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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

- Malachi

by Johann Peter Lange



Professor Of Biblical Learning In The Theological Seminary Of The Protestant Episcopal Church At Alexandria, Virgina

§ 1. The Prophet Malachi

The Prophet Malachi is the last of the series of prophets, who, through successive generations, for a thousand years, “had showed before of the coming of the Just one.” Not only had this remarkable order of inspired men predicted the coming Messiah, but they lifted up their voice, like a trumpet, to show God’s people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. They were the teachers and preachers of the generations in which they respectively lived, and were thus the prototypes of ministers of the Gospel.
It has been a subject of doubt, from a very early period, whether Malachi was the real name of the Prophet, or an official title. The Septuagint translates Malachi “his angel.” The Targum regards Ezra as the author of the prophecy, and is followed in this opinion, with more or less confidence, by Jerome, Calvin, Hengstenberg, and Umbreit. “I am disposed to grant,” says Calvin, “that the author was Ezra, and that Malachi was his surname, for God had called him to do great and remarkable things.” “We shall not succeed,” says Ewald, “in finding the real name of the writer.” No one has so strenuously opposed the common opinion, that Malachi was the real name of the Prophet, as Hengstenberg, in his Christology of the O. T. (2d edition Martin’s translation), vol. iv. 156–161. He labors to establish a connection between the name of the Prophet, and the same word as occurring in its official signification, “my messenger,” in Malachi 3:1. He maintains, that the formation of the word, and the absence of any reference to his father, or the place of his birth, go to show that it was not a proper name. But, on the other hand, we have no account of the personal relations of Haggai, Habakkuk, and Obadiah. The formation of the word, as a proper name, is not without precedent, as in Naphtali, Zichri. It would be contrary to the analogy of the prophetical books, it would weaken the force of the prophecy, and cast some suspicion upon it, if we regarded it as anonymous. We consider it then with Hitzig, as a proper name, and as an abbreviation of Malachiah, servant of Jehovah.

The time, in which Malachi prophesied, has also been the subject of some difference of opinion. All are agreed, from the internal evidence, that it was after the exile, which is not mentioned in the book. The temple was rebuilt, its service, together with the sacrifices, and feasts and fasts, restored. Some are disposed to put the age of Malachi at a much later date than others. Dr. J. G. Murphy (Fairbairn’s Imperial Dictionary, art. Mal.) maintains, that he may have lived till the time of Alexander the Great, 331 b.c. Hitzig (Comm. on Minor Prophets) conjectures, that he prophesied about 358 b.c. But as we find Malachi condemning the very same abuses, which Nehemiah found existing in his second visit to Jerusalem, we may reasonably conclude, that they were contemporaries, and sustain the same relations to each other, that Haggai and Zechariah did to Zerubbabel, and that Malachi prophesied from 440–410 b.c.

To understand the prophecy, we must glance at the circumstances of the Jews, in his time. They had returned from the exile, as we learn from Nehemiah, in “great affliction and distress.” The period of the exile had been a painful and humiliating one. They had been in the furnace of affliction. From the prophecies of Isaiah, and other prophets, they had expected even more than the restoration of their former blessings, but instead of that, they were under Persian governors, “who had dominion over their bodies.” Now, while the exile was a great blessing to them in many respects, as it cured them of idolatry, and produced some outward repentance at least, as the tears, which they shed at Ezra’s exposition of the law, testified, yet from the disappointment of their fond hopes, they fell into an ungrateful, murmuring, self-righteous spirit, complaining of God’s injustice to them, as though they had claims upon Him, and provoking his divine majesty by a denial of his justice, and providential government. We see in the state of mind and heart of the people, the germs of that Pharisaism and Sadduceeism, which were full-blown in the time of our Saviour. They had relapsed, too, into their old sins of marrying heathen wives, which Ezra had sternly prohibited, and labored to reform.

