Malachi 2
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
Ch. Malachi 2:1-9. Threatened Punishment of the Priests

1. O ye priests] The discourse turns again in direct appeal to the priests. The exact order of the words is emphatic: And now, for you is this commandment, O priests.

this commandment] Some commentators would make “commandment” here mean purpose, or decree, and refer it to the punishment threatened in Malachi 2:2-4. There seems no reason, however, to depart here and in Malachi 2:4 from the usual meaning of the word. The passage (Malachi 2:2-4) is a commandment to reform, with threatened consequences if they disobey it.

If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
2. a curse] Rather, the curse, as R.V. See Deuteronomy 27:26; Deuteronomy 28:15.

your blessings] i.e. the good gifts which I have bestowed upon you. Comp. Psalm 69:22 [Heb. 23].

Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.
3. corrupt] Rather, reprove, margin A.V.; or rebuke, R.V. Comp. ch. Malachi 3:11 : “I will rebuke (the same word) the devourer.” God will wither with His rebuke the seed so that it shall not germinate, or shall not come to maturity. Thus the priests would suffer both in tithes and in offerings (Joel 1:2-13).

The LXX. (reading זְרוֹצַ for זֶרַצ) render, ἀφορίζω ὑμῖν τὸν ὦμον, “I set apart for you the shoulder,” that being the part of the victim reserved for the priest. Leviticus 7:34. Ewald, “I will rebuke your (the priests’) arm.”

of your solemn feasts] If this rendering be retained, it will of course mean the dung of the sacrifices offered at such feasts. The R.V. has feasts in the margin, but sacrifices in the text.

The figure is very forcible. It is as though Jehovah sees nothing in the droves of diseased and blemished animals that are brought to His altar on some great Festival, but the mass of filth and offal that necessarily accompanies the sacrifice. It is all one vast abomination! Flinging back in holy indignation the polluted offerings into the faces of the unworthy priests, He overwhelms them beneath the fœtid heap, and thus they are swept forth with it from the sacred precincts. Comp. Exodus 29:14, 1 Kings 14:10.

one shall take you] It is more in accordance with our English idiom to render, with R.V., ye shall be taken. Comp. Isaiah 9:5 : “His name shall be called”; lit. “he (one) shall call His name”.

And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
4. might be] i.e. might continue (porro staret. Maurer). Whether they heard, or whether they forbore, they should learn in the issue, that God had sent them “this commandment” to repent on penalty of so dire a punishment, in order that the ancient covenant of Levi, of which the holiness of the priests was an integral part, might stand fast. What that covenant was is immediately stated in Malachi 2:5-7.

My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.
5. My covenant &c.] Comp. Numbers 25:12-13; Nehemiah 13:29.

for the fear wherewith he feared me] Lit. I gave them (viz. life and peace: I fulfilled my part of the covenant) to him (as) fear, (i.e. on condition that he should fulfil his part of it), that he might fear (R.V.); and (he did fulfil it, for) he feared Me, and was afraid before (stood in awe of, R.V.) My name.

The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.
6. The law of truth] Teaching, as a function of the priesthood, entered into the original idea and constitution of the office (Deuteronomy 33:10; Leviticus 10:11), and was revived in connection with it after the return from Babylon (Ezra 7:10; Ezra 7:25; Nehemiah 8:1-8). To be without “a teaching priest” was a national calamity (2 Chronicles 15:3).

And iniquity] Rather And unrighteousness, R.V. This clause refers perhaps to the judicial decisions of the priest (Deuteronomy 17:8-13), as being without respect of persons and uninfluenced by bribes. (Deuteronomy 16:18-19.)

he walked with me &c.] Comp. Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9. The walk of the priest, in the peace of a right relation to God, and the uprightness (R.V.) of a holy life, accorded with his teaching and his judicial sentences, and as the result of both he turned many away from iniquity.

“What a history of zeal for the glory of God and the conversion of sinners in those, of whom the world knows nothing; of whose working, but for the three words (many he-turned-away from-iniquity) in the closing book of the Old Testament, we should have known nothing!” Pusey.

For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
7. For] And in all this he only fulfilled his duty, for such in life and doctrine ought the priest, as the messenger of Jehovah to the people, to be.

messenger] See Introduction ch. 1. p. 13.

