Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
THE BOOK OF MALACHI Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Malachi forms the transition link between the two dispensations, the Old and the New, "the skirt and boundary of Christianity" [Tertullian], to which perhaps is due the abrupt earnestness which characterizes his prophecies. His very name is somewhat uncertain. Malachi is the name of an office, rather than a person, "My messenger," and as such is found in Mal 3:1. The Septuagint favors this view in Mal 1:1; translate, not "by Malachi," but "by the hand of His messenger" (compare Hag 1:13). Malachi is the last inspired messenger of the Old Testament, announcing the advent of the Great Messenger of the New Testament. The Chaldee paraphrase identifies him with Ezra wrongly, as Ezra is never called a prophet but a scribe, and Malachi never a scribe but a prophet. Still it hence appears that Malachi was by some old authorities not regarded as a proper name. The analogy of the headings of other prophets, however, favors the common view that Malachi is a proper name. As Haggai and Zechariah, the contemporary prophets, supported Joshua and Zerubbabel in the building of the temple, so he at a subsequent period supported the priest Ezra and the governor Nehemiah. Like that ruler, he presupposes the temple to have been already built (Mal 1:10; 3:1-10). Both alike censure the abuses still unreformed (Ne 13:5, 15-22, 23-30), the profane and mercenary character of the priests, the people's marriages contracted with foreigners, the non-payment of the tithes, and want of sympathy towards the poor on the part of the rich (Ne 6:7) implies that Nehemiah was supported by prophets in his work of reformation. The date thus will be about 420 B.C., or later. Both the periods after the captivity (that of Haggai and Zechariah, and that of Malachi) were marked by royal, priestly, and prophetic men at the head of God's people. The former period was that of the building of the temple; the latter, that of the restoration of the people and rebuilding of the city. It is characteristic of the people of God that the first period after the restoration was exclusively devoted to the rebuilding of the temple; the political restoration came secondarily. Only a colony of fifty thousand settled with Joshua and Zerubbabel in Palestine (Ezr 2:64). Even these became intermingled with the heathen around during the sixty years passed over by Ezra in silence (Ezr 9:6-15; Ne 1:3). Hence a second restoration was needed which should mould the national life into a Jewish form, re-establishing the holy law and the holy city—a work effected by Ezra and Nehemiah, with the aid of Malachi, in a period of about half a century, ending with the deaths of Malachi and Nehemiah in the last ten years of the fifth century B.C.; that is, the "seven weeks" (Da 9:25) put in the beginning of the "seventy" by themselves, to mark the fundamental difference between them, the last period of Old Testament revelation, and the period which followed without any revelation (the sixty-two weeks), preceding the final week standing out in unrivalled dignity by itself as the time of Messiah's appearing. The seventy weeks thus begin with the seventh year of Artaxerxes who allowed Ezra to go to Jerusalem, 457 B.C., in accordance with the commandment which then went forth from God. Ezra the priest performed the inner work of purifying the nation from heathenish elements and reintroducing the law; while Nehemiah did the outer work of rebuilding the city and restoring the national polity [Auberlen]. Vitringa makes the date of Malachi's prophecies to be about the second return of Nehemiah from Persia, not later than 424 B.C., the date of Artaxerxes' death (Ne 13:6). About this time Socrates was teaching the only approach to a pure morality which corrupt Athens ever knew. Moore distinguishes six portions: (1) Charge against Israel for insensibility to God's love, which so distinguished Israel above Edom (Mal 1:1-5). (2) The priests are reproved for neglect and profanation (Mal 1:6-2:9). (3) Mixed marriages, and the wrongs done to Jewish wives, are reproved (Mal 2:10-16). (4) Coming of Messiah and His forerunners (Mal 2:17-3:6). (5) Reproof for tithes withheld (Mal 3:7-12). (6) Contrast between the godly and the ungodly at the present time, and in the future judgment; exhortation, therefore, to return to the law (Mal 3:13-4:6).
The style is animated, but less grand, and the rhythm less marked, than in some of the older prophets.
The canonicity of the book is established by the references to it in the New Testament (Mt 11:10; 17:12; Mr 1:2; 9:11, 12; Lu 1:17; Ro 9:13).
Mal 1:1-14. God's Love: Israel's Ingratitude: THE Priests' Mercenary Spirit: A Gentile Spiritual Priesthood Shall Supersede Them.