Bishop Lowth here remarks, “that Malachi is written in a mediocre style, which seems to indicate that the Hebrew poetry, from the time of the Babylonish captivity, was in a declining state, and being past its prime and vigor, was then fast verging towards the debility of age.” Gesenius classes him also in the silver age of the Hebrew language, and thus decidedly inferior to the earlier writers. On the contrary, Ewald, who is a competent, and certainly unbiased judge, pronounces his style as not lacking in smoothness and elegance; and Kohler regards it as forcible and remarkably pure, for the time, in its diction and syntax, and his reasoning as concise and cogent. His descriptions of the original type of the priesthood, his prophecies of the sun of righteousness, of the Angel of the Covenant, and of the great and terrible day of judgment, are glowing and fervid. Ewald has remarked upon a peculiarity of his style—in his first laying down moral and religious axioms, as a foundation, and then reasoning from them, and refuting in the form of a dialogue any objections which might be brought against them. The prophecy of Malachi has been always regarded as one of great importance. The Church of Rome, it is well known, has found in the “pure offering,” of Malachi 1:11, its principal proof-text of the doctrine of the Mass.

The contents of the prophecy are principally of a threatening character. After an introduction, in which the Prophet proves the love of God to the people, as the foundation of the following rebukes and exhortations, he turns, first of all to the priests, and threatens them with severe punishment for their open contempt of the law, and their unfaithfulness in their office.
The next rebuke is administered to those who had divorced their Jewish wives, in order to contract marriages with heathen wives. He rebukes the irreligion of the people, their denial of God’s justice, and their withholding tithes and offerings. The Prophet assures them that the awful day of divine judgment, in which God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked, will surely come, and that God would graciously send his messenger Elijah the Prophet, before his coming.
The last words of the Old Testament, “The Angel of the Covenant,—Elijah the Prophet,” have hardly died upon the ear, when John the Baptist, standing at the threshold of the New Testament, echoes the voice of Malachi, and cries out in the wilderness, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, as it is written in the Prophet, Behold, I send my messenger, before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before me.”

§ 2. Analysis of the Book

Most Commentators, following Jahn in his Hebrew Bible, and Introduction to the Old Testament, divide the prophecy into six sections.

1.Malachi 1:1-6. Introduction. Expostulation of Jehovah with Israel. He proves his distinguishing love by comparing their condition with that of Edom, and thus refutes their complaint, that he has not loved them.

2.Malachi 1:6; Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:10. Rebuke of the Priests, for their offering unlawful sacrifices, and thus profaning God’s ordinances, for their perversion of the law. Prophecy of the pure and spiritual worship of Jehovah among the heathen.

3.Malachi 2:10-16. Rebuke of unfaithfulness in the marriage relation by marrying heathen wives, and divorcing Israelitish wives.

4. The sending of Jehovah’s messenger to prepare the way for the unexpected coming of the Messiah, to judge, but not utterly to destroy Israel (Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 3:7).

5. Rebuke of the people for withholding the legal tithes and offerings, and thus defrauding God (Malachi 3:7-13).

6. Prediction of the destiny of the righteous and the wicked. Exhortation to observe the law. Another Elijah to come. Threatenings, if they do not repent and flee from the wrath to come, of a curse of utter destruction upon the land.

§ 3. Unusual Words and Forms in Malachi

Malachi 1:3. תַּבּוֹת, for תּנִּים. The verb, רָשַׁש, Malachi 1:4. The combination of מֵעַל, with לְ, Malachi 1:5. The meaning of מִכִדָה, Malachi 1:10-13; Malachi 2:13; Malachi 3:4. The word נִיב, Malachi 1:12. The verb נָכַל, Malachi 1:14; the form מָשְׁחַת, Malachi 1:14. The unusual meaning of מִצְָה, Malachi 2:1. The use of מַלְאך, Malachi 2:7; Malachi 3:1. The expression בַּתִ־אֵל נֵכָר, Malachi 2:11. The proverb עֵר וְעֹףֶה, Malachi 2:12; the expression, אֵשֶׁת בְּרִית, Malachi 2:15. The form of the participle, שָׂנֵא, Malachi 2:16; the title מַלְאַך הַבְּרִית, Malachi 3:1; the word בֹּרִית, Malachi 3:2; the construction in Malachi 3:5, עָשַׁק שָׂכָר. The verb ק בַע, Malachi 3:8; the proverb עד־בִּלי־דַי, Malachi 3:10; the word קִדֹרַכִּית, used only in Malachi 3:14; the proverb שֹׁרֶש וְעָנָף, Mal 3:19; the verb עָסַס, Mal 3:21.

