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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Malachi 1

 

 

Verses 1-5

SECTION I

Malachi 1:1-5

God’s peculiar Love to Israel above Edom

1, 2The burden1 of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. I have loved2 you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, 3And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons3 [jackals] of the wilderness 4 Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished4 [ruined], but we will return [again] and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of Hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for eMalachi Malachi 1:5 And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified5 [great is Jehovah] from6 the border of Israel.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Malachi 1:1.The burden of the word of the Lord. Some of the recent German Commentators, following Vitringa, understand by burden (מַשָּׂא) nothing more than a divine speech, prophecy, or utterance, so that it would mean, “the speech of Babylon, Damascus, Egypt, Moab,” instead of the upon these countries. Jerome remarks: “The word massa is never placed in the title, save when the vision is heavy and full of burden and toil.” In this interpretation he has been followed by Hengstenberg, who has fully discussed the subject, and by Köhler and Keil. Henderson has translated it sentence. The connection in the first verse with word shows that it means something more, or it would have been superfluous. Eleven times in Isaiah ( Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 21:11; Isaiah 21:13; Isaiah 23:1), in Ezekiel 12:10; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1, it is followed by a prophecy of a threatening nature. In Jeremiah 23:33-36, the meaning burden, heavy prophecy is presupposed. The people, whenever they met the prophets, asked scoffingly, if they had received any new massa, or burden. “What is the burden of the Lord?” not believing that the predicated evil would come. As a punishment for their blasphemy God declares ( Malachi 1:39) “I will burden you.” See Lange on Jeremiah 23:33-40; Alexander on Isaiah 13:1.

To Israel, not concerning Israel, but to, as אֶל shows. By Israel is meant here not the kingdom of Israel as distinct from that of Judah but the small colony composed of all the tribes who had returned to Judæa after the Captivity, and thus became the central point of the divine promises and threatenings. Those who did not return lost the name of Israel, while those who did were called Israel by way of eminence, as those to whom the promises were made. Nehemiah and Ezra use the word Israel in the same way.

By Malachi, through Malachi. The Hebrew Isaiah, by the hand of Malachi. Köhler, Ewald, and Delitzsch have discussed the question, whether the prophecy, as it now Isaiah, was delivered orally to the people, and have concluded that we have only the substance of the more copious oral addresses of the prophet, at different times, brought together into one single prophecy. The Septuagint, as we have already remarked in the Introduction, has translated it, ἐν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ, by the hand of his angel.

Malachi 1:2. I have loved you, saith Jehovah. The whole prophecy represents the relations of Jehovah to his people, first, as their Father and Lord, secondly, as their only God, and final Judge.

The Prophet introduces Jehovah as declaring his love to them, as the foundation of the rebukes, threatenings, exhortations, and promises, which follow. This love of Jehovah to them laid them under obligation to love Him in return, and to keep his commandments. It is because He loved the people that He rebuked and chastened them.

In reply to the people, who ask for proofs of Jehovah’s love, he condescends to appeal to facts in their history, and in his dealings with them that clearly prove this love. Was not Esau a brother of Jacob’s? saith Jehovah, yet I loved Jacob, and hated Esau. The question is put in this way, and the names of Jacob and Esau mentioned, rather than those of Israel and Edom, to call attention to the fact, that, though they were brothers, and sustained the same relation to Jehovah, so that it might have been expected, that He would have dealt with both alike, yet He had not done Song of Solomon, neither in their own persons nor in their posterity, so that judging from the results we might regard the one as loved and the other as hated.

That the word hate is not used here in its strongest sense, is clear from several passages of Scripture, as where Leah says that she was hated by Jacob ( Genesis 29:33), and in Deuteronomy 21:15, where the case is put of a man’s having two wives, one beloved and the other hated, and in Luke 16:13, where it is said of a servant with two masters, that he will hate the one and love the other, and Luke 14:26, compared with Matthew 10:37, where the hating one’s father and mother is interpreted by loving less. St. Paul, in Romans 9:11, refers to Jacob and Esau as illustrations of the purpose of God, according to election. Their history typified and conditioned that of their posterity.

Malachi 1:3. And his inheritance for the jackals of the desert. We are not informed when and by whom this utter desolation of Edom took place. Jahn and Hitzig ascribe it to the Persians, so also Köhler; Keil and others to the Chaldæans, fulfilling thus the prophecies of Amos,, Obadiah,, Isaiah,, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

The word translated in the A. V. dragons should be rather translated, jackals, with the Jewish Commentators, and Ewald, Köhler, Umbreit, Reinke, Stier, Pressel. Our version follows Jerome, Luther, Calvin, Bochart, Cocceius, J. H. Michaelis, who translate it serpents, or dragons. The Septuagint translates it, δώματα ἐρήμον, desert dwellings, in which they are followed by De Wette ( Wöhnungen), Gesenius, Maurer, Rosenmüller, Rödiger, Fürst, Henderson, and Noyes.

