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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Malachi 2

 

 

Verses 1-4

Malachi 2:1-4. O ye priests, this commandment is for you — Or decree, rather, for properly speaking no commandment is here given to the priests, only punishment is denounced upon them if they did not repent. If ye will not hear, &c., to give glory unto my name — Which you have despised and dishonoured, by your irreverent performance of my service, Malachi 1:6. I will send a curse upon you — I will send poverty and affliction upon you, and you shall not prosper in any thing. And I will curse your blessings I will turn your blessings into curses, or rather, remove your blessings and send curses and calamities in their stead; behold, I will corrupt your seed — The seed wherewith you sow your ground: I will cause it to rot so that it shall bring forth little or nothing. And spread dung upon your faces I will make you as contemptible and vile as if some one had covered your faces with filth and dung. And one shall take you away with it — You shall be cast out of the temple as so many nuisances, only fit to be removed out of sight. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you — By the punishment which will follow upon your neglecting to lay what hath been said to heart, and to give glory unto my name, as you are here enjoined: see Malachi 2:1-2. That my covenant might be with Levi —

That the covenant which I made with the tribe of Levi, that they should be mine, and employed in my service, might continue firm to their posterity. Some render the clause, Because my covenant was with Levi, for the breach of which you are accountable.


Verse 5-6

Malachi 2:5-6. My covenant was with him — The prophet here speaks of the succession of the ancient priests, such as Aaron, Eleazar, Phineas, and their successors, as of one single person, under the name of Levi, (see Zechariah 11:16,) and says, I gave him my covenant of life and peace, or of happiness and security; or I promised him a secure enjoyment of his office of the priesthood, on his due administration of his office before me. The words allude to Numbers 25:12-13, where God says concerning Phineas, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace, and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement, &c. Or, as it is here expressed, For the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name — Here God declares what was the foundation of the terms upon which he entered into this covenant with Phineas and his successors in the priesthood, namely, an awful reverence of him, and zeal for his honour and service. The law of truth, &c. — In this verse is described how Phineas and others, who were his successors in piety as well as in the priesthood, behaved in their office: and 1st, The law of truth was in his mouth — He taught the people that which was agreeable to the divine laws, that is, Aaron, Eleazar, Phineas did this; and every one of those priests or Levites, in whatever age they lived, who feared God and were obedient to him. 2d, Iniquity was not found in his lips — He neither lived himself in any known sin, nor did he mix any thing with the instructions he gave the people which was false, and calculated to mislead them, but declared to them the pure word of God, or the divine laws, without any false glosses or comments. The words may also mean, He judged, without respect of persons, in all the causes between man and man which came before him. 3d, He walked with me in peace and equity — He made my word the rule, and my glory the end of all his actions, and discharged his duty with fidelity and care, maintaining peace with me, and endeavouring to live peaceably with all men. And, 4th, Did turn many away from iniquity — He was not content with being pious and virtuous himself, but endeavoured, by his instructions and admonitions, to make others pious and virtuous.


Verses 7-9

Malachi 2:7-9. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge — Preserve and store up, so as to distribute it. It is his duty to understand the meaning of the law of God: and people ought to resort to him for instruction in any difficulty that arises concerning the sense of it. For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts — He is appointed to declare God’s will unto the people, and to enforce upon them obedience to it. But ye are departed out of the way — Ye act in a quite different manner from that which was the original design of your office, and which those observed who were first instituted into it. Ye have caused many to stumble at the law — You have either perverted the sense of the law, or encouraged others to break it by your bad example; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi — By your evil practices you have broken or rendered void that covenant: by your not performing that part of the covenant which the tribe of Levi was bound to perform, you have disengaged me from performing my part, or fulfilling those promises which I had engaged to make good to them on the performance of certain conditions on their side. Therefore have I also made — Or rather, will make, (a future event being evidently foretold,) you contemptible and base — The indignities which the priests were to receive in the times of Antiochus, seem to be here intended. According as ye have not kept my ways — Have not been careful to walk in them. But have been partial in the law — Or, accepted faces, or persons, in the law, as the Hebrew signifies, that is, have wrested the sense of the law in favour, or to please great men, or to serve some unworthy design of particular persons. When we inquire into “the reasons of the contempt of the clergy,” ought we to forget this?


Verse 10

Malachi 2:10. Have we not all one father? — Here a new section begins, wherein the prophet severely censures the intermarriages of Israelites with women of another country, which Moses had forbidden, Deuteronomy 7:3; and also divorces, which seem to have been multiplied for the purpose of contracting these prohibited marriages. The former of these evils was much practised in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s time, who expressed great detestation of it: Ezra 9:1; Nehemiah 13:23. The prophet begins his expostulation with putting them in mind that they were not only descended from one progenitor, Abraham, or Jacob, with whom God made the covenant by which their posterity were constituted a peculiar people; but they owned one God and Father, in opposition to the idols of the heathen, and therefore should deal with one another as brethren, being nearly allied by a spiritual as well as fleshly relation. Why do we deal treacherously, &c., profaning the covenant of our fathers? — By these marriages with strangers, we deal falsely and injuriously with our countrymen and brethren, by the ill treatment of their daughters or sisters, whom we took to marriage, (see Malachi 2:14,) and we violate that covenant which God made with our fathers, whereby he separated us from the rest of the world, and, in order to preserve that distinction, forbade us to intermarry with idolaters.


