INTRODUCTION TO MALACHI 4
This chapter contains an account of the destruction of the wicked Jews, and the happiness of the righteous by the coming of the Messiah; an exhortation to regard the law of Moses; and a description of John the Baptist and his work. The day of Christ's coming, reaching to Jerusalem's destruction, is compared to a burning oven; the wicked Jews to stubble, whose ruin would be utter and complete, Malachi 4:1 the appearance of Christ is signified by the arising of him, the sun of righteousness; the manner, with healing in his wings; the effects of which are, going forth in the exercise of grace, and the discharge of duty, and spiritual growth and triumph over their enemies, in which will lie the happiness of them that fear God, Malachi 4:2 who are put in mind of the law of Moses on Horeb, Malachi 4:4 the sending of John the Baptist under the name of Elijah, before the coming of Christ is prophesied of, Malachi 4:5 and his work pointed out, with the end of it, Malachi 4:6.
For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven,.... Not the day of judgment, as Kimchi and other interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, think; but the day of Christ's coming in his kingdom and power, to take vengeance on the Jewish nation, which burned like an oven, both figuratively and literally; when the wrath of God, which is compared to fire, came upon that people to the uttermost; and when their city and temple were burnt about their ears, and they were surrounded with fire, as if they had been in a burning oven: and this being so terrible, as can hardly be conceived and expressed, the word "behold" is prefixed to it, not only to excite attention, but horror and terror at so dreadful a calamity; which though future, when the prophet wrote, was certain:
and all the proud; yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; the proud Pharisees, that boasted of their own righteousness, trusted in themselves, and despised others; all workers of iniquity, in private or in public; all rejecters of Christ, contemners of his Gospel and ordinances, and persecutors of his people; as well as such who were guilty of the most flagitious crimes, as sedition, robbery, murder, &c. of which there were notorious instances during the siege of Jerusalem; these were all like stubble before devouring fire, weak and easily destroyed:
and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts: which is repeated, to show the certainty of it, and to apply it to the persons before described:
that it shall leave them neither root nor branch: which signifies an entire and complete destruction; the city and temple so utterly destroyed, that not one stone shall be left on another; both magistrates and subjects shall perish, priests and people, so that there shall be no form of government, civil nor ecclesiastical; tribes and families lost, they and their posterity: and so the Targum,
"which shall not leave them son and nephew:'
and, indeed, the numbers cut off were so many, and the destruction so general, that it may be wondered at that any remained: it is a proverbial expression, setting forth the greatness of the calamity; see Matthew 3:10.
But unto you that fear my name,.... The few that were of this character among that wicked nation; See Gill on Malachi 3:16,
shall the Sun of righteousness arise; not the Holy Ghost, who enlightens sinners, convinces of righteousness, and gives joy, peace, and comfort to the saints, but Christ: and thus it is interpreted of him by the ancient Jews, in one of their Midrashes or expositions
"in the world to come, God will bring the sun out of its sheath, and burn the wicked; they will be judged by it, and the righteous will be healed by it:'
for the proof of the former, they produce the words in the first verse of this chapter, "behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven"; and of the latter these words, "but unto you that fear my name &c."; and a very ridiculous notion they have, that Abraham their father had a precious stone or pearl hanging about his neck, and every sick person that saw it was healed by it immediately; and, when he departed out of the world, God took it, and fixed it to the orb of the sun; hence the proverb, the sun rises, and sickness decreases
with healing in his wings; by which are meant its rays and beams, which are to the sun as wings to a bird, by which it swiftly spreads its light and heat; so we read of the wings of the morning, Psalm 139:9. Christ came as a physician, to heal the diseases of men; he healed the bodily diseases of the Jews, and he heals the soul diseases of his people, their sins; which healing he has procured by his blood and stripes: pardon of sin by the blood of Christ is meant by healing, which is universal, infallible, and free, Psalm 103:3 it may denote all that preservation, protection, prosperity, and happiness, inward and outward, which they that feared the Lord enjoyed through Christ, when the unbelieving Jews were destroyed; and which is further expressed by what follows:
and ye shall go forth; not out of the world, or out of their graves, as some think; but either out of Jerusalem, as the Christians did a little before its destruction, being warned so to do
And grow up as calves of the stall; such as are fat, being put up there for that purpose; see Amos 6:4. Bochart
And ye shall tread down the wicked,.... As grapes in the winepress, as Christ did before them, Isaiah 63:2 and they by virtue of him; who makes them more than conquerors through himself, over all their enemies, spiritual and temporal:
