Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.SECTION IV
The sending of Jehovah’s Messenger. The coming of the Angel of the Covenant to judge, but not to utterly destroy Israel (Malachi 2:17–3:7)
17Ye 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?
1Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly1 [unexpectedly] come to his temple, even the messenger [angel, ἀγγελός, LXX.] of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts. 2But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap [lye]; 3And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. 4Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old, and as in former years. 5And I will come near to you to judgment: and I will be a swift2 witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress3 the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside [ plural. The Keri reads singular] the stranger from his right, and 6fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts. For I am the Lord, 4I change not [For I, Jehovah, change not]; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Malachi 3:17. Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. This verse should have been the first verse of the third chapter, for a new subject begins here, having no very close connection with what precedes. The prophet is here opposing the unbelief of a class, who, like the Pharisees, served God, kept his ordinance, and walked mournfully before Him, but who lost their faith in Providence, when God delayed to punish the wicked, and who complained, not in words perhaps, for, as Cocceius remarks, “Scripture is wont to ascribe to the wicked expressions suitable to their character,”—that He treated all alike, for if this was not the case, why did He not punish the wicked? That by the “doers of evil” here, and by the sorcerers, adulterers, false swearers, and oppressors of Malachi 3:5, and by the proud (Malachi 3:15), are meant sinners of the Jews, and not of the Gentiles, seems perfectly evident, for these were offenses against the law of Moses. The prophecy had nothing to do with the heathen, who were without the pale of the Covenant. Such a denunciation of God’s judgment upon the heathen would have gratified the haughty and intolerant spirit of the Jews. Strange to say, this reference has been made by Jerome, Hengstenberg, Hitzig, Reinke, Bunsen, Keil. The burden of the third chapter is, Maranatha! The Lord cometh!
Malachi 3:1. Behold, I will send my Messenger. The prophet now opposes to the unbelief of the people Jehovah’s own word. He will come for judgment, but before his coming, He will send his messenger to prepare his way. It is not said, a Messenger, but his Messenger, the one familiar to them from Isaiah’s prophecy (Malachi 40:3), where the Hebrew words, to prepare the way, are identical with those here. The crier of Isaiah is here described as the Messenger of Jehovah. In both prophecies his office is the same. That Malachi is not here speaking of himself, nor of an ideal person, in whom the whole prophetic order culminated, as Hengstenberg maintains, is clear from the fact that this messenger is called in ch 4:5 Elijah, the prophet; that our Lord, speaking of John the Baptist, declares, “This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matt. 11:10; Luke 7:27), and that Mark makes use of this prophecy as fulfilled in John, quoting it, indeed, as from Isaiah, because he was the Major Prophet, according to Tregelles’ text of Mark 1:2: “Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord, their God, and he shall go before him (i. e., the Lord, their God, the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord of Malachi 3:1) in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:16).
Malachi 3:1. The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the Angel of the Covenant. The Lord, whom ye seek, refers back to the preceding verse, where is the God of Judgment? The word Lord, אָדוֹן, with the article, is applied only to God. In the parallel clause, even the angel of the covenant, he is designated by a peculiar title expressing his office, as this is the only place where this official title occurs, it requires explanation.
From a very early period we find mention of an extraordinary Messenger, or Angel, who is sometimes called the Angel of God, at others, the Angel of Jehovah. He is represented as the Mediator between the invisible God and men in all God’s communications and dealings with men. To this Angel divine names, attributes, purposes, and acts are ascribed. He occasionally assumed a human form, as in his interviews with Hagar, Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Gideon, Manoah, and his wife. He went before the camp of Israel on the night of the Exodus. In Exodus 23:20, Jehovah said, “Behold, I send an angel before thee to bring thee into the place, which I have prepared. My name is in him.” In Isaiah 63:9 he is called the Angel of his Presence, or face, where there is a reference to Ex. 33:14, 15, where Jehovah said to Moses, “My presence (or Hebrew, My face) shall go with thee, and Moses said, If thy face go not with us, carry us not up hence.” He is called the face of God, because though no man can see his face and live, yet the Angel of his face is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. In him Jehovah’s presence is manifested, and his glory reflected, for the glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ. There is thus a gradual development in the Old Testament of the doctrine of the incarnation, of the distinction of persons in the Godhead, not brought to light fully, lest it should interfere with the doctrine of the unity of God. (For a more full discussion of the Angel of Jehovah, see Hengstenberg’s Christology, vol. 1. p. 161, Keith’s Translation; Lange On Genesis, p. 386; Keil On Genesis, p. 184).
We would further remark that of the Covenant has been understood by most Commentators, as referring to the New Covenant of which Jesus is the Mediator (Heb. 9:15). Köhler and Keil understand by it the Old Covenant, in which God promised to dwell with his people. In that case, the Angel is the Mediator of the Old Covenant. But we need not restrict it to either, but consider it applicable to both, to all God’s covenant relations to man. Behold he shall come must be predicated of the covenant angel.
Malachi 3:2. But who may abide the day of his coming. We find similar language in Joel 2:11: “The day of the Lord is great and very terrible, and who can abide it?” The question, who shall abide it, is an emphatic negative, no one can abide it. As the Lord is a righteous judge, the day in which He comes must be a day of decisive judgment. As Augustine says, “The first and second advent of Christ are here brought together.” Malachi sees the great white throne in the background. In the last clause of this verse he gives the reason why it is impossible to endure it, since He is like the fire of the refiner, which separates all dross, and like the lye of the washer, which cleanses all stains.
The word ברִית, which is translated in our version soap, occurs only here and in Jeremiah 2:22. Soap was unknown to the ancients, and this was a vegetable substance, from the saltwort, which was burned and water poured on its ashes.
Malachi 3:3. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. In the second verse the Lord is the fire; here by a flight change in the figure, he is the smelter, who lets the pure metal flow off, while the dross remains behind. He shall sit is pictorial to make the figure more striking.
This judgment begins at the house of God, with the priests who stand in the closest relation to Him. This purification will result in the cutting off the impenitent, and in the reformation of those who repent, so that they offer sacrifices in a proper state of heart, in righteousness.
Malachi 3:4. Then shall the offering, etc. When the priests are thus purified, then the sacrifice of the whole nation will be acceptable, as in the early and better times, as in the days of David, to the Lord. The Masora remarks, that the prophetic lesson for the Sabbath before the Passover begins here and ends with the prophecy. This lesson was selected because of the injunction in Malachi 3:4, to remember the law of Moses.
Malachi 3:5. And I will come near to you to judgment. The prophet proceeds to show that the coming judgment will not be only upon the priests but upon all the people. He will practically convince the wicked by his judgment, and that too unexpectedly, and thus will be a swift witness. The sins specified here were all sins against the law of Moses, some of them to be capitally punished. The Jews were very much addicted from this time onward, as Josephus and the New Testament testify, to sorcery, or witchcraft. The oppressors are mentioned. Those who oppress the wages of the hireling. This verb is followed by the accusative of the person, excepting here, and in Micah 2:2. That turn aside the stranger (Deut. 27:19), or oppress him. The tenderest love to the stranger is everywhere breathed in the law (Ex. 23:9; Deut. 10:17, 18; Deut. 27:19).
