Malachi 1:7
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.
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(7) Ye offer.—Literally, offering.

Bread.—This is not the shewbread, which was not offered upon the altar. The word rendered “bread” means in Arabic “flesh;” in Hebrew, “food generally.” This word is applied (Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 3:16) to the fat portions of the peace offerings, which were burned, and is there translated “food.” (See references there.) In Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8; Leviticus 21:17; Leviticus 21:21-22; Leviticus 22:25, it is used of the sacrifices generally, but is there inconsistently translated “bread.”

Polluted.—The Hebrew word does not occur in this sense in the Pentateuch, but we have it in Daniel 1:8 in the reflexive conjugation: “to allow himself to be defiled” with food, and in the active (“polluted thee”) in this verse. The context shows that the words “polluted bread” means “food unfit to be offered.” “Polluted me” is the same as “profaned [my name]” (Malachi 1:12); for in the Hebrew Scriptures “God” and “God’s name” are often equivalent expressions (Comp. Malachi 2:5). Keil takes the words, which he wrongly translates, “ye that offer polluted bread,” as parallel to the words “despisers of my name,” and to a certain degree explanatory of them; while he finds the actual answer to the questions, “Wherein have we despised?” “Wherein have we polluted?” is given in the words, “In that ye say,” &c. He renders the passage thus:—

Saith the Lord of hosts unto you,

“Ye priests, who despise my name!”

And yet say, “Wherein have we despised thy name?”

“Ye who offer on mine altar polluted food.”

And yet say, “Wherein have we polluted thee?”

(Ans.) [Ye have despised my name and polluted me], in that ye say, “The table of the Lord is contemptible.”

The error of this rendering consists in supposing that “offering polluted food,” which is anathrous, can be parallel to “Ye priests who despise my name,” which is defined by the definite article. In truth, the English Version is perfectly correct. We will repeat it with only the slightest possible verbal alterations. and with such parenthetical explanations as are required to make it quite intelligible:—Saith the Lord of hosts unto you, “O priests, that despise my name!”

[This is the commencement of a prophetic rebuke to the priests; but they, in accordance with the prophet’s graphic style of writing, are supposed to catch him up at the first clause of his utterance.]

“But” [despisers of God’s name!] say ye, “wherein have we despised thy name?”

(Ans.) “Offering [as ye do] polluted food upon mine altar.”

“ But,” say ye, “wherein have we polluted thee?”

(Ans.) “When, now, ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?” &c.

Sayi.e., show by your conduct that such is your feeling. “This was their inward thought . . . he puts these thoughts into abrupt, bold, hard words, which might startle them for their hideousness, as if he would say, this is what your acts mean. He exhibits the worm and the decay which lay under the whited exterior.”—Pusey.

Tablei.e., altar, as in Ezekiel 41:22 : “The altar . . . this is the table that is before the Lord.” (Comp. Ezek. 49:16.)]

Malachi 1:7-8. Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar — By this seems to be meant, the bread-offering, or the cake of fine flour, which was to be offered with the continual sacrifice in the morning and evening of every day. By being polluted is to be understood, that it was not such as the law required. They diminished something, either in the quality or quantity of what the law commanded them to offer; either the bread was not made of good flour, or mixed with the required quantity of good oil. And ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? — Or dishonoured, or had thee in contempt? The answer is ready, In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible — You pretend, as a cover for your avarice, that the table or altar of the Lord is despised among the people, and that therefore they do not bring to it, by way of offering, that quantity of flour and oil which they should. Or the meaning is, By your actions you declare how little value you have for the worship of God, since you care not in how slight and contemptuous a manner it is performed. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? — The beasts to be offered were required to be perfect and without blemish, Leviticus 22:21-22. Offer it now to thy governor; will he be pleased with thee? — Wilt thou be acceptable or welcome unto him, bringing him such a worthless present? It argues a great contempt of Almighty God, when men are less careful in maintaining the decencies of his worship than they are in giving proper respect to their superiors.

