Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

General Editor:—J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.

Dean of Peterborough.











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The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that may have been expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.

deanery, Peterborough.

The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible. A few variations from the ordinary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Introduction to the Paragraph Bible, published by the Cambridge University Press.



The Prophet And His Office

Of the latest of the Old Testament Prophets we know nothing, beyond such insight into his character as the study of his Book affords us. Even his name is of doubtful import. The simplest and most natural view, which regards Malachi as his personal appellation, is indeed the most probable. But from the meaning of the word, “my angel”, or “my messenger”, as Jerome renders it, and from the prominence given in this Book to the idea of “the Messenger of Jehovah”, some critics have concluded that Malachi is the official title, either of some unknown man or even of an angel[1], by whom these prophecies were delivered, or of Ezra, according to an ancient Jewish tradition[2], whose personal identity is thus, in a manner, lost in the office which he bears. Accepting Malachi, however, as properly the name of the prophet, we may not improbably regard it as an abbreviated form of Malachiah[3], “the messenger of Jehovah”, just as Abi is, we know, the equivalent of Abiah[4], and Uri[5] has been thought to be an abbreviation of Uriah.

[1] “Malachy, which is called the angel of the Lord,” 2Es 1:40. ἐν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ, Malachi 1:1 LXX.

[2] “Malachi autem Hebræi Ezram æstimant sacerdotem,” Jerome. The Targum also identifies him with Ezra.

[3] The LXX. have Μαλαχίας as the title of his Book.

[4] 2 Kings 18:2 with 2 Chronicles 29:1.

[5] Exodus 31:2; Ezra 10:24.

But we can hardly doubt that the prophet’s name, whether personal or official, conspicuous as it is by its very isolation and by the use made of it in the prophecy which it introduces, is intended to be significant. He who bears it is the last of “the goodly fellowship” of the Prophets of the Old Testament. He will tell us, by it, and by the absence of all information about himself besides it, what his office and theirs really is.

They had been known before by various significant titles—the Prophet[6], the Seer[7], the Gazer[8], (as it has been rendered)—during the long ages of preparation, in which Almighty God had employed them to instruct and correct His people, to unfold His purposes, and to reveal His will.

[6] נָבִיא 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 10:10-12; 2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 2:5; 2 Kings 2:7; 2 Kings 2:15. Comp. Genesis 20:7; Psalm 105:15.

[7] רֹאֶה 1 Samuel 9:9; 2 Chronicles 16:7; 2 Chronicles 16:10; Isaiah 30:10.

[8] חֹזֶה 1 Chronicles 21:9. Comp. Isaiah 1:1. The three names occur together 1 Chronicles 29:29.

Not however as Seer or as Prophet, but by a name unknown, in this application of it, to former ages, as Messenger of Jehovah, will this latest of the prophets proclaim his mission. It was as though in those last times of the earlier dispensation, when it was already “becoming old and waxing aged, and nigh unto vanishing away[9],” some communication with heaven, more direct and immediate than even that which the prophet had supplied, was recognised, alike in the need and in the expectation of the Church. Some one sent forth from God to man, was what man looked and longed for now. Haggai had already claimed for himself to be “the Lord’s messenger, speaking in the Lord’s message unto the people[10]”. Malachi takes up the word, and extends it to another great typical order, appointed to deal with men on God’s behalf by the performance of significant rites and by the oral exposition of the Law. “The priest’s lips”, he avers, “should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts[11].” For himself, and by implication for his own order, he accepts it unreservedly. “Jehovah’s messenger” is all that he cares to be known as, or to be. In that name of happy omen, at once personal and official, he merges his individuality and sums up his history. Looking forward to the next prophet to himself, who after four centuries should at once complete the old order and introduce the new, he has on him also no other title to bestow. “Behold,” the prediction runs, “I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me[12].” And He to Whom “bear all the prophets witness”, Who was in the highest sense “Sent”[13] by God, whose whole revelation is the one word Gospel or Good-message[14], is foreseen and foretold as appropriating to Himself in the highest and truest sense the same title: “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in[15].” “The eventful consummation to which he looks is the arrival, not of the Warrior-King or the Invisible Majesty of Heaven, but of the Messenger who should enforce the treaty which had been made of old time between God and His people, which had of late been renewed by Nehemiah[16].”

[9] Hebrews 8:13 R.V.

[10] Haggai 1:13; comp. Isaiah 44:26.

[11] Malachi 2:7; comp. Ecclesiastes 5:5, and see note there in this Series.

[12] Malachi 3:1.

[13] John 9:7; John 10:36.

[14] εὐαγγέλιον.

[15] Malachi 3:1; comp. Isaiah 42:19.

[16] Stanley, Jewish Church, iii. 145.