The word in this form is found only here. We regard it with Köhler, Keil, and others, as the feminine plural of תַּן. The masculine plural is found, Psalm 44:20; Psalm 63:10; Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 34:3; Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 43:20; Jeremiah 9:11; Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 49:33; Jeremiah 51:37; Lamentations 4:3 (where it is strangely translated sea monsters); and is translated in our version dragons. In Isaiah 13:22, Micah 1:8, they are represented as crying and wailing, so they could not have been dragons, or serpents.

Malachi 1:4. Whereas Edom saith, or rather, although Edom should say, we are ruined, but we will again rebuild the ruins, Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, or Jehovah of Sabaoth. Hengstenberg has labored to show, in opposition to Gesenius, that Sabaoth is in, apposition with Jehovah, and to be separated from it by a comma, as a special appellation of God. It is translated by the Septuagint, παντοκράτωρ (Almighty), twenty four times in Malachi, and passes over into the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 6:18, The Lord Almighty; the Almighty, in Revelation 1:8; Lord God Almighty, Revelation 4:8, and frequently.

While Israel was rebuilding its ruins, all the attempts of Edom to repair its desolations will prove abortive.

The border of wickedness. By the word border is meant here the land, with its inhabitants. When Edom fails to recover its former prosperity all men must acknowledge that it is a perpetual monument of God’s wrath.

Malachi 1:5. Great is Jehovah over the land of Israel. Hitzig, Maurer, Ewald, Umbreit, Reinke, Noyes, Pressel, understand this clause to mean, that from the doom of Edom Israel will be forced to confess that Jehovah is not only great in Israel, but beyond its borders. Henderson, following A ben Ezra, connects, from the border of Israel with the ye of the preceding clause, ye from the border of Israel. But, as beyond is an unprecedented meaning of מֵעִל, as Israel had no doubt that Jehovah ruled beyond the borders of Israel, we had better understand it to mean, that Israel, by contrasting its condition with that of Edom, will be more deeply convinced that Jehovah’s government of his people Israel was a gracious one. As the future precedes the subject it had better be translated, says Köhler, as an optative, May Jehovah be praised! but it is more congruous to the context to translate it, Great is Jehovah over the borders of Israel! as in Psalm 35:27, where it is to be translated, Great is Jehovah! See Alexander and Delitzsch on the 35 th Psalm, also on Psalm 40:17, where the same words occur.

DOCTRINAL, HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

W. Pressel: We cannot more correctly and fully express the meaning of these prophetic words, than the Apostle Paul has done in two passages in Romans 9:7; Romans 9:11 : “Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; ” and, “Not of works, but of him that calleth:” for the Apostle as well as the Prophet recognizes in the relation of Esau and Jacob, and of the descendants of both, a striking example, that descent from one and the same patriarch is not the ground of one and the same election on the part of God, but that it is his free grace, which uses one as an instrument for the kingdom of God, and the other not, and according to which the one does not frustrate the saving purpose of God, through his want of faithfulness, and the other, in spite of all his forts, does not obtain salvation for himself. And yet, in the words of the prophet, as well as of the Apostle, the close connection of guilt on the part of the individual, with the rejection on the part of God, is also intimated. As much as in the Old Covenant the circle of revelation was limited, and necessarily Song of Solomon, to the people of Israel, so rich is this Revelation, however, especially by the prophets in hints that the decree and glory of Jehovah should extend beyond the limits of Israel, if even at first only in the execution of his judgments, which were necessary to prepare the way among the heathen for the visitation of grace.

HOMILETICAL HINTS

Malachi 1:2. As there lies in the address of Jehovah the key to the understanding of the history of our life, so there lies in the reply of Israel the key to the understanding of our hearts. The history of our life appears, according to it, as a history of love, wherein the bitter as well as the sweet have only our good for their end, and as a decree of love, according to which nothing is accidental, but all ordained from eternity. Our heart appears in it in its blindness, since though the proofs of God’s love are very plain yet we fail to understand them, and in its ingratitude, and distrust the source of this blindness; or, the history of our life confirms to us what the Lord here testifies, and our perverse and desponding heart at least thinks what Israel here objects.

On Malachi 1:3. May it be deeply impressed upon my heart what a happiness it is to be a Christian! for how does the heathen world appear to us, when we look at the blessings of Christianity! The heathen are by nature our brethren, as Edom was the brother of Israel, and yet what a waste and kingdom of Satan is the heathen world”! In what light does Christianity appear to us, when we look at the curse of heathenism! What do we not enjoy in the knowledge of the love of God to us in Jesus Christ, and in communion with Him, and in all the blessings in heart and house, in the social and domestic circle, which flow to us therefrom, and yet how little have we deserved it, and how little is this blessing from step to step our work!

Malachi 1:4. The world’s defiance of God’s decree: It breaks down, He builds up; it builds, He breaks down.

On the whole section Malachi 1:1-6. The gracious election of God is the golden thread, which runs through not only the history of Israel, but through the whole history of the kingdom of God upon earth; but it is yet neither an “order of merit” for us, it rather humbles and disciplines, and spurs us on; it is only a cord of love by which the Lord draws us, while it brings destruction to those like the children of Edom. Love and hatred in the heart of God! What does the New Testament say to this prophetic expression? What does the history of the Church of Christ say to it? What does the witness of the Holy Ghost in our hearts say to it?

Malachi 1:5. Then and now! Then, the word of promise sounded, Great is the Lord beyond the limits of Israel ! and the promise found its fulfillment in the history of the mission to the Gentiles. Now, the word of promise sounds, Great is the Lord among Israel! and the promise finds likewise its fulfillment in the history of the mission to the Jews.

E. Pocock, Professor of Hebrew in Oxford and Canon of Christ Church: “I loved Jacob,” etc. The Apostle St Paul, in Romans 9:11, improveth this argument from thence, that this love to the one and hatred to the other was declared, when those children were not yet born, so that it could not be said that one had deserved better than the other, and therefore his love to one above the other must needs appear to be of free grace and choice, electing one, and rejecting the other; and the distinction was both in their temporal and spiritual state. But the literal explication of the words requires no more than the particular effect of his love to Jacob’s posterity and hatred to Esau’s, here instanced in the utter desolation of Esau’s country, and the restitution of Israel’s, the punishment proving to the one utter destruction, to the other a fatherly chastisement.

[Bishop Wordsworth, representing another school in the Church of England, remarks on Malachi 1:2-3 : The doctrine, taught by St. Paul in Romans 9:13, which has been much misrepresented and distorted by some Calvinistic teachers, may be illustrated by the divine words here. The love of God towards Jacob, as St. Cyril remarks, was not without foresight of Jacob’s faithfulness and piety as compared with Esau. The hatred of God toward Esau, “a profane person, who despised his birthright,” was certainly no arbitrary nor capricious passion. And if we extend these words to Edom, we find it bringing God’s judgments on itself by its unmerciful and revengeful spirit towards Israel. See Psalm 137:7; Isaiah 63:1; Obadiah 1:8.—P. S.]

Footnotes:

1] Malachi 1:1.—מַשָּׂא דְבַר, found only together in Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1, followed by אֶל,עַל,בּ, to determine its relation to the object.

2] Malachi 1:1.—The LXX. have inserted, before “I have loved”: lay to heart, or, consider, as in Haggai 1:7; Haggai 2:15.

3] Malachi 1:3.—תַּנּוֹת, a fem. pl. for הַּנִים (so Ewald, Reinke) from תַּן, Micah 1:8; Isaiah 13:22.

4] Malachi 1:4.—רֻשַּׁשְנוּ, pual of רָשַׁשׁ, to be destroyed, not from רוּש, as our version makes it.

5] Malachi 1:5.—Great be Jehovah! praised as great and glorious. See Psalm 35:27; Psalm 40:17, where the same phrase occurs.

6] Malachi 1:6.—מֵעַל, over, above, Nehemiah 3:28; Ecclesiastes 5:7, not beyond the border, the land of Israel.


Verses 6-10

SECTION II

Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:10

Rebuke of the Priests

6A son honoreth7 his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father [but if I am] where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you, O [ye] priests, that despise my name. And ye say, 7 Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer8 [offering] polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible 8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice. It is not evil.9 And if ye offer the lame and sick, It is not evil. Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person, saith the Lord of Hosts? 9And now, I pray you, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means10 [hand]; will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of 10 Hosts.11 Who is there12 even among you [O, that there were one among you !] that would shut the doors for nought?13 Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand 11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and [ indeed, Keil and Köhler] a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts 12 But ye have profaned it, in the ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, [its food] is contemptible 13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it ! and ye have snuffed [puffed] at it, saith the Lord of Hosts: and ye brought that which was torn14 [stolen], and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should15 I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. But14[And] cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing16 [an unsuitable animal]; for I am a great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.

2

1And now, O ye priests, this commandment[FN17] [sentence, decree] is for you. If ye Will not hear, and 2 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 3 Behold, I will corrupt[FN18] [rebuke, as in Malachi 3:11; Psalm 106:9; Isaiah 17:13] your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.[FN19] 4And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of Hosts. My 5 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 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. 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 8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted[FN20] [or made void] the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of Hosts 9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as[FN21] [because] ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Malachi 1:6. A son honoreth his father, etc. Jehovah expostulates with the priests for the unnaturalness of their disobedience. They stood in a peculiar relation to Him, were under peculiar obligations to sanctify Him in the eyes of the people, and yet they had profaned his name, and made Israel to sin. Jehovah begins with an indisputable moral principle. No one would deny that a son was bound to love and obey a father, and a servant to fear and obey his master. But if I am a father. He speaks in a conditional form, though Israel could not deny it, as though He would leave it to Israel to acknowledge Him as such or not. Jehovah was the Father of Israel, and Ephraim was his son. He was without dispute their master.