1:6-14 We may each charge upon ourselves what is here charged upon the priests. Our relation to God, as our Father and Master, strongly obliges us to fear and honour him. But they were so scornful that they derided reproof. Sinners ruin themselves by trying to baffle their convictions. Those who live in careless neglect of holy ordinances, who attend on them without reverence, and go from them under no concern, in effect say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. They despised God's name in what they did. It is evident that these understood not the meaning of the sacrifices, as shadowing forth the unblemished Lamb of God; they grudged the expense, thinking all thrown away which did not turn to their profit. If we worship God ignorantly, and without understanding, we bring the blind for sacrifice; if we do it carelessly, if we are cold, dull, and dead in it, we bring the sick; if we rest in the bodily exercise, and do not make heart-work of it, we bring the lame; and if we suffer vain thoughts and distractions to lodge within us, we bring the torn. And is not this evil? Is it not a great affront to God, and a great wrong and injury to our own souls? In order to the acceptance of our actions with God, it is not enough to do that which, for the matter of it, is good; but we must do it from a right principle, in a right manner, and for a right end. Our constant mercies from God, make worse our slothfulness and stubbornness, in our returns of duty to God. A spiritual worship shall be established. Incense shall be offered to God's name, which signifies prayer and praise. And it shall be a pure offering. When the hour came, in which the true worshippers worshipped the Father in Spirit and in truth, then this incense was offered, even this pure offering. We may rely on God's mercy for pardon as to the past, but not for indulgence to sin in future. If there be a willing mind, it will be accepted, though defective; but if any be a deceiver, devoting his best to Satan and to his lusts, he is under a curse. Men now, though in a different way, profane the name of the Lord, pollute his table, and show contempt for his worship.Offering polluted bread upon Mine altar - This, continuing on the words, "despisers of My Name," , is the answer to their question, "Wherein have we despised Thy Name?" "Bread" might stand, in itself, either for the showbread, or for the מנחה minchāh, meal-offering, which was the necessary accompaniment of sacrifices and sometimes the whole.

But here the "polluted bread" cannot be the showbread, since this was not put upon the altar, but upon its own table; and although the altar is, as here, also called "a table" , in regard to the sacrifice hereon consumed, "the table" of the showbread is nowhere called "altar." The prophet then means by "bread," either the meal-offering, as representing the sacrifice, or the offerings by fire altogether, as in Ezekiel EZechariah 44:7, "When ye offer My bread, the fat and the blood;" and in Leviticus "the offerings of the Lord, made by fire, the bread of their God, do they offer;" and of the "peace-offering Leviticus 3:11, the priest shall burn it upon the altar; the bread of the offering made by fire unto the Lord:" and specifically, of animals with blemish, as these, it is forbidden Leviticus 22:25, "Neither from a stranger's hand shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these, because their corruption is in them, blemishes in them: they shall not be accepted for you." It was, as it were, a feast of God with man, and what was withdrawn from the use of man by fire, was, as it were, consumed by God, to whom it was offered.

It was "polluted," in that it was contrary to the law of God which forbade to sacrifice any animal, "lame or blind" or with "any ill blemish," as being inconsistent with the typical perfection of the sacrifice. Even the Gentiles were careful about the perfection of their sacrifices.

"Blind is the sacrifice of the soul, which is not illumined by the light of Christ. Lame is his sacrifice of prayer, who comes with a double mind to entreat the Lord." "He offereth one weak, whose heart is not established in the grace of God, nor by the anchor of hope fixed in Christ. These words are also uttered against those who, being rich, offer to the Creator the cheaper and least things, and give small alms."

"And ye say, Wherewith have we polluted Thee?" It is a bold expression. Yet a word, to which we are but too ill-accustomed, which expresses what most have done, "dishonor God," comes to the same. Though less bold in expression, they are yet like in meaning Ezekiel 13:19. "Will ye pollute Me anymore among My people?" or Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22, "that My Name should not be polluted before the pagan Ezekiel 43:7. My holy Name shall Israel no more defile Ezekiel 39:7, "I will not let them pollute My Name anymore." "Much more in the new law, in which the Sacrifice is Christ Himself our God, whence the Apostle says expressly 1 Corinthians 11:27, "Whoso eateth this bread and drinketh this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." "For when the sacraments are violated, Himself, whose sacraments they are, is violated." God speaks of our acts with an unveiled plainness, which we should not dare to use. "As we are said to sanctify God, when we minister to Him in holiness and righteousness, and so, as far as in us lies, show that He is holy; so we are said to pollute Him, when we conduct ourselves irreverently and viciously before Him, especially in His worship, and thereby, as far as in us lies, show that He is not holy and is to be dishonored."

