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MALACHI CHAPTER 2
The priests are sharply reproved for profaning the covenant which was given them, Malachi 2:1-9; and the people for marrying strange wives, Malachi 2:10-12, and treacherously putting away their former ones, Malachi 2:13-16; and for impiety, Malachi 2:17.
This commandment; either this which he had already minded them of about the sacrifices, what ought to be offered and what refused; if the people brought defective sheep or oxen, they who were priests ought not to have admitted, they ought not to have offered them upon God’s altar: or this commandment he now brings from God to them, and which is contained in this chapter.
Is for you; by especial direction it is sent to you, and look to it that you obey it.
If ye will not hear: this if to the prophet was dubious, but to God, who sent the prophet, it was not doubtful; but it was for monition to the priests and Jews, and implied a condition of mercy if they would yet hear, but an inevitable curse if they did not hear.
If ye will not lay it to heart; if you do not consider what you hear, to do the good, to forbear the evil.
To give glory unto my name, by a due and holy manner of sacrificing and offering incense; in neglect of which you have greatly sinned, and dishonoured me, and polluted my name and altar.
I will even send a curse: it is a comprehensive threat, many miseries in one word; it is a blast on their good hoped for, and it is poison in the good possessed, and when it is, as here, sent of God, it will surely do both, it will be a blast on hopes, it will be poison in what is possessed and should be enjoyed.
Upon you; all, both priests and people, but especially on the priests.
Your blessings; all the good, sweet, necessary supports of life, and comforts of yourselves and yours.
I have cursed them already; you have so long polluted my name, and would not reform, that I have already sent out the curse, and it is in part upon you, though you are not sensible of it, nor will feel it, and this is forerunner of greater curses yet coming, unless you repent.
Because ye do not lay it to heart: the sin was great in that you polluted my name, but it becomes much greater when you add impenitence to it, and harden yourselves, and will not lay it to heart; therefore the curse is gone out with commission from God to seize you.
Behold; note it well, and consider.
I will corrupt your seed; take away the prolific virtue and strength of it, that it shall bring forth none or little fruit: your seed you make plentiful, but you cannot make your harvest so, nor will I, till you give me the glory I contend for, and will have ere I have done. I will rebuke or check your seed, which will surcease to grow thereupon: though your vices checked thrive still, your seed for harvest cannot grow up under my checks.
Spread dung upon your faces: it is an expression of greatest contempt cast upon a person; it is a token of utmost undervalue and scorn: so I will expose you, as you have exposed my name to contempt.
The dung of your solemn feasts; your most solemn days and feasts, which are by you accounted most holy, and in which you think you offer the most holy and acceptable sacrifices, shall be as loathsome to me as dung, and shall make you, who offer them illegally, as polluted, unclean, and loathsome as if I had thrown the dung of those sacrifices into your faces.
One shall take you away with it; you shall be taken away with it, removed as unclean as the dung itself, as unfit as that to be in the temple, as fit to be cast out to the dunghill; so contemptible shall you be, if you lay it not to heart.
And ye, O priests,
shall know, by sense and feeling, by woeful experience; or, know ye, i.e. but what I speak now, and will do among you. I have sent this commandment; admonition, reproof, and exhortation, to look more carefully for the future, that you do not dishonour me, and make mine altar and sacrifices contemptible; but repent of what is past, and for time to come amend all; this I call for at your hands.
That my covenant might be with Levi; that you do not null the covenant of priesthood made with Levi, and which I would have continued in his posterity, in you, and yours after you, which I would not have your sins and high provocations should abrogate; but if you will not thus confirm, settle, and keep Levi’s covenant among you, I will make it firm as to what is on my part to be done herein, to punish the violators of it.
Saith the Lord of hosts; God Almighty, Lord of hosts, hath spoken this, and will do it.
Here is one covenant that is more particular than any, a covenant of priesthood between God and a particular tribe.
With him: Levi is named Malachi 2:4, and I will rest there, though I know some would have it be Aaron, or Phinehas.
Of life and peace; of long life, and prosperous, by covenant under the provisoes therein contained, assured to the Levites in their due ministrations before God.
I gave them, both lives, (the word is dual,) or life and prosperity.
For the fear wherewith he feared me; religious fear, or that gracious qualification which appeared in the acts of it, for he feared before God.