Malachi 3:6. For I Jehovah change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Jehovah is not here the predicate, as in our version and Luther’s, but is in apposition with the pronoun I, in contrast with the sons of Jacob. For is causal. It is because Jehovah is unchangeable in his gifts and calling, that He will not suffer Israel wholly to perish, though their sins deserved their destruction. He must accomplish his purposes of mercy. Köhler finds in the phrase sons of Jacob, an intimation that they resembled Jacob in character before he became Israel, but it is better to regard it as an emphatic expression for the covenant nation. These do not perish, because their existence rests upon the promise of the unchangeable God, as Moore remarks, “The sons of Jacob shall not be consumed, the seed of Christ shall not perish. The unchangeableness of God is the sheet-anchor of the Church.”
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
E. POCOCK: On Malachi 3:1. He should come unawares when men should not think on or be aware of Him. By the temple no doubt is meant the temple at Jerusalem, then lately built after their return from the Babylonish captivity, which, whatever alterations were made in it, was still looked upon as one till the time it was destroyed by the Romans; and by the Jews called the Second Temple in respect to that former, built by Solomon, and destroyed by the Chaldæans. To this temple it is here said, that the Lord here, spoken of should come; and so did Christ whom we say o be that Lord; and of his coming to it and his appearances there at several times we read, He was there first presented by his mother (Luke 2:22); there again, when He was twelve years old, found sitting among the doctors (Malachi 3:46), where, in his answer to his mother who told him that they had sought Him sorrowing, He may seem to allude even to this prophecy, “Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?” Was it not foretold that He should come to the temple? Was not that the proper place for Him to be in, and or them to look after Him in? Several other times we read of his going to it, preaching in it, received with Hosannahs, exercising his authority in it, in purging it, and vindicating the dignity of it, and driving out thence those that profaned it. Any of these appearances there is sufficient to prove in and by Him to have been made good that which we take to be the main drift of this expression in this prophecy, namely, that the Lord (Christ or Messiah) here spoken of was to come while the temple (that temple then built) was standing; which is likewise evidently foretold by the Prophet Haggai (Malachi 2:7), that into it should come the desire of all nations, and it should be filled with glory, yea, that thereby the glory of that latter house should be greater than that of the former (Malachi 3:9), though it were then in their eyes as nothing in comparison with it (Malachi 3:3).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
PRESSEL, on Malachi 3:17. Where is the God of judgment? The judgment of the world and of Scripture as to the riddle of human destiny; or, there is a God, who lives to avenge and punish,—a truth which even men of the world admit, but which only lovers of the truth rightly understand. Ye have wearied, etc. Whereby is the God of infinite patience wearied? Not by our prayers. Not even by our infirmities, but indeed by our hardness and stubbornness, which will not confess our guilt, and be converted.
On Malachi 3:1. Though there are quotations from the Old Testament in the New, which are to be regarded only as an application, though never a random one, of the language of the Old, yet, in all the quotations, which are accompanied by an explanation from the Lord Himself, or his Apostles, we have the most certain commentary, which informs us how the Old Testament writer himself understood, and how he would have others understand his prophecy. On this ground, such an interpretation of Mal. 3:1, as Hengstenberg and others have given, is untenable; for when the Lord Himself (Matt. 9:10; Luke 7:27) says, “This is he of whom it is written,” we must understand by, “my messenger,” a definite person, first named by Malachi, and not the collective body of the prophets, extending down to John the Baptist. If there is to be a second coming of our Lord, it may be assumed that the prophecy before us will be fulfilled in all its particulars, and for the very reason that Malachi knows no difference between a first and second coming of the Lord, and his Messiah. Now it cannot but be expected, that the second coming of the Lord will be accompanied with the same purification as the first was in the children of Israel and that the process of this purification will have the same general cause and result. Though this is to be expected, it by no means follows that this will be accomplished by a second sending of John the Baptist, or by the sending of only one man, after the manner of Elijah, since the person of the Lord Himself is carefully to be distinguished from that of his forerunner: the Lord is one; the forerunner, whether John an Elijah, may be more than one; the Lord is for all nations; Elijah and John only for the people of Israel; and when the second coming of the Lord is at hand, there may be also among the different nations of the world, different messengers, like Elijah and John, to prepare the way of the Lord, as indeed the Revelation of John speaks, in the eleventh chapter, of two such witnesses.
On Malachi 3:5. We need only further remark, that between the first and second coming of our Lord, a process of purification takes place in portions of Christendom, by virtue of which the impure elements will be cast off, the hollowness and profanation of God’s service and the Christian character will be exposed, and the true Christian will go to meet his future glory, as after all his inevitable, and often fiery trials, he reflects the image of his God and Saviour.
Among the commentators on the Prophets, we must reckon the great Handel, for he has in such a way illustrated to the world their most weighty prophecies in his Oratorio of the Messiah, that we cannot read them without being reminded of his musical commentary, and thereby be inspired, as it were, to interpret them. This is specially true of this last prophecy of the Old Testament.
On Malachi 3:1: Behold, the day cometh! Two Advent questions: Dost thou believe in the coming of the Lord in humiliation? and dost thou hope for his coming in glory? The world may believe or not, the Lord cometh: the world may prepare itself, or not, the Lord judges. This first Advent teaches us the former, and his second Advent the latter. After perhaps the hymn has been sung, “All Christians wait for thee, O Son of God !” can we also say, “And love thy appearing”
The Lord once said, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed,” and it remains true down to the second coming. Notwithstanding God calls to his people, Behold! for true faith has its eyes open for that which happened at the first coming of the Lord, for that which will happen at his second, and for that which must happen in us, in order that the first as well as the second coming may prove our salvation. He shall prepare the way before me. Every minister of the Church, and every Christian, in the most private circle, can prepare the way of the Lord by warning and teaching, by example and intercession, but he is only a servant, and must wait in the humility and patience of the Lord Himself. Every thing in the world is easier to be calculated, than the day when the Lord comes, and easier to be endured than his coming. He shall sit as a refiner’s fire. The refining of the Lord has its day, and the day of the Lord has its refining. What salutary terror, and what strong consolation must this comparison of the divine refiner work in us!
The purifying fire is at hand to us all. It brings with it a torture, for which the world has no soothing balm; it penetrates what is most secret and inmost; it makes manifest whether we shall be acknowledged by the Lord, or cast away. If we would be the Lord’s, then we may say, The Lord sits, and has his eyes fixed upon me even in the furnace, and especially there. He intends only my purification, and should the smallest grain of gold in faith and love be found in me, He does not cast me away with the dross of this world; and his design is that his image may be reflected in me, and that I may be acceptable to Him. The prayer of humility and faith is, O Lord, though thou shouldst, find no gold in me, let me only be found as useful silver.
Malachi 3:5. How suddenly and how deeply will the day of judgment interrupt the pursuits of the world! How suddenly! for the prophet says, “suddenly,” and “a swift witness,” so that the world will be surprised in the midst of it pursuits. How deeply ! for all unrighteous actions and causes, however great, or little, will be rejudged, and brought to light in their ungodliness. Job was able to comfort himself with the word, “My witness is in heaven !”—the opposite of the threatening word, “a swift witness:” hence the question comes up, Have I a witness in heaven to fear? What does He see with his all-seeing eye? and what sentence will He hereafter pass upon me with his all-decisive lips?
