Malachi 1
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary


Person of the Prophet. - The circumstances of Malachi's life are so entirely unknown, that it is a disputed point whether מכלאכי in the heading (Malachi 1:1) is the name of a person, or merely an ideal name given to the prophet who foretels the sending of the messenger of Jehovah (מלאכי, Malachi 3:1), and whose real name has not been handed down. The lxx rendered the בּיד מלאכי of the heading by ἐν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ, and therefore either had or conjectured as their reading מלאכו : and the Targumist Jonathan, who adds to בּיד מלאכי cujus nomen appellatur Esra scriba, has also taken מלאכי in an ideal sense, and given the statement that Ezra the scribe is the prophetic author of our book, as a conjecture founded upon the spirit and contents of the prophecy. The notion that Malachi is only an official name is therefore met with in many of the fathers, and has been vigorously defended in the most recent times by Hengstenberg, who follows the lead of Vitringa, whilst Ewald lays it down as an established truth. But the arguments adduced in support of this, especially by Hengstenberg in his Christology, are not conclusive. The circumstance "that the heading does not contain any further personal description, whether the name of his father or the place of his birth," is not more striking in our book than in the writings of Obadiah and Habakkuk, which also contain only the name of the prophet in the heading, without any further personal descriptions. It is a striking fact, no doubt, that the lxx and the Targumist have taken the name as an appellative; at the same time, it by no means follows from this "that nothing was known in tradition of any historical person of the name of Malachi," but simply that nothing certain had been handed down concerning the circumstances of the prophet's life. The recollection, however, of the circumstances connected with the personal history of the prophet might easily have become extinct during the period of at least 150 or 200 years which intervened between the lifetime of the prophet and the Alexandrian version of the Old Testament, if his life was not distinguished by any other facts than the prophecies contained in his book. And Jonathan lived, at the earliest, 400 years after Malachi. That all recollection of the person of Malachi was not lost, however, is evident both from the notice in the Talmud to the effect that Malachi was one of the men of the great synagogue, as Haggai and Zechariah had been, and also from the statements made by Ps. Doroth., Epiph., and other fathers, to the effect that he was a Levite of the tribe of Zebulun, and was born in Supha, or Σοφά, or Σοφιρά (see the passages in Koehler, Mal. pp. 10, 11), although all these statements show that nothing certain was known as to the circumstances of his life.

But the principal reason for taking the name not as a nomen proprium, but simply as a name adopted by the prophet for this particular prophecy, is to be found, according to Hengstenberg, in the character of the name itself, viz., in the fact that it is not formed from מלאך and יהּ equals יהוה, and cannot be explained by angelicus. But neither the one nor the other can be regarded as established. The formation of proper names by adding the termination ־י to appellative nouns is by no means unusual, as the long list of examples of words formed in this manner, given by Olshausen (Heb. Gramm. 218, b), clearly shows; and the remark that "this formation only serves to denote descent or occupation" (Hengstenberg) is beside the mark, since it does not apply to such names as גּרמי, זכרי, and others. The interpretation of the name as a contraction of מלאכיּה, messenger of Jehovah, is quite as possible as this derivation. We have an unquestionably example of a contraction of this kind in אבי in 2 Kings 18:2, as compared with אביּה in 2 Chronicles 29:1. And just as the יהּ is there omitted altogether in אבי, so is the other name of God, אל, omitted in פלטי in 1 Samuel 25:44, which is written פּלטיאל in 2 Samuel 3:15. This omission of the name of God is by no means rare. "The Hebrews very often drop the names of God at the end of proper names" (Simonis, p. 11). The formation of such a name as מלאכי would be perfectly analogous to these cases; and no objection whatever can be brought against such a name, since the ־י need not be taken as a suffix of the first person (my messenger is Jehovah), but is rather to be taken as Yod compaginis, like יחזקיּה formed from יחזקי (for יחזק) and יה, "messenger of Jehovah." This name might very well have been given by parents to a son whom God had given them, or sent to them in fulfilment of their wishes. Which of these two derivations deserves the preference, cannot be determined with certainty; at the same time, there is more probability in the latter than in the former, partly because of the obvious play upon His name in the words הנני שׁלח מלאכי (Malachi 3:1), and partly because of the Greek form of the name Μαλαχίας in the heading of the book. Since, then, there is no valid argument that can be brought against the formation of such a name, there is all the more reason for regarding the name in the heading (Malachi 1:1) as the real name of the prophet, from the fact that the idea explanation would be without any distinct analogy. "All the prophets whose writings have come down to us in the canon, have given their own names in the headings to their books, that is to say, the names which they received at their birth; and the names of the rest of the prophets of the Old Testament are also their real names" (Caspari, Micha, p. 28). Even in the case of the names Agur (Proverbs 30:1) and Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1), which Hengstenberg cites as analogies, it is still doubtful whether the first, Agur the son of Jakeh, is not a historical name; and even if the ideal use of the two were established beyond all doubt, no conclusion could be drawn from a collection of proverbs bearing upon a prophetic writing. A collection of proverbs is a poetical work, whose ethical or religious truth is not dependent upon the person of the poet. The prophet, on the contrary, has to guarantee the divinity of his mission and the truth of his prophecy by his own name or his own personality.