But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
8. at the law] This rendering is quite defensible (Leviticus 26:37; Nahum 3:3); and the idea of the Law itself being made the stumbling-block of the people, by the tortuous interpretations put upon it by the priests and by their inconsistent conduct, is forcible, and is in keeping with the representation of Christ Himself as a “stumbling-stone” (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:32-33). As however the figure of the Law as a road or path in which men should walk smoothly and safely is of very constant occurrence in the Old Testament, it is possible to render “in the law”, with R.V. and A.V. margin.

corrupted the covenant of Levi] Compare Nehemiah’s complaint, and the example he gives, Nehemiah 13:28-29.

Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
9. been partial] Lit. had respect of persons. R.V.

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?
10. one father] i.e. God, as the parallelism suggests. Comp. John 8:41. The reference to Abraham, though of course admissible (Matthew 3:9; John 8:39), is less satisfactory.

his brother] Out of the common Fatherhood springs a common brotherhood which intensifies the wrong. So St Paul writes, with reference to a similar subject, 1 Thessalonians 4:6. It may however only mean “one against another.”

the covenant of our fathers] Exodus 34:10-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-4.

Ch. Malachi 2:10-16. Rebuke of the People for Heathen Marriages and Divorce

The transition from the former section is less abrupt than at first sight it seems to be. The people at large are now addressed directly, and not merely incidentally as before (Malachi 1:14); but the priests are still clearly in view, both as probably themselves guilty of the sin denounced (comp. Ezra 10:18; Nehemiah 13:28), and as conniving at it by withholding or wresting the sentence of the Law against it (Malachi 2:8-9). From the Covenant too with Levi (Malachi 2:8) the transition is natural to the wider Covenant with the fathers (Malachi 2:10). The prophet lays down (Malachi 2:10) the principle on which the whole rebuke rests; and then deals with their transgression of it, first by heathen marriages (Malachi 2:11-12), and secondly, as a consequence of this, by the divorce of their lawful wives (Malachi 2:13-16).

The word deal-treacherously is a key-word to the section. See Malachi 2:10-11; Malachi 2:14-16.

Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.
11. the holiness of the Lord] Comp. Leviticus 11:44; 1 Thessalonians 4:7. This is better than sanctuary of the Lord, R.V. margin. Comp. τὰ ἅγια, LXX.

which he loved] In like manner Almighty God is said to love righteousness and judgment. Psalm 11:7; Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 61:8.

the daughter of a strange god] “As those who acknowledge, worship and serve the true God are called His sons and daughters (Deuteronomy 32:19), so they that worshipped any strange god are, by like reason, here called the daughters of that god. Hence the Jews say, ‘He that marrieth a heathen woman is as if he made himself son-in-law to an idol’.” Pocock.

The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.
12. the man] Rather, to the man, as R.V., i.e. out of his family.

the master and the scholar] Rather, as A.V. margin and R.V., him that waketh and him that answereth. It is a proverbial expression, like “him that is shut up and him that is left at large” (1 Kings 21:21), meaning all without exception. It is taken from sentries or watchmen who as they go their rounds give their challenge and receive the watch-word in reply. In the same sense the Arabs say, ‘no one crying out, and no one answering, i.e. no one alive’. See Gesen. Thes. p. 1004 a.

him that offereth] nor shall the religious service, whether of priest or layman, avert his doom.

And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.
13. again] Lit. second. The first evil of marrying heathen women was accompanied by a second, the cruel treatment and divorce (“putting-away,” Malachi 2:16) of their lawful wives, which is now dealt with, Malachi 2:13-16.

covering the altar] The weeping crowd of insulted and divorced wives turn to God, as their only refuge, so that the courts of His Temple resound with their sad complaints, and His very altar, round which they gather, is bathed, as it were, with their tears.

crying out] Rather, sighing, R.V., as the same word is rendered in Psalm 79:11; or groaning, Psalm 102:20.

Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
14. hath been witness] Comp. Genesis 31:50.

of thy covenant] To the tender recollection of “the kindness of youth and the love of espousals” (Jeremiah 2:2), and the binding force of years since spent together in intimate companionship, there is added the solemn obligation of the marriage contract, “the vow and covenant betwixt them made”, of which God is here said to be the “witness”, and which is elsewhere called, “the covenant of God”, Proverbs 2:17.

And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
15. did not he make one?] The interpretation of this very difficult verse follows in the main, though with some variety of detail, one or other of two lines.

(1) By “one” here Abraham is held to be intended, who is called “one” in Isaiah 51:2 (lit. “for one I called him”; “I called him alone”, A.V.; “when he was but one I called him”, R.V.), and in Ezekiel 33:24 (“Abraham was one”). The words are thus regarded as spoken by the Jews, who seek to shelter themselves from the prophet’s censure under the example of Abraham. “Did not one (Abraham)”, say they, “do it (that of which you complain in us, when he took to wife Hagar, the Egyptian)? And yet he had the residue of the spirit” (comp. Numbers 27:18 : “Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit”). “And wherefore”, the prophet replies, “(did) the one (do it)? He was seeking (not as you are the gratification of his lust, but) a seed of God” (the son whom God had promised him. Genesis 16:2). “Therefore”, seeing that Abraham’s example avails you nothing, “take head.” If this, however, were the argument, we might have expected the prophet to reply, that so far from divorcing (as they were doing) his proper wife, it was Hagar and not Sarah whom Abraham sent away, so soon as disagreement arose.

(2) The other line of interpretation is that adopted in A.V. and retained in R.V. According to it the prophet recalls them (as our Lord does in His argument with the Jews on the same subject, Mark 10:2-9) to the original institution of marriage and relation of the sexes. “Did not He (God) make one (one man, and out of him one woman, and the twain ‘one flesh’)? And (yet) the residue of the spirit (of life, comp. Genesis 7:22 : ‘the breath of the spirit of life’) was His (so that He could, had it pleased Him, have created, for example, one man and many women). And why (did He make) the one? He sought (what only by the purity and integrity of the marriage bond can be secured) a godly seed.”

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
16. the God of Israel] who has given them His law. His relation to the people aggravates their guilt.

hateth putting away] Lit. For he (Jehovah) hateth putting away (divorce), saith Jehovah, &c.

It is true that divorce was permitted by the Law of Moses, in certain cases (Deuteronomy 24:1-4); but that, as our Lord teaches, was only a concession to “the hardness of their hearts” (Matthew 19:8), and “from the beginning it was not so”. The rendering of A.V. margin, which is also that of the LXX. and Targum, “if he hate her, put her away”, makes the prophet call upon those whom he is rebuking to avail themselves of the provision of the Law, as the least of two evils: q.d. “better divorce her if you hate her, as the Law allows you to do, than retain her as your wife only to subject her to insult and cruelty”. But apart from other objections, this interpretation loses sight of the fact that the motive of divorce in the two cases was entirely different, and that such advice, in the case here under consideration, is tantamount to saying, “If you wish to marry a heathen woman, get rid of your lawful wife first by divorcing her.”

for one covereth … his garment] Rather, and him that covereth his garment with violence (R.V.) (do I hate), saith the Lord of hosts. Two things, in relation to the subject in hand, Almighty God declares that He hates. He hates “putting away”, for it is a violation of His primæval law, “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” And He hates ill-treatment by the husband of his wife, which stains and pollutes, as it were, the garment of protection which he is bound to spread over her. By “his garment” many commentators understand “his wife”. But no such Hebrew use of the word has been adduced, and the Arabic use which is alleged is not conclusive.

Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
Ch. Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 3:6. Rebuke of the people for profane impiety

17. With another abrupt transition the prophet passes to a new though cognate subject. The abuses in connection with Divine worship and the social evils which he has already rebuked culminate in avowed unbelief (with your words), as to the justice of Almighty God and His moral government of the world. Though the righteous Judge be strong and patient, yet is He “wearied”, His longsuffering worn out, by blasphemous charges of favouring and delighting in the wicked, or by the profane challenge to shew Himself, if He be indeed “the God of judgment”.

wearied] Comp. Isaiah 43:23-24.

Where is, &c.] Comp. Isaiah 5:19; 2 Peter 3:4.

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