My honor, my fear. The suffixes are used here in an objective sense, the honor due me, the fear of me. The priests, instead of confessing their guilt, with hypocritical self-righteousness deny the charge of despising Jehovah’s name, and demand the proofs of this charge. Yet ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? A new sentence should begin with this clause.

The answer to this question is to be found in the first clause of Malachi 1:7 : Offering polluted bread.

This we regard, with Maurer and Ewald, as an answer to the question proposed in the last clause of the preceding verse. By bread is meant here not the shew bread, which was not offered upon the altar, but any sacrifices, as the mention of the blind and lame shows. Sacrifices are often called in the law, the bread or food of God; Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8; Leviticus 21:17; Leviticus 21:21-22; Leviticus 22:25; Numbers 28:2; Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 3:16. The bread is called impure, or polluted, because it does not correspond to the offering of a sacrifice with any blemish, such as blindness, or lameness, or any evil-favoredness; Leviticus 22:20; Leviticus 22:25; Deuteronomy 15:21. To pollute Jehovah is to offer polluted sacrifices. In poof of the charge against the priests, which they denied, Jehovah refers to what they said and did. They represent the altar as contemptible by their practice of offering sacrifices expressly forbidden.

The words, There is no evil, are not to be taken as a question, this would weaken their force, but are used in the sense of the priests, and in the mouth of the prophet are words of angry rebuke and bitter irony.

Malachi 1:8. The prophet now uses an argumentum ad hominem, to show that they had treated Jehovah with less respect than they would have treated any human governor. Offer it now to thy governor.

The word translated, governor, is found in Jeremiah 51:28; 1 Kings 10:15; Nehemiah 2:7; Nehemiah 5:14, and means a heathen governor of a province. To accept a person, is to be favorably disposed towards any one, to espouse his cause.

Malachi 1:9. And now I pray you, beseech God, etc. The prophet proceeds to make an application of the illustration in. Malachi 1:8. If the governor will not receive worthless gifts, how much less will Jehovah!

The challenge to the priests to beseech God has been regarded by Jerome, J. H. Michaelis, and Hitzig, as an earnest call to repentance, and prayer for God’s mercy. But as the parenthesis (This has been by your hand!) most naturally means, Such sins have been committed by you ! and seems to be inserted to reiterate the charge, and silence any reply; as the question, Will he accept your persons? intimates that God will not do Song of Solomon, which is never the case where there is sincere prayer for his mercy, and as the next verse expresses a wish that the doors of the Temple were altogether closed, it is better to regard it with Calvin, Maurer, Ewald, Keil, Köhler, and Henderson, as conditional, and with a shade of irony. Should you intercede with God, will He accept any? The Septuagint puts it in the first person; “Shall I accept of you your persons?” The word מִכֶּם is understood by Keil and Köhler as meaning, on your account, but it is better to regard it, with the LXX. and Maurer, as partitive and emphatic: No one of you. The prophet adds; Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, that we may not forget that what he says was inspired of God.

Malachi 1:10. Who is there among you, or rather, O, that some one among you would even shut the doors of the temple! The first clause is to be explained in accordance with a well-known Hebrew idiom as a wish, 2 Samuel 15:4; 2 Samuel 23:15; Psalm 4:7; Job 19:23. Jehovah is so provoked by their illegal offerings, and the spirit which actuated them, that He would gladly see his whole worship discontinued. גַם, though placed first, belongs to the whole sentence, and is emphatic. By the doors are meant the folding doors, which led from the outer court to the court of the priests, where was the altar of burnt offerings. The reason for this wish is given, that the priests may not light a fire uselessly, to no purpose, upon Jehovah’s altar. The for nought, in the first clause in our version, is unnecessary. Jehovah characterizes their sacrifices as vain, because they did not accomplish their end. Jerome, Grotius, Henderson, understand by it in vain, gratis, without payment, and refer it to the avaricious disposition of the priests; but it is better to consider it to mean, without an object, An offering (מִנְהָה), by this is meant not the unbloody sacrifice of fine wheat-flour, mentioned in Leviticus 2:1-15, but all kinds of sacrifice, as the context shows where only animal victims are spoken of, and from its use in this sense in Genesis 4:4, where Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb is called מִנְהָה, 1 Samuel 2:15; Isaiah 1:13; Zephaniah 3:10.

Malachi 1:11. For from the rising of the sun, etc. In contrast with the sacrifice which Jehovah rejects, he declares, that the hour is coming when the true worshippers, not in Jerusalem only but in every place, shall offer a pure, a sincere offering in spirit and truth, and a living sacrifice of their souls and bodies to the name of Jehovah, which has been despised. What an insight into the most distant future! How much is involved in this prophecy? The kingdom of God taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, the abrogation of the old dispensation wherein the worship of the Father was confined to one place ( Deuteronomy 12:13), the coming of the hour “when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth:” the universal spread of Christianity. This prophecy is regarded by some of the Jewish Commentators, and by the Septuagint, and by Hitzig, Ewald, Maurer, Umbreit, and Köhler as a declaration of what was already the fact among the heathen who worshipped ignorantly the unknown Jehovah, under different names. If Song of Solomon, it would amount to the lines in Pope’s universal Prayer:—

“Father of all! in every age,

In every clime adored,

By saint, by savage, and by sage,

Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!”