The period of Malachi is also a disputed point, although all are agreed that he lived and prophesied after the captivity. We may gather from his prophecy, not only that he commenced his prophetic labours after Haggai and Zechariah, since, according to Malachi 1:6. and Malachi 3:10, the temple had been rebuilt and the temple-worship had been restored for a considerable time, but also, as Vitringa has shown in his Observ. ss. ii. lib. 6, that he did not prophesy till after the first arrival of Nehemiah in Jerusalem, i.e., after the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes Longimanus. The chief reason for this is to be found in the agreement between Malachi and Nehemiah (ch. 13), in the reproof administered for the abuses current among the people, and even in the priesthood, - namely, the marriage of heathen wives (compare Malachi 2:11. with Nehemiah 13:23.), and the negligent payment of the tithes (compare Malachi 3:8-10 with Nehemiah 13:10-14). The first of these abuses - namely, that many even of the priests and Levites had taken heathen wives - found its way among the people even on Ezra's first arrival in Jerusalem; and he succeeded in abolishing it by vigorous measures, so that all Israel put away the heathen wives within three months (Ezra 9:1-15 and 10). But it is evidently impossible to refer the condemnation of the same abuse in Malachi to this particular case, because on the one hand the exhortation to be mindful of the law of Moses (Malachi 3:22), as well as the whole of the contents of our book which are founded upon the authority of the law, apply rather to the time when Ezra had already put forth his efforts to restore the authority of the law (Ezra 7:14, Ezra 7:25-26), than to the previous time; whilst, on the other hand, the offering of unsuitable animals in sacrifice (Malachi 1:7.), and unfaithfulness in the payment of the tithes and heave-offerings (Malachi 3:8), can evidently be only explained on the supposition that Israel had to provide for the necessities of the temple and the support of the persons engaged in the worship; whereas in Ezra's time, or at any rate immediately after his arrival, as well as in the time of Darius (Ezra 6:9-10), the costs of worship were defrayed out of the royal revenues (Ezra 7:15-17, Ezra 7:20-24). But after the abolition of the heathen marriages by Ezra, and after his reformatory labours as a whole, such breaches of the law could not have spread once more among the people in the short interval between the time of Ezra and the first arrival of Nehemiah, even if Ezra had not continued his labours up to that time, as is evident from Nehemiah 8-10. Moreover, Nehemiah would no doubt have attacked these abuses at that time, as he did at a later period, if he had detected them. Consequently the falling back into the old sin that had been abolished by Ezra cannot have taken place before the period of Nehemiah's return to the king's court, in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 13:6). If, therefore, Malachi condemns and threatens with the punishment of God the very same abuses which Nehemiah found in Jerusalem on his second arrival there, and strove most energetically to exterminate, Malachi must have prophesied at that time; but whether immediately before Nehemiah's second arrival in Jerusalem, or during his presence there, so as to support the reformatory labours of Nehemiah by his prophetic testimony, cannot be decided with certainty. What Malachi says in Malachi 1:8 concerning the attitude of the people towards the Persian governor does not necessarily presuppose a non-Israelitish vicegerent, but might also apply to Nehemiah, since the prophet's words may be understood as relating to free-will gifts or presents, whereas Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:14-15) simply says that he has not required from the people the governor's supplies, and has not burdened them with taxes. The circumstance, however, that Nehemiah finds the abuses still existing in undiminished force, renders the assumption that Malachi had already prophesied improbable, and favours rather the contemporaneous labours of the two; in which case the work of Malachi bore the same relation to that of Nehemiah as the work of Haggai and Zechariah to that of Zerubbabel and Joshua; and the reformatory labours of Nehemiah, which were chiefly of an outward character, were accompanied by the more inward labours of Malachi, as was very frequently the case in the history of Israel; for example, in the case of Isaiah and Hezekiah, or of Jeremiah and Josiah (see Hengstenberg, Christology, iv. p. 157).