And was afraid before my name; behaved himself with reverence and trembling before God. It is the same repeated for confirmation of the former, or perhaps it may imply the habitual name of reverence from a contrite heart, which is here pointed at, and commended in this person under the name of Levi.
The law of truth; the law of God which is the truth, the doctrine of the law according to the true meaning thereof.
Was in his mouth; he did teach it to the people, he resolved all cases by this law; Aaron, Eleazar, Phinehas, or, as we must understand it, every one of those godly priests or Levites, in what age soever they lived, who, as Malachi 2:5, feared God, and were humble. They taught the people (as was their duty) first to know the law of God, and then to obey it; this by their example, the other by their instruction. The law of truth was in his mouth, he pronounced according to the law truly, pronouncing that unclean which the law determined unclean, and that clean which was clean.
Iniquity was not found in his lips; he judged not with respect to persons, nor for bribes perverted judgment, nor judged that lawful which was unlawful, or that unlawful which was lawful.
He walked with me; his whole life was a continual walking with God, as Enoch’s was, and Noah’s was, and as God required Abraham’s should be, in holy fear of his majesty, in true love of his precepts, and reverent observing his ordinances; he lived with God, and to him.
In peace, with God, and with men; it was his aim to live peaceably towards others, that God might make them peaceable toward him, and God gave him much of that he desired.
And equity; in rectitude of mind, or in sincerity and uprightness, free from hypocrisy; or else in all righteousness among men.
And did turn many away from iniquity; by his instructions, and by his excellent example, he converted many from ways of sin.
Those forementioned excellent priests did so teach, and so live, forasmuch as they did well consider it was their duty to be well acquainted with, and to have a great insight into, the law of God.
The priest’s lips should keep knowledge; it is that their office binds them to; it is the duty of all God’s people to know his law, but the priest’s duty to know it more than others, Leviticus 10:11, for they were to teach Israel, Deuteronomy 33:10.
And they, the people of Israel, should seek the law at his mouth; in difficult cases, in controversies, &c., the people were to consult and advise with the priests, and inquire what the law said in the case.
For he is the messenger, interpreter, ambassador, or legate, of the Lord of hosts with the people, lieger among them, and who therefore ought to be advised with about his Lord’s mind.
But ye, priests that now are in office, now live, when I, Malachi, am sent to preach, are departed, have shamefully degenerated and turned away from your duty, are apostates,
out of the way of God’s law, and of those holy priests your predecessors; out of the way of truth, holiness, peace, and equity.
Ye have caused many to stumble at the law; your expositions of the law, your manner of worshipping God, and your manner of living, all together were great scandals to very many; and too many of these, that were offended by these things, these faults of yours, fell to sinning with you.
Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, the covenant of priesthood, Nehemiah 13:29, chargeth them with this sin, and therefore they have no reason to expect the blessings of this covenant, viz. life and peace, since their making the covenant void on their part had cut off all claim and right to the blessings promised in that covenant, and had exposed them to the curses God threatened them with.
Therefore, because you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, and have dishonoured me, and made my sacrifices contemptible,
have I also made you contemptible and base; I have left you under the contempt of the people, who think basely of you, as you deserve; you have dishonoured me, and I have made, and will make, good my word, you shall be lightly esteemed.
Before all the people; there are none but account you an unworthy, unthankful, profane, and unjust generation, neither fit to serve God nor guide man.
According as ye have not kept my ways; your punishment is as your sin; you forsook the law of God, and made his table and his bread contemptible, now I make you contemptible; you were weary of my service, and the people age weary of such priests.
But have been partial in the law; you have perverted the law to please great men, or to favour yourselves; or, to speak all in few words, you have declined the true judgment of God’s law to serve some unworthy design or other. so that none could be sure of a right interpretation, or of a just judgment, or of a safe and sure direction from you.
Have we, we Jews,
not all one father? either Abraham, or Jacob, (not Adam here intended,) with whom God made the covenant by which the posterity was made a peculiar people, separated from other nations, and on very weighty reasons forbid to join and intermix with strange nations. Hath not one God created us? the prophet speaks of that great and gracious work of God, creating them to be a chosen people, a nation formed to show forth his praise, Deuteronomy 32:6,Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 43:1,Isaiah 43:7; and so we Christians are created in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:10, and are in him new creatures, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Why do we? the prophet was not guilty of the fault, yet speaks as one of the community, partly to take off the envy of the Jews, and to cut off all occasion of quarrelling against his word, and partly to insinuate the sense he had of this thing, and the affection he had for them, though he reproved them.