In opposing this view we first deny the fact. So far from the name of Jehovah being great among the heathen, and a pure worship offered Him, they were sunk into the most abominable and inexcusable idolatry, they worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is God over all, blessed forever! It would be in conflict with other prophecies, Isaiah 11:10; Zephaniah 2:11. Zechariah 9:10; Isaiah 66:20, and many others, which speak of such a worship as in the future.

Pocock, speaking of this Jewish interpretation, adopted by Ewald and others, well says, “What is it less than even an excuse, or apology for, if not a commendation of idolaters, and idolatry, as from the mouth of God himself, who all along showed them and their ways to be all most abominable to him.”

By incense is here meant prayer, of which it is a frequent symbol. This is admitted by the Roman Catholic commentator, Reinke, who observes. “that Malachi could not refer to literal incense is evident from the fact that the offering of incense could only take place in the temple.” If this is true of incense, why is it not true of the offering in the same sentence, associated with it here and in the law ( Leviticus 2:15)? Yet Reinke understands it with the Church of Rome, as referring to the “bloodless sacrifice of the New Testament, the holy sacrifice of the Mass.” It is well known that the Church of Rome makes use of this text as its principal proof-text for the doctrine of the Mass. “That in the Mass is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead.” In the Canons of the Council of Trent, Sess22, we read, “that the Mass is that pure sacrifice which the Lord predicted by Malachi should be offered to his name in every place.”

Whately remarks of such a use of Scripture to support certain practices, that “the misinterpretation has sprung from the doctrine.” The doctrine has arisen first, and then the texts of Holy Writ are assigned to support it.

“In religion,

What error, but some sober brow

Will bless it and approve it with a text?”

The Church of Rome appeals here as elsewhere, to the almost unanimous consent of the Fathers. We may spend a little time in showing the unfairness of such an appeal, by quoting the principal passages in which they refer to this verse. They were governed by no fixed rules in their interpretation of Scripture, and were in the habit of accommodating every text which came to hand, to serve their purpose. An important distinction should be made between their interpretation and application of texts. They were given to a florid and ornate style, and their rhetoric has often been converted into logic. Köhler has very briefly brought together the principal passages from the Fathers, a synopsis of which we here give. Justin Martyr speaks of “the heathen offering to God, according to Malachi 1:11, the bread and cup of thanksgiving,” but he proceeds to explain it, as used by metonymy for the true sacrifice of prayer and praise.

Irenæus also refers one passage to the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but only in the sense, “that Christians symbolically offer bread and wine to God in proof of their thankfulness, and after the offering pray the Holy Ghost that he would render them the body and blood of Christ, so that those who received them might obtain forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.” Irenæus regards faith, obedience, praise, righteousness, and prayer as the true sacrifices.

Origen, on Prayer, proves from our passage, “that every place is adapted to prayer.”

The Apostolic Constitutions require “the faithful to assemble for prayer on the Lord’s day, in order that, according to Malachi, their sacrifice may be acceptable to God.”

Eusebius Pamphilus sees in Malachi 1:11 a prophecy of the abrogation of the Jewish ritual, “while Christians would offer to God the sacrifices of love, prayer, and remembrance of the great sacrifice, μνήμη τοῦ μεγάλου θύματος.”

Jerome, in his Commentary, explains this passage as, “spirituales victimœ sanctorum orationes Domino offerendœ.”

Augustine understands it of “works of mercy either to ourselves or to others.” “We ourselves are the best and noblest sacrifice” He speaks of the Lord’s Supper as shadowing forth the self-sacrifice of the Church to its Lord.

Chrysostom quotes this passage in proof, that the worship of God in spirit and truth should take the place of the Jewish service. He calls the Lord’s Supper only so far a sacrifice, as by the invocation of the Holy Ghost, the body and blood of the Lord are present for the enjoyment of the believers.

Cyril Alex, understands by this text in Malachi “the sacrifices of faith, hope, love, and good works which the heathen in the future shall offer.”

We thus see with what justice the Church of Rome appeals to the Fathers, and from this case we may judge of others, ab uno disce omnes. Then is not the slightest warrant to suppose any allusion to the Lord’s Supper in this verse; nothing is more common than to use sacrificial terms borrowed from the Old Testament ritual, in a spiritual sense, of the sacrifices of praise and good works, of the royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, and of the bodies of believers as living sacrifices.

Malachi 1:12. But ye profane it. The prophet renews the charge of Malachi 1:7 against the priests, that they profane the name of the Lord by offering defective animals.

