4:21-43.4.24.)
Incense shall be offered . . .—This is a possible rendering of the words; but this Hebrew word is not elsewhere used for “incense,” and may more naturally be rendered shall be burnt, as the passive participle of the verb used in Leviticus 1:9. Dr. Pusey’s footnote on this passage is well worth reading, as, indeed, his footnotes usually are. We prefer, therefore, to take the words thus: “an oblation shall be burnt to my name, even a pure offering.” In any case, unless we are to expect some future establishment of a universal offering of material sacrifices, we must understand both expressions in a spiritual sense, which is, in truth, the only reasonable way of interpreting such passages. (See Notes on Zechariah 2:6-38.2.13; Zechariah 3:8-38.3.10; Zechariah 6:9-38.6.15, and especially 14:16-21.) If, therefore, any Christians would claim this verse as a support for their custom of offering incense in churches, they must conform also with Zechariah 14:16-38.14.21, and go up every year to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. The word “offering,” as in the preceding verse (comp. 1 Samuel 2:17; Isaiah 1:13), denotes sacrificial gifts in general, not the flour offerings as distinguished from the flesh offerings. The word “pure” is emphatic, not as signifying the bloodless sacrifice of the Mass (Council of Trent), as distinguished from the bloody sacrifices, but as the converse of “polluted” (Malachi 1:7). The above remarks we have made in no controversial spirit, but simply in the interests of truth; and lest any should suppose us to imply that the above interpretation was originated by the Council of Trent, we refer the reader to Dr. Pusey’s Commentary, in which he shows, by quotations from SS. Justin, Irenæus, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, and Augustine, as also from Tertullian, Eusebius, and Theodoret, that it is quod semper, quod ab omnibus, quod ubique. Those, therefore, who prefer so-called authority to the results of calm criticism are bound to disagree with us.
(12) But ye have.—Better, but ye profane it—viz., “my name” (Malachi 1:11). The word “it” is said by Jewish tradition to be an euphemism for “me.” The present contemptuous conduct of God’s priests is contrasted with the prophesied reverence of heathen nations.
Fruit . . . meat, denote the same as “bread” of Malachi 1:7. They show that they think it contemptible by not taking the trouble to offer such things as are prescribed by the Law.
(13) Said.—Better, say.
And ye have snuffed at it.—Better, and ye puff at it—that is, treat it with contempt, “pooh-pooh it,” as we say. The service of the Temple, which they ought to have regarded as their highest privilege and pleasure, they look on as burdensome and contemptible. For “brought,” read bring.
Torn.—The word Gâzûl elsewhere means “stolen” (Deuteronomy 28:31), or “robbed “—i.e., “spoiled” (Deuteronomy 28:29). It is perhaps not impossible that it may here be a later word for trêphâh, “torn” (comp. the cogn. Arabic ajzal, “galled on the back”), but it is not so used in post-Biblical Jewish writings. On the contrary, Rabbinic tradition uses our word when expressly mentioning that which is stolen as unfit to be offered as a burnt offering—e.g., the Sifrâ, (Vayyikrâ, Perek 6, Parashta 5, ed. Weis 7b), commenting on the words of Leviticus 1:10, says: “ ‘From the flock,’ and ‘from the sheep,’ and ‘from the goats:’ These words are limitations—viz., to exclude the sick (comp. also Malachi 1:8), and the aged, and that which has been dedicated in thought to an idol, and that which is defiled with its own filth; ‘its offering’ [English Version, his offering, comp. Note on Zechariah 4:2], to exclude that which is stolen.” (See also Talmud Babli, Baba Kamma 66b.) The English Version has the same in view in its rendering of Isaiah 61:8, where it has the authority of Talmud Babli, Sukkah 30a, and of Jerome and Luther. Perhaps the reason why people were inclined to offer a stolen animal may be, that it might very likely have a mark on it, which would render it impossible for the thief to offer it for sale, and so realise money on it, for fear of detection; so then he makes a virtue of a necessity, and brings as an offering to God that which he could not otherwise dispose of.
(14) Some consider that two cases are mentioned in this verse. (1) One who acts deceitfully (by offering a female as a burnt offering, which is contrary to the Law, while there is in his flock a male); (2) and one who makes a vow (to offer a sacrifice of peace offerings, for which either a male or a female was allowable, provided it were without a blemish: Leviticus 22:23), and then offers an animal that has a blemish. But it is better to understand but one case to be mentioned—viz., that of a man who vows, and while he has a male in his flock offers a female with a blemish. A female without blemish would be admissible as a vow offering, but a male without blemish would be the most valuable, because it could be offered as a burnt offering, whereas a female could not; while a female with a blemish would be the very worst, and actually illegal. A man is not bound to make a vow, but if he make one his offering should be of the very best, just as he would not dare to offer to a king or to his ruler (Malachi 1:6) anything but the best. How cursed, then, must he be who, while he possesses the best, deliberately makes a vow to God, and then offers Him the very worst.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Malachi 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent