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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Malachi 2

 

 

Verse 1

Malachi 2:1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment [is] for you.

Ver. 1. And now, O ye priests, &c.] Now, that is, Now again, I must have the other bout with you, besides what I had, Malachi 1:6-11, for as once from the prophets, so now from the priests, in Jerusalem profaneness is gone forth into all the land, Jeremiah 23:15. Their white ephods covered many foul sins; and their evil example proved a public mischief. Hence the prophet is so round with them; for he knew that a wicked priest is the worst creature upon earth. Unsavoury salt is fit for no place; no, not for the dunghill. It is an old proverb, that hell is paved with the shaven crowns of evil priests. The word priest is never used by the apostles for a minister of the gospel; no, not by the most ancient fathers, as Bellarmine himself confesseth. Indeed in Chrysostom I find this piercing passage; Non arbitror inter sacerdotes multos esse qui salvi fiant, I do not think, saith be, that among all our priests, there be many that shall be saved. Bernard comes after him, and complains that in the court of Rome good men failed, bad men grew plentiful; and that the bishops of his time were not doctors, but seducers; not pastors, but impostors; not prelates, but Pilates. Yea, Pope Pius II hath left it in writing, that no villanous act had been for a long time committed in the Catholic Church the first beginning whereof proceeded not from the priests. Cornelius a Lapide, upon this chapter, cries out of the ignorance and wickedness of the Popish clergy as the cause of the contempt cast by us upon them. And I would we had not cause to say, that many of our ministers neither feed liberally by charity, nor soundly by doctrine, nor religiously by life; which opened once the mouth of that dead dog Campian maliciously to bark out, Ministris eorum nihil vilius, Their ministers are most vile and vicious.

This commandment is for you] i.e. That curse, Malachi 1:14 implying a commandment; that if you desire to escape that heavy curse you forthwith obey this commandment ( Aut faciendum enim aut patiendum) to procure the purity and integrity of my worships, and to see that there be a present reformation of religion. Reformation is a work that hath ever gone heavily on, and hath met with much opposition. As that made by Elijah, by Josiah, by Nehemiah, and by Hezekiah, who found the priests and Levites very backward; which the good king perceiving, began first himself, and awaked those sluggards with these words. Oh, be not deceived, my sons: God hath chosen you for this service, 2 Chronicles 29:11. The like backwardness was found in the Popish clergy to a general Council, so much urged and called for by the Bohemians, Germans, and other nations, that groaned under the yoke of Papal tyranny. Luther truly and trimly compareth the cardinals and prelates that met at Rome about reformation of the Church, to foxes, that came to sweep a house full of dust with their tails; and instead of sweeping it out, swept it all about the house, and made a great smoke for the while; but when they were gone the dust fell all down again (Sleidan Comment.). When nothing could be obtained of the Pope, Luther began to reform in Germany, where he had a great door open, but many adversaries, and none more violent than the Pope, whose triple crown, and the monks, whose fat paunches, he so nearly touched, as Erasmus merrily told the Elector of Saxony. Bucer and Melancthon framed a form of reformation with approbation of the peers and states. But the clergy of Collen rejected it with scorn and slander, saying that they would rather submit to the government of the Great Turk than to a magistrate that followed or furthered such a reformation. Here in England something began to be done in the time of Henry VIII, but it was so envied and opposed by the Churchmen that little could be done to what was expected. There are many (said he, sitting in parliament) that are too busy with their new Sumpsimus, (a) and others that dote too much upon their old Mumpsimus. (b) The new religion, though true, he and his clergy envied; the old, though his own, he despised. Magistrates are to have the main stroke in reformation of religion (though Papists would utterly exclude them from having to do in matters ecclesiastical), but ministers also must move in their own orb, and do their part too (why else are the priests here commanded and menaced?). 1. By teaching. 2. By exercising discipline. And here magistrates must hem ministers in with boards of cedar, Song of Solomon 8:9, provide for their security while they do their duty, that they may be without fear among them, as Timothy, 1 Corinthians 16:10. Envied they must look to be, and hated for their zeal to God’s house, which they seek to purge. But public respects must (like the rapid motion) carry our hearts contrary to the ways of our own private respects or concerns; and consider, that as it is not the tossing in a ship but the stomach, that causeth sickness; the choler within, and not the waves without; so the frowardness of men, that quarrel with reformation, and not the work itself, which is God’s commandment, as here the prophet calls it.


Verse 2

Malachi 2:2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay [it] to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even 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.

Ver. 2. If ye will not hear] That your souls may live, Isaiah 55:3, but forbear, and so show yourselves a rebellious house, Ezekiel 2:8, so adding rebellion to your sin. If you will needs resemble the deaf adder, which, although by spitting out his poison he might renew his age, stoppeth his ears by applying one to the earth, and covering the other with his tail, lest he should hear the voice of the charmer. Or, if ye do hear with that gristle that grows upon your head only,

And will not lay it to heart] Heb. Upon your heart, as a weight to keep it down from rising in rebellion against the Lord. If you esteem my command a light matter, and, instead of pondering it in your hearts with Mary, cast it behind your backs, Psalms 51:17, or suffer it to run through you as water runs through a riven vessel, Hebrews 2:4. If, thirdly, you will not give glory unto my name, by confessing your sins, Joshua 8:19 (so submitting to my justice, and imploring my mercy, which will make much to my glory), and redressing your ways, Psalms 50:23, by breaking off your sins, and bearing much fruit, John 15:8, studying mine ends more than your own, and drowning all self-respects in my glory. If you will not observe and fulfil these three afore mentioned conditions of exemption,

I will even send a curse upon you] That evil angel of mine, that shall bring with him fierceness of anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, Psalms 78:49. The Vulgate translation renders it, I will even send poverty upon you; a curse well suiting with their covetousness, and agreeable to that threatened by another prophet: "As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right" (as these priests had done), "shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end be a fool," Jeremiah 17:11. A poor fool God will soon make of the covetous wretch, and reduce him to extreme want; than the which he knows no greater hell, no curse comparable. But the original is more general, I will execrate you, or pronounce a curse against you. Howbeit, non nisi coactus, no otherwise than as compelled to it; as that emperor said, laying his hand upon his mouth for a good while before he would pronounce sentence of death upon one that had deserved it. Histories tell us of Augustus, that it went as much against the heart with him as it did against the hair with the malefactor, when he adjudged him to condign punishment. Vespasian wept over those he sentenced. Nero, in his first five years, being to sign a warrant for execution of certain malefactors, said, O utinam literas nescirem, O that I could not write! Our King Edward VI could not be persuaded by all his Council to put his hand to a warrant for the burning of one Joan Butcher, that had well deserved it. Our gracious God might well say, As I live, I delight not in the death of sinners, but rather would they should convert and live, Ezekiel 33:11; why else doth he here, in threatening a curse, interpose a condition for repentance? why doth he warn before he wound, and pre-admonish before he punish? Well might the heathen historian say, God loves to forewarn, φιλει ο θεος, προσημαινειν (Herodot.). Well might that father say, Minatur Deus ut non puniat: God therefore menaceth misery that he may not inflict it. And another, Ideo prolata est sententia, ut non fiat: The sentence is therefore pronounced that it may not be executed. Witness that we read Amos 4:12 "Therefore thus will I do unto thee." Thus? how? He nameth not how, that they may fear the utmost, as Ribera noteth, and yet he addeth, "Because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel" Surely, as a woman brings not forth without pain; and as a bee, usually, stings not till much provoked; so neither doth God curse his creature till there be no other remedy, 2 Chronicles 36:16. And then, Patientia laesa fit furor; abused mercy turns into fury. If men will not accept the conditions of peace, though never so fair and reasonable, as here, but pervert his mercies to wantonness, his patience to presumption, he will not always bear with their evil manners; but, repenting him of his kindness so cast away upon those that prized it not, as David repented of the good he had done unworthy Nabal, he will make them know the worth of his blessings by the want of them, 1 Samuel 25:21.

I will curse your blessings] Saith he here; I will recover mine own and be gone, as Hosea 2:9. I will cut off the meat from their mouths, and blast all your hopes of abundance, and destroy you after that I had done you good, Joshua 24:20. Thus God dealt by his unfruitful vineyard, Isaiah 5:5, he pulled up the hedges and let in the wild boar. Thus also he dealt by the unprofitable servant; he took away his talent, and turned him over to the tormentor. And thus he deals by many today, in whom it is no hard matter to observe a wane and decay of their gifts and abilities, upon their disuse or misuse thereof. How many have we that are woefully fallen from the affections of prayer they were wont to find and express! how many idle and therefore evil ministers, rejected by God, and laid aside, as so many broken vessels; while he causeth the night to come upon their divination, puts out their right eyes and dries up their right arms, Zechariah 11:17; till at length they may say, with Zedekiah. When did the spirit depart from me? "Woe to me, for I am spoiled," Jeremiah 4:13. And in very deed what should a prince do but take a sword away from a rebel? what should a mother do, but snatch away the meat from the child that mars it? And what can God do less than take away his grain, wine, and wool, from those that not only own him to it, but go after other sweethearts with it? Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:9.

Yea, I have cursed them already] For a pledge of more malediction. For as in blessings, every former is a pledge of a future; so in curses. As one cloud follows another till the sun disperse them; so doth one curse succeed another till repentance remove them. No sooner doth that rainbow appear in our hearts, but God, remembering his covenant, clears up our coasts, and lifteth up the light of his countenance upon us. Take the bark from the tree, and the sap can never find its way to the branches. Take sin from the soul, and God will soon be reconciled. But if ye walk contrary unto me, I will punish you yet seven times more, and seven times, and seven to that, Leviticus 26:24, till I have dashed you in pieces; as Dagon never left falling before the ark till his neck was broken. Sin doth as naturally draw and suck curses to it as the loadstone doth iron, or turpentine fire. The Chaldee and the Vulgate make these words but a repetition of the former; for they read the text thus: I will curse your blessings, and I will curse them; to intimate his peremptoriness in the thing, and that he was unchangeably resolved upon it. Now when God will do a thing, who shall hinder it? Nature may be resisted and hindered in its course; when the fire burnt not the three worthies, when the sun stood still in heaven, yea, went backwards. Men and devils, though never so potent, may want of their will, and be crossed in their designs and desires. But if God will have this or that to be done, there is no gainstanding him. If he have a mind to bless his people, they shall be blessed. If he will have pity for his own name’s sake, which the house of Israel had profaned, Ezekiel 36:21; if he will come in with his Non obstante, Nevertheless he saved them, &c., and dealt with his servants not according to his ordinary rule, but according to his prerogative, who shall contradict him? In like sort, if he will redouble his strokes upon his enemies, and not only curse them, but curse them bitterly, as the angel did Meroz, who can hinder or object against his proceeding in that behalf? 5:23. His judgments are sometimes secret, but always just; and if he once say, I will curse, yea, that I will, there is as little hope of altering him as there was of Pilate, when he had once pronounced, what I have written I have written, it shall surely stand.

Because ye do not lay it to heart] As he had repeated their curse, so he doth here their sin; instancing in that branch of it that most offended him; and that was their stupidity and senselessness, either of their sin or danger. This is a God provoking evil, often complained about, but especially when it proceeds from presumption, as Deuteronomy 29:19, Isaiah 22:12-14, Ezekiel 24:13. The Lord cannot satisfy himself in threatening such; as if the very naming of it had enraged his jealousy; neither is he more absolute in threatening than he will be resolute in punishing.


Verse 3

Malachi 2:3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, [even] the dung of your solemn feasts; and [one] shall take you away with it.

Ver. 3. Behold, I will corrupt your seed] And so mar your hopes of a harvest; I will bring famine upon you, that sore judgment, worse than that of the sword, Lamentations 4:9, which yet is the slaughter house of mankind, and the very hell of this present world. By this scourge God will tame his prodigals, and starve their bodies; who, by the contempt of his ordinances, starve their own souls, Haggai 1:4. Either by immoderate drought God can cause a famine, Joel 1:10, or by immoderate moisture, Joel 1:17 "The seed rotting under the clods," &c., to revenge the quarrel of his covenant. Israel was plagued with famine for breaking their faith with the Gibeonites, 2 Samuel 21:1. What may they expect that keep not in touch with God? David knew that the natural cause of that famine was drought; but he inquired (though it were long first) after the supernatural. As Jacob inquired who stood on the top of the ladder and sent the angels to and fro? Genesis 28:13; so must we, in case of public calamities, ascend to the top of them, and see who sends them, and what is the cause of them, that we may cast the traitor’s head over the wall, and he may return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him. For till then we may look that he should cut off our provision and victuals, as wise princes use to do from their rebels whom they have gotten up into a walled town.

And spread dung upon your faces] Cast contempt upon you, and cover you with confusion; make you to stink above ground, so that men shall shun and abhor your company. This is another fruit of sin, and piece of the curse; and many wicked men are more afraid of it than of the sin that causeth it; as Chaereas, in Terence, not ashamed to deflour a virgin, was yet ashamed to be seen in a eunuch’s clothes, the sign of that sin. True it is, that the best may have dung cast into their faces, as St Paul and his precious companions had, 1 Corinthians 4:13 "We are," saith he, "the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things" ( περιψημα). The latter word signifieth the dung cart, that goes through the city, into which every one brings and casts his filth; to note that every fool had some filth to cast upon those worthies of whom the world was not worthy. And truly, all public persons that are faithful to their trust had need carry a spare handkerchief to wipe off dirt and drivel; which yet many times will hardly stick, as dirt will not upon marble, though it will upon a mud wall. "The wise shall inherit glory: when shame shall be the promotion of fools," Proverbs 3:35. A fair promotion; but good enough for them, unless they were better. If "the precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, be at any time esteemed as earthen pitchers," as Lamentations 4:2, or trodden in the dirt by the fat bulls of Bashan, God will in due time make all his, that have lain sullied and slurred among the pots, to become as "the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with pure gold," Psalms 68:13. In the meanwhile, they have the commendation of a good conscience, which is better than the world’s applause. But profane and profligate persons, with their spiritual nastiness and superfluity of naughtiness, stink worse than these cities of the plain in the nostrils of God and all good men, while they live (according to that, "The name of the wicked shall rot," and again, "He that perverteth his ways shall be known," Proverbs 10:7; Proverbs 10:9). And when they die they shall be carried through the dung gate of death, to the town ditch of utter destruction. At which time that in Job shall be verified of them, "Though his excellence mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet be shall perish for ever like his own dung; they which have seen him" (in his flourish) "shall say, Where is he?" Job 20:6-7. Let those dehonestamenta Cleri disgraceful clergy look to this; all idle and evil ministers, who, as unsavoury salt, are fit for no place but the dunghill, even to be buried in a dunghill, as Bishop Bonner was, and meanwhile to be trodden underfoot, which is a thing not only calamitous, but extremely ignominious, Matthew 5:13.

Even the dung of your solemn feasts] i.e. For the iniquity of your most solemn services, which you have slubbered over, and made to stink, I will make you also abject and abominable; as the dung of sacrifices, offered in great number on festival days, was carried into some bycorner, and set out of sight. And here it is remarkable that God calleth the solemn feasts their solemn feasts, as if they had been none of his; he would not own them. So Jeremiah 7:21, in scorn he calls their sacrifices flesh, ordinary flesh, such as was bought and sold in the meat markets. And Hosea 9:4, he calleth the same sacrifices "their bread for their soul," or for their natural sustenance, and saith, "it shall not come into his house." And yet he speaks there of that meat offering, Leviticus 2:5, appointed by God himself for a spiritual use, which is nevertheless called the bread for their life, or livelihood; because God esteemed it none other than common meat. In a like sense it was, that after the people of Israel had set up the golden calf, God would own them no longer, but fathers them upon Moses: Behold thy people, saith he to Moses, whom thou broughtest out of Egypt, &c., Exodus 32:7. David, also, when he had sinned in numbering the people, was counted and called but plain David "Go and say to David," &c., 2 Samuel 24:12 whereas before that, when he purposed to build the Lord a temple, &c., then it was, "Go tell my servant David," &c., 2 Samuel 7:5. The saints themselves, when they sin against God, are in a sort suspended from the covenant. Therefore it is usual with them, when they seek the Lord for any special mercy, to begin with humbling themselves, and taking pains with their own hearts, as David, Daniel, Ezra.


Verse 4

Malachi 2:4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

Ver. 4. And ye shall know that I have sent, &c.] That is, ye shall know by woeful experience, your punishment shall advertise you; the curse appendant to the commandment shall teach you, as Gideon taught the men of Succoth, sc. with thorns and briers of the wilderness, 8:16; and as David taught the children of Ammon better behaviour by making them pass through the brickkiln, 2 Samuel 12:31; and as the Phrygians wax not wise unless they be beaten to it. When God’s "judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness," Isaiah 26:9. Smart makes wit, and vexation giveth understanding. Ehud’s dagger was a message from God, 3:20-21; who, as he is said to hold his peace when he punisheth not, Psalms 50:21, Isaiah 42:14, so to preach and teach when he doth, Isaiah 28:19; his scourges are men’s school masters, διδασκαλοι αμισθοι, one calls them, God’s free school masters, cursed and crabbed enough, but such as whereby he "openeth men’s ears to discipline, and commandeth them to return from iniquity. Then he showed them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded," Job 36:8-10; that they have slighted the commandment which he had sent them, and that now he would plead with them another way, sc. with patience and with blood, Ezekiel 38:22, and so would cause them to pass under the rod, that thereby he might bring them into the bond of the covenant, purging out the rebels, and them that transgress, Ezekiel 20:37-38. God should have no tribute from men, as those malignants suggested against the returned captives, Ezra 4:13, if he did not make them know his breach of promise, Numbers 14:34, if he did not break covenant with them that first play false with him, and keep no condition on their part required. See 2 Chronicles 15:2. And when thou art making a covenant with sin, say to thy soul, as Boaz said to his kinsman, Ruth 4:5 "At what time thou buyest it, thou must have Ruth with it." If thou wilt have the pleasure of sin, the wages of wickedness, thou must also have the curse, &c.; and let thy soul answer, as he there doth, No, I may not do it, I shall mar and spoil a better inheritance. Polanus and others dislike the reading of this text in the future tense, "Ye shall know that I have sent this commandment," and tell us that the scope of the prophecy requires that it be read in the present tense, thus, Nam scitis, For ye do know that I have sent, &c. You know your dignity and duty as priests, Vos probe cognitum habetis (Polan.); and yet ye wilfully cross your own knowledge and conscience. Knowledge is a divine gift; it is the great talent of all other; there is a (much) set upon it, Luke 12:48, there is a special depositum in it, as the word παρεθεντο, there used, importeth. To know heavenly things is to ascend into heaven, saith Agur, Proverbs 30:4. But as the devil, that knowing creature ( ο δαιμων quasi δαημων), that hath his name in Greek from the largeness of his objective knowledge, was once an angel of light till he fell from his dignity, 1:6, so those that corrupt themselves in that they know, 1:10; that imprison the light they have (as a prophet from God) in unrighteousness; that know the commandment sent from God, as here, and yet after that they have known the way of righteousness, do turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; the latter end will be worse with those men than the beginning, 2 Peter 2:20-21; they have but aspired to a higher pitch, that their fall might be the more desperate. Neronis illud, Quantus artifex pereo quadrabit in te peritum et periturum, saith one. Thou dost but carry Uriah’s letters about thee to thine own utter destruction. Thou mayest go to hell with much knowledge in thy head; as a bull with a coronet and garland goes to the slaughter. Thou mayest also, for this one fault, meet with a hell beforehand in thine own conscience, as Spira did; crying out to those about him, to learn from him to take heed of severing knowledge and practice. What else was it that brought such roaring and troubles both inward and outward on those, Isaiah 59:11-12, and that when salvation was looked for? Our iniquities, say they, testify to our faces, and we know them. All sins offend conscience; but sins against knowledge waste and destroy it. A dangerous degree, drawing near that sin to which sacrifice is denied. For sins against the law, though against knowledge, there was an atonement, Leviticus 6:1-8, and he instanceth in perjury. But to persecute the known truth with malice, for this there is no sacrifice, Hebrews 10:26.

That my covenant might be with Levi] Levi did not thrust himself into the priesthood; but was taken by God into special covenant. See Numbers 8:13-14, 1 Samuel 2:28, Hebrews 5:4 "No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." Or if he do he shall smoke and smart for it, as Saul, Uzziah, and others. No man might come uncalled to the King of Persia, upon pain of death: much less to the King of heaven, as Korah and his complices, whom God hath hanged up in gibbets, as it were, for an example to all bold intruders upon that tremendous function of the ministry. Men out of office are not sent of God, therefore they may not preach, though gifted men, Romans 10:15 cf. Isaiah 52:8. All that are in office to preach are apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors, or teachers, Ephesians 4:11. Elders only may preach, Titus 1:5. And the contrary would prevent, the apostle willeth that in the Church all things be done "decently and in order," 1 Corinthians 14:4, which could not be if all were teachers; for then there would be no distinction of ministers and people. But "Are all teachers?" saith the apostle, 1 Corinthians 12:29, and he answers himself, No, but only those whom God did set, 1 Corinthians 12:13, like as he set apart the tribe of Levi to execute the priest’s office; which, while Korah, Dathan, and Abiram sought to impugn and level, they went quick into the pit, Numbers 16:30. Meddle not, therefore, without a calling; that in the day of God’s displeasure you may appeal unto him, with Jeremiah, and say, "As for me, I have not hastened or thrust in myself for a pastor after thee: neither have I desired the woeful day, thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee," Jeremiah 17:16. And being able safely to say this thou mayest bind upon it, that God, who is in covenant with all his Levis, his faithful ministers, will be their shield and their exceeding great reward, however the world deal with them.


Verse 5

Malachi 2:5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him [for] the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.

Ver. 5. My covenant was with him of life and peace] Now God’s covenant (saith an expositor here) is of four sorts: 1. General, made with all creatures, Genesis 9:22. With the Church in general, Genesis 17:23. With the Church of the elect, Jeremiah 32:33 4. With some particulars of some special graces, as here with Levi, of "life and peace." So then to ministers, above others, hath the Lord bound himself by special covenant to be their mighty protector and rewarder; to give them life and peace that is, long life and prosperous. See Numbers 25:12-13. Life of itself, though pestered with many miseries, is a sweet mercy, and highly to be prized. "Better is a living dog than a dead lion," Ecclesiastes 9:4 "And why is a living man sorrowful, a man for the punishment of his sins?" Lamentations 3:39. As who should say, let a man suffer never so much, yet if he be suffered to live he hath cause to be contented. It is the Lord’s mercy he is not consumed. When Baruk sought great things for himself, Jeremiah tells him he may be glad (in those dear years of life, when the arrows of death came so thick whisking by him) that he had his "life for a prey," Jeremiah 45:5. Jacob took more comfort of his son Joseph’s life than of his honour. "Joseph is yet alive," &c., Genesis 45:26. Quis vitam non vult? saith Austin, Who is it that desires not life? When David moveth the question, "What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?" Austin brings in every man answering I do, and I do. Long, life and happy days is every man’s desire. If God give these blessings to those that are graceless, it is by virtue of a providence only, and not of a promise, and that is nothing so comfortable. Life in God’s displeasure is worse than death, said that martyr. If wicked men live long, it is that they may make up the measure of their sins; and by heaping up sin, increase their torment. If godly men die soon, God taketh them away from the evil to come: as when there is a fire in a house or town men secure their jewels: and though they fall in wars, yet they die in peace, as good Josiah did, 2 Chronicles 34:28, who also in brevi vitro spatio tempora virtutum multa replevit, lived quickly, lived apace, lived long in a little time (Hieron.). For life consists in action, Isaiah 38:15-16. The Hebrews call running water living water. Now God’s faithful ministers, if they work hard, and so wear out themselves to do good to others (as a lamp wasteth itself to give light, or as that herb mentioned by Pliny, that cures the patient but rots the hand that administereth it), like clouds, they sweat themselves to death to bring souls to God, yet shall they be sure to find it a blessed way of dying: they shall, mori vitaliter, die to live for ever. God will not send any of his own to bed till they have done their work. The two witnesses could not be slain till their testimony was finished. No malice of man can antedate their ends a minute. "The days of mourning for my father will come," said Esau, "and then I will kill my brother Jacob," Genesis 27:41. Here Esau, that rough reprobate, threateneth his father also, as Luther conceiveth. For it is as if he should have said, I will be avenged by being the death of my brother; though it be to the breaking of my father’s heart. But what is the proverb? Threatened folk live long; for even Isaac, who died sooner, lived over forty years, beyond, this. "My times are in thy hand," saith David; and that is a safe hand. And blessed be God that Christ liveth and reigneth, alioqui totus desperassem, or else I had been in ill case, said Miconius in a letter of his to Calvin. Ministers are stars in Christ’s right hand, and it will be hard pulling them thence. They must carry their lives in their hands, and be ready to lay them down when it may be for the glory of their Master, but they shall be sure not to die (whether by a natural or by a violent death) till the best time; not till that time when, if they were but rightly informed, they would desire to die. But whether their death be a burnt offering of martyrdom or a peace offering (whether they die in their beds, as Elisha, or be carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, as Elijah), let it be a freewill offering, and then it shall be a sweet sacrifice to him who hath covenanted with them for life and peace. They shall by death, as by a door of hope, enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds, Isaiah 57:2, yea, in Abraham’s bosom: and as "the sleep of the labouring man is sweet unto him, whether he eat little or much," Ecclesiastes 5:12; so heaven shall be so much the more heaven to such as have here had their purgatory. Mark the upright man, saith holy David, and behold the just, for how troublesome soever his beginning and middle is, "the end of that man is peace," Psalms 37:37.

And I gave them to him] Here is the performance of God’s covenant to Levi and his posterity. God doth not pay his promises with fair words only, as Sertorius is said to do neither is he like Antigonus Dωσων, (ignominiously so called, because) forward in promising, slack in performing. But as he hath hitherto kept promise with nights and days, Jeremiah 33:20; Jeremiah 33:25, that one should succeed the other, so much more doth he keep promise with his people; for as his love moved him to promise, so his truth bindeth him to perform. See both, these together, 2 Samuel 7:21 "For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these things." "According to thine own heart," that is, of thine own mere motion; out of pure and unexcited love thou didst give thy word and promise; and "for thy word’s sake hast thou performed it." There was nothing in Aaron or his seed that God should make his special covenant with him of life and peace. His rod was as dry and dead as any of the rest till God made it to blossom. But when God once passed his promise, and so made himself a voluntary debtor, he failed not to perform it to him and his. Aaron himself lived one hundred and three years, Phinehas three hundred, as it is thought, and as some chronologers do observe. Joshua, the son of Josedech, lived, according to Helvieus, one hundred and ten years in the office of the high priesthood.

To these and others was expressly fulfilled a covenant of life and peace; and God would have been ready to have performed it to these to whom Malachi prophesieth, had not themselves hindered. For "they like men," or like Adam, "transgressed the covenant," Hosea 6:7; or (as Junius and Tremellius read it), not tanquam homines, but tanquam hominis, they made no more of breaking it than if they had had to do with dust and ashes like themselves, and not with the great God. "Remember them, O my God," saith good Nehemiah concerning these covenant breakers, "because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites," Nehemiah 13:29.

For the fear wherewith he feared me, &c.] That is, the good priests did so, the bad did otherwise; but God reckons of men by their righteousness, and this was the restipulation, or the condition on the priest’s part performed; for in a covenant both parties undertake to do somewhat. As in the general covenant of grace, God promiseth to be the God of his people, that is, a universal good, all-sufficient, satisfactory, and every way proportionable and fitting to their souls. And they (interchangeably) promise to be his people; that is, to bestow themselves wholly upon him with highest estimation, most vigorous affections, and utmost endeavours, giving up their names and hearts to the profession of his truth. So that when he cries out, Who is on my side? Who? one says, I am the Lord’s; another calls himself by the name of Jacob, another subscribes, &c., Isaiah 44:5. Likewise in this particular covenant with the tribe of Levi, God promised them life and peace; and they assured him of fear and humility. Fear is an affection of the soul shrinking in itself from some imminent evil. Hereof there three sorts, natural, carnal, and spiritual.

The first is not to be disliked, if it do not degenerate into the second. The next is a bast fear of the creature more than of the Creator, who is God blessed for ever. The third is nothing else but an awful respect to the Divine majesty. Spiritual fear we called it in respect, 1. Of the author of it, God’s Holy Spirit, called therefore, A Spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. 2. Of the object of it, The Father of Spirits, who is therefore, by an appellative proper, called fear, Psalms 76:11 3. Of the effect, which is to spiritualize both us and our services; and was therefore fitly vowed to God by those of the spirituality that stood before him continually, and were to be exact in their whole deportment, at their peril; God is of purer eyes than to behold evil. He cannot look on iniquity in any, Habakkuk 1:13. Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name: They called upon the Lord, and he answered them; he forgave their iniquities; howbeit he took vengeance on their inventions, Psalms 99:8. He met Moses in the inn, and had much ado to forbear killing him, Exodus 4:24. And for Aaron, when (together with Miriam) he murmured against Moses, and Miriam was thereupon smitten with leprosy, Aaron was spared, not so much for the honour of the priesthood, Dια το της ιεροσυνης αξιωμα, as Chrysostom gives the reason, but because of the fear wherewith he feared the Lord, and his humiliation that followed upon that fear.

For he was afraid before God’s name] Or, as others better render this text, Propter nomen meum humiliatus est, He was amazed, frightened, conterebatur, consternebatur, humbled because of my name, he withdrew himself (so some render it), or, threw himself out of doors, as Peter did into a lone place, where he might souse himself in the salt tears of godly sorrow, επιβαλων, Mark 14:72. Or, he shrunk and shrivelled up, and so testifieth the trouble of his mind by the horror of his body. Horripilatus est, his heart fell down, his hair stood upright. See Psalms 119:53; Psalms 120:1-7. His humiliation was deep and downright, soaking and sorrowing his heart, Psalms 73:21. The word here used is passive, but Levi’s humiliation was active; he was not humbled only, but humble; low, but lowly; he knew that no sacrifice could be accepted but that which was laid on the low altar of a contrite heart, which sanctifies the sacrifice.


Verse 6

Malachi 2:6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.

Ver. 6. The law of truth was in his mouth] Hitherto hath been set forth what the priests of old were for their own particular, and as private persons; they were not high minded, but feared God. Now as pulpit men and public teachers, they have a four fold commendation. And first, that truth was their study and trade; they were expert in it, and had an excellent faculty in communicating their conceptions of it to others; so that if they did but open their mouths almost, it was a sermon; they bad a ready and easy way of discourse, a holy volubility and dexterity of delivering themselves to the benefit of others; as the law of God was in their hearts, so their mouths spake wisdom, and their tongues talked of judgment, Psalms 37:30-31. Out of the good treasure of their hearts they could throw forth at pleasure good things, for the edification of others; yea, like full clouds, they willingly distilled, and like full paps, they were in pain till eased of their milk. Neither meddled they only with toothless truths, lest themselves should be left toothless (as one said, truth is a good mistress, but he that followeth her too close at heels shall have his teeth struck out), as Balak bade Balaam neither curse nor bless at all; and as the Papists were wont to say, Missa non mordet, The mass biteth no man: but they held that truth must be spoken, however it be taken; and abhorred, to be looked upon as the devil’s dirt daubers and upholsterers, to daub with untempered mortar, or to sew pillars under their elbows, Ezekiel 13:10. They affected rather to be styled (as Arrianus the historian was) φιλαληθεις, lovers of truth, plain dealers; and, as it is reported of Suetonius, they took the same liberty to cry down sin that men did to commit it. Ea libertate scripsit Imperatorum vitas qua ipsi vixerunt. Aelian tells us that the high priest among the Egyptians wore about his neck a sapphire stone, which was called Aληθεις, truth. This was but an apish imitation of Aaron’s Urim and Thummim, i.e. light of truth and integrity of life, Exodus 28:30. Mercury’s priests were wont to feed upon figs, and then to say, γλυκεια η αληθεια, truth is sweet. It is so indeed to those that "have their senses exercised to discern good and evil," Hebrews 5:14. But most men cannot brook downright truth: the hearing of it galls them, as they write of some creatures, that they have fel in aure, their gall in their ears. Hence truth breeds hatred, and plain dealing is generally disgusting; it is bitter in the stomachs of those that hear it, though sweet in the mouth of those that utter it. Revelation 10:9. Micah would not budge, or be base in his errand to Ahab, though he were sure to kiss the stocks for his stoutness. Azariah, the high priest, withstood King Uzziah to his face, and put him out of the temple. Which while Uriah did not, but wickedly complied with idolatrous Ahaz, in making and setting up the altar of Damascus, 2 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 16:16, he is branded with a black coal for a court parasite, and shall be infamous to all posterity. His contemporary, Isaiah, was of another spirit, and fulfilled after God (as it is said of Caleb, Implevit post me, Numbers 14:24). He kept the law of truth in his mouth, and rolled it as sugar under his tongue, though he suffered for it. For (as Jerome tells us) he was sawn asunder by his wicked countrymen, for two causes. First, because he said he had seen the Lord. Secondly, because he called the great ones of Judah, princes of Sodom and rulers of Gomorrah. Quintilian saith of Vespasian the emperor, that he was patientissimus veri, very patient of truth, though it never so much touched him. But not many such to be met with. Asa, though otherwise a good prince, yet fell out grievously with God’s prophet, for his plain dealing, and laid him by the heels. Queen Elizabeth dealt little better with a bishop that had in a zealous sermon admonished her to think on her last end, by reason of her great age, which few princes had attained unto, and of the climacterical year of her life, which happened at that time. The bishop had the queen’s disapproval, but God’s approval. And so shall all truth’s chaplains have, however the world entertain them. Wisdom shall be justified of her children, and God will see to their safety, modo audeant quae sentiunt, so they show men all the counsel of God, and keep back nothing that they have in charge to deliver, Acts 20:26-27.

And iniquity was not found in his lips] Heb. Crossness, or crookedness; Chaldee, No falseness. He did not preach distorted doctrines, that produce convulsions of conscience, as those seducers did, Acts 20:30. He did not handle the word of God deceitfully, or fraudulently, as those deceitful workers did, 2 Corinthians 11:13. Neither did he broach errors, and writhe from the right way for self-respects, setting his dial by that sun, 1 Thessalonians 2:3. But being of a most masculine, disengaged, and noble spirit, that bath received the truth in the love of it; he will not be drawn to falsity or faulter, to huckster the word, or handle it craftily and covetously; "but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God," 2 Corinthians 2:17; without mixture of errors or human inventions. Let Pharisees sour men’s souls with their leaven of false doctrine. Let those inhabitants of the sea (as they are called, Revelation 12:12), Popish Padres, set abroach gross, troubled, brackish tenets, which rather bring barrenness to their hearers and gnaw their bowels, than either quench thirst or yield good fruit. He that fears God can pity poor souls made prize of by sectaries and seducers, Colossians 2:8; and knowing that he that breaketh the least of God’s commandments and teacheth men so, shall be least in the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 5:19 (that is, nothing at all there, Matthew 20:16), he hateth every false way, with David; and takes care that no iniquity be found in his lips, Psalms 19:13.

He walked with me in peace and equity] i.e. He kept constant correspondence and communion with me, so that we never disagreed or differed. For can two walk together, and they not agreed? He was like minded to me in all things, and observed my law in every point and part thereof. A high commendation and a necessary qualification in a minister, that he not only talk of God, but walk with him; and that not loosely and at all adventures, but strictly and exactly, as a pattern of the rule, as a transcript of his own sermon, ne verba factis deficientibus erubescant, lest his words blush for want of deeds accordingly (Tertull.); ne virtutis stragulum pudefaeiat, lest he put honesty to an open shame, as Antipater did, when, being vicious, he wore a white cloak, the ensign of innocence; lest his life gives his lips the lie, as it fared with those Pharisees that said and did not, Matthew 22:3. The foolish virgins were found with their Sic dicentes, so saying, but the faithful servants shall be found with their Sic facientes, so doing. And when men come to give account, it shall be inquired, non quid legerint, sed quid egerint, non quid dixerint, sed quomodo vixerint, not what they have taught others, but what they have practised themselves. Origen’s preaching and living were said to be both one; Quod iussit et gessit. because he ordered and he did. So did Mr. Bacer, whom his friends could never sufficiently praise, nor his foes in any point find fault with his singular life and sincere doctrine.

And did turn away many from iniquity] The effect of his unspeakable labours and unblameable life was conversion of souls, and those not a few. God sometimes gives a pastor after his own heart to such places, where he takes but one of a city, or two of a family, Jeremiah 3:14-15. Quod si decimus quisque, si unus persuasus fuerit, saith Chrysostom. If one in ten be gained, nay, if one of ten thousand be turned from iniquity, it is a great mercy. Nay, saith he, say that none be converted, the faithful minister that endeavours their conversion, though he effect it not, non minus praemii, shall have no less reward than if he had prevailed for their conversion. Some good divines think he shall have more than those that do convert; because they have praemium ante praemium, a reward before the reward, that which may encourage them in God’s work, but he does his utmost amidst all discouragement. Well may Ephraim love to tread out the grain, because, while he treads, he feeds on the grain, Hosea 10:11; but to bear and draw, to plough and work, where no refreshing was to be had till the work was done, this that delicate heifer cared not to do. But he is a happy man that hath any hand in turning men from iniquity, though fruit, for present, appear not. The new birth of some is like the birth of the elephant, fourteen years after the seed injected into the womb. And that divine proverb is not seldom verified, "One soweth, and another reapeth," John 4:37. The ministry is God’s arm to gather people into his bosom; and the "weapons of our warfare are mighty through God," 2 Corinthians 10:4. Surely "as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven," &c., Isaiah 55:10-11, and as the rain from heaven hath fatness with it, and a special influence more than standing water; so hath preaching more than reading. Howbeit there may be fruit and yet invisible, as in Elijah’s time. And that which doth not yet appear, may hereafter, when the day of visitation comes; see Job 33:14. God may have much people in the city, and Paul, for the present, not know so much, Acts 18:10. A master doth not use to set up a light but there is some work to be done by it; and seldom doth he send his servants afield with their scythes to mow thistles only. Let God’s faithful witnesses prophesy out their 1260 days, Revelation 11:3; bending themselves to that office incessantly, being instant in season and out of season, and turning themselves, as it were, into all shapes and fashions, both of speech and of spirit, to turn people from iniquity; and then God will be with the good, as that prophet speaks in another case, 2 Chronicles 19:11 "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise," Proverbs 11:30. Say he cannot win as he would, but labour all night and take nothing, yet he shall be paid for his pains; as the physician is, though the patient die. Curare exigeris, non curationem, saith Bern. It is the care, not the cure, of your charge that is charged upon you. You may speak persuasively, but it is God only that can persuade Japhet to dwell in the tents of Shem. Paul may plant, &c., but God only giveth the increase. You shall be held wise, and shine as stars in heaven, whether you win souls or not. As there are diversity of gifts, so of operations, 1 Corinthians 12:6, and the Holy Ghost may and doth work when and how he pleaseth; but usually he delights to honour those of most sincerity with most success, as 1 Corinthians 15:10.


Verse 7

Malachi 2:7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he [is] the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

Ver. 7. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge] How else should he be instant in lip feeding? how should his lips present it unless they preserve it? How should he make others wise, unless he be wise himself? Daniel 12:3. The Pope brags of an infallibility, and pleads this text for it; avouching that he knows all things knowable, and hath all wisdom and skill locked up in scrinio pectoris, in the cabinet of his breast. But what will they say of sundry of their popes that have been manifest heretics? John XXIII was accused, in the Council of Constance, for denying the resurrection of the body and everlasting life. And of all their popes we may safely say, as the Venetian ambassadors did; when the Pope laid his hand upon his breast and said, Hic est arca Noae, Lo, here is Noah’s ark (meaning that he was the Church virtual, and was enriched in all knowledge and in all utterance), one of them presently replied, that in Noah’s ark there were unclean beasts as well as clean; and so left him further to apply. The priest’s lips indeed should keep knowledge. But those of Malachi’s times had forsaken the way, and caused many to stumble, Malachi 2:8. How this was we shall see when we come to it. Meanwhile, we may take notice, that non libro sacerdotis, sed labro; non codice, sed corde, conservatur scientia; knowledge should be kept, not in the priest’s book, but in his bosom, as a storehouse; neither should it lie low or long there, but sit upon his lips, that all may have benefit by it. For the manifestation of the Spirit is given to profit also, 1 Corinthians 12:7. And it was death for the priest to enter into the sanctuary without his golden bells about him, that he might be heard by all. A minister must be both able and apt to teach ( διδακτικος, Greg. Pastor.). Praedicationis officium suscipit quisquis ad sacerdotium accedit, saith Gregory. He is no minister that is no preacher. Nor can he be a preacher that is not stored with knowledge of God’s will and people’s duty. See Matthew 13:32. {See Trapp on "Matthew 13:32"} Walter, surnamed Malclerk, was surely no fit man to be Bishop of Carlisle; as he was by evil and corrupt means, A. D. 1223. "If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch," Matthew 15:14; but the blind guides will lie lowermost, and have the worst of it. Varro complained of the Roman priests, that they were ignorant of many things about their own rites and religions. Mucius Scaevola (being their high priest) derived Pontifex of Posse and facere to be able to do. This derivation pleased not Varro; but it intimated that such should both be able and active to teach the people knowledge. It was a witty observation of a bishop, who was called in his time the gulf of learning, that Doceo, to teach, governs two accusative cases; according to that Isaiah 28:9 "Whom shall I teach knowledge?" Ministers, saith he, must have whom to teach and what to teach, viz. knowledge; and must, therefore, give attendance to reading, that they may the better to exhortation and doctrine, 1 Timothy 4:13, that they may feed the people with knowledge and understanding, Jeremiah 3:15.

And they should seek the law at his mouth] As at an oracle; they should depend upon the ministry, as the people hung upon our Saviour’s lips, Luke 19:48; as David went into the sanctuary to be resolved of his doubt, Psalms 73:17, though himself were a prophet; and as Cornelius was appointed by the angel to send for Peter for further information. But what must men seek at the minister’s mouth? The law, the sincere milk of God’s word, the mind of Christ, the testimony of Jesus, 1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 2:16 non nugas et fabulas, saith Bernard, not trifles and fables, not strong lines and strains of wit, but the simple and plain words of God. Non Oratorum filii sumus sed Piscatorum, We are not speakers to men but fishermen, said Nazianzen. Ministers are not to study so much to please as to profit, to tickle men’s ears as to work upon their hearts. They must not so paint the window, as to keep out the light; nor so put the sword of the Spirit into a velvet scabbard, that it cannot prick and pierce the heart. Let them handle and set out the law as skilfully and adornedly as they can; but still remember that it must be dispensed, sancte magis quam scite, solide potius quam floride, with fear and reverence, rather than with wit and dalliance. If in King Edward IV’s days a citizen in Cheapside was executed as a traitor for saying he would make his son heir to the crown (though he only meant his own house, having a crown for the sign), more dangerous it must needs be to wit wanton it with the majesty of God. Loquamur verba scripturae, utamur sermone Spiritus Sancti, &c. Let us speak Scripture language, let us use the speech of the Holy Spirit, and not go about to correct the Divine wisdom and eloquence with our sophistry and vain babbling. To the ears of that which St Peter calls the hidden man of the heart, the plain song always makes the best music, 1 Peter 3:4. If heaven’s door may be opened to it by a key of iron, it cares not for a key of gold. A sermon works not upon the heart as it is thus elegant or admirable, but as well fraught with testimonies of Holy Scripture (that most powerful rhetoric), it is an instrument of God appointed to such an end. Let the people hear often, This is the law, this is ipsum Dei verbum, the very word of God; show Scripture for what you deliver, and that will carry it. But ut drachmam auri sine imagine principis, sic verba hortantis sine authoritate Dei contemnunt homines (Lipsius). The law carrieth a majesty in it; and if Cicero dares to say that the law of the twelve tables did exceed all the libraries of philosophers, both in weight of authority and worth of matter, how much rather is this true of the law of God! Wherefore as Aeschines said of an orator’s, so let a minister’s discourse and the law be unisons; and let the people ask the priests concerning the law, as they did, Haggai 2:11, and not be like tidlings, (a) that will not eat their milk unless it be in a silver dish; but account it a singular happiness to live under those lips (however thick, a thin lip is a sign of eloquence, Job 12:20), which both keep knowledge and utter it ( χρη το αυτο φθεγγεσθαι τον ρητορα και τον νομον).

For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts] Heb. the angel, {See Trapp on "Malachi 1:1"} and so the Septuagint and Vulgate render it. His office is as to stand before God and praise him, so to carry messages from him to his people, and to be in his stead, 2 Corinthians 5:20. Knowest thou not, saith Chrysostom, who the minister is? He is God’s angel; he speaketh not of himself; if thou despisest, thou despisest not him, but God that sent him. And to the same purpose Ambrose: The minister is God’s angel, to set forth the kingdom of Christ and eternal life: non specie tibi aestimandus sed munere; he is not, therefore, to be judged of by his outside, but by his office. Those Sodomites that sought to abuse the angels are thrown forth for an example ( προκεινται), suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, 1:7. Behold, Christ himself hath assured us that Sodomy itself is not a heavier sin, nor more severely punished in hell, than the despising or abusing of a minister in the faithful discharge of his duty. We should, therefore, welcome such with trembling, as the men of Bethlehem did Samuel, and as Cornelius did Peter. "Comest thou peaceably?" said the Bethlemites, as suspecting the purpose of some judgment. "Now therefore are we all here present before God" (not only before thee, said Cornelius), "to hear all things that are commanded thee of God," Acts 10:33. If Ahab had been like well affected as these good souls, he would never have asked Elijah that absurd question, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? Alas, what had the righteous prophet done more than what by his office (as God’s ambassador or messenger) he was bound to do? he taxed their sin, he foretold the judgment; he deserved it not, he inflicted it not; yet he smarts, and they are guilty. As if some fond people should accuse the herald or the trumpet as the cause of their war; or as some ignorant peasant, when he sees his fowls bathing in his pond, should cry out of them, as the causes of foul weather. Saith a divine, It is a good thing to stand in awe of God’s angels, and with reverence to receive their message, howsoever distasteful unto us; considering they are but messengers.


Verse 8

Malachi 2:8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

Ver. 8. But ye are departed out of the way] Heb. From that way, viz. that good old way of your progenitors: you are nothing like Levi, but are woefully degenerated from the practice of your predecessors, and have swerved from your fathers’ footsteps, though ye have the same place, and enjoy the same privileges. This is a foul fault, and condemned even by the heathen sages. Seneca tells us, with indignation, that Socrates’ sons were more like their mother, a froward woman, than their father, the wisest of men; according to that saying, Partus sequitur ventrem, the birth follows the belly. Young Cicero was, for his intemperance and excess in drinking, surnamed Tricongius. Caligula, that monster, was the son of noble Germanicus ( Heroum filii noxae). But we have Scriptural instances not a few. Not to speak of Eli’s sons, and of Samuel’s, Solomon degenerates from his father David, who had carefully taught him better, Proverbs 4:4, and so had his mother, Proverbs 31:1 (which one calls Bathsheba’s catechism; another Lemuel’s lesson). Jehoram is taxed for his not walking in the ways of his father Jehoshaphat and his grandfather Asa, as if there had been no intervention of a Hezekiah. "Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh," that idolatrous priest, mentioned 18:30, is thought to have been the grandson of Moses; so the Hebrews tell us; and that therefore the Nun in Manasseh is suspended above the rest of the letters. {Hebrew Text Note} Certain it is that Nabal, the fool, was of the line of faithful Caleb, 1 Samuel 25:3, to teach us that virtue is not, as lands, inheritable. All that is traduced with the seed is either evil, or not good. Grace is by gift, and not by descent. Hence that prayer of David’s courtiers, 1 Kings 1:47, God make the name of Solomon better than thy name. Agreeable whereunto is Hector’s prayer in Homer, for his son - πατρος δ ογε πολλον αμεινων, I wish he may be a better man than his father. And that of Juvenal,

Male pater tibi sit Thersites, dummodo tu sis

Aeacidae similis, Vulcaniaque arma capessas,

Quam te Thersitae similem producat Achilles. ”

Ye have caused many to stumble at the law] Which is a very dangerous thing; like as it is to stumble on a bridge. A bridge is made to give us a safe passage over a dangerous river; but he who stumbles on the bridge is in no small danger to fall into the river. The word is given as a means to carry us over hell unto heaven; but he who stumbles at this means (as by snuffing at it, Malachi 1:13, chatting against it and contesting with it, as often in this prophecy, casting reproaches upon it, Jeremiah 20:8-9, gathering odious consequences from it, Romans 3:8-18) shall fall in thither, from whence otherwise he had been delivered by it. This mischief many fell into, in Malachi’s days, by the means of those ungodly priests, who either taught them not better, or otherwise drew them into sinful courses by their corrupt losses or lewd practices. Evil examples of ministers have a strong influence upon their people; and the sins of teachers are the teachers of sins: The leaders of this people have made them to err, Isaiah 9:16. Corruption commonly (as in a fish) begins at the head; neque solum obsunt principes, quod illi ipsi corrumpuntur, sed etiam quod corrumpunt: plusquam exemplo quam peccato nocent, saith Cicero: they that are in office do a great deal of mischief by encouraging others in evil, through their evil example. Jupiter’s adulteries drew the people to like wantonness. Magis intuentur quid fecerit Iupiter quam quid docuit Plato, saith Austin; They look more what Jupiter did than what Plato taught. I have read of a woman who, living in professed doubt of the Godhead, after better illumination and repentance, did ofton protest that the vicious life of a great scholar in that town did conjure up those damnable doubts in her soul. In the time of Pope Clement V the Church was so ill-governed, and things so corruptly carried at the court of Rome, that Frederick, King of Sicily, doubted much of the truth of the Christian religion; but was confirmed, and his mind better settled, by Arnoldus de Villa Nova, who showed him that "Offences must come, but woe be to them by whom they come." A scandalous priest is a singular mischief; for he falls not alone, but (as when a main stone in a building or a tall cedar falls) he draws many with him into fellowship of errors and enormities; as did Hymenaeus and Philetus, 2 Timothy 2:17-18; and as the dragon, with his long and strong tail, drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth, Revelation 13:4. When the pastors become brutish all the flocks are scattered, Jeremiah 10:21.

Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi] The covenant on God’s part with Levi was a covenant of salt, and could not be corrupted, Numbers 18:19, non computrescit vetustate, saith Flaccius, it putrefieth not with age or long standing; as that pillar of salt into which Lot’s wife was turned, and of which Josephus saith, that something of it was to be seen till his time. But these degenerate priests had abandoned God’s holy fear, they did not humble themselves and tremble before his name, as Levi their father had done, Malachi 2:5; they had falsified with God, and so forfeited his favour. It was with them, as Cajetan complains and confesses of the Popish priests; that whereas by their places they should have been the salt of the earth, they had lost their savour, and were good for little else but looking after the rights and revenues of the Church; therefore God held himself disobliged, and resolved that they should bear the iniquity of their priesthood; Leviticus 19:8. that is, the punishment of their iniquity notwithstanding the priesthood. That should be no protection to them, but an aggravation; because they fell, as if they had not been anointed: and were, therefore, the worse, because they should have been better, Ideo deteriores sumus quia meliores esse debemus (Salvian.). God holds himself not bound to perform covenant with those who break with him; for why should he give the children’s bread to dogs? why should he cast away his favours upon those that value them not? We have the covenant, the seals, the ministry (and this is a singular happiness: Isaiah 19:25, Assyria is the work of God’s hands, but Israel his inheritance). But, alas, are not these blessings among us as the ark was among the Philistines, rather as prisoners than as privileges? rather in testimonium et ruinam quam in salutem for a testimony against us, and for our further ruin, than for our safety here and salvation here after? Oh consider how God hath cast off the Israelites, notwithstanding his covenant with their fathers; and when in their necessity they would have forced acquaintance with him, he would not look upon them, 10:14. The sword hath broken in pieces those seven golden candlesticks in Asia, merely for their covenantbreaking. {See Trapp on "Malachi 2:5"}


Verse 9

Malachi 2:9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.

Ver. 9. Therefore have I also made you contemptible, and base] And so have cried quittance with you and returned you your own with usury. God loves to retaliate, and to proportion jealousy to jealousy, provocation to provocation, Deuteronomy 32:21, frowardness to frowardness, Psalms 18:26, contrariety to contrariety, Leviticus 26:18; Leviticus 26:21, contempt to contempt, 1 Samuel 2:30, and here. How these unworthy priests had slighted God, and exposed his name and service to contempt and obloquy, hath been before set forth sufficiently. And now it is come home to them. It was threatened before, Malachi 2:3, {See Trapp on "Malachi 2:3"} and now it is executed. Graceless men are apt to imagine that God threateneth in terrorem in fear only; and are ready, with those miscreants in the Gospel, to say, God forbid; we hope he will be better than his word, and not be so unmerciful as the preachers would make him. They believe the predictions of Scripture but as they believe the predictions of an almanack, which saith, such a day will be rain, and such a day wind; men think it may come to pass, and it may be not. But shall God say the word, and not see it fulfilled? Is not his dicere to say his facere? do do, his word his deed? Yea, doth be not sometimes, dicto citius, by saying more quickly, break out upon his enemies, as he did upon Nadab and Abihu, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, &c. God had poured contempt already upon these degenerate priests. And the like he had threatened to those, Jeremiah 23:40 : see Micah 3:7, Zechariah 13:4. Ribera upon this text bewails the business in their Romish clergy, now become despicable by reason of their evil manners. Petrarch complained long before that the stench of that sink, the court of Rome, was come up to heaven. Erasmus laid them open in their colours, and did them more mischief iocando, by his jeering and jesting at them, than Luther did stomachando, by dry blows and invectives, as one well observeth. He made the world look up that had been long lulled asleep, and take notice of the truth of that which Chrysostom had long before discovered and lamented: Multi sacerdotes, et pauci sacerdotes; multi in nomine, pauci in opera. There are many priests, and yet but few many so in name, few so indeed. Fie on such rascal ribalds, (a) said the excommunicated barons in King John’s time (in their declaration), concerning the Pope and his Cardinals, and yet they were no Protestants. No more are the Venetians; and yet how they slight their Pope (who is now, like the cuckoo in June, heard, but not regarded, by them) is sufficiently manifested by their manifestos to the Christian world. In Biscany (anciently Cantabria), a province of Spain, they admit no bishops to come among them; such a hatred they have taken against that order of men. And when King Ferdinand came in progress thither, accompanied, among others, by the Bishop of Pampeluna, the people arose in arms, drove back the bishop, and, gathering all the dust on the which they thought he had trodden, flung it into the sea. What our bishops did in Queen Mary’s days we all know; that bloody Bonner especially, buried at length in a dunghill (too good a grave for him). Sure it was an unhappy proverb that was then learned, The bishop’s foot hath trodden here. They are now utterly cashiered, and lie wrapped up in the sheet of shame for this sin (among others) here charged upon these priests, their dishonouring God’s great name, his services and servants. For it was come to that height of wickedness among us, a little before the late troubles, as to cast odium in religionis professores tanquam in adversaries, an evil report upon the professors of religion, as so many adversaries, as Redo saith the ancient Britons did immediately before their destruction by the Saxons. He that would not be an Arminian was therefore accounted a practical Puritan. He that was not for the iure divino by divine law of episcopacy, was little better than a public enemy. If the ministry of England be under any abuses at present, as they are through the iniquity of the times, and the overflow of errors and atheism, let it serve to humble them for their desire of vain glory, and not seeking the honour that cometh from God only, John 5:44; let it also work in them a greater care to approve themselves to God, that they may be glorious in his eyes and to his people, who dare not but honour such as fear the Lord, Psalms 15:4, and have his ministers in singular esteem for their work’s sake, 1 Thessalonians 5:13.

According as ye have not kept my ways] q.d. Your dignity is decayed, like as your duty hath been neglected; you are fallen out of the hearts of good people, and are aviled by all. Neither is it any wonder; for a vicious life breeds vileness of estimation; but virtue is a thousand escutcheons. Hence that close connection, "If there be any virtue, if any praise," Philippians 4:8; this treads upon the heels of that, as it were; follows it as close as the shadow doth the body. When Adam stood in innocence the savage beasts did him reverence. And the same God which did at first put an awe of man in the fiercest creatures, hath stamped in the cruelest hearts a reverent respect to his own image in his faithful ministers, as in Saul to Samuel, Herod to John Baptist, those gallants of Israel to that mad fellow, as they were pleased to call the prophet that came to anoint Jehu; upon whose words (as mad as they made of him) they will presently adventure their lives, and change the crown. God’s image (as God’s name, Psalms 111:9) is holy and reverend; and they that would have good repute and report among men must carefully keep (or, as the word here used may be rendered) watch God’s ways. He shall have enough that will watch for his halting, and take any little occasion to revile him with open mouth, as Shimei did David, when he had declined God’s ways. It is therefore excellent counsel that Solomon gives, and worthy of all acceptation, Proverbs 4:25-27 "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil." Lo, this is the ready road to honour and estimation. Do worthily in Ephrata, and so be famous in Bethlehem, Ruth 4:11. Sic famam extendere factis, Hoc virtutis opus. But those Balaams that, persuaded by their Balaks, seek for honour by evil doing, these seek the living among the dead, figs of thistles, heaven in hell, &c.

But have been partial in the law] Heb. Ye have accepted, or acknowledged, faces in the law, i.e. you accept persons; you deal partially in expounding and applying the law, making it pinch the poor and favour the rich. The Church hath ever been pestered with such Aretalogi, story tellers, such parasitic preachers, whose practice hath been, like Ahab’s prophets, to speak magis ad voluntatem quam ad veritatem, more to please than to profit. And there is a very great sympathy between great ones that have first flattered themselves, and these false flatterers, who prove a fit helve for such hatchet, and meet lettuce for such lips. Such a one was Uriah, the high priest, to Ahaz, 2 Kings 16:15-16. His motto seems to have been Mihi placet quicquid regi placet. It please me whatever pleases the king. Such were those dirt daubers for the devil in Ezekiel’s days, Ezekiel 13:10-11, &c., the Herodians, the Arians, the Arminians, Utenbogardus, &c., the Queen of Navarre’s preachers, who persuaded her, out of political respects, to consent to that unhappy match that gave opportunity for the Parisian massacre. The apostle chargeth his son Timothy to do nothing of popularity or partiality, by tilting the balance on the one side, as the word signifieth; [1 Timothy 5:21, κατα προσκλισιν] but as a just law is a heart without affection, an eye without lust, a mind without passion, a treasurer which keepeth for every man that he hath, and distributeth to every man that he ought to have; so should a minister be; remembering that of Job 13:10 "He will surely reprove you, if you secretly accept persons," that is, he will chide you, smite you, curse you for it, and so set it on, as no creature shall be able to take it off. If you reprove meaner men, and wink at the faults of great ones, reproving he will reprove you, he will not do it to halves; no, he will rather do it double; you shall have it both surely and severely. Let your resolution, therefore, be that of Elihu, Job 32:21-22, I will not now accept the person of any man, neither will I give flattering titles to man. For I may not give flattering titles, lest my Maker should suddenly take me away; lest my Master, whose steward I am, finding me unfaithful in the disposal of his mysteries, should confound me before you, Jeremiah 1:17. Nisi fideliter dixerim, vobis erit damnosum, mihi periculosum, If I should not deal faithfully and freely with you, it would be to your loss, but to mine utter undoing, Timeo itaque damnum vestrum, timeo damnationem meam (Bern.).


Verse 10

Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Ver. 10. Have we not all one father?] Here begins a second contestation, viz. with the people (as the former was with the priests), for their unrighteous dealing; where we have so many words, so many arguments. In brevitate verborum est luxuries rerum. If shortness of words is the heart of the matter. How many ones are here, and all to persuade to unity. See the like Ephesians 4:3-5. Let those that take upon them to persuade others to equity and unanimity learn to marshal their matter handsomely, and to fill their mouths with arguments, such as may fall thick, and prevail, being seconded and set on with intimation of heartiest affection, Job 21:4. Oh that I could somewhere meet with you both together, said Austin to Jerome and Ruffinus (hearing of their differences), I would fall down at your feet with much love and many tears, I would beseech you, for God’s sake, for your own sakes, for weak Christians’ sakes, &c., not to suffer these dissensions to spread further, Hei mihi qui vos alicubi invenire non possum, &c. So Mr Bradford, in a letter to a distressed gentlewoman that was in a despairing condition, I beseech you, saith he, I pray you, I desire you, I crave at your hands with all my very heart; I ask of you with hand, pen, tongue, and mind, in Christ, through Christ, for Christ, for his name, blood, mercy, power, and truth’s sake, that you admit no doubting of God’s final mercy toward you, howsoever you feel yourself. Oh that I could get words, said another holy man to his hearers, to gore your very hearts with smarting pain, that this doctrine might be written in your flesh! By this "one father" in the text is meant Adam, say the most interpreters, who was the common parent of us all, and the very stock and root from whence all mankind did spring. It is, therefore, a sin against nature itself and common humanity to deal treacherously against another, or to hide thyself from thine own flesh, Isaiah 58:7. This is to be more unreasonable than beasts, birds, and fishes, which love their own kind; and those that feed on flesh will not eat the flesh of their own kind. But our age overly aboundeth with unnatural man eaters, that (not only like a pickerel in a pond, or shark in the sea, devour the lesser fishes of another alloy, but also) eat up God’s people as they eat bread, Psalms 14:5, make no more conscience, nay, take as much content in undoing a poor brother as in eating a meal’s meat when they are hungry; they make but a breakfast of a whole representative nation; as those gunpowder papists designed to do. How often are wicked oppressors compared to hunters, for their cruelty, and fowlers, for their craft! to show that they spare none that fall into their nets; young, old, male, female, all go together into the bag, Psalms 10:9. This raised a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren, those usurious Jews, that had both robbed and ravished them, Nehemiah 5:1. And what could they say for themselves, but the same in effect with this in the text, "Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children?" &c.

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?] Here the prophet riseth higher, viz. from Adam to God, out of whose mint when man came first, he shone most glorious, for he was God’s own workmanship, created unto love and good works, Ephesians 2:10 : yea, as iron put into fire seems to be nothing but fire; so Adam, come afresh out of God’s hands, who is perfect love and goodness itself, was none other than a very lump of love to God and kindness to his fellow creatures. But now, alas, we may sit and sing, O quantum haec Niobe, &c., how strangely are we altered, and fallen from our first love! and what great cause have we, with those in Ezra, to think of this temple that was burnt, and lament! yea, write Lamentations, with Jeremiah, and say, as he; "They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah. Princes are hung up by the hand: the faces of the elders were not honoured," &c. Lamentations 5:11-12 The wonder was the less, because these that did all this were of a different religion. But for those that serve the same true God, the Creator of all, to jar and war, as we, alas, do at this day, this is lamentabile bellum, doleful war, and speaks a great decay and defect of the power of godliness; true religion being of a uniting nature; and the strongest tie. Sanatior sane est copula cordis quam corporis. This Joseph’s brethren knew, and, therefore, held it their best plea, Genesis 50:17 "And now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of thy father’s God." They had one common father; but, as a better string to their bow, they had one common God. The very Turks are found to be much braver soldiers upon the Christian than upon the Persian, because they begin alate to be infected with Persianism, whom they acknowledge better Mahometans than themselves.

Why do we deal treacherously] Or, fraudulently. The prophet puts himself into the number, though innocent, that his reproof might the better take with them. That which he taxeth them for is their wrong dealing in general, one with another; whether it were by force or by fraud ( επιβολη επιβουλη), by violence or cunning contrivance, which what is it else, but crimen stellionatus, the very sin of deception, and hath God for an avenger? 1 Thessalonians 4:6. Now, it is dangerous offending him whose displeasure and revenge is everlasting, and who often calls to reckoning after our discharges. Take heed, therefore, of all sorts of injustice. Curse not the deaf, lay not a stumblingblock before the blind: but fear the Lord Jehovah, Leviticus 19:14. And considering that to deal treacherously with another, a brother especially, is a sin (as hath been above-said), both against nature and religion; both against race and grace, which teacheth righteousness as well as holiness, Titus 2:12, and turning the leopard into the lamb, causeth that none do harm to, or destroy, another in all God’s holy mountain, Isaiah 11:6; let us so carry ourselves, as that, with blessed Paul, we may glory, and say, "We have wronged no man, we have consumed no man, we have defrauded no man," &c., 2 Corinthians 7:2.

By profaning the covenant of our fathers] i.e. By degenerating from the promises and practices of our pious progenitors. Of this see Malachi 2:8. A certain popish prince said, It is not amiss to make covenants; but woe be to him that is necessitated to keep them. He had learned (much like Machiavel), fidem tamdiu servandam esse quamdiu expediat, that covenants are to be kept so long as a man shall see cause. That which was anciently said of the Thracians is now verified of the Papists, that they keep no covenants ( eos foedera nescire), with heretics especially. The Turks, taught by them, say, There is no faith to be kept with dogs, that is, with Christians. Their leagues, grounded upon the law of nations, and solemnly confirmed by oath, have with them no longer force than standeth with their own pleasure and profit. And if Turks and Papists only were truce breakers and perfidious, it were the better to be borne with. But what shall we say to those Christiano categori (as Bellarmine saith a certain sort of heretics were called of old), those blots and botches of Christian religion and holy society, that can say and unsay at pleasure, make vows to God in their distress, and break them as fast when delivered? Just like those Jews in Jeremiah 34:8-12, that set free their servants when the enemy lay before the walls; but reduced them into bondage when the siege was raised, though they had cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof; a most solemn way of sealing up covenants. So dealt their fathers before them, Psalms 78:34-37. And so dealt here their nephews after them. They profaned the covenant of obedience to God’s commandments, that their fathers, for themselves and their successors, entered into. But should men thus play with covenants as children do with nuts? should they slip them at pleasure, as monkeys do their collars? should they snap them in sunder, as Samson did his cords? Had Shimei peace, that brake his oath to Solomon? or Zedekiah, that kept not touch with Nebuchadnezzar? &c.


Verse 11

Malachi 2:11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.

Ver. 11. Judah hath dealt treacherously] Judah, the confessor, as his name imports; Judah, that once ruled with God, and was faithful with the saints, Hosea 11:12; Judah, in whom God was known, his name was great in Israel, Psalms 76:1. Prosper’s conceit was that Iudaei Judah were so called because they received ius Dei, the law from God’s mouth; whence Josephus calls the commonwealth of Israel Yεοκρατειαν, a God government. For to them pertained (among sundry other precious privileges recited, Romans 9:4-5) the covenants, that is, 1. The moral law in two tables. 2. The giving of the law, that is, the judicial law. 3. The service, that is, the ceremonial law, which was their gospel; whence Judaea is called the glorious land, Daniel 11:41 (or the land of delights, or ornaments, as the Hebrew hath it), a pleasant land, or a land of desire, Jeremiah 3:19, because, as it is Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:15, it was the glory of all lands. Jerusalem, the metropolis, was not only the most famous of all the cities of the East, as Pliny confesseth it, but also of the whole world, si insignia Dei spectemus beneficia, as one saith, if we consider God’s marvellous kindness showed to it in a strong city, as David hath it. But, as ingentia beneficia, flagitia, supplicia, the greater the privileges of any place or people are the more heinous are their offences, and the more hideous their punishments; so it happened with this nation, so advanced, so obliged, so shamelessly, so lawlessly wicked. They were but newly returned from captivity, scarce yet warm in their nests, when they fell afresh to their old trade of treachery, doing wickedly with both hands earnestly. Abomination was committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, even such as God’s soul abhorred, and was ready to be loosened or disjointed from them, Jeremiah 6:8, because "in the land of uprightness they dealt unjustly, and would not behold the majesty of the Lord," Isaiah 26:10. Judah had profaned the holiness of the Lord, which he loved, that is, the very place that he had espied out for himself, and that was dedicated to his name and service, the holy and separate land, the isle, as it is called, Isaiah 20:6 (though part of the continent), because compassed about with God’s favour as with a shield, Psalms 5:12. In such a consecrated country to act their villany was no small aggravation of their wickedness; this made it swell like a toad in the eyes of the Almighty, it was an abomination. Filthiness in a cook, in a strumpet, is nothing so odious as in a pretended virgin. A nettle on the waste is better borne with than in a garden. To see the devil in hell is no wonder; but what makes he in paradise? England was anciently called the kingdom of God; it may much better be so called now that the gospel of the kingdom is preached among us. It was also called Albion, quasi Olbion (happy or fortunate, the fortunate island, say some), or ab albis rupibus, from the whiteness of the rocks. True it is, we were black all over with superstition; first Pagan, and theu Papagan; but Christ hath made us white again as snow in Salmon. And do we again sully and soil ourselves with sin’s filthiness, with that unclean kitchen stuff? do we profane the holiness of the Lord, which he loved, to drive him away from us by degrees, as those Jews did, Ezekiel 8:9-11; sin is the leaven that defiles our passover, and urgeth God to pass away and depart from us; sin is the snuff that dims our candlestick, and threatens the removal of it. Let those that live in God’s good land, but not in God’s good laws (as Aristotle complained of his Athenians to like purpose, and as Seneca said to the Romans, that they were become more filthy since they had baths to wash in), look forward to the following verse, and tremble at that utter destruction there threatened to such, Disperdet Dominus, &c. And thereunto St Paul seemeth to allude, 1 Corinthians 3:17 "If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy."

And hath married the daughter of a strange god] This is that particular sin whereby they had dealt treacherously against their brethren profaned the covenant, polluted the Church, and committed abomination in Israel; they had married with women of a strange worship, and joined in affinity with the people of those abominations, as holy Ezra phraseth it, Ezra 9:14, and also setteth it forth for such a sin in those newly returned captives, as he thinks heaven and earth might well be ashamed of. A sin it is, flatly forbidden in both Testaments, Deuteronomy 7:8, 2 Corinthians 6:14; and reasons added: as, 1. Danger of defection, at least, from former forwardness; but most commonly of infection, as in Solomon, 1 Kings 11:4, Nehemiah 13:26. What is the reason the Pope will not dispense in Spain and Italy if a Papist marry a Protestant, yet here he will, but in hope to draw more to them. See 1 Kings 12:25, 2 Kings 8:27 2. Great inconvenience: as, 1. Of grief to the godly parents, Genesis 26:35; Genesis 27:36 2. Ill education of children, who commonly take after the mother (as did most of those idolatrous kings of Judah), and follow the worse of the two sides, though it be the weaker, as the conclusion in a syllogism follows the weaker proposition. The birth, we say, followeth the belly; and most men, we see, do matrissare, take after the mother in matters of religion. Hereunto might be added, that God’s service must by these unequal matches necessarily be hindered, if not altogether omitted (to gratify a froward Zipporah, or a mocking Michal), and the better party forced to see and hear that that cannot but grieve the Spirit of God. Besides danger of disloyalty, and a cursed posterity, as Edomites of the daughters of Heth. Here, then, I could join with that reverend contemplator in that holy wish of his (Dr Hall), that Manoah could speak so loud that all our Israelites might hear him: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all God’s people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" If religion be any other than a cipher, how dare we not regard it in our most important choices? how dare we yoke ourselves with any untamed heifer that beareth not Christ’s yoke? What mad work made that noble pair of naughty packs, Jezebel and Athaliah, in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the latter beginning her reign in the same year that the former perished, as Bucholcer observeth! And who knoweth not what a deal of mischief was done to the poor people of God in France, by Katherine de Medicis, Queenmother, with the advice and assistance of the Cardinal of Lorrain? Concerning which two it was said,

Non audet stygius Pluto tentare quod audet

Effraenis Monachus plenaque fraudis anus. ”


Verse 12

Malachi 2:12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.

Ver. 12. The Lord will cut off the man that doth this] Though the magistrate be careless and corrupt; though he either cannot punish this evil, it being grown so universal, or will not (and so impunity in the magistrate maketh impenitence in the offenders), God will take the sword in hand, and cut off every mother’s child that doth this, nisi currat poeniteatia; as a surgeon cutteth off a rotten member, so will God destroy such for ever, Metaphora est a Medicis ducta (Polan.): he will take them away, and pluck them out of their dwellingplaces, and root them out of the land of the living, Psalms 52:5. Neither shall this be done to himself only, but to his wretched posterity (such a legacy, like Joab’s leprosy, leaves every graceless man to his children), for so the Chaldee here rendereth and interpreteth that proverbial expression in the text, both the master and the scholar, filium et filium filii, his son, and his son’s son, though he teach never so well by wholesome instruction, and political advisement, to prevent the mischief. Agreeably hereunto for sense Piscator rendereth this text thus, The Lord will cut off his children that doth thus, the children that he begets of the daughter of a strange god. A heavy curse, surely, and frequently inflicted, as upon Ahab; though he, to avoid it, so followed the work of generation, that he left seventy sons behind him; which yet would not do.

And him that offereth an offering, &c.] That is, although he be a priest; or, although he seek to make peace with me by an offering; as hoping thereby to stop my mouth or stay my hand, to expiate his sin, or to purchase a dispensation, as those Micah 6:6-7, Isaiah 58:2-3. Thus Saul sacrificeth; Ahab trembleth and humbleth; Jeroboam’s wife goeth to the prophet; Joab taketh hold of the horns of the altar; the King of Persia, having lost some of his children by untimely death, as Ctesias reporteth, sends earnestly to the Jews for prayers for him and his, Ezra 6:10. So did Maximinus in like case to the Christians. Cicero (de Nat. Deor.) tells us that they which prayed whole days together and offered sacrifice, ut sui liberi superstites sibi essent, that their children might outlive them, these were first called superstitious persons; afterwards the word was taken in a larger sense. But devotion without holy conversation avails nothing to avert God’s judgments, Isaiah 1:12; Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 66:3. He that killeth an ox, unless he also kills his corruptions, is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, unless by faith he lay hold upon the Lamb of God, is as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, &c. This men are hardly drawn to, viz. to part with their sins, to cast the traitor’s head over the wall, to hang up the heads of the people before the sun. Sin, harboured in the soul, is like Achan in the army, or Jonah in the ship; much pains the mariners endured, and much loss too, to have saved Jonah from the sea; they ventured their own casting away ere they would cast him overboard; but there could be no calm till they had done it effectually. So it is here. Full fain men would keep their sins, and yet save their souls; but that is impossible. God will not be bribed, Psalms 50:16-23, nor brought to suffer sin unrepented to escape unpunished. Poor souls, when stung by the friars’ sermons, they set them penances, pilgrimages, all sorts of good works, which stilled them a while; and for them they thought they should have pardon. So many run now among us to holy duties, but with the same opinion they did them as bribes for a pardon. These dig for pearls in their own dunghills, make the means their mediators, think to save themselves by riding on horses, &c., Hosea 14:3.


Verse 13

Malachi 2:13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand.

Ver. 13. And this have ye done again] Or, in the second place: q.d. Not content to have married strange wives, ye have brought them in to your lawful wives, to their intolerable vexation; so adding this sin to the former, as a greater to the less. This is still the guise of graceless men, to add drunkenness to thirst, rebellion to sin, to amass and heap up one evil upon another, till wrath come upon them to the utmost. "For three transgressions, and for four, I will not turn away their punishment," Amos 1:3; that is, so long as the wicked commit one or two iniquities, I forbear them; but when it comes once to threes and fours (how much more to so many scores, hundreds, thousands, as one cipher added to a figure makes it so many tens, two so many hundreds, three so many thousands, &c.), God will bear with them no longer. Of those old Israelites it is demanded, not without great indignation on God’s part, "How often did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert? Yea, they turned back and tempted God," &c. Psalms 78:40-41. Good men, if they fall once into foul practices, they fall not often. Of Judah it is expressly recorded that he knew Tamar no more. Lot indeed committed incest two nights together; but the orifice of his lust was not yet stopped by repentance. Think the same of Solomon, Samson, Jonah, &c., their acts were, as it were, continued acts; and, in the interim, little or no remorse or regret. Let us that have received mercy be admonished to sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto us, John 5:14. There is a woe to such as draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope, Isaiah 5:18. Babylon’s sins in the Revelation reached up to heaven, or they were thwacked together thick and threefold one upon another, Revelation 18:5, there was a concatenation or a continued series of them; therefore she fell surely and suddenly. When wickedness is once ripe in the field God will not let it shed to grow again; but cuts it up by a just and seasonable vengeance.