"In that ye say, the table of the Lord is contemptible," literally "contemptible is it," , and so any contemptible thing might be offered on it. They said this probably, not in words, but in deeds. Or, if in words, in plausible words. "God doth not require the ornamenting of the altar, but the devotion of the offerers." "What good is it, if we offer the best? Be what we offer, what it may, it is all to be consumed by fire." "The pretext at once of avarice and gluttony!" And so they kept the best for themselves. They were poor, on their return from the captivity. Anyhow, the sacrifices were offered. What could it matter to God? And so they dispensed with God's law.

"So at this day we see some priests and prelates, splendid in their tables and feasts, sordid in the altar and temple; on the table are costly napkins and wine; on the altar torn linen and wine-mace rather than wine." "We pollute the bread, that is, the Body of Christ, when we approach the altar unworthily, and, being defiled, drink that pure Blood, and say, 'The table of the Lord is contemptible;' not that anyone dareth to say this, but the deeds of sinners pour contempt on the table of God."

7. ye offer, &c.—God's answer to their challenge (Mal 1:6), "Wherein have we despised?"

polluted bread—namely, blemished sacrifices (Mal 1:8, 13, 14; De 15:21). So "the bread of thy God" is used for "sacrifices to God" (Le 21:8).

polluted thee—that is, offered to thee "polluted bread."

table of the Lord—that is, the altar (Eze 41:22) (not the table of showbread). Just as the sacrificial flesh is called "bread."

contemptible—(Mal 1:12, 13). Ye sanction the stubborn and blemished offerings of the people on the altar, to gain favor with them. Darius, and probably his successors, had liberally supplied them with victims for sacrifice, yet they presented none but the worst. A cheap religion, costing little, is rejected by God, and so is worth nothing. It costs more than it is worth, for it is worth nothing, and so proves really dear. God despises not the widow's mite, but he does despise the miser's mite [Moore].

Ye offer polluted bread; you through covetousness take any the people bring, whether such as the law requires or no. If it answer not the perfection of the law, yet you first make it serve me, through your contempt of me, and then to serve your turn to feed you and yours.

Polluted; either by ill-managing it, and misordering what is good and allowable, or accepting what is disallowed and forbidden, because of its blemishes.

Bread; either the shew-bread, of which Exodus 25:30; or meat-offerings, Exodus 29:41 Le 2 Num 28:5; or, in a more large sense, all that was to be offered unto God, sacrifices and oblations.

Upon mine altar: by this it appears bread is to be expounded here of sacrifices, and not to be confined to the narrow bounds of this one kind.

And ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? they stand upon their own justification, and proudly contend with God, either implying they did not offer such polluted things, or if they were defective, and in law sense polluted, yet that this did redound to God, or affect him no more than the perfection of them could add to him.

In that ye say; perhaps in words, however by your deeds you speak your thoughts and judgment; you think so, and then act so.

The table; before it was altar, now it is table, not to be opposed each to other, but comprehending both, and all that was offered unto God on both.

Is contemptible; as if they measured sacrifice and oblation by the splendour and riches of the temple and altar; the first were more pompous than the second, and these priests probably thought they might abate in the qualities of the offerings, as this temple abated in its splendour; they contemned this, and then contemn those offerings.