1. burden—heavy sentence.
to Israel—represented now by the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with individuals of the ten tribes who had returned with the Jews from Babylon. So "Israel" is used, Ezr 7:10. Compare 2Ch 21:2, "Jehoshaphat king of Israel," where Judah, rather than the ten tribes, is regarded as the truest representative of Israel (compare 2Ch 12:6; 28:19).
Malachi—see Introduction. God sent no prophet after him till John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, in order to enflame His people with the more ardent desire for Him, the great antitype and fulfiller of prophecy.
I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
2. I have loved you—above other men; nay, even above the other descendants of Abraham and Isaac. Such gratuitous love on My part called for love on yours. But the return ye make is sin and dishonor to Me. This which is to be supplied is left unexpressed, sorrow as it were breaking off the sentence [Menochius], (De 7:8; Ho 11:1).
Wherein hast thou loved us?—In painful contrast to the tearful tenderness of God's love stands their insolent challenge. The root of their sin was insensibility to God's love, and to their own wickedness. Having had prosperity taken from them, they imply they have no tokens of God's love; they look at what God had taken, not at what God had left. God's love is often least acknowledged where it is most manifested. We must not infer God does not love us because He afflicts us. Men, instead of referring their sufferings to their proper cause, their own sin, impiously accuse God of indifference to their welfare [Moore]. Thus Mal 1:1-4 form a fit introduction to the whole prophecy.
Was not Esau Jacob's brother?—and so, as far as dignity went, as much entitled to God's favor as Jacob. My adoption of Jacob, therefore, was altogether by gratuitous favor (Ro 9:13). So God has passed by our elder brethren, the angels who kept not their first estate, and yet He has provided salvation for man. The perpetual rejection of the fallen angels, like the perpetual desolations of Edom, attests God's severity to the lost, and goodness to those gratuitously saved. The sovereign eternal purpose of God is the only ground on which He bestows on one favors withheld from another. There are difficulties in referring salvation to the election of God, there are greater in referring it to the election of man [Moore]. Jehovah illustrates His condescension and patience in arguing the case with them.
And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
3. hated—not positively, but relatively; that is, did not choose him out to be the object of gratuitous favor, as I did Jacob (compare Lu 14:26, with Mt 10:37; Ge 29:30, 31; De 21:15, 16).
laid his mountains … waste—that is, his territory which was generally mountainous. Israel was, it is true, punished by the Chaldeans, but Edom has been utterly destroyed; namely, either by Nebuchadnezzar [Rosenmuller], or by the neighboring peoples, Egypt, Ammon, and Moab [Josephus, Antiquities, 10.9,7; Maurer], (Jer 49:18).
dragons—jackals [Moore] (compare Isa 34:13). Maurer translates, "Abodes of the wilderness," from an Arabic root "to stop," or "to abide." English Version is better.
Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.
4. Whereas—"But if" Edom say [Maurer]. Edom may strive as she may to recover herself, but it shall be in vain, for I doom her to perpetual desolation, whereas I restore Israel. This Jehovah states, to illustrate His gratuitous love to Israel, rather than to Edom.
border of wickedness—a region given over to the curse of reprobation [Calvin]. For a time Judea seemed as desolate as Idumea; but though the latter was once the highway of Eastern commerce, now the lonely rock-houses of Petra attest the fulfilment of the prophecy. It is still "the border of wickedness," being the resort of the marauding tribes of the desert. Judea's restoration, though delayed, is yet certain.
the Lord hath indignation—"the people of My curse" (Isa 34:5).
And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
5. from the border of Israel—Ye, restored to your own "borders" in Israel, "from" them shall raise your voices to "magnify the Lord," acknowledging that Jehovah has shown to you a gratuitous favor not shown to Edom, and so ought to be especially "magnified from the borders of Israel."
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
6. Turning from the people to the priests, Jehovah asks, whereas His love to the people was so great, where was their love towards Him? If the priests, as they profess, regard Him as their Father (Isa 63:16) and Master, let them show the reality of their profession by love and reverential fear (Ex 20:12; Lu 6:46). He addresses the priests because they ought to be leaders in piety to the rest of the people, whereas they are foremost in "despising His name."
Wherein have we despised, &c.—The same captious spirit of self-satisfied insensibility as prompted their question (Mal 1:2), "Wherein hast Thou loved us?" They are blind alike to God's love and their own guilt.
Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
7. ye offer, &c.—God's answer to their challenge (Mal 1:6), "Wherein have we despised?"
polluted bread—namely, blemished sacrifices (Mal 1:8, 13, 14; De 15:21). So "the bread of thy God" is used for "sacrifices to God" (Le 21:8).
polluted thee—that is, offered to thee "polluted bread."
table of the Lord—that is, the altar (Eze 41:22) (not the table of showbread). Just as the sacrificial flesh is called "bread."
contemptible—(Mal 1:12, 13). Ye sanction the niggardly and blemished offerings of the people on the altar, to gain favor with them. Darius, and probably his successors, had liberally supplied them with victims for sacrifice, yet they presented none but the worst. A cheap religion, costing little, is rejected by God, and so is worth nothing. It costs more than it is worth, for it is worth nothing, and so proves really dear. God despises not the widow's mite, but he does despise the miser's mite [Moore].
And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
8. Your earthly ruler would feel insulted, if offered by you the offering with which ye put off God (see Le 22:22, 24).
is it not evil?—Maurer translates, "There is no evil," in your opinion, in such an offering; it is quite good enough for such a purpose.
And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.
9. now … beseech God that he will be gracious—Ironical. Think you that God will be persuaded by such polluted gifts to be gracious to you? Far from it.
this hath been by your means—literally, "hand." These contemptible offerings are your doing, as being the priests mediating between God and the people; and think you, will God pay any regard to you (compare Mal 1:8, 10)? "Accept thy person" ("face"), Mal 1:8, answers to "regard your persons," in this verse.
Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
10. Who … for naught—Not one even of the least priestly functions (as shutting the doors, or kindling a fire on the altar) would ye exercise without pay, therefore ye ought to fulfil them faithfully (1Co 9:13). Drusius and Maurer translate, "Would that there were absolutely some one of you who would shut the doors of the temple (that is, of the inner court, in which was the altar of burnt offerings), and that ye would not kindle fire on My altar in vain!" Better no sacrifices than vain ones (Isa 1:11-15). It was the duty of some of the priests to stand at the doors of the court of the altar of burnt offerings, and to have excluded blemished victims [Calvin].
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
11. For—Since ye Jewish priests and people "despise My name" (Mal 1:6), I shall find others who will magnify it (Mt 3:9). Do not think I shall have no worshippers because I have not you; for from the east to the west My name shall be great among the Gentiles (Isa 66:19, 20), those very peoples whom ye look down upon as abominable.
pure offering—not "the blind, the lame, and the sick," such as ye offer (Mal 1:8). "In every place," implies the catholicity of the Christian Church (Joh 4:21, 23; 1Ti 2:8). The "incense" is figurative of prayers (Ps 141:2; Re 8:3). "Sacrifice" is used metaphorically (Ps 51:17; Heb 13:10, 15, 16; 1Pe 2:5, 12). In this sense the reference to the Lord's Supper, maintained by many of the fathers, may be admitted; it, like prayer, is a spiritual offering, accepted through the literal offering of the "Lamb without blemish," once for all slain.
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
12. Renewal of the charge in Mal 1:7.
fruit … meat—the offerings of the people. The "fruit" is the produce of the altar, on which the priests subsisted. They did not literally say, The Lord's table is contemptible; but their acts virtually said so. They did not act so as to lead the people to reverence, and to offer their best to the Lord on it. The people were poor, and put off God with the worst offerings. The priests let them do so, for fear of offending the people, and so losing all gains from them.
Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.
13. what a weariness is it!—Ye regard God's service as irksome, and therefore try to get it over by presenting the most worthless offerings. Compare Mic 6:3, where God challenges His people to show wherein is the "weariness" or hardship of His service. Also Isa 43:22-24, wherein He shows that it is they who have "wearied" Him, not He who has wearied them.
it—the table of the Lord, and the meat on it (Mal 1:12).
torn—namely, by beasts, which it was not lawful to eat, much less to offer (Ex 22:31).
thus … offering—Hebrew, mincha; the unbloody offering of flour, &c. Though this may have been of ordinary ingredients, yet the sacrifices of blemished animals accompanying it rendered it unacceptable.
But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
14. deceiver—hypocrite. Not poverty, but avarice was the cause of their mean offerings.
male—required by law (Le 1:3, 10).
great King—(Ps 48:2; Mt 5:35).
my name … dreadful among … heathen—Even the heathen dread Me because of My judgments; what a reproach this is to you, My people, who fear Me not (Mal 1:6)! Also it may be translated, "shall be feared among," &c. agreeing with the prophecy of the call of the Gentiles (Mal 1:11).