§ 4. Literature

Jerome, Comm. in Mal., in his Opera, vol. 6., Migne’s edition, Paris, 1845; J. Calvin on the Minor Prophets (Eng. translation by Owen), Edinb. 1849; David Chytræus, Explic. Malachi, Rost., 1568; J. J. Grynæus, Hypomnemata in Mal., Geneva, 1582; Sam. Bohlius, Malachias, Rost., 1637; Sclater On Malachi, London, 1650; J. H. Ursini, Comment. in Malach., Fref., 1652; Stock On Malachi, London, 1641; Poli, Synopsis, London, 1673; Marck on the Minor Prophets, Amst., 1701; Sal. von Til, Malach. Illustratus, 1701; J. C. Hebenstreit, Interp. Malachiœ, 1731; J. H. Michaelis, Biblia Hebraica, Halle, 1720; Joa. Wesselius, Malachias, Lubec., 1729; E. Pocock On Malachi, London, 1740; C. F. Bahrdt, Comm. in Malach., 1768; J. M. Faber, Comm. in Mal., 1779; Vitringa, De Malach. Observationes, 1712; H. Venema, Comm. ad. Mal., Leon, 1759; J. Jahn, Vaticinia de Messia, Vienna, 1813; P. F. Ackermann, Prophetœ Minores, 1830; W. Newcome, Minor Prophets, London, 1836; E. F. C. Rosenmüller, Scholia, Lipsiæ, 1836; G. R. Noyes, New Translation of the Prophets, Boston, 1837; F. I. V. D. Maurer, Comm., Lipsiæ, 1837; E. Henderson, Minor Prophets, London, 1845; L. Reinke (R. C.), Der Prophet Malachi, Giessen, 1852; T. V. Moore, Prophets of the Restoration, New York, 1856; E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the O. T., 2d ed. vol. 4. pp. 156–258 (transl. by Meyer), Edinburgh, 1858; F. Hitzig, Exegetisches Handbuch, Leipz., 1866; A. Köhler, Die Nachexilischen Propheten, Erlangen, 1865; H. Ewald, Die Jüngsten Propheten, Götting., 1868; Keil, on the Minor Prophets (Engl. transl. by Martin), Edinb., 1868; W. Pressel, Commentar zu den nachexilischen Propheten, Gotha, 1870 (originally intended for Lange’s Bibelwerk, but published independently); C. Wordsworth, Comm. on the O. T. (vol. 6), containing Daniel and the Minor Prophets, London, 1872.


Jehovah’s distinguishing Love to Israel (Malachi 1:1-6).

1 The burden of the word of Jehovah to Israel, by the hand of Malachi.

2 I have loved you, saith Jehovah,

And if ye say, “Wherein hast thou loved us?”
Was not Esau brother to Jacob? saith Jehovah,
And yet I loved Jacob,

3 And Esau I hated;

And made his mountains a desolation,
And his inheritance for the jackals of the desert.

4 Although Edom say, “We are ruined,

Yet will we build again the ruins;”
Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts;
They may build, but I will pull down;
And men shall call them, “The land of wickedness;
And the people against whom Jehovah is angry forever.”

5 And your eyes shall see it, and ye shall say,

Great be Jehovah over the land of Israel!


