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Bible Commentaries
Malachi 4

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3604. B.C. 400.

In this chapter, which is a continuation of the discourse in the preceding, we have,

(1,) A prediction of the general destruction of the Jewish nation, as a type and emblem of the final destruction of all the impenitent and unbelieving, at the time of the general judgment and final conflagration of the heaven and the earth, Malachi 4:1 .

(2,) The benefit which such as believed on the Messiah, at his coming, and became his subjects and servants among the Jews, should enjoy, while their unbelieving countrymen were given up to destruction: a figure of the final salvation of the righteous at the time of Christ’s second coming, Malachi 4:2 , Malachi 4:3 .

(3,) A solemn charge given to the Jews, in the mean time, strictly to observe the law of Moses till the Messiah should appear, Malachi 4:4 .

(4,) A promise of a further discovery of God’s will by Elijah the prophet, that is, John the Baptist, the harbinger of the Messiah, whose ministry, it is foretold, should produce a happy effect in the reformation of many, both young and old, Malachi 4:5 , Malachi 4:6 .

Verse 1

Malachi 4:1. For behold the day cometh Though it may appear to be at a distance from you, yet it is coming, and will soon overtake and overwhelm you: even that great and terrible day of the Lord, as it is called Joel 2:31. That shall burn as an oven God is described as a consuming fire, when he comes to execute his judgments, Deuteronomy 4:24, and the prediction here was remarkably verified when, upon the taking of the city and temple of Jerusalem, by the Roman army under Titus, they were both destroyed by such flames as no human power could quench. The refiner’s fire, mentioned Malachi 3:2, now became unspeakably more dreadful, raging everywhere through the city and temple, and most fiercely where the arched roofs made it double itself and infold flames within flames: by which terrible destruction, and the judgments accompanying it, an end was put to the whole state of the Jews: an awful image this of the conflagration of the heavens and the earth, and the final judgment of the last day on the whole human race. And all the proud Such especially as those spoken of Malachi 3:15. And all that do wickedly All impenitent sinners, of whatever kind, whether heathen, Jews, or Christians, so called, even all that do not obey the truth, whether manifested by God’s works or his word, but obey unrighteousness, shall be as stubble Shall perish by these awful judgments. And the day that cometh shall burn them up Shall totally and speedily consume them. It shall leave them neither root nor branch A proverbial expression for utter destruction, and signifying, as applied to the unbelieving Jews, that both they and their families should be utterly destroyed.

Verse 2

Malachi 4:2. But unto you that fear my name So they are described, chap. Malachi 3:16, whose names were written in the book of remembrance; who loved the law of their God, and kept it; who believed its promises, and rejoiced in expectation of the blessings promised; who believed his threatenings and trembled at them, and who walked humbly with their God; shall the Sun of righteousness arise Christ, who is fitly compared to the sun, being the fountain of light and vital heat to his church: elsewhere called the day- spring from on high, Luke 1:78, and the east, or sun-rising, for so the word rendered branch, Zechariah 3:8, is translated by the Chaldee and LXX: see the note there, and on Isaiah 60:1-2. Thus the church is described, Revelation 12:1, as clothed with the sun, that is, adorned with graces communicated to her from Christ. He is termed the Sun OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, not only because he is the end of the law for righteousness, that is, for justification, sanctification, and practical obedience, to believers, and is made of God unto them righteousness, but because he is the medium and source of the divine mercy and benignity to them, as the word rendered righteousness also signifies. He is said to arise with healing in his wings, because his doctrine and mediation, with the spirit of truth and grace, which he has procured for, and confers upon, his true followers, removes men’s ignorance and errors, sins and miseries, and heals all the diseases of their fallen souls, communicating to them spiritual health and strength, with delight and joy, safety and security, and restoring and regulating all their faculties and powers. And ye shall go forth That is, as the words are thought primarily to signify, out of the city of Jerusalem before the fatal siege begin, being warned by Christ so to do, (see Matthew 24:15-18; Luke 21:20-21,) and thereby escaping those dreadful calamities, in which those who stayed in the city were involved. Indeed, those who had faith in Christ’s predictions, apprehending, from the circumstances of things, the destruction of the city to be near at hand, quitted it before it was invested by the Romans. And grow up In strength, vigour, and spiritual stature; as calves of the stall Where they are safely guarded, and well ordered and provided for. This shall be your state when the rest of your nation shall be consumed with divers kinds of death. Ye shall be in a good condition through your faith in the Redeemer, which shall be to you the evidence of things not seen; through the peace which you shall have with God, and in your own minds; through the love of God shed abroad in your hearts, and communion with him; and through the well-grounded and lively hopes with which you shall be inspired of the like deliverance in the judgment of the last day.