Malachi 3:1.—פִּהְאֹם, not immediately (statim Jerome), but unawares, unexpectedly, LXX. suddenly. Messenger, corsponding to angel in Greek, Angel of the Covenant, identical with the Lord, הָאָדוֹן. This form is always spoken of Jehovah; Ex. 23:17; Ps. 114:7; Is. 1:24.
Malachi 3:5.—מִמַהֵר, swift, corresponding to פִּתְֹאם, Malachi 3:1, unexpectedly.
Malachi 3:5.—עָשק, followed by a neuter object only here, and in Micah 2:2.
Malachi 3:6.—Jehovah is not the predicate, but in apposition with I: the parallel, ye sons of Jacob, shows this.
Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?SECTION V
The People are rebuked for withholding the legal Tithes and Offerings
7Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? 8Will a man rob5 [defraud] God? Yet [ that, Köhler, Keil, Pressel], ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.6 [In tithe and heave offering.] 9Ye are cursed with a curse: for [yet] ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10Bring ye all the tithes7 [tithe] into the storehouse8 [treasury], that there may be meat [food, Vulgate cibus] in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not9 open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it10 [to superabundance]. 11And I will rebuke11 the devourer for your sakes,12 and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground;13 neither shall your vine cast her fruit14 before the time in the field, saith the Lord of Hosts. 12And all nations shall call15 you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of Hosts.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Malachi 3:7. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. After Jehovah had announced the coming judgment for the long-continued transgressions of the people, He adds a gracious promise, as in Zech 1:3: “Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord, and I will return unto you.” In self-righteous delusion, supposing that they lack nothing, and need no repentance, they inquire, Wherein, in what particular, shall we return? The prophet thereupon shows them their sin. They do what no man should attempt. They try to defraud God in the tithe and heave-offering, either by not paying them at all, or not paying them as they should. The word קָבַע, which occurs besides only in Proverbs 22:3, where it is translated, spoil, means here, as the connection shows, defraud, overreach, cheat.
Malachi 3:8. Will a man rob (or defraud) God? The Prophet appeals to their conscience for a decision as to the baseness of their conduct. But ye have robbed, or defrauded, me, or, That ye have robbed me. This is a reason of the previous question, since you have defrauded me.
In tithe and offering. This is a specification of the manner in which they had robbed God. In Neh. 13:10 we find a striking coincidence with this verse. “I perceived, that the portions of the Levites had not been given them. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn, wine, and oil.”
The tithe, according to Lev. 27:30, and Deut. 14:22, was of the corn, wine, and oil, and of the firstlings of the flock and herd, for the maintenance of the Levites. The heave-offering—for that is here referred to—was the portion of the priests. “Ye shall give the heave-offering to the priests.” It was partly a free-will offering, and partly prescribed by the law. They withheld tithes, notwithstanding that God had already visited them with severe punishment, which aggravated their guilt. They had been cursed, as we learn from the following verses, with failure of the harvest and famine. This curse corresponded to their sin. As they had refused to give God his due withholding the tithes and offerings, so had He withheld from them the products of the field.
Malachi 3:9. Ye are cursed with a curse. The position of the noun before the verb is here highly emphatic. Yet me ye defraud. It is not necessary to regard the ו as causal.
Malachi 3:10. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse. The prophet now enlarges upon the mode of recovering the divine favor. Israel should not, as before, keep back a part of the tithes, but should pay the whole without defrauding Jehovah, that there might be food for the priests and Levites. Notwithstanding Jehovah was angry with the priests, yet He cannot suffer the people to withhold the tithe.
Storehouse. This same word is translated, Neh. 13:12, treasuries. We find in 2 Chronicles 31:11, mention of chambers in the Temple, into which they were to bring the tithes. In Neh. 10:38, the Levites were to bring the tithe to the chambers, into the treasure-house.
Prove me now herewith. The object of the proof of Jehovah was not, whether He would be faithful to his promise, for this was not the subject under discussion, but whether He was a holy and righteous God, for this had been called in question by them. They were now to put Him to the test, and learn by the result of the experiment, in what relation He stood to them, and also learn, that as He had manifested Himself as a holy God in his severity, so He would also do so in his goodness, and the abundance of the blessings conferred upon those who keep his commandments.
If I will not open the windows of heaven. This is to be regarded as an indirect question, whether I will not. Open the windows. We read of the windows of heaven in Gen. 7:11, 2 Kings 7:2. The copious blessing is here compared to rain coming down from heaven.
And pour out upon you a blessing till there is not sufficiency of room. The word דָי means, sufficiency, and room is to be understood, as in Zech. 10:10: “and place shall not be found for them,” where place is to be supplied, as here room. בְּלִי negatives the idea of the noun as in Is. 5:14. The interpretation, forever, adopted by Wordsworth: “Till there be not enough, till my abundance is exhausted; and since this can never be, therefore it means, forever,” is strained and unnatural. The Septuagint has translated it: “Until there should be enough.”
Malachi 3:11. And I will rebuke the devourer. This verse describes in detail what blessings Jehovah’s coming will bring with it. Jehovah will take away everything which would injure the fruits. The devourer, that is, the locust, shall no more ravage the land. The corn and wine shall flourish. The grapes shall not fall before they ripen.
Malachi 3:12. And all nations shall call you blessed. The consequence of Jehovah’s blessing will be, that the land will be an object of pleasure to every one. We find similar language in Zech. 8:13: “As ye were a curse among the heathen, so shall ye he a blessing.”
DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL
From MATT. HENRY: On Return unto me (Malachi 3:7). What a gracious invitation God gives them to return and repent! Return unto me, and to your duty, return to your service, return to your allegiance, return as a traveller that has missed his way, as a soldier that has run from his colors, as a treacherous wife that has gone away from her husband; return, thou backsliding Israel, return to me; and then I will return unto you, and be, reconciled, will remove the judgments you are under and prevent those you fear. What a peevish answer they return to this gracious invitation! Wherein shall we return. Note: God takes notice what returns our hearts make to the calls of his Word, what we say, and what we think when we have heard a sermon; what answer we give to the message sent us. When God calls us to return we should answer, as they did (Jer. 3:22): Behold, we come, but not as these here, Wherein shall we return? They take it as an affront to be told of their faults, and called upon to amend them; they are ready to say, What ado do these prophets make about returning and repenting. They are so ignorant of themselves, and of the strictness, extent, and spiritual nature of the divine law, that they see nothing in themselves to be repented of; they are pure in their own eyes, and think they need no repentance. Many ruin their souls by baffling the calls to repentance.
PRESSEL: On Malachi 3:10. Prove me now herewith. The condescending goodness of God gives not only to the godly, but sometimes even to the ungodly, opportunity and even a challenge to prove his truth and almightiness; and it is the duty of a minister of God now, as it was then of the Prophet Malachi, not only to point both classes to it, but even to offer to them this proving of God, confident as Elijah was against Ahab, and as Isaiah was against Ahaz, that God will not forsake his servants, but will by the event put to shame all unbelief.