Rebuke of the Priests (Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:9)

6 A son honors his father,

And a servant his master;
But if I am a father, where is mine honor?
And if I am a master, where is my fear?
Saith Jehovah of Hosts to you, ye priests, that despise my name.
Yet ye say, “Wherewith have we despised thy name?”

7 In offering polluted bread upon mine altar.

And if ye say, “Wherewith have we polluted thee?”
In that ye say, “The table of the Lord is contemptible.”
And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice,
(Ye say) “There is nothing evil!”

8 And when ye offer the lame and the sick,

(Ye say), “There is nothing evil!”
Offer it then to thy governor;
Will he be gracious to thee,
Or accept thy person?
Saith Jehovah of Hosts.

9 And now, I pray you, beseech God to be gracious unto us!

(By your hand hath this been done !)
Will he show favor,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts?

10 O that some one of you would even shut the doors,

That ye might not light the fire upon mine altar to no purpose!
I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of Hosts,
And sacrifice from your hand I will not accept.

11 For from the rising of the sun even to its setting,

My name shall be great among the nations,
And in every place shall incense be offered to my name,
And a pure offering;
For my name shall be great among the nations.

12 But ye profane it,

In that ye say, “The table of the Lord is polluted,
And the fruit thereof, even its food, is contemptible.”

13 Ye say also, Behold, what weariness!

And ye snuff at it,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts.
And ye bring that which is stolen, and lame, and sick,
And present it for an offering!
Shall I accept it from your hand?
Saith Jehovah.

14 And cursed be the deceiver,

Who, when there is in his flock a male,
Vows and sacrifices to Jehovah that which is blemished;
For I am a great king, saith Jehovah of Hosts,
And my name is feared among the nations.

1 And now, ye priests, this sentence is to you!

2 If ye will not hearken,

If ye will not lay it to heart,
To give glory to my name, saith Jehovah of Hosts,
I will send a curse’ upon you,
And I will curse your blessings;
Yea, I have cursed them already.
Because ye do not lay it to heart.

3 Behold I will rebuke for you the seed;

And I will spread dung upon your faces,
The dung of your solemn feasts,
And ye shall be taken away to it.

4 And ye shall know that I have sent to you this sentence,

That my covenant with Levi may continue,

5 Saith Jehovah of Hosts.

My covenant with him was life and peace,
And I gave them to him for fear,
And he feared me, and reverenced my name.

6 The law of truth was in his mouth,

And unrighteousness was not found in his lips;
He walked with me in truth and equity,
And turned many away from iniquity.

7 For the lips of the priest should keep knowledge,

And men should seek the law from his mouth;
For he is a messenger of Jehovah of Hosts.

8 But ye have departed from the way,

Ye have caused many to stumble at the law,
And ye have made void the covenant with Levi,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts;
Therefore will I also make you
Despicable and base before all the people;
Because ye have not kept my ways,
But have had respect to persons in the law.


Rebuke of Divorce and Mixed Marriages (Malachi 2:10-17)

10 Have we not all one Father?

Hath not one God created us?
Why do we act treacherously one toward another,
And profane the Covenant of our fathers?

11 Judah hath acted treacherously,

And an abomination is committed in Israel, and in Jerusalem,
For Judah hath profaned the holy people of Jehovah, which He loveth,
And hath married the daughter of a strange God.

12 Jehovah will cut off from the tents of Jacob the man that doeth this,

The waker and the answerer,
And him that bringeth a sacrifice to Jehovah of Hosts.

13 And this second thing ye do,

Ye cover the altar of Jehovah with tears,
With weeping, and with groans,
So that He hath no more regard to the offering,
Nor accepts it as well-pleasing from your hand.

14 And if ye say, “Wherefore? (doth He not accept?)”

Because Jehovah has been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth.
Against whom thou hast acted treacherously,
While she was thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

15 But did He not make one (pair)?

Though He had a residue of the Spirit?
And wherefore one?
He sought a godly seed.
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
And act not treacherously to the wife of thy youth!