Verse 3

Malachi 4:3. And ye shall tread down the wicked “Ye shall know that they are wholly subdued.” Newcome. Houbigant thinks this “refers to the miracles of the rising church, by which the wicked were compelled to yield, and submit themselves; for there is no other dominion under which they could be held by Christians.” There was a time when the wicked trode them down, and said to their souls, Bow down that we may go over; but the day will come that will make them victorious over all their enemies, and they, as it were, shall tread down the wicked; for, being made Christ’s footstool, Psalms 110:1, they are also made theirs, and shall come and worship before the feet of the church, Revelation 3:9. “When believers, by faith, overcome the world; when they suppress their corrupt appetites and passions; and when the God of peace bruises Satan under their feet, then they indeed tread down the wicked.” Henry. For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet The meaning of this is thought by some to be, that when these believing ones, who through their faith should escape the destruction in which the unbelievers were involved, should return to the place where the city stood, they would there tread upon the ashes of the wicked, who were destroyed in the destruction of the city, and many of them burned to ashes in the flames by which it was consumed. According to Eusebius, a Christian Church was erected in a town called Ælia, built upon the ruins of Jerusalem, of which no less than thirteen persons of Jewish parentage were bishops. So that the faithful among the Jewish nation did literally tread the ashes of the wicked under the soles of their feet. But the general sense of the expression no doubt is, that the great, the unspeakable superiority of the righteous over the wicked, should be evident to themselves and all men, in the distinction which should be made in their favour, first, in the calamities which would come on the Jewish nation, and secondly, and especially, in that day when the righteous shall rise to everlasting life, and the wicked to shame and everlasting contempt.

Verse 4

Malachi 4:4 . Remember ye the law of Moses Ye are not now to expect any succession of prophets for the time to come, nor any prophet whatever, till the forerunner of the Messiah appears: your chief care, therefore, till that time, must be to attend upon the institutions, and to obey the precepts, which Moses has given to all Israel in his law; particularly in that part of it which was delivered to him by God with an audible voice from mount Horeb: see Exodus 19:9; Deuteronomy 4:10. This your lawgiver spake plainly of the Messiah, instructed you to expect his coming, and solemnly charged you to believe his doctrines and obey his commands, when he should come, threatening all those who did not with inevitable destruction. The words law, statutes, and judgments, are promiscuously used to signify the same thing, as appears from the greater part of the hundred and nineteenth Psalm.

Verse 5

Malachi 4:5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet The first prophet that I shall send to you, after him who now speaks to you, will be Elijah the messenger, that shall go before the Messiah to prepare his way. In him the spirit of prophecy shall be revived; and he shall be another Elijah for zeal, for courage, austerity of life, and labour for reformation. “It was the universal opinion in Christ’s time, received by the learned and unlearned, the governors and the common people, that Elijah should usher in the Messiah, and anoint him; all expected that Elijah should first come and restore all things; and long before that time the son of Sirach grounded his expectation of him on the passage now before us: see Sir 48:10 . The Jews have not since varied from this notion: in all their later writings the coming of Elijah and of the Messiah are usually mentioned together; and this is the reason why they pray so heartily for the coming of Elijah, even without mention of the Messiah, because the coming of the one, according to Malachi, infers the coming of the other.” But it is neither said nor implied in the text that Elijah the Tishbite should come in person, but only that one should come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and when such a one did come, Malachi’s words were fulfilled; who meant no more that Elijah should rise again, than Hosea and Jeremiah did that David should be restored to life, in order to reign over Israel and Judah, when they prophesied that the tribes should hereafter serve David their king. Whoever this Elijah was, he must, according to the next clause of this verse, precede the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, that is, the time of the final destruction of the Jewish city, temple, and commonwealth, which events actually took place near one thousand seven hundred years ago, and no other Elijah than John the Baptist, followed by the Messiah, came to warn them of it, as is confessed by them.

It is allowed by the Jews as a fact, that prophecy was sealed up with Malachi, and that when he died the Holy Spirit was taken away from Israel. They expected, however, that it would be restored in the days of the Messiah, and they ought, therefore, to have concluded that John the Baptist, in whom this gift did revive, must be the Elijah of Malachi: for all the people held John as a prophet, Matthew 14:5; Matthew 21:26. Even the members of the Sanhedrim, astonished at his preaching and actions, (see John 1:19-25,) thought he must be Elijah, or that prophet, namely, the Messiah, mentioned by Moses: and the scribes and Pharisees, as well as the rest of the country, went to be baptized of him, confessing their sins, Matthew 3:5-7. Add to this, that his preaching exactly answered the description given of it by Malachi. As Elijah was to give notice of the coming of the day that should burn as an oven, Malachi 4:1, that great and dreadful day, wherein the Lord, Messiah, should smite the land of Judea with a curse: Malachi 4:6; so did John the Baptist exhort to repentance, from this motive, that the kingdom of God was at hand, that wrath was coming, from which they ought to flee, and that the person coming after him, who was mightier than he, with his fan in his hand, would thoroughly purge his floor, and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire: see Matthew 3:2; Matthew 3:7; Matthew 3:10-11; and Bishop Chandler’s Defence. The reader will be pleased to see the sacred historians’ account of John confirmed by a wise, learned, and well-disposed Jew, who was not a Christian, namely the well-known historian Josephus: “It was the opinion of the Jews,” says he, “that Herod’s army was cut off by the Arabs through God’s just judgment, for the sake of John, who was surnamed the Baptist. For he killed that excellent man, who excited the people to the exercise of all virtues, especially piety and justice, and to receive his baptism, which, he assured them, would be pleasing to God, if to purity of body they added purity of life, and first cleansed their souls, not from one or two, but every sin. But when the people resorted in numbers to him, eager to hear his doctrine, and ready to do any thing by his counsel, fearing what might be effected through so great authority of the man, he first imprisoned and then slew him.” Antiq., lib. xviii, cap. 7.

