Malachi 2:5
My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.
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(5) Of life and peace.—Better, life and peacei.e., by it life and peace were guaranteed to him.

Life in its highest sense.

Peace as the sum total of blessing: the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.” (Galatians 5:22; comp. Note on Zechariah 6:13.)

Them—viz., life and peace.

For the fear . . . me.—Better, As fear—(i.e., as a motive for the fear of God), and he did fear me. Or, perhaps, a still better interpretation is that which represents God and Levi as each having performed his part of the covenant—God in bestowing “life and peace,” Levi in rendering “fear.” According to this view, the words should be translated, My covenant was with him—viz., life and peaceand I gave them to him; fear, and he feared me, and trembled before My Name.

Malachi 2:5-6. My covenant was with him — The prophet here speaks of the succession of the ancient priests, such as Aaron, Eleazar, Phineas, and their successors, as of one single person, under the name of Levi, (see Zechariah 11:16,) and says, I gave him my covenant of life and peace, or of happiness and security; or I promised him a secure enjoyment of his office of the priesthood, on his due administration of his office before me. The words allude to Numbers 25:12-13, where God says concerning Phineas, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace, and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement, &c. Or, as it is here expressed, For the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name — Here God declares what was the foundation of the terms upon which he entered into this covenant with Phineas and his successors in the priesthood, namely, an awful reverence of him, and zeal for his honour and service. The law of truth, &c. — In this verse is described how Phineas and others, who were his successors in piety as well as in the priesthood, behaved in their office: and 1st, The law of truth was in his mouth — He taught the people that which was agreeable to the divine laws, that is, Aaron, Eleazar, Phineas did this; and every one of those priests or Levites, in whatever age they lived, who feared God and were obedient to him. 2d, Iniquity was not found in his lips — He neither lived himself in any known sin, nor did he mix any thing with the instructions he gave the people which was false, and calculated to mislead them, but declared to them the pure word of God, or the divine laws, without any false glosses or comments. The words may also mean, He judged, without respect of persons, in all the causes between man and man which came before him. 3d, He walked with me in peace and equity — He made my word the rule, and my glory the end of all his actions, and discharged his duty with fidelity and care, maintaining peace with me, and endeavouring to live peaceably with all men. And, 4th, Did turn many away from iniquity — He was not content with being pious and virtuous himself, but endeavoured, by his instructions and admonitions, to make others pious and virtuous.

2:1-9 What is here said of the covenant of priesthood, is true of the covenant of grace made with all believers, as spiritual priests. It is a covenant of life and peace; it assures all believers of all happiness, both in this world and in that to come. It is an honour to God's servants to be employed as his messengers. The priest's lips should not keep knowledge from his people, but keep it for them. The people are all concerned to know the will of the Lord. We must not only consult the written word, but desire instruction and advice from God's messengers, in the affairs of our souls. Ministers must exert themselves to the utmost for the conversion of sinners; and even among those called Israelites, there are many to be turned from iniquity. Those ministers, and those only, are likely to turn men from sin, who preach sound doctrine, and live holy lives according to the Scripture. Many departed from this way; thus they misled the people. Such as walk with God in peace and righteousness, and turn others from sin, honour God; he will honour them, while those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed.My covenant was with him life and peace; - literally "the life and the peace;" that, which alone is true "life and peace." The covenant was not with Levi himself, but with Aaron, his representative, with whom the covenant was made in the desert, as is indeed here expressed; and, in him, with all his race after him, who succeeded him in his office; as, when it is said, that 1 Chronicles 6:49, "Aaron and his sons offered upon the altar of burnt-offering," it must needs be understood, not of Aaron in person alone and his sons then living, but of any of his race that succeeded in his and their room. So our Lord promised to be with His Apostles Mat 28:20, "always to the end of the world," i. e., with them and those whom they should appoint in their stead, and these others, until He should Himself come. God promised, if they would keep the law, that they should live in peace on the earth; yea, that they should have peace of mind and a life of grace. "Life" is an indefectible being, which man does not forfeit by sin, to which death is no interruption, changing only the place of the soul's life.