On Malachi 3:13. We are very apt to complain of God’s providences, when extraordinary afflictions and troubles put men out of patience, or when we read or hear of extraordinary accidents, but where a heart stands firm in the fear and love of God, what the Apostle John says: “His, seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin,” is true of it.
On Malachi 3:10–12. How much depends upon our giving ourselves wholly as an offering to the Lord ! The offerings which the Lord now requires are our own hearts, and all that comes from them. But if the Lord was so strict in tithes, how much more so is He with our hearts ! Dost thou wish the full blessing of God, then be exact in whatever is thy duty. What is our duty? Whatever God requires of us, whether great or little, whether his service or an every-day life. How can he who is not strict in his duty hope, or even pray for the full blessing of God?
On Malachi 3:14, 15. The vain service of God, He serves God in vain who serves Him only outwardly. He who serves Him from the heart has never served Him in vain. God is not man. It sometimes is the case with men that an outward service only receives an unmerited reward, or that he who serves another from the heart does not receive his due reward, for men can be deceived; but this can never be the case with God, for He is omniscient and faithful. All things are under God’s providence. The contrary seems to be the case in the history of the world and in daily experience, and men without conscience lose thereby their faith; but this is only so in appearance, for the inward testimony of the heart and eternity will make plain the most difficult and frowning providences, and sometimes in this world, God’s holy and righteous government is clearly manifested.
Malachi 3:8.—קָבַע, found only in Prov. 22:3: to cheat, defraud. The Fut. is used here in the sense of: dare a man rob God.
Malachi 3:8.—תְּרוּמָה. The heave-offering.
Malachi 3:10.—The whole tithe.
Malachi 3:10.—אוֹצָר, storehouse, or treasury; Neh. 13:12.
Malachi 3:10.—אִמ־לֹא, not an oath, whether not.
Malachi 3:10.—דִי means need, lack.
Malachi 3:10.—בּלִ negatives the idea—beyond sufficiency.
Malachi 3:11.—גָעַר, to rebuke. In Malachi 2:3, it is translated, corrupt. לָבֶם, dative of use, profit.
Malachi 3:11.—The LXX. read, אשְׁחִית, I will destory.
Malachi 3:11.—תְּשַׁכֵּל, miscarry, applied to the vine.
Malachi 3:11.—יַשְׁחִת. The future is here used contingently, to denote a probable future occurrence. See Nordbeimer, 933, 1.
Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?SECTION VI
The Coming of a Day of Judgment which will vindicate the Ways of God, and reward the Righteous and punish the Wicked. Elijah the Prophet
13Your words have been stout [bold] against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? 14Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully [gloomily] before [because of Jehovah] the Lord of Hosts? 15And now16 we call the proud happy; yea they that work wickedness are set up; yea,17 they that tempt God are even delivered. 16Then they that feared the Lord spake often18 [ nothing corresponding to often in Hebrew] one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance19 was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. 17And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels20 [or possession]; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. 18Then shall ye return21 [again], and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
Malachi 3:15.—עַתָּה, a particle of inference, chaps. 1:9, 2:1. (Ewald, 353.)
Malachi 3:15.—The second גַם marks a climax. Nordh. 1096.
Malachi 3:16.—Spake often. The same word is used in Malachi 3:13, and translated, spoken. The word often is not in the Hebrew.
Malachi 3:16.—Remembrance (זִכָּרוֹן), found in Ex. 28:29; Num. 10:10.
Malachi 3:17.—סְגֻלָּה, jewels (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 26:18).
Malachi 3:18.—Return, שׁוּב, is used here as in 1:4, as an adverb, again (Gen. 14:2).
Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?CHAPTER 4:1–6
1For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all [ plural in LXX., Targum, and eighty MSS.] that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun [ fem. as in Gen. 15:17; Jer. 15:9; Nah. 3:17] of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up1 [leap for joy] as calves of the stall. 3And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under, the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of Hosts. 4Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, Which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with [strike out: with] the [as] statutes and judgments [precepts]. 5Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet2 before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: 6And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to [עַל, to or together with] the children [sons], and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Malachi 3:13. Your words have been bold against me. Jehovah through the Prophet, now shows the people that their murmuring against Him and his service as unprofitable is unjust. Hengstenberg and Reinke suppose that there is a dialogue between the Prophet and the people, that they reply to the Prophet’s words, and contradict them. Jehovah has said, Prove me now herewith? They reply, The wicked prove God, and are delivered. The Prophet says: They shall call you happy. They answer: And now we call the wicked happy. The Prophet says: Ye have not observed mine ordinances. The people reply: We HAVE observed them. But as this view is too ingenious, and the Niphal is used, They spake one to another, they conversed about God, and as it is analogous to 2:17, Ye have wearied me with your words, we must reject it.
Your words are stout, that is, bold, presumptuous, impudent. We have the substance of them, that it was profitless to serve God, since He was not a righteous God, and that therefore they are to be called happy who sought to secure their earthly well-being, without regard to God. Such hard speeches of ungodly sinners against God never pass the lips of a pious Asaph or Job, not even in the times of sorest trial, and in hours of the deepest darkness. They, though uttering despairing feeling, never draw such conclusions, nor go so far as to renounce God. Some have found the atheism of these sinners in the phrase serve God, instead of serve Jehovah.
Malachi 3:14. We have kept his ordinance. We have observed all the prescribed rites. Walked mournfully, to go about in sackcloth, to neglect their appearance in token of fasting, and for the sake of Jehovah. They lay stress upon fasting, whether prescribed or voluntary, which was regarded as more meritorious. They attributed worth to the opus operatum of fasting, a disposition attacked by Isaiah in Isaiah 58., which increased after the Captivity, until it culminated in the fasting twice in the week of the Pharisees. They felt that they had claims upon God, and complained that He did not reward them for it.
Malachi 3:15. And now we call the proud happy. In consequence of the supposed uselessness of their piety, and the adversity in which Jehovah suffered them to remain, they, unlike Asaph, offend against the generation of God’s children by speaking thus, and begin to call the haughty sinners happy, as those who have chosen the best part. We must again regard the proud here as in Malachi 2:17, as godless sinners in Israel. They must be the same with the proud in Malachi 4:1, which Hengstenberg admits refers to sinners in Zion, though here he refers it to the heathen. The heathen are spoken of as the objects of the divine punishment, only when they have harmed God’s people, and never where the sins of his people are rebuked. The people now give the reason why they considered the haughty sinners happy. They appeal to the matter of fact, that, though the wicked have put God to the test by their sins, calling down the vengeance of heaven, yet they have been unpunished, and their condition is therefore to be envied. The two clauses correspond to each other, and are placed in a reciprocal relation to each other by the double yea (גַם).