The Prophet’s Times

We are able to fix within well-defined limits the time at which Malachi lived and prophesied. That his place in the Canon is chronologically correct cannot reasonably be doubted. He is almost universally admitted to have been the last of the Old Testament prophets. That he lived after the Captivity is certain. That he was later than Haggai and Zechariah appears from the manner in which he refers to the Temple worship, as now fully restored and as an acknowledged and accustomed thing. The stern rebukes of Haggai and the heavy chastisements of Almighty God had descended upon the people, because through their irreligion and supineness the Lord’s House was not built[17]. The sharp reproofs of Malachi are called forth by the mercenary services and niggardly and unworthy offerings, by which the restored House and renewed worship of Jehovah are dishonoured[18].

[17] Haggai 1:4; Haggai 1:9; Haggai 2:15-19.

[18] Malachi 1:6-10; Malachi 1:12-14; Malachi 3:8-12.

Some have supposed that Malachi prophesied shortly before the Reformation of Ezra in 449 b.c.; as otherwise we might have expected him to refer directly or indirectly to that event. But a comparison of his prophecy with the Book of Nehemiah shows such a similarity in the circumstances by which they were surrounded, as warrants the conclusion that he is rather to be associated with that great Reformer. It has been truly said that “the last chapter of Canonical Jewish history is the key to the last chapter of its prophecy”. If Nehemiah complains, “They have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites”[19]; Malachi in almost identical words exclaims, “Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts”[20]. If the Governor sets himself unflinchingly to reform the abuses connected with the forbidden marriage of foreign and heathen wives, the Prophet unsparingly denounces the wrong done to the Jewish wives who were put away in order to make room for these unlawful alliances, and declares that Almighty God will not accept the offering placed upon an altar, which is bathed with the tears and surrounded by the lamentations of these injured and insulted women[21]. If the one exerts his authority to cause “the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil” to be brought into the treasuries of the Temple, the other lifts up his voice to pronounce in God’s name a curse upon those by whom they were withheld[22]. It is true that the name of Malachi does not occur, nor indeed does any reference to him, in the histories of Ezra and Nehemiah, though Haggai and Zechariah are distinctly mentioned in the record of the first Return. But the omission may be accounted for by supposing him to have been raised up a little later, to supplement the work of Nehemiah and to follow him, perhaps after a short interval, in reproving his countrymen for the same sins into which they were already relapsing. “And indeed”, as Ewald remarks, “it is no less important than consistent in itself that even the setting sun of the Old Testament days should still be reflected in a true prophet, and that the fair days of Ezra and Nehemiah should in him be glorified more nobly still.”

[19] Nehemiah 13:29.

[20] Malachi 2:8.

[21] Nehemiah 13:23-27 with Malachi 2:10-16.

[22] Nehemiah 13:10-12 with Malachi 3:8-12.


Style And Contents Of The Book

1. Style. The prophecy before us is eminently practical in its character. It is almost throughout minatory in tone. The dark page of the prophet’s roll, though illumined at its close by a gleam of the coming glory, is for the most part inscribed with denunciation and threatening and rebuke. And with these its contents the style of the Book accords. It is not wanting, however, in literary merit. It has elements both of grace and power. If he soars not to the sublime heights of Isaiah, nor unfolds the mystic visions of Ezekiel and Zechariah, the writer moves with firm and dignified tread along his humbler and more trodden path. He is concise and yet lucid; energetic and yet collected. There is peculiar force in his manner of making the object of his rebuke turn upon him with a sharp, short question, which he uses as a point of vantage to repeat and expand his charges[23]. Admitting the possibility of such questions having been actually addressed to the prophet in his personal intercourse with the people, during a previous oral delivery of his prophecies, we must still recognise the embodiment of them in the written record, which forms a clear and connected whole, as a characteristic of a pointed and vigorous style.

[23] Malachi 1:2; Malachi 1:7, Malachi 2:14; Malachi 2:17, Malachi 3:7-8; Malachi 3:13.

2. Contents. The argument flows on in a continuous course, without any very marked transitions, or interruptions. The Book consists, however, of two principal parts, having considerable resemblance to each other in their subject-matter, and finding their common meeting point in the great central truth enunciated in chapter Malachi 3:6. To this, which is itself only an expansion of the truth, with the solemn announcement of which the prophet’s message is inaugurated (ch. Malachi 1:2), the former section of the Book leads up, while the latter section is developed from it. The immutability of God, in both aspects of His unchanging love to Israel (comp. Jeremiah 31:3), is at the root of all His controversy, and is the key to all His dealings with His people. They are not “consumed”, though their sins deserve it, or His promise would fail: they must be purified and to that end chastened, or His holiness would cease. The argument of this Book may be gathered up in the word of God to Israel by an earlier prophet: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities”[24]. That is the summary of His whole revelation, the epitome of their entire history; and therefore it is the fitting subject of this last Book of the Old Testament.