And I gave them to him - , in, or as, "fear," "Fear, not servile but filial and pure, as Paul bids Christians Philippians 2:12, 'work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.'" God gave them an awful gift, to be held with fear and awe, for its very preciousness, as one would hold anxiously what is very precious, yet very fragile and easily marred.

And he feared Me, and was afraid before My Name - Malachi unites two words, the second expressive of strong fear, by which a man is, as it were, crushed or broken. They are often united in Hebrew, but as expressing terror, which men are bidden not to feel before men. Toward man it is ever said Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:9; Joshua 10:25; 1 Chronicles 22:13; 1 Chronicles 28:20; 2 Chronicles 20:15, 2 Chronicles 20:17; 2 Chronicles 32:7; Isaiah 51:7; Jeremiah 23:4; Jeremiah 30:10; Jeremiah 46:27; Ezra 2:6; Ezra 3:9, "fear not, neither be ye dismayed;" toward God Alone, it is a matter of praise. Man's highest fear is too little, for he knows not, who God is. So Isaiah says Isaiah 8:12-13, "Fear ye not their fear (the fear of this people), nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread." "What can be more precious (than this fear)? For it is written Proverbs 13:13, 'He who feareth the Lord will be rewarded.' (Ecclesiasticus 1:11), 'The fear of the Lord is honor and glory and gladness and a crown of rejoicing.' He saith, "the fear, wherewith he feareth Me and was afraid," i. e., he received the fear of God in his whole heart and soul. For these reduplications and emphases suggest to the hearer how rooted in virtue are those thus praised."

5-9. He describes the promises, and also the conditions of the covenant; Levi's observance of the conditions and reward (compare Nu 25:11-13, Phinehas' zeal); and on the other hand the violation of the conditions, and consequent punishment of the present priests. "Life" here includes the perpetuity implied in Nu 25:13, "everlasting priesthood." "Peace" is specified both here and there. Maurer thus explains it; the Hebrew is, literally, "My covenant was with him, life and peace (to be given him on My part), and I gave them to him: (and on his part) fear (that is, reverence), and he did fear Me," &c. The former portion of the verse expresses the promise, and Jehovah's fulfilment of it; the latter, the condition, and Levi's steadfastness to it (De 33:8, 9). The Jewish priests self-deceivingly claimed the privileges of the covenant, while neglecting the conditions of it, as if God were bound by it to bless them, while they were free from all the obligation which it imposed to serve Him. The covenant is said to be not merely "of life and peace," but "life and peace"; for the keeping of God's law is its own reward (Ps 19:11). Here is one covenant that is more particular than any, a covenant of priesthood between God and a particular tribe.

With him: Levi is named Malachi 2:4, and I will rest there, though I know some would have it be Aaron, or Phinehas.

Of life and peace; of long life, and prosperous, by covenant under the provisoes therein contained, assured to the Levites in their due ministrations before God.

I gave them, both lives, (the word is dual,) or life and prosperity.

For the fear wherewith he feared me; religious fear, or that gracious qualification which appeared in the acts of it, for he feared before God.

And was afraid before my name; behaved himself with reverence and trembling before God. It is the same repeated for confirmation of the former, or perhaps it may imply the habitual name of reverence from a contrite heart, which is here pointed at, and commended in this person under the name of Levi.