Deal treacherously; despise, so some, break our faith in the marriage contract engaged, so carry it disloyally, against the duty we owe to God’s law, which equally binds us as our wives to mutual love, honour, and faithfulness; and why then do we take heathen wives, (it is bad if a Jew unmarried do it, but here now the case is worse,) Jewish wives being disliked, rejected, and so greatly despised? Why do we this against the bond of consanguinity? And do we sons of Abraham abuse thus the daughters of Abraham? Why do we so little regard the bond of religion? We are people, sons and daughters, of one God, who hath called us, separated us from the heathen to keep religion pure and unmixed; why then do we transgress thus?
Every man; the fault was very common, among the people and priests too, and since their return out of Babylon.
Against his brother: this wrong was done immediately against the wife, but the father, brothers, or kinsmen of the wronged wife are mediately, and by consequence, wronged; the whole family of the wife thus used is perfidiously abused, but brothers, as principal of the family, are named.
By profaning the covenant; violating the covenant of God, the law, which approves no polygamy, and forbids marrying of idolaters.
Judah: though Judah only is named, yet the rest of the returned captives are included.
Dealt treacherously: see Malachi 2:10.
An abomination; such treachery is a very abominable thing, God and all good men abhor it, and yet here it is committed in Israel, who are God’s peculiar people, and above others should have been holy.
And in Jerusalem; under the eye of the governors, the high priest and sanhedrim, nay, under the eye of God, who dwelt at Jerusalem; this could not but greatly provoke God.
Profaned the holiness of the Lord: profanely violated the necessary cautionary law of marriage, confining Israel to marry within themselves, and not to endanger themselves and religion by joining affinity with idolaters, who would draw them and their children from the holy law, worship, and temple of God, which are the holiness that he loved.
Which he loved; which he, i.e. Judah, once loved; so it was apostacy in Judah. Or which he, i.e. the Lord, loved above all; so it is a neglect of a main duty, it is slighting what God so greatly loved.
And hath married the daughter of a strange god: Ezra 9:1; Ezra 10:2, mentions what nations they were whose daughters were by these Jews taken for wives, they were idolatrous nations, and the women were idolatresses when the Jews did marry them. This was bad; but these Jews had wives before, and they cast them off, or else took in these strangers and despised their former wives: this is the treachery and abomination that is here committed.
The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this; the family of those who do this shall be destroyed utterly by the hand of God, he will punish this crime.
The master and the scholar; him that calleth and him that answereth; there shall be left neither any to teach nor any to learn, none to call nor any to answer, all the living cut off.
Out of the tabernacles of Jacob: this points to the people, or laity, who dwelt in the cities of Jacob, they shall be rooted out of the land.
And him that offereth an offering; the priests that are guilty of this fault shall be put out of the office of priest, and minister no more before the Lord.
This have ye done again; beside that first fault, you have committed another, you slight, misuse, and afflict your Jewish wives, whom alone you should have loved and cherished, but you make them drudges and slaves to idolatresses, your new and illegal wives.
Covering the altar of the Lord with tears; your despised and misused wives flee to the temple, weep, and cry out unto God for redress of their injuries.
With weeping: this is added to show the abundance of their tears.
With crying out; with vehemency crying to God against such husbands.
Insomuch that he, the Lord, who seeth their tears and heareth their cries,
regardeth not the offering any more; valueth not such offerings made to him by such people and such priests; or receiveth it with good will at your hand; is not at all pleased with such offerings, whether expiatory or peace-offerings, none of them from such people shall ever avail them.
Yet ye say, Wherefore? though the fault was so great in the nature of it, and so notorious in the evidence of it, these impudent sinners will not see, but dispute what just cause God hath to reject their offerings.
Because the Lord hath been witness: the prophet answers them God was witness both of the matrimonial contract, when you promised other deportment and affections, and he is witness also of your violating this contract, and hath seen how false and perfidious you have been, what inhumanity you have showed against your wives.
Between thee and the wife of thy youth; whom in thy youth thou marriedst, and hast had the best of her time and strength, and in age shouldst love and deal kindly with.
