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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Malachi 3

 

 

Verse 1

Malachi 3:1. Behold, &c. — To silence the cavils of unbelievers, spoken of in the last verse of the preceding chapter, the prophet here foretels the coming of the Messiah, who should set things in order; and of his harbinger, who should prepare men for his reception. I will send my messenger — It is God who speaks here, for John the Baptist, who is here intended, was God’s messenger, and had his commission from heaven and not of men, Matthew 21:25-26; being sent by the same divine authority by which the prophets were sent, and for the same purposes, namely, to call men to repentance and reformation; and he shall prepare the way before me — Before Jehovah, the fulness of whose Godhead dwelt in Christ bodily. Whoever compares this verse with Isaiah 40:3, &c., will easily see that both passages speak of the same person. The messenger here spoken of as sent to prepare the way before the Lord, who is described as coming immediately after this his forerunner, is represented in Isaiah as preparing the way of the Lord, who is spoken of as coming, and his glory as just ready to be revealed, Malachi 3:5-9. Both passages, according to the evangelists, were intended of John the Baptist, and indeed are applicable to no other person whatever. He is promised under the name of Elias in the following chapter, whom all the Jews, both ancient and modern, expected should come as the forerunner of the Messiah. This messenger, or prophet, (see the note on chap. Malachi 2:7,) here represented as the Lord’s harbinger, was to be as much inferior to the Lord himself, as servants are to a great person, of whose arrival they give notice. This John himself often confessed, Matthew 3:11; John 1:26; John 3:28; and so much appears by the following words. Instead of the reading here, which is the literal translation of the Hebrew, we read in three places of the New Testament, (see the margin,) I send my messenger before thy face to prepare thy way before thee, namely, before the Messiah, to prepare his way before him; the Messiah acting in the name of his Father, the Father being in him and he in the Father, John 14:10-11. John prepared the way of Christ by calling men to the practice of those duties which would qualify them for the reception of the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom; and by taking them off from all confidence in their relation to Abraham as their father, which they thought would ensure the favour of God to them without a Saviour; and by giving them notice that the Messiah was now at hand, and so raising their expectation of him that they might readily enter into his measures for the setting up of his kingdom in the world.

And the Lord, whom ye seek — That promised Lord or Shiloh, of whom you have such great expectations, and whose coming you so much desire; and who, if you obey him, will bring the greatest good to your state, and will also make foreign nations partakers of your blessings; shall suddenly come — That is, soon after the messenger, or unawares, as Christ’s first coming was, and second will be; to his temple — The second temple at Jerusalem, lately built by Zerubbabel and Joshua. All the Jews, before the birth of Christ, firmly believed that the Messiah was to come into that very temple, according to what the Prophet Haggai had expressly declared, Haggai 2:8. The word here rendered Lord, אדון, is the same that is used by David, Psalms 110:1, where he calls the Messiah his Lord, and properly means a basis, or foundation, and also a proprietor, and governor. It is a term peculiarly proper to Christ, who is at once the foundation and governor of his church, and was the Lord of that temple in which he was to make his appearance. Even the messenger [or angel] of the covenant — A phrase, says Secker, found nowhere else in Scripture. “It may mean the person by whose intervention the covenant is made, or by whom a covenant proposed by one party is sent to the other.” The same person is meant who is termed the angel of God’s presence, Isaiah 63:9; who delivered the law upon mount Sinai, as St. Stephen speaks, Acts 7:38, and as the apostle’s words imply, Hebrews 12:25-26. He is both the revealer and mediator of the new covenant, which the prophets foretold would take place under the Messiah, Jeremiah 31:31; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 55:3; even that blessed one that was sent from heaven to negotiate a peace and settle a correspondence between God and man; commissioned from his Father to bring man home to God by a covenant of grace, who had revolted from him by the violation of the covenant of innocence. By his mediation this covenant is procured and established; and though he is the prince of the covenant, as some read the clause here, yet he condescended to be the messenger of it, that we might, upon his word, have the fullest assurance of God’s goodwill to man. Whom ye delight in Whose coming ye so much desire, the time of it being the subject of your earnest inquiry and diligent search, and the expectation of it your comfort and delight. Behold, he shall come — The promise is repeated, and that in the name of the Lord of hosts, to give the fullest assurance of its accomplishment. There were few among the Jews who did not please themselves to think of the Messiah’s coming, though from various motives; the pious among them doubtless expecting spiritual blessings, such as a further revelation of God’s will, and larger communications of his grace and Spirit; but the great bulk of the nation looking for mere worldly advantages under a temporal kingdom, which they expected he would set up.