My covenant was with him of life and peace,.... Not with Aaron, nor with Phinehas; nor is it to be understood of a covenant, promising temporal life and outward prosperity to either of them; Aaron living a hundred and twenty three years, Numbers 33:39 and Phinehas, according to some Jewish writers, above three hundred years, which they gather from Judges 20:28 but of the covenant made with Christ from everlasting, called "a covenant of life", because it was made with Christ the Word of life, who was with the Father from all eternity, and in time was made manifest in the flesh; and was made in behalf of persons ordained to eternal life, and in which that was promised and given to them in him; and in which it was agreed that he should become man, and lay down his life as such, that they might enjoy it: and it is called a "covenant of peace", because the scheme of peace and reconciliation was drawn in it, and agreed unto; Christ was appointed in it to be the Peacemaker; and in consequence of which he was sent to procure peace, and he has made it by the blood of his cross: and this covenant may be said to have been and to be "with him"; because it was made with him from all eternity, as the head and representative of his people, and he had all the blessings and promises of it put into his hands; and it stands fast with him, and will do so for evermore.

And I gave them to him; namely, the blessings of life and peace; eternal life is the gift of God; and not only the promise of it, but that itself, was given to Christ in covenant for his people, and a power to give it to as many as the Father gave to him, Psalm 21:4 2 Timothy 1:1 he gave him also peace to make, put this work of peacemaking into his hand; and he allows it to be made by him, and that it is rightly effected; and from his blood and righteousness peace springs to his people; and they enjoy peace in him and through him, yea, all prosperity and happiness:

for the fear wherewith he feared me; because of his obedience to the precept and penalty of the law; because of his righteousness, and sufferings, and death, by means of which life and peace came to his people, and in which he showed great fear and reverence of God, Hebrews 5:7 the word "for" is not in the original text, and may be left out in a version, or supplied with "and"; and the sense be, besides the blessings of life and peace, I also gave him the fear with which he feared me; which must be understood of the grace of fear bestowed on him as man: so the Septuagint version, "I gave unto him in fear to fear me"; and the Vulgate Latin version, "and I gave him fear, and he feared me": and the Arabic version, "I gave him fear, that he might fear me": the Targum is,

"I gave him the perfect doctrine of the law, or the doctrine of the perfect law (see James 1:25) that he might fear before me.''

And was afraid before my name; frightened, and put into consternation, as he was when in the garden, and he began to be heavy and sore amazed, Mark 14:33 or he was broken and bruised, as Kimchi interprets the word here used, because of the name of the Lord, to satisfy his justice, fulfil his law, and glorify all his perfections.

My {g} covenant was with him of life and peace; and I {h} gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before {i} my name.

(g) He shows what were the two conditions of the covenant made with the tribe of Levi on God's part, that he would give them long life and felicity, and on their part, that they should faithfully serve him according to his word.

(h) I commanded Levi a certain law to serve me.

(i) He served me and set forth my glory with all humility and submission.