And the fruit thereof, even its food. Its provision, that Isaiah, of the table, or altar, even its food.

Malachi 1:13. Ye say also, Behold what weariness! Instead of regarding their service at the altar as an honorable privilege, they look upon it as an oppressive drudgery. Ye snuff at it, you show without any concealment and publicly your contempt.

Ye bring that which was torn, or rather plundered. Two bringings are mentioned, the first preparatory to the second, when the victim was presented, ready for sacrifice. The verse closes with an appeal to the priests, as in Malachi 1:8, as to Jehovah’s acceptance of such sacrifices.

Malachi 1:14. And cursed be the deceiver. The ו here should be translated, And cursed, cursed be he, who, when the law requires a male, brings one of less value. The law permitted and enjoined sacrifices of female animals in some cases ( Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 4:32; Leviticus 5:6).

We had better understand corrupt or blemished, (as in Leviticus 22:25), with Keil and Köhler, as masculine, and not as feminine, as Ewald, Maurer, Hitzig, and regard the curse as pronounced upon any one who redeemed his vow with an inferior animal.

The argument by which this rebuke is enforced Isaiah, that Jehovah is a great king, “Rex tremendœ majestatis,” and must therefore be served with reverence and godly fear.

Malachi 2:1. And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. The rebuke to the priests is now followed by a threatening of the punishment which would ensue, if they did not repent. The word מִצוָה, commandment, is to be understood as in Nahum 1:14 in the sense of decree, sentence.

Malachi 2:2. I will curse your blessings. This has been understood by De Dieu, Rosenmüller, Hitzig, in the sense of revenues. Keil and Köhler interpret it of the blessings pronounced upon the people by the priests; these God will turn into curses; but it is not necessary to depart from the common and general sense of the word. Yea, I have cursed them. This is not a simple emphatic repetition of the proceeding “I will curse, as the LXX. (Κατάρασομαί), the Targum, Vulgate, Hitzig, Umbreit, Reinke, and Henderson maintain, but as the וְגַם, requires, is to be understood of what has already taken effect, the curse has begun. So Ewald, Keil, Köhler. The singular suffix attached to blessings is distributive, referring to every blessing.

Malachi 2:3. Behold I will rebuke your seed. For you the seed, is emphatic. In Malachi 3:11 we find the same word גָעַר used in the promised blessing. I will rebuke the devourer, or the locust. In Joel 1:13 the priests are called upon to lament for the meat-offering withholden, because the seed is rotten. In Haggai 2:17 we find, “I smote you with blasting and mildew.” The passage in Joel shows, that though the priests did not till the ground, yet they were dependent for their tithes upon the harvest, so if the seed was cursed they would themselves suffer. This renders it unnecessary to change the punctuation of זֶרַע (seed) to זְרֹע (arm), with the LXX, Vulgate, Ewald, Reinke, Keil, Köhler, Pressel. Köhler has a peculiar view, that it refers to the arm which the priests raised to bless the people, but the hand would more naturally have been mentioned. It is understood by other Commentators to refer to the perquisite of the priests—the shoulder, but they were entitled not only to the shoulder but to other parts ( Deuteronomy 18:3; Leviticus 7:32).

Still further to show how displeasing the conduct of the priests was in his eyes, Jehovah threatens that the dung of the victims, which was to be burned without the camp ( Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 16:27), should be spread on their faces.

And ye shall be carried to it. This clause has been differently understood, some making the dung the nominative, as the Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, Ewald, Reinke, Bunsen; others, Jehovah. It is better to regard the subject as indefinite, they, some one—the people, as in John 15:6. “They shall gather them, and cast them into the fire,” or, more according to our idiom, it is to be translated ye shall be taken away with, or to it, where it is deposited, ye shall be treated as dung, as God said to Jeroboam ( 1 Kings 14:10). The LXX. have, “I will take you to the same.”

Malachi 2:4. Ye shall know that I have sent this sentence, etc. The word commandment is to be understood as in the first verse, as sentence, decree of punishment.

That my covenant may continue with Levi. Different interpretations have been put upon this sentence. Ewald, Reinke, Henderson, Rosenmüller translate it, Because my covenant was with Levi. Hitzig, Maurer, De Wette, Noyes, That my covenant might rémain with Levi.

The view more generally adopted and advocated by Luther, Calvin, Umbreit, Keil, Köhler, Pressel, Isaiah, that my covenant is the predicate, and that the decree of punishment is to be henceforth God’s covenant, that according to which he should deal with Levi, or the priests; the decree of punishment shall take the place of the earlier covenant with the priests. The objections to this interpretation are, that it is not plain and simple; that a different form of expression would have been made use of had this been the meaning, such as—My decree shall be instead of my Covenant; that covenant is immediately after used in its common sense; and that Levi, or the priesthood, is regarded as one throughout.