2. The Book of Malachi contains one single prophecy, the character of which is condemnatory throughout. Starting with the love which the Lord has shown to His people (Malachi 1:2-5), the prophet proves that not only do the priests profane the name of the Lord by an unholy performance of the service at the altar (Malachi 1:6; Malachi 2:9), but the people also repudiate their divine calling both by heathen marriages and frivolous divorces (Malachi 2:10-16), and by their murmuring at the delay of the judgment; whereas the Lord will soon reveal Himself as a just judge, and before His coming will send His messenger, the prophet Elijah, to warn the ungodly and lead them to repentance, and then suddenly come to His temple as the expected angel of the covenant, to refine the sons of Levi, punish the sinners who have broken the covenant, and by exterminating the wicked, as well as by blessing the godly with salvation and righteousness, make the children of Israel the people of His possession (2:17-4:6). The contents of the book, therefore, arrange themselves in three sections: Malachi 1:6-2:9, Malachi 2:10-16; Malachi 2:17-4:6. These three sections probably contain only the leading thoughts of the oral addresses of the prophet, which are so combined as to form one single prophetic address. Throughout the whole book we meet with the spirit which developed itself among the Jews after the captivity, and assumed the concrete forms of Phariseeism and Saduceeism. The outward or grosser kind of idolatry had been rendered thoroughly distasteful to the people by the sufferings of exile; and its place was taken by the more refined idolatry of dead-work righteousness, and trust in the outward fulfilment of the letter of the divine commands, without any deeper confession of sin, or penitential humiliation under the word and will of God. Because the fulness of salvation, which the earlier prophets had set before the people when restored to favour and redeemed from captivity, had not immediately come to pass, they began to murmur against God, to cherish doubts as to the righteousness of the divine administration, and to long for the judgment to fall upon the Gentiles, without reflecting that the judgment would begin at the house of God (Amos 3:2; 1 Peter 4:17). Malachi fights against this spirit, and the influence of the time in which he lived is apparent in the manner in which he attacks it. This style is distinguished from the oratorical mode of address adopted by the earlier prophets, and not unfrequently rises into a lyrico-dramatical diction, by the predominance of the conversational form of instruction, in which the thought to be discussed is laid down in the form of a generally acknowledged truth, and developed by the alternation of address and reply. In this mode of developing the thought, we can hardly fail to perceive the influence of the scholastic discourses concerning the law which were introduced by Ezra; only we must not look upon this conversational mode of instruction as a sign of the defunct spirit of prophecy, since it corresponded exactly to the practical wants of the time, and prophecy did not die of spiritual exhaustion, but was extinguished in accordance with the will and counsel of God, as soon as its mission had been fulfilled. Malachi's language, considering the later period in which he lived and laboured, is still vigorous, pure, and beautiful. "Malachi," as Ngelsbach says in Herzog's Cyclopaedia, "is like a late evening, which brings a long day to a close; but he is also the morning dawn, which bears a glorious day in its womb."

For the exegetical literature, see my Lehrbuch der Einleitung, p. 318; also Aug. Koehler's Wiessagungen Maleachi's erklrt, Erl. 1865.

God's Love, and the Contempt of His NameMalachi 1:1-2:9

The Lord has shown love to Israel (Malachi 1:2-5), but Israel refuses Him the gratitude which is due, since the priests despise His name by offering bad sacrifices, and thereby cherish the delusion that God cannot do without the sacrifices (Malachi 1:6-14). The people are therefore punished with adversity, and the priesthood with desecration (Malachi 2:1-9).

