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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Malachi 2

 

 

Verses 1-9

3. THE PRIESTHOOD OF KNOWLEDGE

Malachi 2:1-9

In the third section of his book "Malachi" addresses himself to the priests. He charges them not only with irreverence and slovenliness in their discharge of the Temple service-for this he appears to intend by the phrase "filth of your feasts"-but with the neglect of their intellectual duties to the people. "The lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the Angel" the revealing Angel-"of Jehovah of Hosts." Once more, what a remarkable saying to come from the legal age of Israel’s religion, and from a writer who so emphasizes the ceremonial law! In all the range of prophecy there is not any more in harmony with the prophetic ideal. How needed it is in our own age!-needed against those two extremes of religion from which we suffer, the limitation of the ideal of priesthood to the communication of a magic grace, and its evaporation in a vague religiosity from which the intellect is excluded as if it were perilous, worldly, and devilish. "Surrender of the intellect" indeed! This is the burial of the talent in the napkin, and, as in the parable of Christ, it is still in our day preached and practiced by the men of one talent. Religion needs all the brains we poor mortals can put into it. There is a priesthood of knowledge, a priesthood of the intellect, says "Malachi," and he makes this a large part of God’s covenant with Levi. Every priest of God is a priest of truth; and it is very largely by the Christian ministry’s neglect of their intellectual duties that so much irreligion prevails. As in "Malachi’s" day, so now, "the laity take hurt and hindrance by our negligence." And just as he points out, so with ourselves, the consequence is the growing indifference with which large bodies of the Christian ministry are regarded by the thoughtful portions both of our laboring and professional classes. Were the ministers of all the Churches to awake to their ideal in this matter, there would surely come a very great revival of religion among us. "And now this Charge for you, O priests: If ye hear not, and lay not to heart to give glory to My Name, saith Jehovah of Hosts, I will send upon you the curse, and will curse your blessings-yea, I have cursed them-for none of you layeth it to heart. Behold, I you and I will scatter filth in your faces, the filth of your feasts And ye shall know that I have sent to you this Charge, to be My covenant with Levi, saith Jehovah of Hosts. My covenant was with him life and peace [Numbers 25:12] and I gave them to him, fear and he feared Me, and humbled himself before My Name. The revelation of truth was in his mouth, and wickedness’ was not found upon his lips. In whole-heartedness and integrity he walked with Me, and turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the Angel of Jehovah of Hosts. But ye have turned from the way, ye have tripped up many by the Torah, ye have spoiled the covenant of Levi, saith Jehovah of Hosts. And I on My part have made you contemptible to all the people, and abased in proportion as Ye kept not My ways and had respect of persons in delivering your Torah."


Verses 1-17

; Malachi 2:1-17; Malachi 3:1-18; Malachi 4:1-6

PROPHECY WITHIN THE LAW

"MALACHI" 1-4

BENEATH this title we may gather all the eight sections of the Book of "Malachi." They contain many things of perennial interest and validity: their truth is applicable, their music is still musical, to ourselves. But their chief significance is historical. They illustrate the development of prophecy within the Law. Not under the Law, be it observed. For if one thing be more clear than another about "Malachi’s" teaching, it is that the spirit of prophecy is not yet crushed by the legalism which finally killed it within Israel. "Malachi" observes and enforces the demands of the Deuteronomic law under which his people had lived since the Return from Exile. But he traces each of these to some spiritual principle, to some essential of religion in the character of Israel’s God, which is either doubted or neglected by his contemporaries in their lax performance of the Law. That is why we may entitle his book Prophecy within the Law, The essential principles of the religion of Israel which had been shaken or obscured by the delinquency of the people during the half-century after the rebuilding of the Temple were three-the distinctive Love of Jehovah for His people, His Holiness, and His Righteousness. The Book of "Malachi" takes up each of these in turn, and proves or enforces it according as the people have formally doubted it or in their carelessness done it despite.