Verse 2

Malachi 3:2. But who may abide the day of his coming — The LXX. read, τις υωομενει ημεραν εισοδου αυτου, who shall be able to bear the day of his coming? So also the Chaldee. “Quare hoc?” “Why this?” says Grotius: “Because he himself shall bear the cross, that he may come to the kingdom, and shall show the same way to his followers.” The day of his coming, with respect to the Jews, includes all the time from the beginning of his preaching, to the total destruction of their temple and city by the Romans: and his coming, here and in several other places, comprehends all the effects and consequences of his coming, as well the judgments which arose from it to the disobedient, as the mercy that flowed from it to the obedient. So that the meaning of the question is, Who shall be able to stand under the weight of those trials and tribulations which at that time will fall on all sorts of men? great crosses being to be borne by the believing and pious, and great calamities to be endured by the unbelieving and refractory. In the same light John the Baptist represents the effects of Christ’s coming, Matthew 3:7-12, Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? meaning, primarily, the wrath about to come on that rebellious people: whose fan, he adds, is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. For he is like a refiner’s fire — As if he had said, Some men are like metals, mixed with much dross, which nothing but a fierce fire can purge away. Such a fire shall the troubles of these days be. The divine judgments are often called a fiery trial, such as separates the pure metal from the dross, purifying the former and consuming the latter. See Isaiah 1:25; Isaiah 4:4; Zechariah 13:9. Our Lord is to be understood in the same sense, Luke 12:49, where he says, I am come to send fire upon the earth, namely, a fire of trial and purgation, to try and purify the hearts and reins of men, and find out and separate the good from the bad; like as the refiner’s fire makes the dross of the metal to appear and fly off. And like fuller’s soap — The word ברית, here rendered soap, and Jeremiah 2:22, according to St. Jerome, was an herb growing in Palestine, which the fullers used to take spots out of clothes,


Verse 3-4

Malachi 3:3-4. And he shall sit as a refiner — He shall be diligently employed in his office, in performing which he shall resemble a refiner and purifier of silver. And he shall purify the sons of Levi — And whereas the misconduct of the sons of Levi has been very great, (particularly of those who have been taken notice of and reproved in the foregoing chapters,) the Messiah when he comes will reform these abuses, and purify the worship of God from such corruptions. And purge them as gold and silver — The effect of this fiery trial, and purifying furnace, shall be the thorough cleansing of the persons that are to pass through it. Not all the sons of Levi, says Houbigant, “for the similitude is taken from gold and silver, which being purified there remains some dross behind. So it happened after the ministration of Jesus Christ: a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith, Acts 6:7. Of the other sons of Levi, who did not believe in Christ, it is just before said, Who may abide the day of his coming, when, the metal being purified, he will cast the dross into the fire.” But those who should minister in holy things in the Christian Church, instead of the Levitical priests, are chiefly intended: or rather, all real Christians, who are made a holy priesthood, and who, with hearts and minds purified by faith, offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:5; yea, who even offer themselves, their souls and bodies, their faculties and members, their time and talents, all they are and have, unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem — The services and duties of the Christian ministry, and of the whole Christian Church; be pleasant unto the Lord — Acceptable and even well pleasing to him. The prophet describes the Christian worship, and the various services of the Christian Church, and of its true members, by expressions taken from the Jewish service, being that with which they were acquainted; as in the days of old — As in the purest ages of the patriarchal or Mosaic dispensation, or, as in the times of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, David.