Covering the altar of the Lord with tears] That is, You caused your poor wives, when they should have been cheerful in God’s service, as 1 Samuel 1:10, and in many other places it was required of the Israelites to rejoice whensoever they appeared before the Lord. Earthly princes love not the company of mourners, Esther 4:4, to cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, to throw themselves, blubbered and swollen with tears, upon the altar, which was a profanation of it; so that God regarded not the offering any more. It were happy if we could be so affected with our unkindness to Christ, our Husband, that we could cover his table, when we come to it, with our tears. How should the Lord regard our service so much the more! how should it be unto him as music upon the waters, far more harmonious! What a gracious respect had he to the weeping women that followed him to the cross! and what an honour was that to one of them (Mary Magdalene, I mean) that she had the first sight of the revived Phoenix, whom she held fast by those feet that she had once washed with her tears, and that had now lately trod upon the lion and adder Psalms 91:13. It was appointed by Moses’ law that the bondwoman should bewail her father and mother a full month before she might become an Israelite’s wife, Deuteronomy 21:13. We, that are strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, as we cannot be presented a chaste virgin to Christ, but as weeping over him that bled over us, so we never please him better than when we weep over our tears ( Ipsae lachrymae sunt lachrymabiles), sigh over our sobs, mourn over our griefs, as not proportionable to our miscarriages. But to return to the text; the Jews, as they are noted for a nation overmuch effeminate, and given to women, as they say, so, when they have satisfied their lust, and served their own turns, they are as willing to be rid of them as Amnon was of Tamar. Hence those many cautions in the law to put bounds to their petulance; and that political permission of a divorce, for the relief of the poor despised woman, lest she should come to a mischief, by the hatred of the churl her husband, Deuteronomy 22:18; Deuteronomy 22:14; Deuteronomy 24:3. At this day they look upon women as not having so divine a soul as men, but are of a lower creation, made only for the propagation and pleasure of man. They use them as their drudges, lay upon them with their unmanly fists, are ready to cut out their tongues (as the Welshmen dealt by their French wives, lest they should corrupt the language of their children), put them away upon every slight occasion, covering that violence with the garment of the law, as Malachi 2:16. Or if they kept them, they took other wives to them, to vex them, and to make them to fret, 1 Samuel 1:6, or (as the word there signifies) to thunder; not only tabering upon their breasts, with the voice of doves (as Nahum’s expression is, Nahum 2:7), but filling the air, yea, covering the altar (as it is here) with their laments and lowings, flectu et mugitu (so the Vulgate rendereth), for their husbands’ harshness, and their concubines’ insolencies and indignities: Lamentis gemituque et foemineo ululatu Tecta fremunt (Virg. Aeneid). Jerome tells us that these returned captives slighted their old wives brought with them from Babylon (as being by that tedious journey become infirm and deformed), and matched with strangers, who were fresh, fair, rich, &c.; this he gathers out of Ezra 9:1-15; Ezra 10:1-44, whereas they should rather have nourished and cherished them as their own flesh, Ephesians 5:29, they should have handled them gently, because of their weakness, as so many crystal glasses. They should have given them all lawful content, as Abraham did Sarah, his faithful fellow traveller. They should have given all honour unto them, saith St Peter, 1 Peter 3:7; and why? Mark his many reasons. 1. They are the weaker vessels, and are, therefore, to be handled with all tenderness. Some translate it the weaker instrument; and (as Luther speaks of it) as a knife with a tender edge men will not cut stones, brass, or iron with, so here. 2. They are heirs together of the grace of life, that is, of the life of grace, and of glory too; for souls have no sexes, and as every one is in Christ, all are equal, so that the husband is bound, in this respect, to make his wife’s yoke as easy as may be, since she draws even with him, though on the left side. 3. That your prayers be not hindered, as they will be, where there is not so much coniugium wedlock as coniurgium. quarrelling. How can they pray together comfortably that live so discontentedly? How can they bring their gift to that altar that is covered with the tears and moans of their justly aggrieved and abused wives? Or, if they do, will God regard their offering any more, or receive it with good will at their hands? Will not the tears and groans of their distressed wives (who yet hold out their devotion, and will not be hindered by their just grief from praying to God and pouring out their souls before him) move God more than their sacrifices can do? Especially if they bring them with a wicked mind, as Solomon hath it, Proverbs 21:27; and as Lyra maketh it to be the sense of this text; Ye have covered the altar of the Lord with tears, &c., but he regardeth not the offering any more, &c., that is (saith Lyra, and he hath it from Chrysostom), you are resolved to retain your idolatrous wives, though God have declared against it; and that ye may expiate this wickedness, and make amends by your good deeds for your bad, you run to the temple, and there, with many tears and groans, you beg pardon. But all in vain, because you have no purpose at all to break off your sins, but will needs persist in your unlawful marriages. {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:16"}


Verse 14

Malachi 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet [is] she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

Ver. 14. Yet ye say, Wherefore?] A senseless question; but there is nothing more stupid and stubborn than a hypocrite; he will not yield, though never so clearly convinced, but will have still somewhat to say though to small purpose, as had Saul to Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:19-23, and these questionists here to God, whom, as before often and again after, they put to his proofs. {See Trapp on "Malachi 1:2"} {See Trapp on "Malachi 1:6"} His answer is ready:

Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth] The heathen could say,

Maxima debetur pueris reverentia siquid

Turpe paras: ”

And again,

“ Turpe quid acturus tu, sine teste, time.

We should not do wickedly if but a child be by. And, when thou art about to do aught amiss, fear thine own conscience, which is a thousand witnesses. But if God be by as a witness, should not men fear to offend him? Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob. He that dares sin, though he know God be an eye witness, is more impudent in sinning than was Absalom, when he spread a tent upon the top of the house, and went in to his father’s concubines, in the sight of all Israel, and of the sun. These treacherous husbands could not but know that they had entered into a covenant of God, Proverbs 2:17, when they married; that the bond was made to God, and that upon the violation of it he would be ready enough to take the forfeiture; for "whoremongers and adulterers God will judge," Hebrews 13:4. That God had been witness, or had protested ( Protestatus est), so Montanus renders it, and withal had, by interposing of his own authority, confirmed the contract and compact, saying, verbis conceptis, as Hosea 3:3, Thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee, and not for another woman, till God shall separate us by death. Indeed, if the husband or the wife is dead, the surviving party is at liberty to marry again, Romans 7:2, whatsoever the Canonists say against bigamy. Jerome tells us of an old man in Rome that had buried twenty wives, which he had married one after the death of another; and that he had taken to wife the one-and-twentieth, who also had buried nineteen husbands. And that, burying that wife too, he followed the corpse to the church, so his neighbours would needs have it, with a garland of bays upon his head in manner of a triumpher. But against polygamy (which is, when a man or woman couples himself or herself in marriage to more than one) here are a heap of arguments in the text, which we shall take as they lie in order. Meanwhile it is worthy our observation, that the first author of polygamy was that Thrasonical Lamech, noted for a profane and wicked person; as was likewise Esau, another polygamist. Laban, though he had cheated Jacob into the having of his two daughters to wife, yet he could not but confess it to be a sin against the light of nature. Hence at parting he takes a solemn oath of Jacob, Genesis 31:50 "If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness between me and thee." Some of the fathers were herein faulty, as Abraham, David, &c., and some say it was their privilege; but that is not likely. Rather it was their ignorance or incogitancy (they considered not that it was a breach of the first institution of marriage), or, as some conceive, it was their mere mistake of that text, Leviticus 18:18 "Thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her lifetime." Here they took the word (sister) for one so by blood, which was spoken of a sister by nation, Ezekiel 16:46, as those clauses to vex her, and during her life, do evince. One thing was, the commonness of the sin, and the long custom of it. So long had it continued, and was grown so fashionable, that it seemed to be no sin. But debt is debt, whether a man know of it or not; and sin, as a debt, may sleep a long time, and not be called out for many years, as Saul’s sin in killing the Gibeonites slept forty years, and Joab’s killing of Abner slept all David’s days. Another thing that might cause desire of many wives, was want of love and chaste affection to the wife of their youth. Isaac is noted for a most loving husband to his Rebecca; and he never desired more wives than her. "Rejoice in the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe." This will keep thee from being ravished with a strange woman, or embracing the bosom of a stranger, Proverbs 5:18-20. The hind and the roe are most loving to their mates, and, therefore, most faithful to them. So, among birds, are the turtle dove and the stork. The former, they say, as he keeps close to his mate while she lives; so when she dies, he groans and moans continually, and never sits upon a green bough. The latter are chaste and severe in punishing those of the kind that are not. It is credibly reported by some that have seen it, that whole flocks of storks, meeting in a meadow, they have set in the midst of them two of their company that have been found disloyal, and, running upon them with main force, have killed them with their beaks. So that the company breaking up, and all the rest flying away, the two offending storks only have been found dead in the place.

Against whom thou hast dealt treacherously] viz. By superinducing another wife contrary to thy covenant. This is not a simple injury against thy lawful wife; but such as is joined with contumely, which the Greeks call υβρις; and the children that come of such copulation they call υβριδας, because they are subject to contumelies. The Hebrews call them brambles; Abimelech was such a one, 9:14, a right bramble indeed, who grew in the base hedge row of a concubine; and scratched and drew blood to purpose. Lo, this is the prophet’s first argument against polygamy; it is treachery against both God, who is deeply interested in the marriage covenant, and against the true wife, who is hereby extremely defrauded and defeated, Follows now the second:

Yet she is thy companion] Thy companion, and co-partner, thy consort, and fellow friend, such another as thyself, so the woman is called, Genesis 2:18, a second self, a mate suitable for thee, a piece so just cut out for thee, as answereth thee rightly in every point, in every joint. A wife is not a slave, saith one, but a companion; a yoke fellow, standing on even ground with thee, though drawing on the left side. From the left side, say some, she was taken, where the heart is, to teach that hearty love should be between married couples. Made she was of a rib, a bone of the side; not of the head (the wife must not usurp authority over her husband), nor yet of the foot, she may not be trampled upon or disregarded as an underling. A bone, not of any anterior part, she is not praelata, preferred before the man; neither yet of any hinder part; she is not postposita, set behind the man; but a bone of the side, of the middle of the indifferent part, to show that she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant. A bone she is from under the arm; to put man in mind of protection and defence to the woman: a bone, not far from his heart; to put him in mind of dilection and love to the woman. Neither can the rib challenge any more of her than the earth can do of him. And as he was ignorant when himself was made, so he knew as little when his second self was made out of him; both that the comfort might be greater than was expected, as also that he might not upbraid his wife with any great dependance or obligation; he neither willing the work, nor suffering any pain to have it done. Shine she must with the beams of her husbaid; share she must with him in his masterly government of the family, as Sarah did with Abraham, by God’s allowance, Genesis 16:1-6, and as the Roman ladies were wont to say to their husbands, Ubi tu Caius, ibi ego Caia, where you are lord I am lady. That over lordly behavior of husbands towards their wives, and that usage of them as drudges, is condemned by the heathen philosophers, in the very Barbarians themselves, as a great αταξια, and disorder in the family.

And the wife of thy covenant] And is it nothing to be a covenant breaker with a wife; especially where God also is engaged, as above said? Foedus παρα το πεποιθεναι πιστις, ab eadem radice, perform your trust, make good the troth you have plighted. Otherwise, if the fruits of the flesh grow out of the trees of your hearts, surely, surely, saith master Bradford, martyr, the devil is at in with you; you are his birds, whom, when he hath well fed, he will broach you and eat you, chaw you and champ you, world without end, in eternal woe and misery.


Verse 15

Malachi 2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

Ver. 15. And did not he make one] Another forcible argument against polygamy and adultery. See our Saviour’s explanation of it, Matthew 19:4-6. {See Trapp on "Matthew 19:4"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 19:5"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 19:6"} The only wise God made but one woman for one man at the first creation; and ordained that those two should be one flesh, two in one flesh, not three or four, or as many wives as a man is able to maintain, as among the Turks, who, as a just hand of God upon them, are grievously vexed with jealousy, not suffering their women to go to church, nor so much as look out at their own windows; or, if they go abroad upon any occasion, they must go muffled, all but the eyes. Sardus tells us, that the old Britons would ten or twelve of them take one woman to wife. Likely, women were rare commodities, with them. As likewise men were in Judaea, when "seven women took hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach," Isaiah 4:1 : that is, we will maintain ourselves and thee; only be thou a husband to us, and let us have children by thee.