The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
The first verse contains the heading (see the introduction), "The burden of the word of the Lord," as in Zechariah 9:1 and Zechariah 12:1. On massa' (burden), see Nahum 1:1. The prophet commences his address in Malachi 1:2, by showing the love for which Israel has to thank its God, in order that on the ground of this fact he may bring to the light the ingratitude of the people towards their God. Malachi 1:2. "I have loved you, saith Jehovah; and ye say, Wherein hast Thou loved us? Is not Esau a brother of Jacob? is the saying of Jehovah: and I loved Jacob, Malachi 1:3. And I hated Esau, and made his mountains a waste, and his inheritance for jackals of the desert. Malachi 1:4. If Edom says, We are dashed to pieces, but will build up the ruins again, thus saith Jehovah of hosts: They will build, but I will pull down: and men will call them territory of wickedness, and the people with whom Jehovah is angry for ever. Malachi 1:5. And your eyes will see it; and ye will say, Great is Jehovah over the border of Israel." These four verses form neither an independent address, nor merely the first member of the following address, but the introduction and foundation of the whole book. The love which God has shown to Israel ought to form the motive and model for the conduct of Israel towards its God. אהב denotes love in its expression or practical manifestation. The question asked by the people, "Wherein hast Thou shown us love?" may be explained from the peculiarities of Malachi's style, and is the turn he regularly gives to his address, by way of introducing the discussion of the matter in hand, so that we are not to see in it any intention to disclose the hypocrisy of the people. The prophet proves the love of Jehovah towards Israel, from the attitude of God towards Israel and towards Edom. Jacob and Esau, the tribe-fathers of both nations, were twin brothers. It would therefore have been supposed that the posterity of both the Israelites and the Edomites would be treated alike by God. But this is not the case. Even before their birth Jacob was the chosen one; and Esau or Edom was the inferior, who was to serve his brother (Genesis 25:23, cf. Romans 9:10-13). Accordingly Jacob became the heir of the promise, and Esau lost this blessing. This attitude on the part of God towards Jacob and Esau, and towards the nations springing from them, is described by Malachi in these words: I((Jehovah) have loved Jacob, and hated Esau. The verbs אהב, to love, and שׂנא, to hate, must not be weakened down into loving more and loving less, to avoid the danger of falling into the doctrine of predestination. שׂנא, to hate, is the opposite of love. And this meaning must be retained here; only we must bear in mind, that with God anything arbitrary is inconceivable, and that no explanation is given here of the reasons which determined the actions of God. Malachi does not expressly state in what the love of God to Jacob (i.e., Israel) showed itself; but this is indirectly indicated in what is stated concerning the hatred towards Edom. The complete desolation of the Edomitish territory is quoted as a proof of this hatred. Malachi 1:3 does not refer to the assignment of a barren land, as Rashi, Ewald, and Umbreit suppose, but to the devastation of the land, which was only utterly waste on the western mountains; whereas it was by no means barren on the eastern slopes and valleys (see at Genesis 27:39). Tannōth is a feminine plural form of tan equals tannı̄m (Micah 1:8; Isaiah 13:22, etc.), by which, according to the Syrio-Aramaean version, we are to understand the jackal. The meaning dwelling-places, which Gesenius and others have given to tannōth, after the lxx and Peshito, rests upon a very uncertain derivation (see Roediger at Ges. Thes. p. 1511). "For jackals of the desert:" i.e., as a dwelling-place for these beasts of the desert (see Isaiah 34:13). It is a disputed point when this devastation took place, and from what people it proceeded. Jahn, Hitzig, and Koehler are of opinion that it is only of the most recent date, because otherwise the Edomites would long ago have repaired the injury, which, according to Malachi 1:4, does not appear to have been done. Malachi 1:4, however, simply implies that the Edomites would not succeed in the attempt to repair the injury. On the other hand, Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:3 evidently contain the thought, that whereas Jacob had recovered, in consequence of the love of Jehovah, from the blow which had fallen upon it (through the Chaldaeans), Esau's territory was still lying in ruins from the same blow, in consequence of Jehovah's hatred (Caspari, Obad. p. 143). It follows from this, that the devastation of Idumaea emanated from the Chaldaeans. On the other hand, the objection that the Edomites appear to have submitted voluntarily to the Babylonians, and to have formed an alliance with them, does not say much, since neither the one nor the other can be raised even into a position of probability; but, on the contrary, we may infer with the greatest probability from Jeremiah 49:7., as compared with Jeremiah 25:9, Jeremiah 25:21, that the Edomites were also subjugated by Nebuchadnezzar. Maurer's assumption, that Idumaea was devastated by the Egyptians, Ammonites, and Moabites, against whom Nebuchadnezzar marched in the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, is perfectly visionary. The threat in Malachi 1:4, that if Edom attempts to rebuild its ruins, the Lord will again destroy that which is built, is equivalent to a declaration that Edom will never recover its former prosperity and power. This was soon fulfilled, the independence of the Edomites being destroyed, and their land made an eternal desert, especially from the times of the Maccabees onwards. The construction of אדום as a feminine with תּאמר may be explained on the ground that the land is regarded as the mother of its inhabitants, and stands synecdochically for the population. Men will call them (להן, the Edomites) גּבוּל רשׁעה, territory, land of wickedness, - namely, inasmuch as they will look upon the permanent devastation, and the failure of every attempt on the part of the nation to rise up again, as a practical proof that the wrath of God is resting for ever upon both people and land on account of Edom's sins.

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,
And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
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.
And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
These ineffectual attempts on the part of Edom to recover its standing again will Israel see with its eyes, and then acknowledge that Jehovah is showing Himself to be great above the land of Israel. מעל לגבוּל does not mean "beyond the border of Israel" (Drus., Hitzig, Ewald, and others). מעל ל does not mean this, but simply over, above (cf. Nehemiah 3:28; Ecclesiastes 5:7). יגדּל is not a wish, "Let Him be great, i.e., be praised," as in Psalm 35:27; Psalm 40:17, etc. The expression מעל לגבוּל י does not suit this rendering; for it is an unnatural assumption to take this as an apposition to יהוה, in the sense of: Jehovah, who is enthroned or rules over the border of Israel. Jehovah is great, when He makes known His greatness to men, by His acts of power or grace.