Verse 5

Malachi 3:5. And I will come near to you to judgment — In answer to their demand, Where is the God of judgment? Malachi 2:17, God here tells them that he will hasten the time of judgment, and it shall come speedily upon them, on account of those sins that were general among them: and that if they did not repent, and reform their conduct upon the preaching of the gospel by the forerunner of the Messiah, the Messiah himself, and his apostles and other servants, he would proceed to the utter excision of their nation. And I will be a swift witness, &c. — It belongs to God alone to be both witness and judge; for he alone seeth all the actions of men, and needeth not that any should testify against them, because he can himself convict them of their guilt, as having been present and looking on when their most secret sins were committed. Against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, &c. — The sins enumerated in this verse were very prevalent in Malachi’s time. Diviners, dreamers, and such as consulted oracles at the idols’ temples, are reproved, Zechariah 10:2; as are the false pretenders to prophecy, Nehemiah 6:12-14. False swearing and oppression are complained of, Zechariah 5:4; Nehemiah 5:3, &c. Their marrying strange women, and putting away their former wives to make room for them, was no better than adultery, and a breach of that solemn oath with which they had bound themselves, Nehemiah 10:29-30. And the same sins seem to have been commonly practised before and at the time of Christ’s appearance, till the destruction of Jerusalem. No nation was more given to charms, divinations, and fortune-telling, than the Jews were about that time, as Dr. Lightfoot has shown out of their own authors. Adulterers were then so common, that the Sanhedrim ordained that the trial of an adulteress, prescribed Numbers 5., should no longer be put in practice, as the same author observes out of the Talmud. Josephus informs us that magicians swarmed in Judea, under the government of Felix, and afterward. The denunciation here, that God would come near to judgment with all these, and be a swift witness against them, was fulfilled by that terrible destruction which was made of them by the Romans when Jerusalem was taken, and such havoc was made of the nation as never happened to any people before.


Verse 6

Malachi 3:6. I am the Lord — Hebrew, Jehovah; I change not — In my nature or perfections there is no change, or shadow of turning, and therefore I have and always must have an unchangeable hatred to all sin: and my long- suffering also changes not, and therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed — Are not destroyed and sent into eternal misery in your sins. God’s wisdom also changes not, but remains the same to dispense rewards to the good, and punishments to the wicked, in the fittest season, and therefore neither the one nor the other are consumed, but preserved to the time appointed of God. Or, the sense may be, Because I am the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, as my name Jehovah imports, and I am true to my former promises, (see Exodus 6:3-6,) therefore you still continue a people, and are not consumed, as your iniquities deserve. And I will still preserve a remnant of you to fulfil to them the promises I made to your fathers: see Romans 11:29.


Verse 7

Malachi 3:7. Even from the days of your fathers, &c. — Here the discourse is again addressed to the wicked, and from hence to the end of Malachi 3:12 the people are reprehended for slighting the institutions of divine worship, and for withholding the legal tithes and oblations; are assured that they are under a curse for these violations of the law, and that an opposite conduct would bring on them the divine blessing. Ye are gone away from mine ordinances — Those which directed you respecting my worship, or your dealings one with another. Return unto me — Namely, by repentance, and amendment of life; and I will return to you — I will pardon and accept you, and bestow my blessings upon you. But ye said — Or, ye say, Wherein shall we return? — You persist to justify yourselves, and inquire what it is you are to repent of? as if your crimes were not most notorious and shameful. And your words, or at least your actions, show that you have no sense of, nor remorse for, your former sins, nor any purpose of forsaking them.