for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet; this refers to the burning of them, Malachi 4:1 and may be literally understood of their being burnt with the city and temple; when afterwards, as Grotius observes, the city of Jerusalem being in some measure rebuilt, and called Aelia, there was a Christian church in it, governed by bishops, who were converted Jews; and so might be literally said to trample upon the ashes of the wicked, who had persecuted them in times past, they being upon the very spot where these men were destroyed by fire:
in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts: or "in the day which I make"
Remember ye the law of Moses my servant,.... Who was faithful as such in the house of God, in delivering the law to the children of Israel, which was given him; and who are called upon to remember it, its precepts and its penalties, which they were apt to forget: and particularly this exhortation is given now, because no other prophet after Malachi would be sent unto them, this is what they should have and use as their rule and directory; and because that Christ, now prophesied of, would be the end of this law; and this, and the prophets, were to be until the days of John the Baptist, spoken of in the next verse Malachi 4:5; and the rather, because in this period of time, between Malachi and the coming of Christ, the traditions of the elders were invented and obtained, which greatly set aside the law, and made it of no effect:
which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel; for though the law came by Moses, and is therefore called his, yet God was the author and efficient cause of it; Moses was only a servant and minister; and this was given in Horeb, the same with Sinai: these are names of one and the same mountain, at least of the parts of it; one part of it was called Horeb, from its being a dry desert and desolate place; and the other Sinai, from its bushes and brambles. So Jerom
"Horeb, the mountain of God, is in the land of Midian, by Mount Sinai, above Arabia in the wilderness, to which are joined the mountain and wilderness of the Saracens, called Pharan; but to me it seems the same mountain is called by two names, sometimes Sinai, and sometimes Horeb;'
see Exodus 31:18. Agreeably to which Josephus
With the statutes and judgments; the laws ceremonial and judicial, which were given to Moses, at the same time the law of the decalogue was, to be observed by the children of Israel, and which were shadows of things to come; namely, those of them that were of a ceremonial nature, and therefore to be remembered and attended to as leading to Christ, and the things of the Gospel.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet,.... Not the Tishbite, as the Septuagint version wrongly inserts instead of prophet; not Elijah in person, who lived in the times of Ahab; but John the Baptist, who was to come in the power and spirit of Elijah, Luke 1:17 between whom there was a great likeness in their temper and disposition; in their manner of clothing, and austere way of living; in their courage and integrity in reproving vice; and in their zeal and usefulness in the cause of God and true religion; and in their famous piety and holiness of life; and in being both prophets; see Matthew 11:11 and that he is intended is clear from Matthew 17:10. It is a notion of the Jews, as Kimchi and others, that the very Elijah, the same that lived in the days of Ahab, shall come in person before the coming of their Messiah they vainly expect, and often speak of difficult things to be left till Elijah comes and solves them; but for such a notion there is no foundation, either in this text or elsewhere. And as groundless is that of some of the ancient Christian fathers, and of the Papists, as Lyra and others, that Elijah with Enoch will come before the day of judgment, and restore the church of God ruined by antichrist, which they suppose is meant in the next clause.
Before the coming of the great and, dreadful day of the Lord; that is, before the coming of Christ the son of David, as the Jews
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,.... Or "with" the children, as Kimchi; and Ben Melech observes, that על is put for עם, and so in the next clause:
and the heart of the children to their fathers; or "with" their fathers; that is, both fathers and children: the meaning is, that John the Baptist should be an instrument of converting many of the Jews, both fathers and children, and bringing them to the knowledge and faith of the true Messiah; and reconcile them together who were divided by the schools of Hillell and Shammai, and by the sects of the Sadducees and Pharisees, and bring them to be of one mind, judgment, and faith, and to have a hearty love to one another, and the Lord Christ; see Matthew 3:5; see Gill on Luke 1:17. The Talmudists
Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse; the land of Judea; which, because the greater part of the inhabitants of it were not converted to the Lord, did not believe in the Messiah, but rejected him, notwithstanding the preaching and testimony of John the Baptist, and the ministry and miracles of Christ, it was smitten with a curse, was made desolate, and destroyed by the Roman emperors, Vespasian and Adrian, as instruments doing what God here threatened he would do; for not the whole earth is intended, as the Targum and Abarbinel suggest; but only that land, and the people of it, are intended, to whom the law of Moses was given; and to whom Elias, or John the Baptist, was to be sent; and to whom he was sent, and did come; and by whom he was rejected, and also the Messiah he pointed at; for which that country was smitten with a curse, and remains under it to this day.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Malachi 4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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