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?
The condemnation of that contempt of the Lord which the priests displayed by offering bad or blemished animals in sacrifices, commences with the following verse. Malachi 1:6. "A son honoureth the father, and a servant his master. And if I am a father, where is my honour? and if I am a master, where is my fear? saith Jehovah of hosts to you, ye priests who despise my name, and yet say, Wherein have we despised Thy name? Malachi 1:7. Ye who offer polluted bread upon my altar, and yet say, Wherewith have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of Jehovah, it is despised. V.8. And if ye offer what is blind for sacrifice, it is no wickedness; and if ye offer what is lame and diseased, it is no wickedness. Offer it, now, to thy governor: will he be gracious to thee, or accept thy person? saith Jehovah of hosts. Malachi 1:9. And now, supplicate the face of God, that He may have compassion upon us: of your hand has this occurred: will He look upon a person on your account? saith Jehovah of hosts." This reproof is simply directed against the priests, but it applies to the whole nation; for in the times after the captivity the priests formed the soul of the national life. In order to make an impression with his reproof, the prophet commences with a generally acknowledged truth, by which both priests and people could and ought to measure their attitude towards the Lord. The statement, that the son honours the father and the servant his master, is not to be taken as a moral demand. יכבּד is not jussive (Targ., Luth., etc.); for this would only weaken the prophet's argument. The imperfect expresses what generally occurs, individual exceptions which are sometimes met with being overlooked. Malachi does not even appeal to the law in Exodus 20:12, which enjoins upon children reverence towards their parents, and in which reverence on the part of a servant towards his master is also implied, but simply lays it down as a truth which no one will call in question. To this he appends the further truth, which will also be admitted without contradiction, that Jehovah is the Father and Lord of Israel. Jehovah is called the Father of Israel in the song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:6), inasmuch as He created and trained Israel to be His covenant nation; compare Isaiah 63:16, where Jehovah is called the Father of Israel as being its Redeemer (also Jeremiah 31:9 and Psalm 100:3). As Father, God is also Lord ('ădōnı̄m: plur. majest.) of the nation, which He has made His possession. But if He is a Father, the honour which a son owes to his father is due to Him; and if a Lord, the fear which a servant owes to his lord is also due to Him. The suffixes attached to כּבודי and מוראי are used in an objective sense, as in Genesis 9:2; Exodus 20:17, etc. In order now to say to the priests in the most striking manner that they do the opposite of this, the prophet calls them in his address despisers of the name of Jehovah, and fortifies this against their reply by proving that they exhibit this contempt in their performance of the altar service. With regard to the construction of the clauses in the last members of Malachi 1:6, and also in Malachi 1:7, the participle מגּישׁים is parallel to בּוזי שׁמי, and the reply of the priests to the charge brought against them is attached to these two participial clauses by "and ye say;" and the antithesis is exhibited more clearly by the choice of the finite tense, than it would have been by the continuation of the participle.

Malachi 1:7 is not an answer to the question of the priests, "Wherein have we despised Thy name?" for the answer could not be given in the participle; but though the clause commencing with maggı̄shı̄m does explain the previous rebuke, viz., that they despise the name of Jehovah, and will not even admit that this is true, it is not in the form of an answer to the reply of the opponents, but by a simple reference to the conduct of the priests. The answer is appended by בּאמרכם in Malachi 1:7 to the reply made to this charge also; and this answer is explained in Malachi 1:8 by an allusion to the nature of the sacrificial animals, without being followed by a fresh reply on the part of the priests, because this fact cannot be denied. The contempt on the part of the priests of the name of Jehovah, i.e., of the glory in which God manifested Himself in Israel, was seen in the fact that they offered polluted bread upon the altar of Jehovah. Lechem, bread or food, does not refer to the shew-bread, for that was not offered upon the altar, but is the sacrificial flesh, which is called in Leviticus 21:6, Leviticus 21:8, Leviticus 21:17, the food (lechem) of God (on the application of this epithet to the sacrifices, see the remarks in our comm. on Leviticus 3:11, Leviticus 3:16). The prophet calls this food מגאל, polluted, blemished, not so much with reference to the fact, that the priests offered the sacrifices in a hypocritical or impure state of mind (Ewald), as because, according to Malachi 1:8, the sacrificial animals were affected with blemishes (mūm), or had something corrupt (moshchâth) about them (Leviticus 22:20-25). The reply, "Wherewith have we defiled Thee?" is to be explained from the idea that either touching or eating anything unclean would defile a person. In this sense they regard the offering of defiled food to God as defiling God Himself. The prophet answers: In that ye represent the table of Jehovah as something contemptible. The table of Jehovah is the altar, upon which the sacrifices (i.e., the food of God) were laid. נבזה has the force of an adjective here: contemptible. They represent the altar as contemptible not so much in words or speeches, as in their practice, viz., by offering up bad, despicable sacrificial animals, which had blemishes, being either blind, lame, or diseased, and which were unfit for sacrifices on account of these blemishes, according to the law in Leviticus 22:20. Thus they violated both reverence for the altar and also reverence for Jehovah. The words אין רע are not to be taken as a question, but are used by the prophet in the sense of the priests, and thus assume the form of bitter irony. רע, bad, evil, as a calumniation of Jehovah. In order to disclose to them their wrong in the most striking manner, the prophet asks them whether the governor (פּחה: see at Haggai 1:1) would accept such presents; and then in Malachi 1:9 draws this conclusion, that God also would not hear the prayers of the priests for the people. He clothes this conclusion in the form of a challenge to supplicate the face of Jehovah (חלּה פני: see at Zechariah 7:2), that God would have compassion upon the nation; but at the same time he intimates by the question, whether God would take any notice of this, that under the existing circumstances such intercession would be fruitless. פּני אל is selected in the place of פּני יהוה, to lay the greater emphasis upon the antithesis between God and man (the governor). If the governor would not accept worthless gifts graciously, how could they expect a gracious answer to their prayers from God when they offered such gifts to Him? The suffix in יחנּנוּ refers to the people, in which the prophet includes himself. The clause "from your hand has זאת (this: viz., the offering of such reprehensible sacrifices) proceeded" (cf. Isaiah 50:11), is inserted between the summons to pray to God and the intimation of the certain failure of such intercession, to give still further prominence to the unlawfulness of such an act. The question הישּׂא וגו is appended to the principal clause חלּוּ־נא , and מכּם פּנים does not stand for פּניכם: will He lift up your face, i.e., show you favour? but מכּם is causal, "on your account" (Koehler): "will He regard a person, that is to say, will He show favour to any one, on your account, viz., because ye pray to Him for compassion, when these are the actions ye perform?" The view of Jerome, Grotius, and Hitzig, that the challenge to seek the face of God is an earnest call to repentance or to penitential prayer, is at variance with the context. What follows, for example, is opposed to this, where the prophet says it would be better if the temple were closed, since God does not need sacrifices.