We may understand it as an elliptical construction. This decree is sent to you, that by your laying it to heart my covenant may be, may continue to be with Levi, as it was in the beginning, which he goes on to speak of; that you may not make null and void the covenant made in the beginning with Levi, and which Jehovah would have continued in his posterity.

Malachi 2:5. My covenant with him was (of) life and peace, etc. Jehovah now speaks of the nature of the covenant made with Levi, or the priesthood, in order to contrast the character of the priests with that of their pious predecessors.

My covenant with him was life and peace. These nouns are not in the genitive, as the Septuagint, Vulgate, and the English Version make them, but are the nominative of the predicate. It is not necessary to confine this description to Phinehas, as Henderson does, though in Numbers 25:12 they are specially addressed to him.

And I gave them to him for fear. The design of the Covenant was to inspire him with holy fear and reverence. For fear, put by metonymy for the effect of fear; and the original priesthood corresponded to this divine intention: And he reverenced my name.

Malachi 2:6. The law of truth was in his mouth, etc. His exposition of the law was according to truth, its true nature, and there was found in him no perverseness, no self-seeking, nor partiality. Thus he walked in most intimate and endearing communion with Jehovah, as did Noah and Enoch, in integrity of heart and life, and by his faithful instructions and warnings turned many to righteousness. Thus he fulfilled the design of the priesthood, which was to expound and apply to every case the will of God, as expressed in his law, and to be always ready to instruct the people. It was for this end the priesthood was appointed of God.

Malachi 2:7. The priest is an angel, or messenger of Jehovah to negotiate the grand concerns of judgment and of mercy. This is the only passage, with the exception of Haggai 1:14, where it is applied to the prophet, where we meet with such an application. Elsewhere it is applied to the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the Presence, the Angel of the Covenant, in whom God revealed Himself, and through whom He transacted with man from the beginning.

Malachi 2:8. But ye have departed from the way. Jehovah now reminds the priests how very different they were from their pious fathers. They had respect of persons; they had taught for hire ( Micah 3:11). By their example and false expositions of the law they had misled many, and plunged them into sin, guilt, and perdition. They had made the law itself, instead of being a light and lamp to the people, a stumbling-block. As a just retribution for their sin, Jehovah will abandon them to the contempt of all Israel. According, in our version, should be rather, because.

DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL

Matthew Henry: “Nothing profanes the name of God more than the misconduct of those whose business it is to do honor to it.”

Malachi 2:7 (1). What is the duty of ministers? The priests’ lips should keep knowledge, not keep it from his people, but keep it for them. Ministers must be men of knowledge, for how are they able to teach others the things of God who are themselves unacquainted with these things, or unready in them? They must keep knowledge, must furnish themselves with it, and retain what they have got, that they may be like the good householder, who brings out of his treasury things new and old. Not only their heads, but their lips must keep knowledge; they must not only have it but they must have it ready, must have it at hand, must have it, as we say, at their tongues’ end, to be communicated to others, as there is occasion.

(2.) What is the duty of the people? They should seek the law at his mouth; they should consult the priests, and not only hear the message, but ask questions upon it, that they may the better understand it. We must not only consult the written Word, but must have recourse to God’s messengers’ and desire instruction and advice from them in the affairs of our souls, as we do from physicians and lawyers concerning our bodies and estates.

Malachi 2:8. The feeling of proper reverence for God and the services of his altar would indeed alone have dictated that what was offered to him should be the best and most perfect of its kind. Even the heathen were sensible of this propriety, and were careful that their victims were without blemish or imperfection. Thus, Homer in the Iliad, 1:66, makes Achilles propose to consult some priest, prophet, or interpreter of dreams to know whether the angry Apollo might not be, “Soothed with steam of lambs or goats unblemished.” Cowper’s Transl.)

Maimonides says: “There were no less than fifty blemishes, enumerated by him, which rendered an animal unfit to be offered on the Lord’s altar.”

Wordsworth: On Malachi 2:7. The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, a memorable statement. The offering of sacrifices was indeed an essential part of the priestly office; but Malachi declares that all sacerdotal sacrifices are of no avail without religious knowledge, sound learning, and wholesome teaching. The first duty of the Levitical Priests,—and how much more of the Christian!—was to keep, or preserve knowledge; the knowledge of God as revealed in his holy Word, and so to discharge their sacred office, that, according to the Word of God, the people should resort to them for instruction in holy things, and not resort in vain, and unless this was done by them all their offerings and sacrifices were nugatory, and God would “spread dung on their faces,” in token of his displeasure. Here is a solemn warning to the Christian clergy. If such was the duty of the Levitical priesthood, and such the penalty of not performing it aright, how much more imperative is the obligation of the Christian Priest to “keep knowledge,” and to instruct the people in sound doctrine; or, as St. Paul expresses it, “to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, to meditate on these things, and give himself wholly to them,” to speak the things which become sound doctrine, to hold fast the faithful word, so that he may be able by sound doctrine to convince the gainsayers. And how much surer will be his punishment if he fails to discharge it! It is to be feared that this warning is greatly needed at the present day. The clergy of the Eastern Church, especially in Asia and Greece, have been degraded to a low condition with regard to religious and secular knowledge. Celebrated Roman Catholic writers deplore the ignorance of a great part of their clergy, consisting of mere illiterate Mass-Priests. See Dr. Dollinger’s The Church and the Churches.