Malachi 3:16. Then they that feared the Lord spake one to another. The prophet now in a narrative form gives the speeches of the godly in contrast with the hard speeches of the ungodly. There were a faithful few who feared God with a holy fear, and who valued his name, who, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, believed that verily THERE a God judging the earth. The language of the ungodly was the occasion of their speaking together, not, often, as in our version. It was then (אָז) they testified their faith in God. We need not adopt the view of Maurer and Hitzig, that vav. conv. is to be translated that, and begins the quotation of their very words, for this is contrary to usage. We have not the substance of their conversation. Jerome imagines that it was a defense of God’s dealings, which is doubtless correct. They sighed and cried for the abominations of the times (Ezekiel 9:4). Horror took hold of them because of the wicked who forsook God’s law, and they exhorted one another daily not to lose their faith in God, as holy and righteous. Their conduct and words pleased God, and to show the certainty of their reward He is represented as recording their names and good deeds in a book of remembrance, lest He should forget to reward them. Some have found an allusion to the custom of ancient kings keeping books, in which all the most important events of their reigns were recorded, as in Esther 6:1, 2, but it rests upon a much older and Scriptural idea, that the names and actions of the righteous are written in a book before God (Ps. 56:9; Dan. 7:10). The Pirke Avoth, a collection of the sayings of the Rabbis, quotes this passage, and the comment of Rabbi Chanina ben Teradjon: “Where two sit together, and there are no words of the law spoken between them, there is the seat of the scorner of whom it is said, ‘He sitteth not in the seat of the scorner;’ but where two sit together, and words of the law are spoken between them, there dwells the Shekinah among them, as it is written, ‘Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.’ ”
Malachi 3:17. And they shall be mine, etc. We find the additional promise, They shall be to me a peculiar treasure, not jewels, specifically, as in our version. The accents make סְגֻלָּח (possession), the object of make, but most of the recent commentators, following the LXX., the Targum, and Jerome, regard it as the predicate of, They shall be to me. They shall be my possession in the day with I make, or appoint. In favor of this, we find the same words in Ex. 19:5, to which- this verse doubtless refers. “Ye shall be to me a peculiar possession out of all nations,” and also in Deut. 7:6: “The Lord, thy God, hath chosen thee to be to Him a people of possession.” Further, in Malachi 3:3, we find the same phrase as here, the day I make, or appoint. In the New Testament, this language is borrowed from the LXX. to represent the relation of believers to God, as in 1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 1:14; 2 Thess. 2:14; Titus 2:14, where we find a peculiar people, where the same word, περί ποίησιν, is used, as in the Septuagint translation of this passage.
I will spare them—manifest tender compassion to them, as a man spareth not his son merely, but his son, who serveth him, who is filial and obedient. “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him” (Ps. 103:13).
Malachi 3:18. Then shall ye again discern between. The subject of the verb must be the wicked murmurers, and not, as Henderson thinks, the righteous. The wicked had arraigned God’s Justice, now they shall be forced to acknowledge it in their own punishment. The word שׂוּב in Hebrew is sometimes used as an adverb. It is so regarded here by Köhler, Keil, Gesenius, Henderson, and others. Hengstenberg and Keil find in Malachi 4:18 a reference to Ex. 11:7, where it is said: “The Lord put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” Köhler understands by it, that the wicked would now stand in a different relation to the question than they did before, that they would, in the future, in consequence of Jehovah’s judgments, recognize that difference. Calvin understands it, “if a different state of things.” We are not to put too much emphasis upon it, nor need we refer it to any special case. The preposition between, seems to be used here as a noun, though not strictly such, in the sense of difference. The time will come, when ye will see the between in relation to the righteous and the wicked, as in Is. 65:13, 14: “Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry. My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall howl for vexation of spirit.”
Malachi 4:1. For, behold, the day cometh. In Hebrew, there are but three chapters in Malachi, the third chapter containing twenty-four verses, instead of eighteen, as in our version. Most of the modern Versions begin unnecessarily here a new chapter. The prophet now describes the results of that appointed day, first to the wicked (Malachi 3:19), and then to the righteous, in Malachi 3:20, 24.
Behold, the day cometh! We find similar language in Zeph. 1:15: “That day is a day of wrath, Dies lrœ, Dies Illa, and in Joel 2:31, where we find “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Some have referred the day here spoken of to the destruction of Jerusalem, others to the last great day. While it is to receive its fulfillment in the last day, yet it is capable of more than one fulfillment. It is fulfilled in every coming to judgment. As Wordsworth says: “All God’s judgments are hours, marked on the dial-plate, and struck by the alarum of that great day.” The destruction of Jerusalem was but the fiery and blood-red dawn of that day of days. To the ungodly it will be like a furnace, where the five burns most fiercely, and which scorches and consumes everything which comes near it. They that do wickedly will then be as the dry chaff, which is utterly consumed. Isaiah uses the same figure; 5:21; and Obadiah, 1:18; Zech. 12:6; Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17.
That it shall leave, etc. The אֲשֶׁר here is not a relative pronoun, as Maurer and Reinke sup pose, but a conjunction; so Keil, Köhler, and Ewald, so that neither root, nor branch, a proverb, to express utter destruction; not one shall escape.
John the Baptist made this verse the text of his exhortations when he spoke of the axe laid to the root of the tree, and the chaff burnt with unquenchable fire.
Malachi 4:2. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise. Jehovah now turns, and directly addresses the righteous, and promises them that the Sun of Righteousness will rise upon them. There has been much difference of opinion as to whether the Sun of Righteousness was to be understood personally of Christ, or whether it is only a genitive of apposition—the sun, which is righteousness, or, righteousness, as a sun. The Fathers, Eusebius, Cyril, Theodoret, the early Protestant commentators, and a majority of modern ones, refer it to Christ, while the Jewish commentators, and Hengstenberg, Keil, Reinke, Köhler, refer it to the consummation of salvation, in which Jehovah’s righteousness reveals itself to the godly. Hengstenberg admits that the interpretation which refers it to Christ is well founded, though he does not find in it a distinct allusion to the person of Christ. Keil, while interpreting it, that righteousness, that is, salvation, is regarded as a sun, yet concedes that the personal view is founded upon a truth, that the coming of Christ brings righteousness. Henderson remarks: “There can be no doubt with respect to the application,” and refers to the passage where Christ is called the light of men, the light of the world, a great light (Is. 9:1), a light to the Gentiles (Is. 49:6), the true light, the day-spring from on high. Moore remarks: “We cannot think that the prophet here meant to predict Christ personally, or, indeed, to look at the ground of this righteousness at all.” We think it safer, from the parallel passages, from exegetical tradition, and from the internal evidence, commending itself to every believing heart, and which has found expression in hymns, and in the recorded religious history of multitudes, to understand this sublime figure not of an abstract righteousness, but of a personal Christ.
Healing in its wings. The beams of this sun are compared to the outstretched wings of a bird, to which they bear some resemblance. The figure is not to be carried out so far as to refer to the swiftness of a bird, or to the protection of her young by the mother bird, but is to be confined simply to healing…Healing or salvation comes to the God-fearing through the wings, or beams of this sun, shining fully upon them. As when the sun returns to the earth in spring time, all nature rejoices in its light and warmth, so the righteous shall be awaked to a new life by the beams of this sun.
And ye shall go forth, and leap as calves. The righteous shall go forth from darkness, and their joy is compared, in a simple and childlike manner, to that of calves, let loose from the stall to go to pasture, who frisk and leap for joy.
