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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Malachi 2

Verses 1-3

Introduction

In Malachi 1, the indifference and hypocrisy of the priests and the people are presented to them. It is more about religious life. In Malachi 2 it is about the lack of understanding of God’s thoughts, which is evident in social life.

We find three covenants here:
1. the covenant with Levi (Malachi 2:1-1 Samuel :),
2. the covenant with the people (Malachi 2:10-2 Kings :) and
3. the marriage covenant (Malachi 2:13-Nehemiah :).

The Commandment to the Priests

The priests, people who should know God’s will par excellence and who should teach the people, are addressed directly (Malachi 2:1). A commandment comes to them. What the commandment means is written in Malachi 2:2-Leviticus :.

The priests are not left in the uncertainty of the consequences if they persist in their unfaithfulness (Malachi 2:2). They must not only listen, but also take it to heart. Then they will have a contrite heart, confess their sins and really give honor to God’s Name. If they do not do so, He, “the LORD of hosts”, sends the curse among them (cf. Deuteronomy 28:20).

He will take all their blessings away from them and turn them into a curse. The land will no longer yield food, but weeds. The peaceful society will become a torment by mutual irritation and intolerance. Family life will be disrupted. Instead of love there will be hatred and suspicion. It is not only a prediction, but God has already brought it among them because they are not focused on Him with their hearts. And it will all get much worse if they don’t listen to His call.

The word “offspring” (Malachi 2:3) is literally “seed” and refers both to children and to the sown, which must grow on the land as a blessing and of which again tenths can be given. God will rebuke that. They will not experience any joy in what comes after them, not in children and not in harvest.

He will make them feel His displeasure in the clearest way possible. God expresses His contempt for them here in powerful language. He will treat them as they treat Him. He will spread refuse on their faces, the refuse of their feasts. The sacrifices they bring at those feasts are an abomination to Him. He sees these sacrifices in their entirety as refuse. Those sacrifices are not a soothing aroma for Him, but they stink, they cause disgust in Him.

They may think they are celebrating the feasts of the LORD, but He speaks here of “your feasts”. Under the cover of a feast for the LORD they have made their own feasts. Thus later the Passover of the LORD degenerates into a Passover called “the feast of the Jews” (John 6:4).

God will smear them with the refuse of their feasts. Except that it makes them stink, they will also look repulsive. This extremely deep defamation they have inflicted on themselves will stick to them when they will be taken away to a dung heap, so that there will be nothing left of them in the temple (cf. 1 Kings 14:10). This is how God cleans His house of the refuse.

Verse 4

The Covenant With Levi

When the judgment comes upon them, the priests will know that the LORD has done it and also why He has done it (Malachi 2:4). It will then be too late to repent. Thus all who are judged forever will know that God judges them and also why He does it.

God acts in faithfulness to His covenant with Levi. God’s covenant with Levi shows the contrast between the faithless priests and their ancestor Levi, with whom the LORD made a priestly covenant (Numbers 25:12-1 Chronicles :; Deuteronomy 33:8-1 Kings :). The covenant with Levi is a reminder of the faithfulness Levi showed when the whole people were unfaithful. The unfaithfulness of the priests stands out against the background of Levi’s faithfulness. A deviation, the unfaithfulness of the priests, is most seen by presenting the original, the faithfulness of Levi (Exodus 32:25-Joel :).

Verse 5

Life, Peace and Reverence

In His covenant with Levi, the LORD guaranteed him life and peace (Numbers 25:12-1 Chronicles :). Life and peace are a summary of the blessing of the covenant. The order cannot be reversed. There must first be life, then peace can come. Without or before there is life, there can be no peace. Life is not only a long life, but also a life under the grace of God. The result is peace. Peace is not only the absence of struggle and war, it is also the beneficial atmosphere of harmony with God.

God gave both to Levi for the purpose of revering Him. And so did Levi. He has been aware of the holiness of God’s Name. The presence of that Name has made a great impression on him. This awareness is completely lacking among the priests to whom Malachi addresses here.

Verses 6-7

Instruction and Life

The tribe of Levi was trustworthy in the instruction he gave in the law (Malachi 2:6; 2 Chronicles 17:7-1 Samuel :; Nehemiah 8:8-1 Samuel :). He did instruct the law impartial and without personal gain, to the strict standard of truth. There was no unrighteousness in what he taught the people from the law. This is an important condition for anyone who today teaches from God’s Word. That teaching must be true and without unrighteousness because it must respond to God Himself.