5. My covenant &c.] Comp. Numbers 25:12-13; Nehemiah 13:29.

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

Verses 5-9. - § 5. In contrast with these evil ministers, the character of the true priest is sketched, and thus the faults of the former are shown in darker colours. Verse 5. - My covenant was with him of life and peace; rather, with him was life and peace. This is one side of the covenant, that which God gave - the blessing of life, abundance, prosperity, and secure and undisturbed enjoyment of these, in the everlasting priesthood, in agreement with the promise to Phinehas (Numbers 25:12; comp. Deuteronomy 33:8-11). I gave them to him for the fear, etc. I gave him life and peace. The pronominal suffix "them" is not expressed in the Greek and Latin Versions, and is absent from many Hebrew manuscripts, which read, "I gave him fear." So the Vulgate, Dedi eis timorem et timuit me; Septuagint, Αδωκα αὐτῷ ἐν φόβῳ φοβεῖσθαί με, "I gave him the fear of me." This expresses man's part in the covenant: God gave him certain blessings on condition that he feared, reverenced, worshipped, and obeyed the Lord. The last part of the verse as now read is more simply explained, "and (my covenant with him was, or, I gave him) fear, and he did fear me." God's gifts were life and peace. Levi's part was fear of God: this he performed. The ideal priest observed all the duties of piety and reverence, and therefore in his case the covenant stood firm and was duly carried out. Malachi 2:5To explain and show the reason for this thought, the real nature of the covenant made with Levi is described in Malachi 2:5-7; and Malachi 2:8 and Malachi 2:9 then show how the priests have neutralized this covenant by forsaking the way of their fathers, so that God is obliged to act differently towards them now, and deliver them up to shame and ignominy. Malachi 2:5. "My covenant was with him life and salvation, and I lent them to him for fear, and he feared me and trembled before my name. Malachi 2:6. Law of truth was in his mouth and there was no perversity on his lips, he walked with me in salvation and integrity, and brought back many from guilt. Malachi 2:7. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and men seek law from his mouth, because he is a messenger of Jehovah." In Malachi 2:5 החיּים והשּׁלום are the nominative of the predicate. "My covenant was with him life," etc., means, my covenant consisted in this, that life and salvation were guaranteed and granted to him. The elliptical mode of explaining it, viz., "my covenant was a covenant of life and salvation," gives the same sense, only there is no analogous example by which this ellipsis can be vindicated, since such passages as Numbers 25:12; Genesis 24:24, and Hosea 14:3, which Hitzig adduces in support of it, are either of a different character, or different in their meaning. Shâlōm, salvation (peace), is the sum of all the blessings requisite for wellbeing. Jehovah granted life and salvation to Levi, i.e., to the priesthood, for fear, viz., as the lever of the fear of God; and Levi, i.e., the priesthood of the olden time, responded to this divine intention. "He feared me." Nichath is the niphal not of nâchath, he descended, i.e., humbled himself (Ewald, Reincke), but of châthath, to terrify, to shake, which is frequently met with in connection with (e.g., Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:9; Jeremiah 1:17). Hosea 14:5 and Hosea 14:6 state how Levi preserved this fear both officially and in life. Tōrath 'ĕmeth (analogous to mishpat 'ĕmeth in Zechariah 7:9) is instruction in the law consisting in truth. Truth, which had its roots in the law of Jehovah, was the rule not only of his own conduct, but also and more especially of the instruction which he had to give to the people (cf. Malachi 2:7). The opposite of 'ĕmeth is ‛avlâh, perversity, conduct which is not regulated by the law of God, but by selfishness or sinful self-interest. Grammatically considered, the feminine ‛avlâh is not the subject to נמצא, but is construed as the object: "they found not perversity" (cf. Ges. 143, 1, b; Ewald, 295, b). Thus he walked in peace (salvation) and integrity before God. Beshâlōm is not merely in a state of peace, or in peaceableness, nor even equivalent to בּלבב שׁלם (2 Kings 20:3), but according to Malachi 2:5, "equipped with the salvation bestowed upon him by God." The integritas vitae is affirmed in בּמישׁור. הלך את־יי, to walk with Jehovah, denotes the most confidential intercourse with God, or walking as it were by the side of God (see at Genesis 5:22). Through this faithful discharge of the duties of his calling, Levi (i.e., the priesthood) brought many back from guilt or iniquity, that is to say, led many back from the way of sin to the right way, viz., to the fear of God (cf. Daniel 12:3). But Levi did nothing more than what the standing and vocation of the priest required. For the lips of the priest should preserve knowledge. דעת is the knowledge of God and of His will as revealed in the law. These the lips of the priest should keep, to instruct the people therein; for out of the mouth of the priest men seek tōrâh, law, i.e., instruction in the will of God, because he is a messenger of Jehovah to the people. מלאך, the standing epithet for the angels as the heavenly messengers of God, is here applied to the priests, as it is in Haggai 1:13 to the prophet. Whilst the prophets were extraordinary messengers of God, who proclaimed to the people the will and counsel of the Lord, the priests, by virtue of their office, were so to speak the standing or ordinary messengers of God. But the priests of that time had become utterly untrue to this vocation.
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