16 For I hate divorce,

Saith Jehovah, the God of Israel,
And him that covers with cruelty his garment.


The Coming of the Angel of the Covenant for Judgment (Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 3:6)

17 Ye have wearied Jehovah with your words,

And if ye say, “Wherein have we wearied Him?”
In that ye say, “Every evil doer
Is good in the eyes of Jehovah,
And in them He hath delight,”
Or, “Where is the God of judgment?”

1 Behold, I send my messenger,

That he may prepare the way before me;
And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple,
And the Angel of the Covenant, whom ye desire,
Behold he comes, saith Jehovah of Hosts.

2 But who can endure the day of his coming?

And who can stand at his appearing?
For he is like the smelter’s fire,
And like the lye of the washer.

3 And He will sit as a smelter, and purifier of silver,

And will purify the sons of Levi,
And will refine them, as gold and silver,
That they may offer to Jehovah sacrifices in righteousness.

4 And the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Jehovah,

As in the days of former times,
And as in past years.

5 And I will come near to you to judgment;

And I will be a swift witness
Against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against those who swear for deceit,
And against those who defraud the hireling of his wages,
And oppress the widow and the fatherless,
And turn aside the stranger from his right,
And fear not me, saith Jehovah of Hosts.

6 For I, Jehovah, change not:

Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.


Rebuke for Neglect of Tithes and Offerings (Malachi 3:7-12)

7 From the days of your fathers ye have departed from mine ordinances, And have not kept them;

Return to me, and I will return to you,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts.
And ye say, “Wherein shall we return?”
Will a man defraud God, that ye defrauded me?
“And ye say, “Wherein have we defrauded thee?”
In the tithe and in the heave offering.
Ye are cursed with a curse.
Yet ye defraud me, even the whole nation.

10 Bring ye the whole tithe into the treasure house,

That there may be food in my house,
And prove me now herewith,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts,
If I will not open you the windows of heaven,
And pour out upon you a blessing till there is not room enough.

11 And I will rebuke for you the devourer,

That he may not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor will your vine be barren in the field,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts.

12 And all nations shall call you blessed,

For ye shall be a joyful land,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts.


Retribution of the Righteous and the Wicked (Malachi 3:0)

13 Your words have been bold against me, saith Jehovah;

And ye say, “What have we spoken with out another against thee?”

14 Ye have said, It is a vain thing to serve God,

And what gain is it, that we have kept has ordinance,
And walked mournfully because of Jehovah of Hosts?

15 For now we call the proud happy.

Yea, the doers of wickedness are built up,
Yea, they have tempted God, and have been delivered.

16 Then those, who feared Jehovah, conversed with one another,

And Jehovah attended and heard;
And a book of remembrance was written before Him,
For them that feared Jehovah,
And that thought upon his name.

17 And they shall be my property, saith Jehovah,

In the day which I appoint,
And I will spare them,
As a man spareth his own son, that serveth him.

18 Then shall ye again discern

[The difference] between the righteous and the wicked,
Between him who serveth God,
And him that serveth Him not.
IV. 1 For behold the day cometh, burning like a furnace,

And all the proud, and every doer of wickedness shall be chaff,
And the coming day shall burn them up,
Saith Jehovah of Hosts,
So that it will not leave them root nor branch.

2 But unto you, that fear my name,

Shall the Sun of Righteousness arise
With healing in his wings.
And ye shall go forth, and leap [for joy],
Like calves of the stall.

3 And ye shall tread down the wicked,

For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet,
In the day which I appoint, saith Jehovah of Hosts.

4 Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant,

Which I commanded him upon Horeb for all Israel,
My statutes and my precepts!

5 Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet,

Before the day of Jehovah come,
The great and terrible day.

6 He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons,

And the heart of the sons to the fathers,
That I may not come
And smite the land with a curse.



[1]I have been more brief in the Preface to Malachi, than I desired, from the brief space allotted me.—J. P.

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