The Word of God is absolutely true. A teacher who teaches from God’s Word must be that as well (cf. Titus 1:9). In God's Word every unrighteousness is absent. In what a teacher explains about God’s Word it must also be so. He should not proclaim half-truths.

In addition to the words, the walk is also important. If the teacher’s lifestyle does not match his teaching, his teaching is not reliable. Levi walked “in peace and uprightness” with God. Not only did he walk after God, but he walked with Him. This goes a little further than following Him. In walking with Him is the aspect of intimacy and fellowship (Genesis 5:22; Genesis 6:9).

The result of this healthy instruction, supported by a dignified walk, is that many turn back from iniquity (cf. 1 Timothy 4:16). What a great blessing comes from believers who know, love and live according to God’s Word. We see this in a wonderful way in the Lord Jesus to Whom these features only apply completely. He is the perfect example in everything. By His knowledge He has justified the many, which means instructed the many in righteousness. The basis for this is His work on the cross, where He bore the iniquities of those many (Isaiah 53:11).

Malachi emphasizes what should characterize the priest. His lips must preserve knowledge (Malachi 2:7). He must be someone “who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To such a person, the people can go if they want to know something from the law, God’s Word. He does not want to be the favorite teacher, someone who has a predilection for certain parts of the truth and who appeases people. The real ‘Levite’ gives the Holy Scripture in its entirety the place that God gives it as the complete guide for His people and food for the heart. The preservation of knowledge is done to teach that knowledge to God’s people. And the transfer of knowledge is meant to make the members of God’s people effectual doers of the Word.

The position of Levite – and of the teacher of God’s Word – is a great responsibility: “He is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” A messenger or ambassador represents someone and carries out an assignment on behalf of that other person. He is expected to pass on the message of the one he represents unchanged and unabridged. This should make everyone who teaches from God’s Word realize that he is not allowed to interpret God’s Word as he likes. It will give a holy reverence and a constant prayer not to pass on or explain anything other than what is according to the purpose of the Holy Spirit.

Verses 8-9

Turned Aside and Despised

The word “but” indicates that there is now a contrast with the previous one (Malachi 2:8). How far did the priests in the days of Malachi deviate from the example of their ancestors? While they have to tell the people the good, so that they go the right way, the way of life, they lead the people on the wrong path, the path of death. They are the opposite of the faithful Levites who have turned many back from their iniquities (Malachi 2:6), for they have caused many of the people to stumble in the law through their instruction. They know the law, but do not live up to it themselves.

Their wrong example is followed by many of the people who also have no desire for the LORD who is the center of God’s law. Being occupied with God’s Word always has to happen from a living relationship with Him. If that relationship is not there, turning aside is the result. By this they have nullified the covenant with Levi (cf. Nehemiah 13:29).

The application to today is not difficult to make. There are pastors in all parts of Christianity who have deviated from the clear teaching of the Bible. Such people do not teach what God says in His Word, but speak what people like to hear. Preaching in church services becomes social and political talk. Conscience is not addressed. When talking about righteousness, it is not about God’s righteousness and sin, but about a just distribution of wealth.

God’s rights are no longer taken into account at all. There is no fear of Him anymore. Thus, the people of the church are taken away from God and many stumble to end up in hell, if God does not forbid it. How great is the responsibility of everyone who, with God’s Word in hand, tells others what life is really about.

Because of their nullification of the covenant with Levi, God has made them despicable (Malachi 2:9). He has taken away their prestige among the people and abased them. People who want to be popular and adapt God’s Word to people’s tastes will lose the respect they think they will get. God points out that they do not respect His ways. They do not walk the path He indicates in His Word.

This is evidenced by their behavior. They behave completely different from God and thus give a completely wrong picture of Him. God mentions the example that they regard the person in their teaching of the law. When making decisions in lawsuits they look at the benefit they can get from a case. Such a thing is completely lacking in God. With Him there is no regard for the person (Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17). He has also forbidden it in the law (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17). Partiality is not allowed to play any role with us as well (1 Timothy 5:21).