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar,.... Which some understand of the shewbread, mention being afterwards made of a "table", as Jerom; who observes that it was made of wheat, which the priests themselves sowed, reaped, ground, and baked, and so could take what they would out of it: as for their sowing it, it does not seem likely that they should be employed in such service, whatever may be said for their reaping; since the sheaf of the first fruits was reaped by persons deputed from the sanhedrim (w); though of the reaping of that for the shewbread, I find no mention made; but as for grinding, sifting, kneading, and making it into loaves, and baking it, and taking it out of the oven, and putting it upon the table of shewbread, all this was the work of the priests (x); and those of the house of Garmu (y) were appointed over that work: now, this bread might be said to be polluted, when they set upon the table such as was not made of fine wheat flour, and had not pure frankincense put upon or by each row, as the law required, Leviticus 24:5 nor is it any material objection to this sense, that it is an altar, and not a table, on which this bread was offered; since, as the altar is called a table, Ezekiel 41:22, as this is in a following clause, the table may be called an altar; though it may be observed, that the shewbread is never said to be offered, but to be set, or put upon the table: indeed the burning of the frankincense set by it is called an offering made by fire unto the Lord, Leviticus 24:7 wherefore others interpret this of the daily meat offering, which went along with the daily sacrifice of the lambs, and part of which was burnt on the altar, Exodus 29:40 or rather this designs sacrifice in general, sometimes called "bread", Leviticus 3:11 and so the Targum here,

"ye offer upon my altar an abominable offering;''

such as had blemishes in them, were blind or lame, as after mentioned; and had not the requisites of a sacrifice in them; or were offered not in a right manner, or by bad men, and with a wicked mind:

and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? thy bread offering or altar; as if their offerings were pure, and they themselves, and their consciences pure from sin. The answer is,

In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible; either the shewbread table, which yet was covered with gold, and all the vessels of it made of gold; or the altar, as in Ezekiel 41:22 their actions spoke so loud, and declared that the table or altar of the Lord was a contemptible thing, since they cared not what was offered upon it: or the reason why it was had in contempt, as some think, was because there was not that holiness in the second temple as in the first: or, as Abarbinel and Kimchi say, because of the fat and the blood which were offered on the altar, which they esteemed contemptible things; not observing the end for which the Lord commanded them to be offered.

(w) Misn. Menachot, c. 10. sect. 3.((x) Maimon. Hilchot Tamidin, c. 5. sect. 6. (y) Misn. Shekalim, c. 5. sect. 1.

Ye offer {f} polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is (g) contemptible.

(f) You receive all types of offerings for your own greediness, and do not examine whether they are according to my Law or not.

(g) Not that they said this, but by their doings they declared it.

7. Ye offer polluted bread] i.e. sacrifices. The word is often used in this sense and rendered food; e.g. Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 3:16. Elsewhere the sacrifices are called, the bread or food of God. Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8; Ezekiel 44:7.

Their duty, as expounders of the Law (ch. Malachi 2:7), was to refuse to offer such sacrifices when they were brought to them, and to teach the people that they were expressly forbidden. Leviticus 22:17-25; Deuteronomy 15:21. “Sacerdotes debuerant illa omnia rejicere, et potius claudere Templum Dei, quam ita promiscue admittere quæ Deus sibi offerri prohibuerat.” Calvin.

polluted thee] Comp. “ye have profaned me,” Ezekiel 13:19, R.V. “It is a bold expression. God speaks of our acts with an unveiled plainness, which we should not dare to use.” Pusey.

ye say] by your conduct, if not in words.

Verse 7. - Ye offer polluted bread (food) upon mine altar. The prophet answers the priests simply by detailing some of their practices. The "bread" (lechem) is not the shewbread, which was not offered on the altar, but the flesh of the offered victims (see Leviticus 3:11, 16; Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 22:25). This was "polluted" in that it was not offered in due accordance with the ceremonial Law, as is further explained in the next verse. Wherein have we polluted thee? They did not acknowledge the truth that (as St. Jerome says) "when the sacraments are violated, he himself, whose sacraments they are, is violated" (comp. Ezekiel 13:19; Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 39:7). The table of the Lord is contemptible. This was the thought of their heart, if they did not give open expression to it in words. The "table of the Lord" (ver. 12) is the altar, on which were laid the sacrifices, regarded as the food. of God, and to be eaten by the fire (Ezekiel 41:22; Ezekiel 44:16). They showed that they despised the altar by fancying that anything was good enough for offering thereon, as the next verse explains. Malachi 1:7The 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.

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