Yet had he the residue of the spirit] Or, breath; so that he could as easily have made more, and breathed into their faces the breath of life. And although it is not said of the woman, that God breathed into her the breath of life, as of Adam (whence Tertullian concludes, that she had both body and soul too from Adam), yet Austin rightly gathereth, that their souls were both alike imbreathed by God; otherwise, the Scripture would not have been silent in it, no more than it is in the new manner of the creation of her body. Thence also it is that Adam saith not, This is soul of my soul, but "bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh," Genesis 2:23. Souls are not propagated by the parents, but created of God, and joined to the body, by a hidden or secret operation. Augustine, following Origen, held the contrary for a long time. At length he began to doubt, and after a while changed his opinion; Jerome stoutly defending the contrary against him. Aristotle also understood the truth hereof, and concluded, that the soul was divine, and came from above; and though of nothing, yet is it made a matter more excellent than the matter of the heavens, in nature not inferior to the angels. Lειπεται δε τον νουν μονον θυραθεν επειστεναι και θειον ειναι μονον. Lib. 2, c. 9. An abridgment it is of the invisible world, as the body is of the visible. And why may we not say, that the soul, as it came from God, being divinae particula aurm, so it is like him? One immaterial, immortal, understanding spirit, distinguished into three powers, which all make up one spirit. In this respect it is said, Genesis 9:6, that in the image of God made he man. There is a double image of God in the soul. One, in the substance of it; this is never lost, and of this that text is to be understood. The other is the supernatural grace, which is an image of the knowledge, holiness, and righteousness of God, and this is utterly lost, and must be recovered. This the ancient heathens hammered at when they feigned that the soul once had wings; but, those being broken, it fell headlong into the body; where when it hath recovered its wings, it flies up to heaven again. That was very good counsel given by a godly man to his friend, not to busy his brains so much in inquiring how the soul entered into the body as how it may depart comfortably out of the body. And seeing the soul is more excellent than the body (saith another grave divine), like as Jacob laid his right hand upon the younger, but his left upon the elder, so our best care, and the strength of our thoughts, should be for the soul, younger as much as it is than the body; they should be but left hand thoughts for the body.

And wherefore one? that he might seek a godly seed] Heb. a seed of God; not a bastardly brood, a spurious issue, a mamzer, as the Hebrews call such, that is, labes aliens, a strange blot, a "seed of the adulterer and the whore," Isaiah 57:3; but such as God appointeth and approveth, such as may be holy, with a federal holiness at least, if not sanctified from the womb, as some have been, and are, 1 Corinthians 7:14; lastly, such as in and by whom the Church and religion may be propagated, and not idolatry spread and increased.

Therefore take heed to your spirit] That is, to your wife, which is the residue of your spirit; keep and cherish her; so Remigius and Lyra interpret it. But they do better that expound it by that of Solomon, "Keep thy heart with all diligence," Proverbs 4:23, and by that of the apostle, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence," &c., Colossians 3:5. These are those that defile the man, Matthew 15:19-20. These make his heart a filthy dunghill of all abominable lusts, and his life a long chain of sinful actions, a very continued web of wickedness; "therefore take heed to your spirits," that is, to your affections, keep those pure and chaste; abstain from fleshly lusts that fight against the soul. Take heed where you set gunpowder, since fire is in your heart. Austin thanks God that the heart and temptation did not meet together. Look well to the affections; for by those maids Satan woos the mistress. Look to the cinque ports, the five senses, shut those windows, that death enter not in thereby. Take heed to thy fancy: we allow a horse to prance and skip in a pasture; which if he doth when backed by the rider, we count him an unruly and unbroken jade. So, howsoever in other creatures we deny them not liberty of fancy, yet we may not allow it in ourselves, to frisk and rove at pleasure, but by reason bridle them, and set them their bounds that they shall not pass. The Lord quieteth the sea, and turns the storm into a calm, Psalms 107:29. If then the voluptuous humours in our body (which is but as a cup made of the husk of an acorn in respect of the sea) will not be pacified when the Lord saith unto them, Be still, every drop of water in the sea will witness our rebellion and disobedience.

And let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth] He had convinced them of this sin before, Malachi 2:14. Now he admonisheth them to abrenounce and abandon it. Lo, this is the true method and manner of proceeding in administering admonitions. The judgment must be convinced ere the affections can be wrought to anything; like as in the law, the lamps were first lighted before the incense was burned. First know thine iniquity, and then turn from it, Jeremiah 3:13-14. Exhortation is the end of doctrine, science of conscience, reformation of information, conversion of conviction; and woe be to those that being convinced, or reproved, for their faults, get the bit between the teeth, as it were, and run away with their rider. When I would have healed Ephraim, then his iniquity brake out (as if it were to cross me) like the leprosy in his forehead, Hosea 7:1. What can such sturdy rebels expect better than that God should resolve, as Ezekiel 24:13, as if he should say, Thou shalt have thy will, but then I will have mine too; I shall take another course with thee, since thou refusest to be reformed, hatest to be healed; thou shalt pine away in thine iniquities, Leviticus 26:39. Oh fearful!


Verse 16

Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Ver. 16. For the Lord the God of Israel saith, that he hateth putting away] Heb. Put away: q.d. God hates that "Put her away, put her away," that is, so much in your mouths. For, because you are justly reproved for polygamy, for keeping two wives, you think to mend that fault by putting away your old ones, and plead you may do it by a law, licensing divorces. But the Lord would ye should know that he hates such practices; and the rather because you maliciously abuse his law, as a cloak of your wickedness. Divorce is a thing that God’s soul hateth, unless it be in case of adultery, which breaks the marriage knot, and malicious perpetual desertion, 1 Corinthians 7:15. This last was the ease of that noble Italian convert, Galeacius Caracciolus, Marquis of Vico (as is to be seen in his Life, written by my muchhonoured brother, Mr Samuel Clark, in the second part of his Marrow of Ecclesiastical History, p. 101), who by the consent of Mr Calvin, Peter Martyr, and other learned divines, who met and seriously debated the case, sued out a divorce against his former wife, who had first maliciously deserted him, and had it legally by the magistrate at Geneva granted unto him; after which he married another, A.D. 1560. The civil law of the empire permitted divorce for divers other causes. And these Jews, for every light cause (if but a blemish in the body, or crookedness of manners), pretending to hate their wives, would write them a bill of divorce, and turn them off. Our Saviour deals against this, Matthew 5:19; see the notes there. This sin was also rife among both the Athenians (who were wont to put away their wives upon discontent, or hope of greater portions, &c.), and the Romans, whose Abscessionale, or writ of divorce, was this only, Res tuns tibi habeto; Take what is thine, and be gone. It is ordinary also among the Mahometans. But the Lord God of Israel saith here, that he hateth it; and it appeareth so by his practice to his spouse, the Church. See Jeremiah 3:1; John 13:1, and then say, that God’s mercy is matchless; and that he takes not advantages against his revolting people, but follows them with his favour; no otherwise than as when a man goes from the sun, yet the sunbeams follow him, shine upon him, warm him, &e. Zanchy (and some others) reads the text thus, If thou hatest her, put her away, in that discourse of divorces, which he wrote upon the occasion of Andreas Pixzardus’s divorce, as indeed agreeing best with the matter he undertook to defend. But in another book of his he utterly disliketh the doings of Luther, and some other Dutch divines, who advised Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, to marry, alteram, hoc est, adulteram, his former lawful wife being yet alive. Archbishop Grindall, by cunning practices of his adversaries, Leicester and others, lost Queen Elizabeth’s favour, as if he favoured prophesyings, &c., but in truth, because he had condemned an unlawful marriage of Julio, an Italian physician, with another man’s wife, while Leicester in vain opposed against his proceedings therein. Archbishop Abbots also led in disgrace for opposing Somerset’s abhorred match with the Countess of Essex.

For one covereth violence with his garment] This text had been easy had not commentators (the Hebrew doctors especially) made it knotty. Rabbi David, in opening it, obscurior videtur, quam ipsa verba quae explicare conatur, seems to be more obscure than the words themselves which he undertaketh to open, saith Figueir, who also reciteth the expositions of several rabbins. Concerning which, I may say, as one did once, when being asked by another whether he should read such a comment upon Aristotle? answered, Yes; when Aristotle is understood, then read the comment. The plain sense is this: These wicked Jews pretended the law of God, as a cloak and cover of their sin, that it might be no sin to them. And though the Lord had protested to hate their divorces, yet they pleaded I know not what liberty permitted them by Moses; but this was but a political coverture of iniquity, Matthew 18:8-9. The like whereunto was the sin of Saul, 1 Samuel 15:10-23; of Jezebel, 1 Kings 21:13; of those Jews, John 19:7; of those libertines, 2 Peter 2:1-3, James 2:8-9; of all heretics, that plead Scripture for their heresies; and some others impudently impious, who, lest they should seem to be mad without reason, abuse God’s holy word to the defence of their unreasonable and irreligious practices. These men’s judgments now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation sleepeth not, 2 Peter 2:3.

Therefore take heed to your spirit] A repetition of the dehortation; of which see Malachi 3:16. Good things must be often inculcated, Philippians 3:1, one exhortation must peg in another, till they stick in our souls, as forked arrows in the flesh. Men do not use to lay ointments only upon their lame limbs, but rub them, and chafe them in; so here. Austin persuades the preacher so long to insist upon a necessary point till, by the gesture and countenance of the hearers, he perceiveth that they understand and relish it. Chrysostom, being asked by his people when he would stop preaching against swearing? answered, Never till you stop your swearing.


Verse 17

Malachi 2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied [him]? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil [is] good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where [is] the God of judgment?

Ver. 17. Ye have wearied the Lord with your words] Laborare fecistis Dominum, so the Vulgate renders it. Ye have put the Lord to pain, as it were; ye have even tired out his patience, while ye have made him to serve with your sins, and have wearied him with your iniquities, Isaiah 43:24 "I have long time held my peace; I have been still and refrained myself," saith the Lord: "now will I cry like a travailing woman," that hath long time bitten in her pain, I will destroy and devour at once, Isaiah 42:14. God can hear and forbear as well as any other: Who is a God like unto thee for this? saith Micah, Micah 7:17. Were the most patient man upon earth in God’s stead, but for a very short time, to see and hear the provocations and indignities daily done unto him by the sinful sons of men, he would soon be weary of it, he would quickly make a short work upon the earth, Romans 9:28. It would trouble his patience to spread out his hands all day long to a rebellious people, Isaiah 65:2, to give forty days’ respite to Nineveh, that bloody city, full of lies and robbery, Nahum 3:1, to be grieved forty years long with a perverse people, and to suffer their evil manners in the wilderness, Acts 13:18, to bear four hundred years with those wretched Amorites, who had filled the land from one end to the other with their abominable uncleannesses, Ezra 9:11. In the fourth chapter of Ezekiel God is brought in as lying upon his left side for three hundred and ninety years, Ezekiel 4:5-6; a long while to lie on one side, without turning on the other, and all to set forth his longsufferance. Our text tells us that he is patient, even ad defatigationem usque, up the point of being worn out toward the wicked; he bears till he can bear no longer. See the like Romans 9:22, and the reason, Romans 2:4, and the ill use that is made of it, Ecclesiastes 8:11-13, till they tire out him that is indefatigable, Jeremiah 15:6, and made him weary of repenting. But is this a safe course they take? Do they provoke the Lord to wrath? Are they stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 10:22 "Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but ye will weary my God also?" Isaiah 7:13. Will he not put an end to his abused patience, that justice, justice (as Moses hath it), actual and active justice, may take place? Deuteronomy 16:20. God in Ezekiel is said to sit upon a throne, to show his slowness; but this throne hath wings, to show his swiftness to come, if need require. His patience passeth along as a pleasant river. But if men stop the course of it by their blasphemies and contumelies, as here, and press in with their provocations, as a cart that is leaden with sheaves, Amos 2:13, God will surely have his full blow at them, Nahum 1:2; Nahum 1:6, Romans 2:4, Hebrews 12:29.

With your words] That is, with your continual contentions and quibblings; or with those ensuing words, blasphemous enough, and atheistic; together with your bold justification of them; "yet ye say, Wherein," &c.

When ye say, Every one that doth evil, &c.] As if they should say, God punisheth not, but prospereth the wicked; therefore he loveth and favoureth them above better men. Job, Jeremiah, and David were once, for a fit, in the same error, but soon recanted it when once the waters of the sanctuary had cured their eyesight, Psalms 73:17, for such are sand blind, and cannot see far off, 2 Peter 1:9.

Or, Where is the God of judgment] q.d. Nowhere; either there is no God, or, at least, not a God of that exact, precise, impartial judgment, such an emphasis there is in the Heb. Diagoras turned atheist, because his adversary that had robbed him was not presently thunderstruck (Corn. a Lapide). The like is recorded of Porphyry, Lucian, Averroes, and others. {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:14"} {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:14"}

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Malachi 2:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/malachi-2.html. 1865-1868.

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Friday, May 24th, 2019
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