Verses 10-12

Illicit Connections

Malachi starts a new subject here, but it connects directly to the previous one. In the previous section the unfaithfulness of the priests and the Levites to God is denounced. In the verses that follow we see the consequences of this in the mutual relationships between the members of God’s people up to the most intimate relationship there is, that of marriage. He who does not give God what is due to Him, does not give his neighbor what is due to him.

The prophet begins to represent God as their Father, i.e. as their origin (Deuteronomy 32:6). This is not about the personal relationship as we, believers of the New Testament church, are allowed to know this. It is about God as Father of His people as a whole. He created them. This refers to His power. Through Him they have become a people.

If this were to pervade them, they would also see that they have been brought into a family relationship with each other. It should result in national unity and loyalty to the covenant of the fathers. Malachi makes himself one with the people by talking about “we” and “our fathers”. But they all act unfaithfully, each against his brother. And they trample on the covenant of their fathers. They do not know covenant faithfulness. Nothing is sacred to them. This is how it is with people who have become unfaithful to God.

Judah, Israel and Jerusalem are all mentioned by name (Malachi 2:11). There is no exception. The evil of making illicit connections has pervaded the whole people (cf. Ezra 9:1; Ezra 10:1-Numbers :; Nehemiah 13:25-Daniel :). “Judah” is the remnant returned from exile. He started well, but now it is said that he is acting unfaithfully. “Israel” is the name of the people as a whole and “Jerusalem” is the capital of all Israel. They commit an abomination. What unfaithfulness and abomination are involved, Malachi explains in the second part of the verse. We see that in the word “for”.

What did they do? They have profaned “the sanctuary of the LORD”. What is the meaning of this? It is what is dedicated to Him, what He has made His special property. It may refer to the temple, but it is more likely to refer to God’s people. He loves those people and wishes them to serve Him faithfully.

But what did the people do? Against His commandments they married “the daughter of a foreign god” (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3). They have brought idolaters into God’s people and thereby united the holy with the profane and thus desecrated the holy (1 Kings 11:1-Exodus :). This is very offensive to God.

The same goes for us. The believer is forbidden to marry an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14). He who goes against that commandment profanes the Name of God. God cannot acknowledge such a person as His child (2 Corinthians 6:17-Job :). Only confession of this sin can give restoration in fellowship with the Father.

Malachi feels through the Spirit of God the dishonor done to God by these mixed marriages (Malachi 2:12). He wishes that everyone who does so is cut off “from the tents of Jacob”. Such people do not belong in God’s people because they do not keep God’s Word. Malachi mentions some classes of people who are guilty of this evil of mixed marriages and who should be cut off. With these three classes he indicates that the judgment will affect every person involved.

It seems that “who awakes and who answers” is a certain saying. Given the context of this saying, it is about being awake and an answer by people who live in sin and others who condone it. In both cases it concerns people who do something that God abhors and whom Malachi wishes to see eradicated. First there is “who awakes”. He commits this evil with his full mind and consciously resists God’s commandments. Then there is “who answers”. He knows about the evil, he reacts to it, but not in a disapproving, but in an approving way.

We see today in Christianity the being ‘awake’ about the ‘acquired’ freedoms. People are completely lost in a matter as fundamental as marriage. Marriage is outdated, old-fashioned, except when it comes to same-sex marriage. The gays who get married are the ones who awake over them. Then there are the ones who answer. They stand up for the so-called marriage law of gays. Those who awake are actively doing this evil; those who answer are not committing this evil themselves, but are trying to perpetuate this evil and support it that way.

Of the people who do this, there are those “who presents an offering to the LORD of hosts”. They live in sin, but think they can redeem their sins with an offering to the LORD. But “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 15:8). He does not accept it, but rejects it (Micah 6:6-Ruth :; Isaiah 66:3).

Verse 13

Crocodile Tears

Then there is another thing Malachi notices among the people and these are their tears. Look at them crying and moaning. The tears flow. The altar of the LORD is covered with them. That seems very pious. It seems as if there is a work of God’s Spirit going on in them. After all, tears are a proof of sorrow. That is right, but the question is about the nature of their sorrow. Tears that God loves are tears of repentance for the sins committed. But there are no such tears here. They are crocodile tears, fake tears, tears of hypocritical sorrow and played repentance. It is not sorrow that is according to the will of God for that “produces a repentance without regret, [leading] to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

They cry because they do not feel accepted and blessed by God instead of crying for their sins (cf. Hosea 7:14). Instead of repentance, it is a protest against the difficulties they are experiencing. Earlier the sacrifices were refused because the sacrifice was not good, here the offering is refused for their own practice from which they do not want to convert. God does not look at a sacrifice made by people who continue their life in sin. He does not accept it, because it is not pleasing to Him.