Malachi 4:3. They shall be ashes. The wicked, who have troubled them, shall be as little regarded by them as the ashes trodden under foot of men.
Malachi 4:4. Remember ye the law of Moses. Now follows an exhortation as to the way in which the coming judgment is to be averted. We have here the conclusion of the whole book, and the appropriate sealing up of the Old Testament. There is in it an intimation, that no further communications are to be made. As they had gone away from God’s law, now they must give all diligence to observe and obey it. The Septuagint, it is difficult to see for what reason, has transposed this verse, and placed it at the end of the book, where it is out of place, as it serves as the introduction to the promise of John the Baptist, and the reformation to be wrought by him. Hengstenberg and Reinke suppose the reason of the transposition is to be found in the great importance of the precept, but the more probable reason is, that it was done, as in other cases, to avoid top harsh a sound in the last verse.
Which I commanded him, not whom I commanded, as Ewald, Reinke, and Bunsen. Jehovah calls attention to the divine authority and origin of the law. Moses was but the servant of Jehovah.
Statutes and Judgments. These words are found in the same combination in Deut. 4:8, and may be construed as an exegetical definition, belonging to which, or with Köhler, as the predicate, which are statutes and judgments.
Malachi 4:5. Behold I will send Elijah the prophet. We have here a repetition of the promise in Malachi 3:1 in a more specific form. Behold, I will send Elijah, not the Tishbite, as the Septuagint has it, but Elijah the prophet. But why is John the Baptist here called Elijah? The angel before his birth said unto his father, Zacharias, “And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah.” There were many points of resemblance between Elijah and John. Both prophesied in a time of great unbelief and apostasy from the law; both sought to bring back the people to the piety of their fathers; both prophesied before great and terrible judgments. The historical circumstances in which they lived were remarkably parallel. Ahab reappears in Herod, Jezebel in Herodias The words of Mark 6:20, where he speaks of Herod, fearing John, and did many things, apply without any alteration to Ahab. Their very appearance, the fashion of their dress, and their mode of life, were identical. Bengel says of John: “Even the dress and food of John were in accordance with his teaching and office. The minister of repentance led the same life as penitents themselves should lead.” His mode of life was a sermon de facto on mortification. We may thus clearly see why John should be called in prophecy, which, for the most part, suppresses names, and which throws a thin veil of obscurity over its subjects, Elijah, just as Jesus himself was called David, because he was the son and successor of David (Hosea 3:5; Ez. 34:23; 37:24; Jer. 30:9). The interpretation of this prophecy, that Elijah was to reappear before the coming of the Messiah, has been universally held by the Jews, and the obstinacy with which they have clung to this opinion, received by tradition from their fathers, has been a great hindrance to their receiving Jesus as the Christ. In this interpretation, they have been countenanced by most of the Fathers, as Chrysostom, Origen, Cyril, Theodoret, Theophylact, Jerome, Tertullian, Augustine, who held to two Elijahs of prophecy, the one, John the Baptist, and the other, Elijah in person, who was to reappear, to convert the Jews, and prepare the way for the second coming of the Lord. The Romish commentators, in consequence of this consent of the Fathers, have held it a heresy, or next to a heresy, to reject this interpretation. Some few modern Protestant commentators, as Hitzig, Maurer, Ewald, Olshausen, Alford, Stier, and Ryle, have adopted the same view. Alford says: “John the Baptist only partially fulfilled the great prophecy, which announced the real Elias (the words of Malachi will hardly bear any other than a personal meaning) who is to forerun the second and greater coming.”
We have two most important declarations of our Lord’s on the Elijah of Malachi. Speaking of John the Baptist, he said: “This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I will send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. And if ye will receive it, This is Elias, who was to come.” Here our Lord declares that John fulfilled both prophecies in Malachi, and that he was his forerunner. And further, that so obstinate were their foregone conclusions, that Ηe did not expect they would believe it.
In Matthew 17:10, “His disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the Scribes, that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things, but I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Then understood his disciples, that He spake unto them of John the Baptist.” We would remark, that this conversation was soon after the Transfiguration of our Lord, when Elijah appeared. Sharing the common Jewish opinion, and supposing his residence with our Saviour would be a permanent one, they were perplexed at his disappearance. Their question led our Lord to speak of the prophecy of Malachi, and to place Himself at the time of its utterance, when the coming of Elijah as John was yet future. Hence He uses the future in speaking of John’s agency. Alford infers from the use of the future, that Elijah is yet to reappear, but it can be easily explained in the way which has been done.
Again, the denial of John (John 1:21) has been made use of by the few Protestant commentators who have held the view of another Elijah. John did not deny to the deputation from the Sanhedrim, that he was the Elijah of Malachi. This he affirms, when he says, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord;” but that he was Elijah in their sense, Alford finds in, If ye will receive it, a confirmation of his views, but this expression strengthens the exclusive reference to John the Baptist, that it was so plain, that nothing but the most inveterate prejudice prevented their acknowledging it.
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day. This expression, the great and terrible day, is found in Joel 2:31. The day (Malachi 3:17, 4:1–5) throughout has the same meaning. It refers especially to the destruction of Jerusalem. When the Lord Jesus came, it was not only to give eternal life to those who received Him, but for judgment upon those who rejected Him. His coming was necessarily followed by the condemnation of the unbelieving. The Gospel is always a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. But these words have more than one fulfillment. The last and perfect one will be in the last day.
Malachi 4:6. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children. Some commentators, among whom are Ewald, Maurer, and Henderson, understand this of a restoration of family harmony, but it is better to understand it of a reconciliation between the ungodly, estranged from the piety of their ancestors and their pious forefathers, produced by repentance. Thus the bond of union, which had been broken, will be restored. That such is the meaning is proved by Luke 1:16, 17, where “the disobedient to the wisdom, or disposition, of the just,” is substituted, as containing the same sense.
Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. By the earth here is meant, the land of Israel. The word, חֵרֶם, curse, means anything devoted to the Lord, and is sometimes used in a good sense, as in Lev. 27:28. More generally, however, in a bad sense, as in Zech. 14:11, where it is translated, utter destruction, the ban of extermination.
The close of the Old Testament in Malachi is unspeakably solemn. On its last leaf we find the blessing and the curse, life and death, set before us. As its first page tells us of the sin and curse of our first parents, so its last speaks of the law given by Moses, of sin, and the curse following, mingled with promises of the grace which was to come by Jesus Christ. So on the last page of the New Testament, we read of “plagues written in this book,” but its last words are gracious words: “Surely I come quickly ! Amen. Even so. Come, Lord Jesus ! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! Amen.”3
DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL
WORDSWORTH: “The concluding sentence of Malachi is a solemn warning to these latter days. The Holy Spirit knows what is best for us. He warns us of future punishment, in order that we may escape it, and that we may inherit everlasting glory. Knowing the terror of the Lord, he would persuade men. And the character of these latter days, when the Evil One is endeavoring to lure men into his own grasp, and to make them his victims forever, by dissolving God’s attributes into one universal fullness of undiscriminating love; and by endeavoring to persuade them that his justice and holiness are mere ideal theories and visionary phantoms, and that there is no judgment to come, and that the terrors of hell are but a dream, in defiance of the clear words of Him who is the Truth (Mark 9:44; Matt, 25:46), shows that there is divine foresight in this warning by Malachi. Let it not be forgotten that the Apostle of love, St. John, ends his Epistle with a warning against idolatry, and that at the close of the Apocalypse, there is a solemn declaration against all who tamper with any words of that book, which speaks in the clearest terms concerning judgment, I heaven, hell, and eternity. May we have grace so to profit by this solemn warning, that we may escape the malediction of those on the left hand at the great day, and inherit the blessing which will be pronounced to those on the right hand by the almighty and everlasting Judge! Now unto the King Eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!