Verse 8-9

Malachi 3:8-9. Will a man rob God — Grotius reads, “Would any one dare to rob his judges as ye have robbed me?” the word rendered God sometimes meaning judges or magistrates. Some others render the clause, Is it right that God should be robbed (or defrauded) by man? Here God gives them an answer to their question in the foregoing verse, Wherein shall we return; or, repent and amend? But ye have robbed me — Notwithstanding it is so unjust and presumptuous to defraud God, that men in general are afraid to do it, yet ye have done it. Do you ask, wherein you have robbed me? I answer, In tithes and offerings — By this seems to be meant the first-fruits of their ground and cattle, and other offerings which were allotted to the priests, Deuteronomy 18:4, out of which revenue they were to provide the daily sacrifices, and also maintain the Levites, who attended upon the service in the temple. Ye are cursed with a curse — Are greatly cursed, or, you lie under a heavy curse, and are likely still to do so, for the curse shall continue upon you while you continue in this your sinful course. For ye have robbed me, even this whole nation — This has not been the crime of a few only, but ye have in general defrauded me, and evil shall come upon you for it. In a note on Romans 2:22, where the apostle ranks sacrilege with idolatry, Grotius observes, “Non multum distat falsos deos colere et verum spoliare.” There is very little difference between adoring false gods and robbing the true God.


Verses 10-12

Malachi 3:10-12. Bring ye all the tithes — Make a punctual and full payment of all tithes: and in this instance make good your solemn engagement with Nehemiah, mentioned Nehemiah 10:29. Into the storehouse — This was one or more large rooms built on purpose for this use; that there may be meat — That there may be provision for the daily sacrifices, and for the maintenance of my ministers, the priests and Levites, who attend upon the service of my temple. And prove me now herewith — Make the experiment in this particular. If I will not open you the windows of heaven, &c. — There is now a scarcity of the fruits of the earth, and a dearth, but take the advice which I give you, and try whether your plenty will not be in proportion to the free-will wherewith you bring in your tithes and offerings; and whether I will not immediately send you plentiful showers of rain, whereby the earth shall bring forth its fruit in great abundance. The dearth here spoken of is mentioned Nehemiah 5:3 : compare 2 Chronicles 31:10. To open the windows of heaven is a proverbial speech, expressing God’s showering down plenty, or giving great abundance of the fruits of the earth; (see 2 Kings 7:2;) as shutting up heaven denotes scarcity, Deuteronomy 11:17; Haggai 1:10-11. And pour out a blessing — First of rain to water the earth, next a blessing of corn, wine, and oil, and all other products of the earth. That there shall not be room, &c. — Or, till there be enough; or, till you shall say, There is enough. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes — All kinds of devourers, the locusts, the canker-worms, the caterpillars, and all other destructive insects, which, though they may be in incredible multitudes, yet, by a rebuke from God, they will be checked all at once, as if they were but one insect. Neither shall your vine cast her fruit — Neither shall your vines, or other fruit-trees, be blasted by blighting winds, so as to make their fruit fall off before it comes to maturity, but they shall carry it till it be fully ripe. And all nations — All that are near you; shall call you blessed — Shall style you a happy people. For ye shall be a delightsome land — Your country shall be again known by the name of the pleasant land, as it was formerly called. The revival of religion in a land will make it delightsome both to God and all good men.


Verses 13-15

Malachi 3:13-15. Your words, &c. — “From this verse to the end of Malachi 4:3, the prophet expostulates with the wicked for their hard speeches; and declares that God will make a fearful distinction between them and the righteous.” — Newcome. Have been stout against me — Your words have been blasphemous, and void of all reverence and duty. Ye have spoken injuriously of me, and have uttered such things as dishonour me. Ye have even arraigned my proceedings, and spoken against them. Yet ye say, What have we spoken, &c. — This is to the same purport as their words in Malachi 3:8, and some other foregoing verses. They impudently deny the charge, therefore the prophet renews it against them in the following words; Ye have said — If not with your lips, yet at least in your hearts; It is vain to serve God — We receive no advantage from it, it is of no use to us. That they should talk thus impiously in the times of Zerubbabel, when Malachi uttered these reproofs and exhortations, is not probable; but God, who sees into the hearts of men, saw, lurking in their hearts, the seeds of that impiety which broke out in the following age. And what profit is it — What benefit is it of to us; that we have kept his ordinance — That we have attended upon the institutions of his worship, and have governed our lives according to his laws? And that we have walked mournfully before the Lord — Have humbled ourselves before him with fasting and prayer, sackcloth and ashes. Their beholding the prosperity of the wicked made them conclude, that it was to no purpose to walk according to the laws of God, or to confess their offences and express their sorrow for them. And, or rather, but, or therefore, now we call the proud happy — Those who behave themselves arrogantly against God, the proud contemners of his law. We can now do no less than think them happiest who do not concern themselves about the observance of God’s laws, but live according to their pleasure, and do every thing that their inclination or profit prompts them to do, without any fear of God’s calling them to an account for it. Yea, they that work wickedness are set up — Are the flourishing ones; are raised to prosperity, as buildings are to their height. Yea, they that tempt God are even delivered — Yea, they who, one would have supposed, should have wearied out God’s patience with their provocations, who have seemed to act as if they tried to provoke him, even these men escape those dangers and calamities which other men are involved in. Those who spake thus seem to have expected an exact distribution of temporal rewards and punishments to be made to good and bad men in this life.