Verse 14

God Is Witness to Every Marriage

The people ask about the “reason” of the rejection of their offering. The answer that follows is an unparalleled powerful protest against the evil of divorce. Divorce is a sin that powerfully calls to God. Even then, they dare ask why God does not accept their offering. As they embrace strange women, they send their own wives away. So deep can a people sink that turns away from God and His Word!

God is Witness to every marriage, not only at the wedding, but also afterwards (Genesis 31:49-Philippians :). Wherever a marriage bond between a man and a woman is formed, it is God Who does so, for He has instituted marriage. That is independent of whether the man and the woman involve God in their marriage. It is about the institution as such. God wants it to be maintained. Then He wants to see that both husband and wife act in faithfulness to that bond. Unfaithfulness in marriage is the greatest unfaithfulness a person can show. He who is unfaithful in marriage cannot be trusted in any other area.

God addresses the husband here in a serious way on his unfaithfulness. God was there when the husband married the wife of his youth. Now He has to conclude that the husband acts unfaithfully against her. He tells the husband that the wife he married is his “companion” after all! From the day he married her, he shares everything with her until the day of his death: joy and sorrow, hopes and fears, desires and dangers, money and goods, body and soul (1 Corinthians 7:3-Numbers :; Matthew 19:4-Joshua :).

She is also “your wife by covenant”. Marriage is a covenant (Proverbs 2:17; Ezekiel 16:8). Spouses promise each other faithfulness, in good times and in bad. How awful it is when a husband becomes unfaithful, when he breaks his promise of faithfulness. Of course it also applies to the wife, but here the husband is addressed. He is primarily responsible for the faithfulness in his marriage.

Verse 15

He Only Made One

The NASB gives as an alternative reading of the first part of this verse: “Did He not make one, although He had the remnant?” This will be the basis for the explanation.

God has laid down His blueprint for marriage in Genesis 1-2. He did make one, which means that husband and wife are one. He “created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 19:4-Joshua :). He made one human couple that He bound together in the bond of marriage. Husband and wife are one man together. Adam gets Eve as the one woman who fits him. With her he forms a unity, with her he is “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

God still had “the remnant of the Spirit” left, which in this context perhaps means that He could have made more wives for Adam. He did not do that. He gave Adam only one wife, Eve, and with that gave the pattern for every marriage. Why did He do that? Because only within the sacred bond of marriage can He find a “godly offspring” according to His desire. This means that it is God’s intention that children are born and raised in the atmosphere of love and faithfulness that exists between a husband and a wife in marriage.

God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). This enables him to judge things as God does. But through sin he is darkened in his mind and cannot take heed of his spirit. He is led by the ruler of the world, the devil, and therefore acts against everything God has instituted, especially against marriage.

Also those who have new life, life through rebirth, have to watch out for the thinking of the world. He must be wary with his spirit not to get carried away in the world’s ungodly thinking about marriage and divorce. Let no one who is married act unfaithfully against the woman he is married to: “Marriage [is to be held] in honor among all, and the [marriage] bed [is to be] undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

Anyone who understands God’s thoughts will remain faithful to his wife. He will not marry a strange woman to conceive children who would be for God. We see in Nehemiah 13 the result of mixed marriages: “In those days I also saw that the Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon [and] Moab. As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah, but the language of his own people” (Nehemiah 13:23-Jeremiah :). This is what should be expected from mixed marriages. No “godly offspring” was conceived here, there are no children here who seek God.

Here we also see how marriage, marital faithfulness, and children belong together. God instituted marriage in order for children to be born. Using Genesis 1-2 we can say that sexuality has two characteristics. God wants to use it for procreation, having children. God also gives sexuality to enjoy each other, to experience the joy of recognizing the other as someone who suits you. In case of unfaithfulness to the wife of the youth, both goals are destroyed.