Verses 11-13

Malachi 2:11-13. Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved — As if he had said, “This sin,” says Lowth, “implies the profanation of God’s holy people, which he set apart for his own worship and service; a profanation of the temple, when the priests who officiated there were guilty of the same crime; (see Malachi 2:12;) and lastly, a profanation of that covenant God made with the Jews, Malachi 2:10; God hath expressed a tender regard for these three sorts of holiness, and threatened severe punishments to those that break the laws made to preserve them.” And hath married the daughter of a strange god — That is, one who worships a strange god. For as gods were called fathers by their worshippers, (Jeremiah 2:27,) therefore those who worshipped them might properly be called their children. The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this — Will take him away by death; the master and the scholar — Him that persuades and instructs others that these marriages are lawful, and him that follows such advice. The expression seems to comprehend both the priest and the people. The Hebrew is, he that wakes and he that answers. An instructer is described, (Isaiah 50:4,) as one that wakeneth the ear of his disciple. The meaning is, there shall be left neither any to teach nor any to learn. And him that offereth an offering — Although he should make great offerings, yet that would avail him nothing if he continued in his sin, and did not put away his strange wife. Perhaps this might be intended chiefly of the priests, many of whom were guilty of this crime. And this have ye done Or, “This also you have done: you have covered the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with groanings; so that no respect is now had to your offering, nor is any thing accepted from your hand. The priests not only had married strange wives, but also had divorced those of their own country whom they had married; with whose tears the altar was imbued, when these wives offered up their sacrifices to God, entreating him to give their husbands a better mind; whom God heard so effectually, that he would not accept the sacrifices of their husbands on account of the tears and just complaints of their wives.” — Houbigant. The complaints of the distressed, if made known to God in prayer, will be heard, and redress granted.


Verse 14-15

Malachi 2:14-15. Yet ye say, Wherefore — Ye will, perhaps, still inquire wherefore God regards not your offerings; if so, the answer is ready, namely, because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth — Because the Lord sees how you act toward your wives; that when you have enjoyed the flower of their youth, and they begin to grow old, you contemn them, and use them ill. Yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant — Yet didst thou thyself make choice of her to be thy companion through life; and didst enter into covenant or contract with her, to live with her in true love and affection. And did not he make one, &c. — “Among various interpretations of the words,” says Lowth, “this seems the most probable, that the prophet puts the Jews in mind of the first institution of marriage in paradise, (as Christ did afterward upon a like occasion, Matthew 19:5,) and tells them God made but one man at first, and made the woman out of him, when he could have created more women if he had pleased; to instruct men that this was the true pattern of marriage, ordained for true love and undivided affection, and best serving the chief end of matrimony, namely, the religious education of children, whereas in polygamy, the children are brought up with more or less care in proportion to the affection men bear to their wives.” Therefore take heed to your spirit — Do not give way to an inordinate and irregular passion.


Verse 16

Malachi 2:16. For the Lord God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away — He allowed the Jews liberty of divorce only for the hardness of their hearts, Matthew 19:8, not that it was a thing pleasing to him. For one covereth violence with his garment — Or, And when one puts violence upon his garment, or covers his garment with violence, as Dr. Pocock translates it, who hath given the clearest sense of this phrase, and showed, out of several eastern writers, that they usually call a wife by the name of a garment; the expression of Moses, Deuteronomy 22:30, agreeing with this way of speaking. According to this interpretation, the sense of the text will be, that God hates divorcing a former wife to take in one of a strange nation: and he hates that any should bring into his family an illegitimate wife, over and above one that he had legally married before.


Verse 17

Malachi 2:17. Ye have wearied the Lord with your words — You have tired his patience by your blasphemous speeches, charging his providence with injustice. Yet ye say — Ye persist to say; Wherein have we wearied him? — See on Malachi 1:6. When ye say — When your discourse and reasoning tend to overthrow (if it were possible) all piety and morality; while you affirm, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of God — A repetition of the old objection against providence, taken from the prosperity of the wicked, which implied, as they thought, either that their works were pleasing to God, or else that he disregarded human affairs, and would never call men to account for their actions; and he delighteth in them — As appears, said these atheists, by his prospering them. Or, Where is the God of judgment? — If he is in the world, judging and governing it, why does he not punish these men?

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Malachi 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/malachi-2.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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