Verses 10-17

4. THE CRUELTY OF DIVORCE

Malachi 2:10-17

In his fourth section, upon his countrymen’s frequent divorce of their native wives in order to marry into the influential families of their half-heathen neighbors, "Malachi" makes another of those wide and spiritual utterances which so distinguish his prophecy and redeem his age from the charge of legalism that is so often brought against it. To him the Fatherhood of God is not merely a relation of power and authority, requiring reverence from the nation. It constitutes the members of the nation one close brotherhood, and against this divorce is a crime and unnatural cruelty. Jehovah makes the "wife of a man’s youth his mate" for life "and his wife by covenant." He "hates divorce," and His altar is so wetted by the tears of the wronged women of Israel that the gifts upon it are no more acceptable in His sight. No higher word on marriage was spoken except by Christ Himself. It breathes the spirit of our Lord’s utterance: if we were sure of the text of Malachi 2:15, we might almost say that it anticipated the letter. Certain verses, Malachi 2:11-13 a, which disturb the argument by bringing in the marriages with heathen wives, are omitted in the following translation, and will be given separately.

"Hate we not all One Father? Hath not One God created us? Why then are we unfaithful to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Ye cover with tears the altar of Jehovah, with weeping and with groaning, because respect is no longer had to the offering, and acceptable gifts are not taken from your hands. And ye say, ‘Why?’ Because Jehovah has been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, with whom thou hast broken faith, though she is thy mate and thy wife by covenant. And what is the one seeking? A Divine Seed. Take heed, then, to your spirit, and be not unfaithful to the wife of thy youth. For I hate divorce, saith Jehovah, God of Israel, and that a man cover his clothing with cruelty, saith Jehovah of Hosts. So take heed to your spirit, and deal not faithlessly."

The verses omitted in the above translation treat of the foreign marriages, which led to this frequent divorce by the Jews of their native wives. So far, of course, they are relevant to the subject of the passage. But they obviously disturb its argument, as already pointed out. They have nothing to do with the principle from which it starts that Jehovah is the Father of the whole of Israel. Remove them and the awkward clause in Malachi 2:13 a, by which some editor has tried to connect them with the rest of the paragraph, and the latter runs smoothly. The motive of their later addition is apparent, if not justifiable. Here they are by themselves:-

"Judah was fruitless, and abomination was practiced in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah hath defiled the sanctuary of Jehovah, which was dear to Him, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. May Jehovah cut off from the man who doeth this witness and champion from the tents of Jacob, and offerer of sacrifices to Jehovah of Hosts."


Verse 17

5. "WHERE IS THE GOD OF JUDGMENT?"

Malachi 2:17; Malachi 3:1-5

In this section "Malachi" turns from the sinners of his people to those who weary Jehovah with the complaint that sin is successful, or, as they put it, "Every one that does evil is good in the eyes of Jehovah, and He delighteth in them"; and again, "Where is the God of Judgment?" The answer is, The Lord Himself shall come. His Angel shall prepare His way before Him, and suddenly shall the Lord come to His Temple. His coming shall be for judgment, terrible and searching. Its first object (note the order) shall be the cleansing of the priesthood, that proper sacrifices may be established, and its second the purging of the immorality of the people. Mark that although the coming of the Angel is said to precede that of Jehovah Himself, there is the same blending of the two as we have seen in previous accounts of angels. It is uncertain whether this section closes with Malachi 3:5 or Malachi 3:6 : the latter goes equally well with it and with the following section.

"Ye have wearied Jehovah with your words; and ye say, ‘In what have we wearied Him?’ In that ye say, ‘Every one that does evil is good in the eyes of Jehovah, and He delighteth in them’; or else, Where is the God of Judgment?’ Behold, I will send My Angel, to prepare the way before Me, and suddenly shall come to His Temple the Lord whom ye seek and the Angel of the Covenant whom ye desire. Behold, He comes! saith Jehovah of Hosts. But who may bear the day of His coming, and who stand when He appears? For He is like the fire of the smelter and the acid of the fullers. He takes His seat to smelt and to purge; and He will purge the sons of Levi, and wash them out like gold or silver, and they shall be to Jehovah bringers of an offering in righteousness. And the offering of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasing to Jehovah, as in the days of old and as in long past years. And I will come near you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and the adulterers and the perjurers, and against those who wrong the hireling in his wage, and the widow and the orphan, and oppress the stranger, and fear not Me, saith Jehovah of Hosts."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Malachi 2:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/malachi-2.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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