Verse 16

God Hates Divorce

This verse begins with the word “for”. This indicates that what follows is directly related to the foregoing. There Malachi has shown God’s plan with marriage and how important it is not to act unfaithfully in it. This unfaithful act finds its culmination, or better low point, in divorce. To God divorce is not just a wrong choice, it is a destruction of His work, a violent act He abhors.

Covering his garment refers to the old custom where a man throws his garment over a woman to take and protect her as wife (Ruth 3:9; Ezekiel 16:8). However, those who divorce their wives do not use their garment that way. They do not protect their wives, but they cover up the violence they use against their wives. Those who seek divorce are often hardened in their natural feelings. The violence can sometimes be physical, but most of all it can be spiritual through the use of harsh words that are “like the thrusts of a sword” (Proverbs 12:18).

Anyone who does not stay close to the Lord runs the risk of becoming unfaithful to his own wife. He who alienates from the Lord also alienates from his surroundings, most of his housemates and most of all of his wife. In this alienation the urge to view pornographic sites on the internet can no longer be resisted. Someone is becoming more and more alienated. Contacts are made through social media. Meetings are arranged. Finally, there is no turning back and the divorce is initiated.

God hates divorce because it destroys His purpose with marriage. His purpose with marriage, in addition to the aspects mentioned above, is above all that in every marriage the unity between Christ and the church is made visible (Ephesians 5:31-Jonah :). This is what God has in mind when He creates man and woman and establishes marriage as the legitimate sphere in which sexuality may be fully enjoyed. That is why Ephesians 5 refers to the institution of marriage in Genesis 2 (Ephesians 5:31; Genesis 2:24).

The Lord Jesus is clear in His teaching about divorce (Matthew 19:3-1 Samuel :; 1 Corinthians 7:10). Divorce is a particularly bad thing. Whoever thinks he can get rid of that inseparable bond and therefore also thinks he is free to enter into that inseparable bond with someone else, is very mistaken. He commits adultery by entering into a new marriage. The same goes for someone who marries the divorced woman, because this woman is still inextricably connected to her husband. That is so, as long as he lives (Romans 7:2-Leviticus :).

The exception “except for immorality” or “not for fornication” (Matthew 19:9) concerns the case of someone who is betrothed. We have an example of this with Joseph and Mary. While they are betrothed, Joseph plans to send Mary away secretly when he notices that she is pregnant (Matthew 1:18-Psalms :). When someone is betrothed, there is a fixed connection, but the official marriage has not yet taken place. In the case of Joseph and Mary in their betrothed status, the sending away would have been allowed. God does not blame Joseph for that consideration either, but let him know what is really going on. Then he does not send her away.

Verse 17

The LORD Is Weary of Their Words

Malachi tells the people that they weary the LORD with their words (cf. Isaiah 43:24). Through their constant faithlessness and hypocrisy, they have brought God’s patience to an end. They feel that God does not take care that they are doing badly, while their enemies are doing very well. God does not care about them, that is how they experience it. He doesn’t punish the suffering that has been done to them enough, that’s how they judge God’s attitude towards them.

The words they utter about it weary God. The self-complaint is a complaint against God that they make without self-knowledge and without repentance about the way they go. God grows weary of having to listen to their unjustified complaining over and over again. God gets weary of words that are about their own right, and in which He is put in the dock.

The reaction of the people is again a justification of themselves. They would not know what they have wearied God with. But God confronts them with their indifference by quoting their words, reminding them of it. Their whole attitude testifies to a complete lack of knowledge of God. Not only do they ignore Him, but they also attribute to Him preposterous conduct of which they feel they are the victims.

We hear these kinds of expressions when people say: ‘If God is righteous, why then does He let …?’ and so on and so forth. These kinds of questions are commonplace and are found in the mouths of people who think that God acts arbitrarily, both in the world and in their personal lives. They are blind to their own sins, but they blame God for the misery in which they are or which they see around them.

In fact, they are so audacious that they challenge God to show Himself as the God of judgment. If He really is the God of judgment, where is He? What an arrogant attitude. If God were to express Himself in judgment, they would all be stricken by that judgment.

The answer comes in the first verse of the next chapter. There they hear about the coming Judge, Who by God’s grace is preceded by a herald who calls for repentance in order to be ready for the Judge’s coming.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Malachi 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/malachi-2.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.