Verse 6

Malachi 4:6. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, &c. After the times of the Maccabees, to the times of Christ, the Jewish people were miserably divided among themselves, by discords, which broke out into civil wars, of which Josephus gives an account. And moreover, the different religious sects among them, especially those of the Sadducees and Pharisees, greatly distracted the people, and alienated and separated the nearest relations from each other. Now John the Baptist began to apply a remedy to these evils, by instilling the precepts of love and charity, and directing all to one and the same master, Christ: see Luke 3:11; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7; John 1:15. This seems to be the most probable interpretation of the words, taking them in the sense of our translation, and as they are understood by the LXX., and by St. Luke 1:17. But a more easy sense may be given of them by translating the Hebrew preposition על , not to, but with, in which sense it is often used, and as Kimchi, Noldius, and others render it, namely, He shall turn the hearts of the fathers with the children, and of the children with the fathers; that is, he shall do his utmost to produce a national reformation, to turn both fathers and children from their evil practices, and to make them all unanimously join in the great duties of repentance and amendment of life; to restore a true sense of religion, which was then dwindled into a mere form, and thereby to prepare the people for the reception of Christ, in order to prevent the utter excision denounced upon the land, as it follows, Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. By the earth here, as frequently elsewhere, is meant the land of Judea, and the clause would be better rendered, Lest I come and smite the land, namely, of Judea, with utter destruction: for so the word חרם , here rendered curse, is often translated, as the learned reader may see by referring to Numbers 21:2; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 7:15-16; Joshua 6:21; Zechariah 14:11. So that the meaning is, Lest, when I come to execute judgment upon Judea, all the inhabitants of it should be utterly destroyed. By the preaching of John, and his directing the people to Christ, many were brought to repentance and reformation of life, and thereby escaped the common destruction of the nation. All, therefore, did not perish, but a remnant was saved, as St. Paul takes notice, Romans 9:27; Romans 9:29; Romans 11:5. Judea, however, remains a desolation, and Jerusalem a heap of ruins, both of them sad and perpetual monuments of God’s displeasure against such as reject Christ and his salvation. The three remarkable predictions, therefore, contained in this last chapter of the ancient records of the divine will, like a multitude of others, which have come under our consideration in the course of these notes, have all been punctually fulfilled. The harbinger of the Messiah appeared at the time foretold, in the spirit and power of Elias; the Messiah himself was manifested as the Sun of righteousness, as soon as that messenger sent before his face had prepared his way; and the most signal vengeance was executed, as foretold, on all such as rejected him and his salvation. These remarkable predictions, therefore, added to all that went before, being evidently verified, are so many fresh proofs of the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, of the truth of the Christian religion, of the certain accomplishment of all the promises and threatenings of the gospel of Christ, and of the absolute necessity of possessing the religion there delineated, and practising the duties there enjoined. This, indeed, is the design of all the prophecies, and even of all the books contained in the Old and New Testaments, and the principal use which ought to be made of them.

Thus, through the assistance of God, we are come to the conclusion of the writings of the prophets: for, from the time of Malachi to the time of the Messiah, for the space of near four hundred years, there was, as some of the prophets had foretold there should be, a famine of the words of the Lord; (see Amos 8:11-12;) and during this long course of time no prophet appeared in Israel, where there had been before a succession of them for a very long period of years. The divine providence, it is probable, as was intimated in the argument to this book, caused this long cessation of prophecy, this long famine of the word of the Lord in the land, in order to excite the greater expectation and a more fervent desire of the coming of the great prophet, the Christ of God; and to prepare men’s minds for a new and different dispensation, in which, after the first establishment of it, there was no longer to be a succession of prophets; but the work of God in and among men, in order to their salvation, was to be carried on through and by the grace of the Lord Jesus, that great one, who had been foretold by the mouth of all the prophets; and by the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, or a Divine Spirit, enlightening and renewing men’s minds, inspiring them with true wisdom, and communicating to them the divine nature, and forming them after the image of him that had created them. It has been observed by some, and not improperly, that whereas the last word of the Old Testament is a curse which threatens the earth, of our danger of which we must be made sensible, that we may welcome the gospel of Christ, which comes with a blessing; it is with a blessing, with the choicest of blessings, that the New Testament ends: and with it let us arm ourselves, or rather, let God arm us, against this curse. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all! Amen.

To God only wise be ascribed all the glory.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Malachi 4". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/malachi-4.html. 1857.
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