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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Malachi 2

 

 

Verses 1-16

Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:16. Israel's Disregard of this Love.—This section falls into two parts, one dealing with the priesthood (Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:9), the other with the people (Malachi 2:10-16). Yahweh has not received the honour due to a father from a son, or to a master from a servant. The priests (note the sudden application, Malachi 1:6) have brought His service into contempt by offering polluted "bread" (an archaic expression for sacrificial flesh) upon His altar. They bring imperfect and inferior animals which were forbidden by the Law (Leviticus 22:20-24) and which they would not think of offering to their Persian governor. They see no harm in this—(ye say) "it is nothing serious" (Malachi 1:8)—but the prophet ironically asks them whether they think God will "accept their persons," i.e. receive them favourably (Heb. "lift up the face" of a suppliant). They might as well shut the Temple doors and cease from the task of offering these unworthy and unpalatable sacrifices. Yahweh prefers the religious earnestness of the Gentiles to the insincerity of Israel. Malachi 1:11 is not a prediction (as AV and mg.) but a contrast (cf. Malachi 1:14) existing in Malachi's own time; perhaps he had come into contact with the comparatively pure "heathenism" of the Persians. His remark is an anticipation of Peter's word in Acts 10:35. The expression my name need not be forced so as to presuppose a Divine revelation and to refer to the Jews of the Diaspora as being more mindful of Yahweh "among the heathen" than their lax compatriots were at Jerusalem. This would involve our interpreting "incense" and "offering" in the sense of prayer and praise. Nor need we with early Christian writers like Justin (Trypho, § 41) and Irenæus (IV. xvii. 5) see here a prediction of the Eucharist. Malachi's point is that among the Gentiles there were monotheists, and that when offerings were presented to God as One, they were accepted by Yahweh as presented to Him. In contrast to their earnestness the priests of Israel not only offer unworthy gifts, but regard the service of the sanctuary as a bore, a mere wearisome routine. They "snuff at," i.e. sniff at or despise the altar (Malachi 1:13; cf. Psalms 10:5, Haggai 1:9). The laity are included (Malachi 1:14) in the charge of disrespect amounting to deceit—a man vows a valuable male animal and then redeems his vow by offering an inferior or blemished beast. Malachi 2:1-9 turns again to the priests and shows how unworthy they are as descendants of Levi, whose covenant fear of God had issued in faithful and reverent service (Malachi 2:6). Unless a speedy and thorough reformation is forthcoming, Yahweh will send His curse upon them and openly disgrace them; nay, this retribution is so certainly determined that it may be regarded as already brought about (Malachi 2:9).

Malachi 2:3. I will rebuke your seed: i.e. make your field unfruitful. But as priests were not tillers of the soil we may, changing the Heb. vowel points, read with LXX "rebuke your arm" (mg.). A further slight change yields "hew off your arm" (cf. 1 Samuel 2:31); in any case their functions and authority are threatened. The following words threaten a greater indignity For "sacrifices" read "pilgrimages" (Exodus 23:14-17).

Malachi 2:4. that my covenant might be with Levi: that my covenant with the tribe of Levi might stand firm. As in Malachi 3:3 so here and in Malachi 2:8, Malachi has in view the wider connotation of the term "Levite" as used in Dt., according to which every member of the tribe, ipso facto, possessed priestly rights. The narrower sense is found in P, which rigidly limits the priesthood to the descendants of Aaron and makes the Levites a subordinate order.

Malachi 2:5. Read with Driver, "My covenant was with him: life and peace, and I gave them unto him; fear, and he feared me." Yahweh gives His priests welfare and prosperity, they in turn give Him reverence.

Malachi 2:6. The law of truth: sound oral counsel on matters of religion. So in Malachi 2:7—the true priest is skilled in the knowledge of the Law on its ethical and ceremonial sides (cf. the Blessing on Levi in Deuteronomy 33:8-11).

Malachi 2:9. base: abased, humiliated.—but have had respect of persons: apparently the priests had been open to bribery (cf. Micah 3:11), but perhaps we ought to read, "nor respect me."