In Protestant Germany the theological chairs of the universities are filled by those who have no pastoral experience in the cure of souls, and have none of that wisdom which is found at the side of sick beds and death-beds, and in church-yards at the grave, and have no mission from Christ, and no unction from the Holy Ghost; and many among them treat the Holy Scriptures as if they were a mere common book. Hence the theological teaching of the Schools has been divorced from the Christian Priesthood.”

W. Pressel: The requisition of the Old Covenant that the sacrifices offered should be unblemished and perfect, and that by a defective sacrifice the altar of God and the offerer himself were polluted, grew out of the truth which Malachi here in most convincing language represents to the priests, that defective offerings betray a defective disposition, a want of reverence for the Holy God. In the New Covenant, where all sacrificial worship has ended, this rebuke applies to all divided service of God, to all half Christianity, and to all those Christians, who, not influenced by reverence of the Holy One, and by earnestness in sanctification, think to discharge their Christian duty by certain ceremonies or good works. Where this is the case with ministers of the Gospel there Isaiah, as in the case of the Priests, double guilt, partly because they preach what they themselves do not practice, and partly, because they thereby cause a special scandal. The motives of the majesty of God, the example of the first priests, and the dignity of their calling to be a messenger of Jehovah, apply with no less force to those under the New Covenant. These arguments will have little effect, where personal thankfulness to God for his great love to us in Christ, and concern for our salvation through Him are wanting, but where they animate ministers of the Gospel, they must urge them to fulfill more truly and actively their high calling.

HOMILETICAL REMARKS BY PRESSEL

The close connection of the first and fourth commandments. He only, who has a lively sense of the presence of his God and Father, will honor and obey the fourth commandment, and he only, who knows what an earthly Lord and Father must require of his own, will feel himself impelled to obey the first commandment. In what way can we now pollute the table of the Lord? (1.) In the Sacrament, when we ourselves partake of it unworthily, or do not enough arouse the consciences of others. (2.) In life, when we allow in ourselves or in others committed to us, a half-way devotedness to the Lord.

How far does the seventh verse apply to a minister of the Gospel? He is still a Priest, so far as he should point to the sacrifice on Golgotha, and should bear his Church upon his interceding heart, and should bless them in the name of Jesus Christ. He is still a messenger of God to those committed to him, and should preserve his Word in the Church, should teach young and old out of it, and should testify fearlessly and faithfully what the Lord bids him testify.

Footnotes

FN#7 - Malachi 1:6.—יְכַבֵּד is not to be understood as Jussive, in the sense of a should honor, but as a future of custom or usage. The suffix in כְּבוֹדִי, my honor, is objective, as in Genesis 9:2; Exodus 20:17; Psalm 90:11.

FN#8 - Malachi 1:7.—The first clause is the answer to the last clause of Malachi 1:6 מַנִּיש is used in Malachi 2:12; Malachi 3:3, and in Leviticus 2:8, Amos 5:25, of offering. קַרב, used in Malachi 1:8 : Offer it now to thy governor, is the more common word for offering.

FN#9 - Malachi 1:8.—No question. This greatly weakens its force.

FN#10 - Malachi 1:9.—Means (Hebrew יָד, hand.)

FN#11 - Malachi 1:10.—מִכֶּם, not causal, but emphatic, and partitive.

FN#12 - Malachi 1:10.—Who is there, etc, for: O, that there were! For the Hebrew idiom, expressing a wish, see Psalm 4:7; 2 Samuel 15:4; 2 Samuel 23:15; Job 29:23.

FN#13 - Malachi 1:10.—הִנָּם, to no purpose, not gratis.

FN#14 - Malachi 1:13.—גָזוּל, stolen, not torn.

FN#15 - Malachi 1:13.—מַתְּלָאָה for מה־תְּלָאה.

FN#16 - Malachi 1:14.—מָשְׁחַת. Fem. Part. Hophal. The old versions, and many modern commentators, punctuate it with a final Kamets, as masculine. It occurs in this form in Proverbs 25:26. It corresponds to זַכָר, male.

FN#17 - Malachi 2:1.—מִצְוָה, sentence.

FN#18 - Malachi 2:3.—גָרַו. This verb, translated “corrupt,” occurs twelve times elsewhere, and is always translated: rebuke.

FN#19 - Malachi 2:3.—לָכֶם. Dative of disadvantage.

FN#20 - Malachi 2:8.—שָׁתַת, to make void.

FN#21 - Malachi 2:9.—כְּפִי, because (De Wette, dafür) (Köhler, Dieweil).

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Malachi 1:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/malachi-1.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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