Dealt treacherously: see Malachi 2:10.
Yet is she thy companion; yet she is, what she was by the sacred institution of God made, thy companion, not thy drudge, or slave; thou art most unjust to her, thus to change thy affection and deportment when there is no change in her state and relation.
And the wife of thy covenant: covenants ought to be very exactly kept, and those especially which are of our own freest and most voluntary making, our covenants; such was this between the unnatural husband and his despised wife: all which, as they should have been arguments to his duty, so they are aggravations of his neglect of duty, and provocations to God. And now judge, ye disputing, quarrelling hypocrites, whether God hath not justest cause to reject your offerings.
And did he, God our Creator, not make one, but one man and one woman?
Yet had he the residue of the spirit; yet he could have made more men and women; and if it had been good, and well-pleasing to him, he could have made many women for one man; but though by his power he could, yet in his wisdom, goodness, and holiness he would not make more; from the beginning marriage was ordained to be between one man and one woman alone at once. So Christ argued Matthew 19:4-6.
And wherefore one, one couple, and no more?
That he might seek a godly seed; or, a seed of God; either an excellent seed, as the Hebrew expresses the excellency of a thing by the addition of the name God to it; or rather a holy seed, born to God in chaste wedlock, and brought up under the instructions and virtuous examples of parents living in the fear of God, and love of each other, which in polygamy cannot be expected.
Take heed to your spirit; keep your heart from wandering after strange wives, as you tender your life and souls.
Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth; though many have done so, let none now do it any more.
The prophet enforceth his former exhortation, Malachi 2:15, with the arguments laid here close together from the odiousness of the thing he exhorts them to forbear. It is odious to the Lord, who changeth not, but resents this evil practice as much as ever. God, Judge of wrongs and the wronged, hates such wrong.
God of Israel by covenant, and in peculiar relation, and so much more engaged to punish it; and he now declares his hatred of these things.
Putting away; divorce, such putting away of wives as these petulant Jews used to make way for some new wives.
For one covereth violence with his garment; rather, and covering violence, &c., which God hates as much as divorcing or putting away. This superinducing of violence by a second wife taken in upon, or with, or over the first wife, called here a garment, God hateth. In sum, neither your divorces nor your polygamy may with safety be practised, for God hateth both.
Therefore take heed to your spirit, and therefore be advised, take heed, as you love your life, your souls, your peace, and welfare, that ye deal not treacherously; neither on dislike divorce, nor yet, with unbridled lust, take another wife in to the former; both are perfidious treachery against her, thy covenant, and thy God; and what canst thou expect from such courses that God hateth, but to be cut off.
Ye; ye priests and people, slight in your religion toward God. Unfaithful in your covenant with your wives.
Have wearied the Lord (after the manner of man this is spoken of God) with your words; your perverse reasonings, or impious quarrellings against God, among which, one most ungodly and atheistical does come to be remarked on.
When ye say; when your discourse and reasoning is managed to the overthrow (if it were possible) of all morality and goodness.
Every one, not one excepted by these illogical atheists,
that doeth evil is good; that is a wicked man, and doth wickedness, (as you prophets preach to us,) is misrepresented by you; such are good men, and what they do is good. Thus they call evil good: woe then to them!
In the sight of the Lord; in the account and judgment of God.
And he delighteth in them; as appears (say these atheists) by his prospering of them: did he not delight in them, would he so enrich and prosper them? Or,
Where is the God of judgment? or if they be evil, and their ways, designs, and doings be evil, and punishable, where is that God of judgment? or why doth he delay execution of his displeasure against such men and ways? I am apt to think that the irreligious sentiments of the priests, their superficial managing of the solemn worship of God, their adulteries, and multiplying of wives, hitherto unpunished, had brought them either to think there was no such thing as moral goodness or moral viciousness in men’s actions; or that if there were, since no punishment was laid on the vicious, nor any encouragement or present reward bestowed on the virtuous, that God did not, nor ever would, concern himself to judge it; and so by an undue way of arguing, had concluded themselves into atheism, the very height of wickedness. That this is likely enough, our age confirms, in which unpunished enormities are atheists’ arguments against God and his providence; and unless he damn them, they will not believe the being of a God. But such must remember, they shall know and believe it at last, if not too late.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Malachi 2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25