Verse 16-17

Malachi 3:16-17. Then — When contempt of God was grown to such a height; they that feared the Lord — Those that were truly religious, that knew God’s judgments to be a great deep, and that his ways are as high above our ways as heaven is above the earth; spake often one to another — Conversed together about spiritual things the more frequently: for though it is not said what was the subject of their conversation with each other, yet we have reason to believe it was as good concerning God and his providence as the discourse of the wicked was evil. They spake what was right concerning God’s justice and mercy, his holiness, forbearance, and long-suffering, his wisdom and equity in his government of the world in general, and of his church and the members of it in particular. And by their pious discourse they endeavoured to arm each other against the impressions which such wicked suggestions as those above mentioned might otherwise have made upon their minds; and to confirm one another in piety and virtue. And the Lord hearkened and heard — Took a special notice of what these pious persons did and said. And a book of remembrance was written — It was as safely laid up in his memory as if it had been entered into a register, in order to be produced at the day of judgment to their praise and honour: see the margin. The words are a beautiful allusion to the records kept by kings, Esther 6:1. And they shall be mine — It shall appear how dear they are to me, when the time comes in which I shall separate the precious from the vile, the vessels of honour from those of dishonour, 2 Timothy 2:20. In the day of the execution of my judgments they shall be distinguished and preserved safe, as choice jewels are wont to be. And I will spare them as a man spareth his own son, &c. — They shall be spared, pitied, and loved, and I will preserve them from those calamities which shall fall upon the wicked and unbelieving, with the same tenderness which a father shows to a dutiful son. The period especially referred to may be the Roman war under Titus. When God should utterly cut off the Jewish Church and nation for their infidelity, the remnant among them, that should be found to believe his word, and having waited for the Messiah, the consolation of Israel, should welcome him when he came; these, being admitted into the Christian Church, should become a peculiar people to God, and God would take care of them, that they should not perish with the unbelievers, but that they should be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger against that nation. These pious ones should have all the glorious privileges of God’s Israel appropriated to them, and centring in them. They should be a peculiar treasure unto him, when the rest were rejected; should be vessels of mercy and honour when the rest should be made vessels of wrath and dishonour. This, however, is very applicable to all the faithful people of God, and the distinction he will put between them and others, in the great day of final accounts.


Verse 18

Malachi 3:18. Then shall ye — Ye contemners of God and religion; return and discern — See clearly, and distinguish perfectly; between the righteous and the wicked — Between the characters and the portion of the truly righteous, and of those who are not so. How different the lot is, and to all eternity will be, between the former and the latter; between him that serveth God — And makes conscience of his duty to him, and him that serveth him not — But puts contempt upon his service. You that now speak against God, as making no difference between the good and bad, and therefore say, It is vain to serve him, Malachi 3:14, you shall be made to see your error: and you that speak for God, but know not what to say to this, that there seems to be one event to the righteous and the wicked, and that all things come alike to all, will then have the matter set in a true light, and will see to your everlasting satisfaction the difference between the holy and the profane, the godly and the ungodly. Then shall ye return — That is, change your minds, and come to a right understanding of this most important matter. For then every man’s character will be both perfected and perfectly discovered; and every man appear in his true colours; and every man’s condition, likewise, will be both perfectly happy or miserable, without mixture or alloy, and everlastingly determined.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Malachi 3:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/malachi-3.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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