Verses 10-16

Malachi 2:10-16. Israel further repudiates Yahweh's love by the common practice of the divorce of native wives (Malachi 2:10, Malachi 2:13-16) in order to marry foreign women (Malachi 2:11, cf. Ezra 9 f., Nehemiah 13:23 ff.). Such conduct violates the bond existing between the children of the All-Father, and profanes the covenant by which Yahweh separated Israel to Himself from other peoples. The words "in Israel and in Jerusalem" are glosses. The treachery is towards Yahweh; "strange," i.e. foreign, marriages imply foreign cults, and Yahweh's holiness, or holy thing (i.e. Israel itself) or Yahweh's sanctuary (mg.) is profaned by such sins. May such offenders (the Heb. of Malachi 2:12 has an optative force) be stripped of all friends and supporters; "him that waketh" (i.e. a watchman or sentry) "and him that answereth" is a proverbial expression (cf. 1 Kings 21:21) meaning everyone. Or we may with a slight vowel change follow LXX and read, "witness and answerer" (cf. Job 13:22)—may hebe legally outcast. This suits the next clause—may he be spiritually outcast, with no one to offer a sacrifice for him. The tears of Malachi 2:13 will be those of the divorced wives, though some authorities instead of insomuch read, "because," in which case the tears are those of the people who have been visited by some token of Divine displeasure. They ask Wherefore (Malachi 2:14) does not Yahweh accept our offerings?—thy companion, i.e., a fellow-member of thy tribe.—thy covenant may mean either the marriage contract or the covenant between Israel and Yahweh.

Malachi 2:15 a is difficult and probably corrupt. We may omit the interpretation which makes "the one" refer to Abraham. RV means that though God could have made as many men as He liked, He made one only because the godly seed which He sought could only be secured by the union of a single human pair: mg. means that no man who had a particle of the spirit of God (or of reason, moral sense) has ever faithlessly put away his wife. A man who seeks godly children is thereby stayed divorcing his partner. With slight emendations (Wellhausen, Nowack) read, "Hath not one God made and preserved to us the spirit (of life)? And what doth the One seek? A seed of God" (i.e. children; cf. Psalms 127:3). This means that when our wives bear us children we have fulfilled Yahweh's purpose and our own: we may not discard our wives because they are no longer fresh and fair. The Hebrews married early.—to your spirit (Malachi 2:15 b and Malachi 2:16 b) is rather "in your mind."—that covereth his garment with violence: there seems some allusion here to the primitive custom by which to throw one's garment over a woman was to claim her as a wife (Ezekiel 16:8, Ruth 3:9). The Kor'an speaks of a wife as a husband's garment and vice versa. The whole passage (Malachi 2:10-16) is the most outspoken condemnation of divorce in OT it is intermediate between Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and the teaching of Jesus (Mark 10:2-12).


Verse 17

Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 3:6. The Coming of Judgment.—This passage is addressed to those of the prophet's contemporaries who were so perplexed by the state of things around them that they had become sceptical of God's justice. The times were out of joint, prosperity was the lot of the wicked instead of the righteous. Their querulousness became a burden to Yahweh, so that He announces His immediate intervention; the day of Yahweh, long regarded as the panacea for all Israel's ills, is about to dawn. Malachi, like Amos (Amos 5:18) and other prophets, stamps the popular conception with an ethical value. Yahweh is even now sending His forerunner, possibly to be identified with Elijah (Malachi 4:5) but probably more like "Yahweh's angel" so often mentioned in the historical books, who is often almost one with Yahweh Himself. So here "the Lord . . . even (mg.) the messenger." Perhaps we should distinguish between "my messenger" and "the messenger of the covenant." The phrases whom ye seek (cf. Malachi 2:17, Where is the God of judgment?) and whom ye delight in (or desire) are parallel. The Gospels (Matthew 11:10 = Luke 7:27, Mark 1:2) cite Malachi 3:1 a in reference to John the Baptist. The judgment is to be a time of purifying and cleansing—like a fierce crucible in which the silver is separated from the base elements of the alloy. By "soap" is meant lye, water alkalised by vegetable ashes. The judgment will begin by purging (lit. straining) the corrupt priesthood, and be effective (Malachi 3:3 f); it will then pass on to attack evildoers of different kinds among the people. It is a mission of cleansing, not of destruction (cf. Jeremiah 30:11); Yahweh's love of the house of Jacob (cf. Malachi 1:2 f.) is unchanging.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Malachi 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/malachi-2.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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