KEIL: After Malachi, no prophet arose in Israel, until the time was fulfilled, when the Elijah predicted by him appeared in John the Baptist, and immediately afterwards the Lord came to his temple, that is to say, the incarnate Son of God to his own possession, to make all who receive Him children of God. Upon the Mount of Transfiguration, there appeared both Moses, the founder of the Law, and mediator of the Old Covenant, and Elijah the prophet, as the restorer of the law in Israel, who earnestly prayed, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou hast turned their heart back again!” to talk with Jesus of his decease, for a practical testimony to us all, that Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us, to bear our sin, and redeem us from the curse of the law, was the beloved Son of the Father, whom we are to hear, that by believing in his name we may become children of God, and heirs of everlasting life.
M. HENRY on Malachi 3:14: Walked mournfully. They insisted much upon it, that they had walked mournfully before God, whereas God had required them to serve Him with gladness and to walk cheerfully before Him. They by their own superstitions made the service of God a task and drudgery to themselves, and then complained of it as a hard service. The yoke of Christ is easy; it is the yoke of Antichrist that is heavy. They complained that they had got nothing by their religion; they denied a future state, and then said: It is vain to serve God, which has indeed some color in it, for if in this life only we had hope in Christ, we were of all men most miserable.
NOTE.—Those do a great deal of wrong to God’s honor, who say that religion is either an unprofitable or an unpleasant tiling; for the matter is not so; wisdom’s ways are pleasantness, and wisdom’s gains are better than that of fine gold.
M. HENRY on Malachi 4:16. They spake often, etc. Even in that corrupt and degenerate age, there were some that retained their integrity and zeal for God. In every age, there has been a remnant that feared the Lord, though sometimes but a little remnant. They thought upon his name; they seriously considered, and frequently meditated upon the discoveries God had made of Himself, and their meditation of Him was sweet. They consulted the honor of God, and aimed at that as their ultimate end in all they did. They spake often one to another concerning the God they feared, and that name of his, which they thought so much of; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak; and a good man out of the good treasure of his heart will bring forth good things. They that feared the Lord kept together as those that were company for each other; they spake kindly and endearingly one to another, for the preserving and promoting mutual love, that that might not wax cold when iniquity did thus abound. They spake edifyingly to one another, for the increase of faith and holiness; they spake one to another in the language of Canaan; when profaneness was to come to so great a height as to trample upon all that is sacred, then they spake often one to another. The worse others are, the better we should be; when vice is daring, let not virtue be sneaking. They were industrious to arm themselves and one another against the contagion by mutual instructions and encouragements, and to strengthen one another s hands. As evil communications corrupt good minds and manners, so good communications confirm them.
MOORE: When the wicked are talking against God, the righteous should talk for Him. Religious conversation is necessary, all the more, for the very reasons that often chill and repress it. When a fire burns low, the coals that are alive should be brought near together, that they may be blown into a flame. So when all is cold and dead, living Christians should draw near and seek the breathings, of the Spirit, and kindle each other by mutual utterance. The words thus and then spoken shall be heard and recorded in heaven.
DODDRIDGE has versified Malachi 4:16, 17:—
The Lord on mortal worms looks down
From his celestial throne;
And when the wicked swarm around,
He well discerns his own.
The chronicles of heaven shall keep
Their words in transcript fair;
In the Redeemer’s book of life,
Their names recorded are.
WORDSWORTH: Malachi, as successor to Zechariah, discharged a peculiar office. Zechariah is one of the most sublime and impassioned among “the goodly fellowship” of the Prophets. The light of the sunset of prophecy is as brilliant and glorious as its noonday splendors. The prophecy of Zechariah is an impetuous torrent, sweeping along in a violent stream, dashing over rugged rocks, and hurling itself down in headlong cataracts, and carrying everything with it in its foaming flood. In Malachi, it tempers its vehemence in the clear haven of a translucent pool; there it rested in peace for four hundred years, till it flowed forth again in the Gospel.
M. HENRY, on Malachi 4. Malachi 4:4: Observe the honorable mention that is made of Moses, the first writer of the Old Testament, in Malachi, the last writer. God calls him Moses, my servant, for the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance. See how the penmen of Scripture, though they lived at a great distance of time from each other (it was twelve hundred years from Moses to Malachi) concurred in the same thing, all actuated and guided by one and the same spirit.
PRESSEL: We meet sometimes in the Old Testament with passages, like flowers among the rocks, which anticipate the New Testament. Of this kind are the few passages in which God is regarded not as Lord but as Father (Deut. 32:6; 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 89:27, 103:13; Is. 63:16; Jer. 31:20; Hos. 1:10; Mal. 3:17). God appears in them indeed more as the Father of the whole nation, than in a personal relation to individuals. The joyfulness of the sonship of individuals does not attain prominence, and it was not the prevailing consciousness of the whole people; but these few traces of the fatherhood of God disclose the continuity of both Testaments. The relation, which was not possible for the Old Testament Church, the New Covenant has granted us through Jesus Christ, and what the New has thus granted, the Old had already foreshadowed.
Though the prophecy of Malachi, of the coming of the Messiah, of the judgment accompanying it, and of the sending of the forerunner, contains nothing at all which would lead us to suppose that the first coming would find its fulfillment in a second at the end of days, before which time there should happen his rejection by his people, his redeeming work on Golgotha, and the whole history of the spread of his Gospel even to the ends of the earth, yet nothing can be concluded from this against the truth, that this last prophecy of the Old Testament had begun to be fulfilled in the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth; for the occasion and design of this last prophecy had nothing to do with the subsequent events; for God reveals to his faithful people at every stage, and under all relations, only just so much as they need. The Old Testament has sufficiently disclosed the most glorious glimpses into the Messianic future, as special Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and other books testify, but here the object is only to enforce on the light-minded and scoffing contemporaries of the prophet the ineffaceable difference between the godly and ungodly, and the certainty of the day in which that difference would be revealed to all eyes. It was for this object, that what God communicated to them through his prophets of the coming of the Lord, and the sending of his Forerunner, was exactly what they needed.
Malachi 3:16, 17. Then they that feared the Lord. What is the frivolity and scorn of the world, when compared with the refuge of the pious in the word of God, in the communion of those like-minded, in prayer, and in a blessed hereafter!
The Lord knoweth them that are his! This Holy Scripture everywhere testifies. Does also the Spirit of God testify it to our spirits?