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.
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.
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.
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.
Malachi 1:10. "O that there were one among you, who would shut the doors, that ye might not light mine altar to no purpose! I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of hosts, and sacrificial offering does not please me from your hand. Malachi 1:11. For from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is burned and sacrifice offered, and indeed a pure sacrifice to my name; for my name is great among the nations, saith Jehovah of hosts. Malachi 1:12. And ye desecrate it with your saying: the table of Jehovah, it is defiled, and its fruit - contemptible is its food. Malachi 1:13. And ye say: behold what a plague! and ye blow upon it, saith Jehovah of hosts, and ye bring hither what is robbed and the lame and the sick, and thus ye bring the sacrificial gift; shall I take pleasure in this from your hand? saith Jehovah." The construction מי בכם ויסגּר is to be explained in accordance with Job 19:23 : "Who is among you and he would shut," for "who is there who would shut?" and the question is to be taken as the expression of a wish, as in 2 Samuel 15:4; Psalm 4:7, etc.: "would that some one among you would shut!" The thought is sharpened by gam, which not only belongs to בּכם, but to the whole of the clause: "O that some one would shut," etc. The doors, the shutting of which is to be desired, are the folding doors of the inner court, in which the altar of burnt-offering stood; and the object of the wish is that the altar might no more be lighted up, not "by lights which burned by the side of the altar" (Ewald), but by the shining of the sacrificial fire which burned upon the altar. חנּם, in vain, i.e., without any object or use, for Jehovah had no pleasure in such priests or such worthless sacrifices. Minchâh here is not the meat-offering as distinguished from the slain-offering, but sacrifice generally, as in 1 Samuel 2:17; Isaiah 1:13; Zephaniah 3:10, etc. Such sacrifices God does not desire, for His name proves itself to be great among all the nations of the earth, so that pure sacrifices are offered to Him in every place. This is the simple connection between Malachi 1:10, Malachi 1:11, and one in perfect harmony with the words. Koehler's objection, that such a line of argument apparently presupposes that God needs sacrifices on the part of man for His own sake, and is only in a condition to despise the sacrifices of His nation when another nation offers Him better ones, has no force, because the expression "for His own sake," in the sense of "for His sustenance or to render the perpetuation of His being possible," with the conclusion drawn from it, is neither to be found in the words of the text, nor in the explanation referred to. God does indeed need no sacrifices for the maintenance of His existence, and He does not demand them for this purpose, but He demands them as signs of the dependence of men upon Him, or of the recognition on the part of men that they are indebted to God for life and every other blessing, and owe Him honour, praise, and thanksgiving in return. In this sense God needs sacrifices, because otherwise He would not be God to men on earth; and from this point of view the argument that God did not want to receive the reprehensible sacrifices of the Israelitish priests, because sacrifices were offered to Him by the nations of the earth in all places, and therefore His name was and remained great notwithstanding the desecration of it on the part of Israel, was a very proper one for attacking the delusion, that God needs sacrifices for His own sustenance; a delusion which the Israelitish priests, against whom Malachi was contending, really cherished, if not in thesi, at all events in praxi, when they thought any sacrificial animal good enough for God. Koehler's assumption, that Malachi 1:11 contains a subordinate parenthetical thought, and that the reason for the assertion in Malachi 1:10 is not given till Malachi 1:12, Malachi 1:13, is opposed to the structure of the sentences, since it necessitates the insertion of "although" after כּי in Malachi 1:11.