[24] Amos 3:2.

Analysis of Contents

Malachi 1:1. Title

This Book is the oracle or weighty message of Jehovah to His people Israel, conveyed to them by one whose significant name, “My Messenger”, proclaims his office.

Malachi 1:2-5. Introductory Appeal

The ground of His whole controversy and of all His dealings with them, of all the rebuke and threatening, of all the comfort and promise, that Malachi is commissioned to convey, is the love which Jehovah has ever had for His people. The proof of His love, if they demand it, is to be found in the contrast between their own history and the history of another nation, allied to them by the closest ties of ancestry and blood. From twin brothers, alike sons of Isaac and of Abraham, Israel and Edom had sprung. Yet of Israel’s history the brief but pregnant summary is, I loved Jacob; whereas on Edom’s history, in the desolation and ruin of his country and the hopeless failure of his efforts to return and restore (as Israel had done after his captivity in Babylon), is written the everlasting sentence of irrevocable doom, I hated Esau. While the one land, as men read in its perpetual desolation the proof that the wrath of heaven rests upon it, shall be called, the border of wickedness, from the other, the border of Israel, safe beneath the shelter of the Almighty and witnessing as it were from afar the destruction of Edom, shall ascend the song of praise, Jehovah be magnified.

Part I. Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 3:6. Rebuke and threatened punishment of the priests and people

Ch. Malachi 1:6-14. Rebuke of the Priests. Turning with startling abruptness to the priests, who as the appointed guides and teachers of the people (Malachi 2:7) were chiefly responsible for their misconduct, the prophet rebukes them in the name of Jehovah. They withhold from Him alike the filial honour which is due to Him as a Father, and the reverent fear which He can claim as a Master (Malachi 2:6). And if they ask the proof of so grave a charge, it is patent in the fact that they offer Him such offerings as a human governor would reject with scorn at their hands (Malachi 2:7-8). If they seek another proof let them intercede, if they dare, for the people with Him whom they have so insulted, and see whether He will deign to accept their prayer (Malachi 2:9). So great is His indignation against them, that He would fain see the doors of His Temple closed, and the fire on His altar quenched (Malachi 2:10), and the pure and world-wide service of the future established instead (Malachi 2:11). Unworthy indeed in contrast with that is the service now rendered by priests, who murmur at the smallness of their gains (Malachi 2:12), and grudge the labour they bestow, and bring and suffer to be brought in sacrifice animals diseased and blemished, or taken by force from their lawful owners (Malachi 2:13). The curse shall inevitably fall on the offerer who thus wilfully insults and defrauds the High Majesty of heaven (Malachi 2:14).

Malachi 2:1-9. Threatened punishment of the Priests

To the priests, again pointedly addressed, a solemn command to amend is given (Malachi 2:1). They will disobey it at their peril; for the threatened curse of the Law, transforming into itself the very blessings they enjoy, is hanging over them, and indeed has already begun to fall upon them (Malachi 2:2). If they persist in their evil courses, the withering blight shall descend upon the fruits of the earth; and their worthless sacrifices shall be flung back in their faces, like the filth and offal that strewed the Temple courts on some great Feast-day, and they themselves shall be swept forth together with it as an unclean thing (Malachi 2:3). Thus, by avenging their breach of it, will Jehovah make plain to them His resolve to maintain His ancient covenant with Levi (Malachi 2:4); that covenant, which while it bestowed life and peace demanded holy fear, and to which the priesthood in its palmy days held fast in reverence of spirit (Malachi 2:5), in truth of doctrine, in righteousness of judgment, in godliness of life, and as a consequence of these in its wholesome influence on the people (Malachi 2:6). Such should be the character and teaching of the priest, as the messenger of Jehovah (Malachi 2:7); and it is because these priests have so grievously come short of it (Malachi 2:8), that contempt and disgrace have already overtaken them (Malachi 2:9).

Malachi 2:10-16. Rebuke of the People for heathen marriages and divorce

But beside this desecration of Divine worship, a great social evil calls for stern rebuke. In face of the admitted truth, that as children of one Father the chosen people are all brethren, they wrong one another and profane the sanctity to which their race is pledged (Malachi 2:10), by taking commonly in marriage the worshippers of heathen gods (Malachi 2:11). Condign punishment shall fall on all who thus transgress (Malachi 2:12). For on this evil another follows. The very altar of God is covered with the tears of the weeping women who flock around it, and the offering is thereby rendered unacceptable (Malachi 2:13). Why is it not accepted, do they ask? Because Jehovah, the Lord of the altar, has been witness of the unfaithfulness, consummated by divorce, of which they have been guilty towards the wives, to whom they were bound by the tender recollections of youthful love, by the intimate companionship of married life, and by the solemn covenant which united them to each other (Malachi 2:14). Their conduct is an infringement of the primæval law, declared by the creation of a single pair and their union into one flesh, that by pure monogamy is the sanctity of the race assured (Malachi 2:15). Jehovah, the God of the covenant people, regards with hatred the practice of divorce and the man who defiles, as it were, with cruelty and wrong the robe of cherishing protection which he ought to spread over the wife of his youth (Malachi 2:16).

Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 3:6. Rebuke of the People for profane impiety

Evils such as these, ecclesiastical and social, having their root in hearts destitute of the fear of God (Malachi 3:5), bear their legitimate fruit in open impiety, and in the profane challenge addressed to Him to make good His title to be “the God of judgement” (Malachi 2:17). The challenge is promptly taken up. Preceded by a messenger to prepare His way, He whom they profess to seek and desire shall suddenly appear (Malachi 3:1). But terrible shall be His coming (Malachi 3:2). Beginning with the fountain-head, He shall restore purity of worship by reforming the priesthood with searching severity (Malachi 3:3-4). Proceeding to the nation at large, He shall cleanse away from it all that offends in act and principle (Malachi 3:5). And this will He do, because unchangeable in name and in nature, His covenant will He not break, nor alter the thing that hath gone out of His lips. The sons of Jacob are chosen to be His people: therefore they are not consumed. They are chosen to be a holy people, for on no other condition could they possibly be His people: therefore they must be purified and refined (Malachi 3:6).

Part II. Malachi 3:7 to Malachi 4:3. Renewed Rebukes, Threatenings and Promises

This brief but pregnant statement (Malachi 3:6), in which he has gathered up all that went before in his Book, the prophet now uses as a fresh starting-point, from which to travel over, though with no mere sameness of iteration, what is in effect the same course as before. This Second Part of the prophecy consists (as is indicated by the paragraphs in R.V.) of two sections (Malachi 3:7-12; Malachi 3:13 to Malachi 4:3), followed by a brief conclusion of the whole Book (Malachi 4:4-6). In the first of these sections the people are again charged with withholding from Almighty God His due in tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:7-12; comp. Malachi 1:6-14). In the second, the righteous judgment of God is declared to be already silently discriminating between the open profanity of the wicked (Malachi 3:13-15; comp. Malachi 2:17) and the secret piety of the godly (Malachi 3:16), and to be awaiting the destined day of its full manifestation (Malachi 3:17 to Malachi 4:3; comp. Malachi 3:1-6). The Book closes with a call to preparation for that predicted day by obedient remembrance of the Law (Malachi 4:4), and expectation of the coming messenger (Malachi 4:5-6; comp. Malachi 3:1; Malachi 3:1 st clause).

Malachi 3:7-12. Rebuke in the matter of tithes and offerings

From the long-continued course of rebellion, in which, but that “Jehovah changes not” they would long since have been “consumed”, they are called upon to return to the path of obedience (Malachi 3:7). The charge against them, to which they insolently and repeatedly demur, is brought home to them in the definite shape of “robbing God”, and that in “tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). The “curse” is their due as a nation (Malachi 3:9); but the way of blessing is open to them still (Malachi 3:10). The curse may yet be rolled away (Malachi 3:11), and blessing eminent and conspicuous succeed in its place (Malachi 3:12).

Malachi 3:13 to Malachi 4:3. The righteous judgment of God

Repeating the charge of open impiety which he had already made (Malachi 2:17), and meeting their virtual denial of it (Malachi 3:13) by a recital of the impious language which they used (Malachi 3:14) and the profane conclusion at which they arrived (Malachi 3:15), the prophet sets over against these the secret converse among themselves of the godly remnant, and declares that even now the righteous Judge discerns between the two, and that already “names are written in heaven,” of those whom He will claim for His own in the day of His discriminating action (Malachi 3:16-17). In that day all men shall “return” from their wanderings in doubt and defiance, and acknowledge the justice of the discerning sentence (Malachi 3:18). For while the wicked shall be consumed as with the breath of a furnace (Malachi 4:1), on the righteous the sun of righteousness shall arise with beneficent and healing power, restoring them to joyful liberty (Malachi 4:2) and making them triumphant over their foes (Malachi 4:3).

Malachi 4:4-6. Conclusion of the Book

In view of a future at once so awful and so desirable, they are called upon, by dutiful obedience to the Law which God has given them (Malachi 4:4), and in expectation of the final precursor of “the great and terrible day,” whom He promises them, to avert the threatened curse (Malachi 4:5-6).

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