The names of those who are registered in our church books are not all found in God’s book of remembrance. As it was a great privilege to be numbered among the people of Israel, so it is one now to be numbered in our church books as a Christian; but as then there was a difference between those whose names were in God’s book, and those who were not, so it is still now.
“In thy fair book of life and grace,
O may I find my name,
Recorded in some humble place,
Beneath my Lord, the Lamb.”
This is the highest distinction to which man can attain: all others are but a shadow, when compared with it. It is a distinction most undeserved, and yet promised to the sincere and pious. It excludes all merit, and yet it is a reward of true piety.
Malachi 4:1. For behold the day comes!
“That day of wrath ! that dreadful day !
When heaven and earth shall pass away,
What power shall be the sinner’s stay?
How shall he meet that dreadful day !”
Malachi 4:2 What will the day of the Lord bring to the righteous, according to the promise of the Old Testament? The Sun of righteous ness; salvation under his wings; the joy of freedom; the triumph over the common enemies of the Lord and his people.
Malachi 4:4, 5 Moses and Elijah must even now go before the Lord: How far have they come to us? Or, Conversion is the turning point, where the Old Covenant ends, and the New begins: the heart begins, and the life must end.
Malachi 4:6. He shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. How has the Word of God laid upon us the duty of our conversion, and that of our families! Grant me the heavenly joy, that after many a struggle, I may with rapture say, Dearest Father! Here am I, and those whom thou hast given me! No one of them is lost! all are prepared for thy kingdom! That this may be our experience, we must strive by persevering prayer, and it will, when realized, be a matter of heavenly joy. Finally: The last word of the Old Testament is the threatening of the curse; of the New, the prayer, “Even so come, Lord Jesus!” What should we wish our last word to be?
CHRYSOSTOM on, Behold the day cometh! Let us then imagine that that day has come, and let each one examine his reflections, and let him suppose that the Judge is already present, and that all things are revealed and published; for we must not only stand there, but also be made manifest. Would you not blush? would you not be beside yourselves? For if now, when the occasion is not yet present, but is merely supposed, and represented to the imagination, we are overwhelmed by our reflections, what shall we do, when that day has come,—when the whole world is present,—when angels and archangels, when crowded myriads, and the hurrying to and fro of all have come; and we are caught up in the clouds, and the gathering together full of terror has come; when trumpet after trumpet shall sound exceeding loud,—when all these have come For even if there were no hell, what a punishment to be thrust out in the midst of such splendor, and to depart dishonored! For if even now, when a king and his retinue make a triumphal entry, the poor, reflecting on their poverty, receive not so much pleasure from the spectacle, as mortification, that they are not admitted to the presence of the king, nor share his favor, what will it be then! Or, do you consider it a light punishment not to be numbered in that company, not to be counted worthy of that unspeakable glory, to be thrust out from that joyful assembly, and from those unutterable blessings? when too, there shall be darkness, and gnashing of teeth, and everlasting chains, and the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched, and tribulation and anguish, and tongues parched like the rich man’s; when we shall beg for mercy, but no one shall hear; when we shall groan and howl because of our torments, and no one shall heed; and look round everywhere, and nowhere shall there be any to comfort us, what shall we say to those in such a condition, what can be more wretched than their souls! what more pitiable! For if we enter a prison, and see the squalid prisoners, some bound and famishing, others shut up in darkness, we weep aloud, we shudder, and avoid imprisonment there, when we are dragged away by force into the very torments of hell, what shall become of us! For these chains are not of iron, but of fire, never to be quenched; nor are our jailers men, whom it is often possible to persuade, but angels, whom we dare not look upon, because they are exceedingly enraged, that we have insulted their Lord. We do not see there, as here, some bringing money, some food others comforting words so that prisoners obtain some mitigation. Everything there is beyond the reach of alleviation. Even if Noah, or Job, or Daniel, should see their own families suffering punishment. they would not dare to relieve them. For natural sympathy is there extinguished. For while it is the case, that righteous parents have wicked children, and righteous children wicked parents, that the pleasure may there be unalloyed, and that those who enjoy the blessings may not lose their fruition from sympathy, even this natural affection, I say, is extinguished, and they share in their Lord’s indignation against their own offspring. For if common men, when they see their children wicked, disinherit them, and cut them off from the family, much more shall the righteous them. Therefore, let no one hope for good things, who has done no good work, though he may have ten thousand righteous ancestors, “for every one shall receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done.” And here I think I will make use of this fear to attack the adulterers, and not them only, but all those who do any wrong thing whatever. Let us ourselves hear therefore these things; if you have the fire of lust, oppose to it that fire, and being extinguished, it will quickly go out. If you are about to utter anything uncharitable, reflect on the gnashing of teeth, and your fear will be a bridle to you; if you wish to steal, hear the Judge commanding and saying, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness,” and you will in this way cast out your lust; if you are a drunkard, and spend your time in debauchery, hear the rich man saying, “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my parched tongue,” and not obtaining his request, and you will get rid of this passion. If you love luxury, consider the tribulation and anguish there, and you will desire it no more; if you are harsh and cruel, remember those virgins who, because their lamps had gone out, were shut out of the bridal chamber, and you will soon become kind-hearted. Are you slothful? Think of him who hid the talent, and you will become more ardent than fire. Does covetousness of your neighbor’s property consume you? Think of the worm that never dies, and yon will easily get rid of this disease, and will reform all other sins, for He has commanded nothing burdensome or grievous. Why them do his commandments seem grievous to us? From our slothfulness. For as when we are zealous, even those things which seem intolerable will be light and easy, so when we are slothful, the things which are tolerable will appear to us grievous. In view of all this, let us not regard those who live luxuriously, but remember their end; let us not regard the extortioners, but remember their end,—here cares and fears and anguish of soul, and there everlasting chains; let us not regard the lovers of glory, but remember what it begets,—here slavery and hypocrisy, and there intolerable loss, and perpetual burning. For if we would thus reason with ourselves, and continually oppose these and the like things to our wicked lusts, we should speedily cast out the love of the present, and kindle the love of the future. Let us now therefore kindle it, and burn with it. For if the meditation on these things, imperfect as it may be, gives such pleasure, think how much delight a perfect realization will be. Happy, thrice happy, yea, infinitely happy are those who enjoy such blessings, as wretched, thrice wretched are those who suffer their opposite! That we may not be of the latter class, but of the former, let us choose virtue, for in this way we shall obtain these future blessings. God grant that we may all obtain them, through the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, power, and honor now and always, and for ever and ever. Amen!
Malachi 4:2.—Grow up. פִּשְׁתֶּם, frisk. 70.: σκιρτᾶν (Hab. 1:8).
Malachi 4:5.—LXX.: ʼΗλίαν τὸν θεσβιτην. The Masora directs that this verse should be repeated after the last verse, so thet the book may not end with a curse.
Aben Ezra, at the close of his Commentary on the Minor Prophets says: “May God soon fulfill the prophecy of Elijah, and hasten his coming!” Rather may we pray that the veil may be taken from the hearts of the Jews, so that they may believe that this prophecy has been fulfilled, that Elias has already come, and that they may with us unite in the prayer, which every believing and loving soul continually prays: Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!