It is must more difficult to decide the question whether Malachi 1:11 treats of what was already occurring at the time of the prophet himself, as Hitzig, Maurer, and Koehler suppose (after the lxx, Ephr., Theod. Mops., etc.), or of that which would take place in the future through the reception of the heathen into the kingdom of God in the place of Israel, which would be rejected for a time (Cyr., Theod., Jerome, Luther, Calvin, and others, down to Hengstenberg and Schmieder). Both of these explanations are admissible on grammatical grounds; for such passages as Genesis 15:14 and Joel 3:4 show very clearly that the participle is also used for the future. If we take the words as referring to the present, they can only mean that the heathen, with the worship and sacrifices which they offer to the gods, do worship, though ignorantly yet in the deepest sense, the true and living God (Koehler). But this thought is not even expressed by the Apostle Paul in so definite or general a form, either in Romans 1:19-20, where he teaches that the heathen can discern the invisible being of God from His works, or in Acts 17:23. in his address at Athens, where he infers from the inscription upon an altar, "to the unknown God," that the unknown God, whom the Athenians worshipped, is the true God who made heaven and earth. Still less is this thought contained in our verse. Malachi does not speak of an "unknown God," whom all nations from the rising to the setting of the sun, i.e., over all the earth, worshipped, but says that Jehovah's name is great among the nations of the whole earth. And the name of God is only great among the Gentiles, when Jehovah has proved Himself to them to be a great God, so that they have discerned the greatness of the living God from His marvellous works and thus have learned to fear Him (cf. Zephaniah 2:11; Psalm 46:9-11; Exodus 15:11, Exodus 15:14-16). This experience of the greatness of God forms the substratum for the offering of sacrifices in every place, since this offering is not mentioned merely as the consequence of the fact that the name of Jehovah is great among the nations; but in the clause before the last, "the latter is also expressly placed towards the former in the relation of cause to effect" (Koehler). The idea, therefore, that the statement, that incense is burned and sacrifice offered to the name of Jehovah in every place, refers to the sacrifices which the heathen offered to their gods, is quite inadmissible. At the time of Malachi the name of Jehovah was not great from the rising to the setting of the sun, nor were incense and sacrifice offered to Him in every place, and therefore even Hitzig looks upon the expression בּכל־מקום as "saying too much." Consequently we must understand the words prophetically as relating to that spread of the kingdom of God among all nations, with which the worship of the true God would commence "in every place." בּכל־מקום forms an antithesis to the one place, in the temple at Jerusalem, to which the worship of God was limited during the time of the old covenant (Deuteronomy 12:5-6). מקטר is not a partic. nominasc., incense, suffimentum, for this could not signify the burnt-offering or slain-offering as distinguished from the meat-offering (minchâh), but it is a partic. verbale, and denotes not the kindling of the sacrificial flesh upon the altar, but the kindling of the incense (suffitur); for otherwise מגּשׁ would necessarily stand before מקטר, since the presentation preceded the burning upon the altar. The two participles are connected together asyndetos and without any definite subject (see Ewald, 295, a). It is true that minchâh tehōrâh does actually belong to muggâsh as the subject, but it is attached by Vav explic. in the form of an explanatory apposition: offering is presented to my name, and indeed a sacrificial gift (minchâh covering every sacrifice, as in Malachi 1:10). The emphasis rests upon tehōrâh, pure, i.e., according to the requirements of the law, in contrast to sacrifices polluted by faulty animals, such as the priests of that day were accustomed to offer.

(Note: In Malachi 1:11 the Romish Church finds a biblical foundation for its doctrine of the bloodless sacrifice of the New Testament, i.e., the holy sacrifice of the mass (see Canones et decreta concil. Trident. sess. 22), understanding by minchâh the meat-offering as distinguished from the bloody sacrifices. But even if there were any ground for this explanation of the word, which there is not, it would furnish no support to the sacrifice of the mass, since apart from the fact that the sacrifice of the mass has a totally different meaning from the meat-offering of the Old Testament, the literal interpretation of the word is precluded by the parallel "burning incense" or "frankincense." If burning incense was a symbol of prayer, as even Reincke admits, the "sacrificial offering" can only have denoted the spiritual surrender of a man to God (Romans 12:1).)

In the allusion to the worship, which would be paid by all nations to the name of the Lord, there is an intimation that the kingdom of God will be taken from the Jews who despise the Lord, and given to the heathen who seek God. This intimation forms the basis for the curse pronounced in Malachi 1:14 upon the despisers of God, and shows "that the kingdom of God will not perish, when the Lord comes and smites the land with the curse (Malachi 4:6), but that this apparent death is the way to true life" (Hengstenberg).

To this allusion to the attitude which the heathen will assume towards Jehovah when He reveals His name to them, the prophet appends as an antithesis in Malachi 1:12, Malachi 1:13 a repetition of the reproof, that the priests of Israel desecrate the name of the Lord by that contempt of His name, which they display by offering faulty animals in sacrifice. Malachi 1:12 is only a repetition of the rebuke in v.7. חלּל is really equivalent to בּזה שׁם and גּאל in Malachi 1:6 and Malachi 1:7, and מגאל to נבזה in Malachi 1:7, which occurs in the last clause of Malachi 1:12 as synonymous with it. The additional words וניבו וגו serve to strengthen the opinion expressed by the priests concerning the table of the Lord. ניבו is placed at the head absolutely, and is substantially resumed in אכלו. ניב, proventus, produce, income; the suffix refers to shulchan Yehōvâh (the table of the Lord). The revenue of the table of the Lord, i.e., of the altar, consisted of the sacrifices offered upon it, which are also called its food. The assumption is an erroneous one, that the sentence contains any such thought as the following: "The revenue drawn by the priests from the altar, i.e., the sacrificial flesh which fell to their share, was contemptible;" according to which the priests would be represented as declaring, that they themselves could not eat the flesh of the sacrifices offered without disgust; for they could not possibly speak in this way, since it was they themselves who admitted the faulty animals. If the flesh of blind, lame, or diseased animals had been too bad for food in their estimation, they would not have admitted such animals or offered them in sacrifice (Koehler). Even in Malachi 1:13 this thought is not implied. מתּלאה is a contraction of מה־תּלאה (cf. Ges. 20, 2, a): What a weariness it is! The object, which the priests declare to be a burdensome and troublesome affair, can only be inferred from the following expression, vehippachtem 'ōthō. Hippēăch signifies here to blow away, like הפיח ב in Psalm 10:5, which is radically connected with it, i.e., to treat contemptuously. The suffix אותו does not refer to אכלו, but to שׁלחן יי. The table of Jehovah (i.e., the altar) they treat contemptuously. Consequently the service at the altar is a burden or a trouble to them, whereas this service ought to be regarded as an honour and a privilege. Jerome thinks that instead of אותו, we might read אותי, which is found in a good number of codices; and according to the Masora, אותו has found its way into the text as Tikkune Sopherim (compare the remarks at Habakkuk 1:12 on the Tikkune Sopherim). But in this case also the reading in the text is evidently original and correct. They manifest their contempt of the altar by offering in sacrifice that which has been stolen, etc. (cf. Malachi 1:8). The first הבאתם is to be understood as referring to the bringing of the animals upon the altar; and והבאתם את־המּנחה is to be interpreted thus: "And having brought such worthless animals to the slaughter, ye then offer the sacrificial gift." There is indeed no express prohibition in the law against offering gâzūl, or that which has been stolen; but it was shut out from the class of admissible sacrifices by the simple fact, that robbery was to be visited with punishment as a crime. The reproof closes with the question, which is repeated from Malachi 1:8 (cf. Malachi 1:10), whether God can accept such sacrifices with pleasure. The prophet then utters the curse in the name of God upon all who offer bad and unsuitable sacrifices.

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.
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.
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.
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.
"And cursed is he who deceives whilst there is in his flock a male animal, and he who vows and sacrifices to the Lord that which is corrupt; for I am a great King, saith Jehovah of hosts, and my name is feared among the nations." This verse is not attached adversatively to Malachi 1:13, but Vav is the simple copula, for the question in Malachi 1:13 has a negative sense, or is to be answered by "No." To this answer there is attached the curse upon all the Israelites who offer such sacrifices to God as have not the characteristics required by the law. Two cases are mentioned. In the first place, that when according to the law a male animal ought to have been sacrificed, the person offering the sacrifice offered a female, i.e., one of less value, under the pretence that he did not possess or could not procure a male. The prophet calls this nâkhal, cheating. The second case refers to votive sacrifices; for which as zebhach shelâmı̄m (Leviticus 22:21) both male and female animals could be used, though only such as were free from faults, inasmuch as animals having any moshchâth are declared in Leviticus 22:25 to be not acceptable. Moshchâth, according to the Masoretic pointing, is the feminine of the hophal participle for משׁחתתּ, like משׁרת for משׁרתת in 1 Kings 1:15 (cf. Ewald, 188, b, and Olshausen, p. 393), according to which we should have to think of a female animal in bad condition. This pointing, however, is probably connected with the view still defended by Ewald, Maurer, and Hitzig, that the words ונדר וזבח are a continuation of the circumstantial clause וישׁ וגו, and that Malachi 1:14 only refers to votive sacrifices: Cursed is the deceiver who has in his flock a male, but vows and sacrifices a corrupt female. This view, however, is evidently opposed to the meaning of the words. If לונדר were a circumstantial clause, we should expect והוּא נדר. Moreover, since even female animals were admissible for votive sacrifices, the vowing and offering of a female animal could not be blamed in itself, and therefore what was reprehensible was not that a female animal was vowed and offered in sacrifice by any one, but that, instead of offering a faultless animal (tâmı̄m), he presented a blemished one. We must therefore follow the ancient translators and many commentators, who read moshchâth (masc.), according to which the curse is pronounced upon any one who vowed a sacrifice and afterwards redeemed his vow with a faulty and unsuitable animal. An animal was moshchâth, corrupt, when it had any fault, which rendered it unsuitable for sacrifice. The reason for the curse is explained by reminding them of the greatness of God. Because Jehovah is a great King and His name is feared among the nations, to offer a corrupt animal in sacrifice is an offence against His majesty.

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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Zechariah 14
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