Malachi 3:16
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Then.—As a consequence of the unbelieving conversation of the wicked. What “they that feared the Lord” said is not recorded; but it is implied, by His approval of them, that they strengthened one another in their faith and reliance on the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord, in spite of the present appearance of things. As the godless in Israel conversed together, so did the godly; but the converse of the one was the very reverse of the converse of the other. In Ezra 9:4 we read of such a consultation among those “that trembled at the word of the God of Israel.” (Comp. the expression in Malachi 2:5.)

Book of remembrance.—In which men’s actions are said figuratively to be recorded (Psalm 56:8; Daniel 7:10, &c.). Compare the custom of the Persian kings (Esther 6:1).

For themi.e., for their future reward.

Thought uponi.e., valued, esteemed.

(16) Then shall ye . . . between.—Better, Then shall ye again perceive the difference between. For the construction, comp. Zechariah 4:1. As in former cases God had made this difference manifest, so He would again. Compare, for instance, the difference between the case of the Egyptians and of the Israelites in the matter of the miraculous darkness (Exodus 10:23).

Malachi 3:16-17. Then — When contempt of God was grown to such a height; they that feared the Lord — Those that were truly religious, that knew God’s judgments to be a great deep, and that his ways are as high above our ways as heaven is above the earth; spake often one to another — Conversed together about spiritual things the more frequently: for though it is not said what was the subject of their conversation with each other, yet we have reason to believe it was as good concerning God and his providence as the discourse of the wicked was evil. They spake what was right concerning God’s justice and mercy, his holiness, forbearance, and long-suffering, his wisdom and equity in his government of the world in general, and of his church and the members of it in particular. And by their pious discourse they endeavoured to arm each other against the impressions which such wicked suggestions as those above mentioned might otherwise have made upon their minds; and to confirm one another in piety and virtue. And the Lord hearkened and heard — Took a special notice of what these pious persons did and said. And a book of remembrance was written — It was as safely laid up in his memory as if it had been entered into a register, in order to be produced at the day of judgment to their praise and honour: see the margin. The words are a beautiful allusion to the records kept by kings, Esther 6:1. And they shall be mine — It shall appear how dear they are to me, when the time comes in which I shall separate the precious from the vile, the vessels of honour from those of dishonour, 2 Timothy 2:20. In the day of the execution of my judgments they shall be distinguished and preserved safe, as choice jewels are wont to be. And I will spare them as a man spareth his own son, &c. — They shall be spared, pitied, and loved, and I will preserve them from those calamities which shall fall upon the wicked and unbelieving, with the same tenderness which a father shows to a dutiful son. The period especially referred to may be the Roman war under Titus. When God should utterly cut off the Jewish Church and nation for their infidelity, the remnant among them, that should be found to believe his word, and having waited for the Messiah, the consolation of Israel, should welcome him when he came; these, being admitted into the Christian Church, should become a peculiar people to God, and God would take care of them, that they should not perish with the unbelievers, but that they should be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger against that nation. These pious ones should have all the glorious privileges of God’s Israel appropriated to them, and centring in them. They should be a peculiar treasure unto him, when the rest were rejected; should be vessels of mercy and honour when the rest should be made vessels of wrath and dishonour. This, however, is very applicable to all the faithful people of God, and the distinction he will put between them and others, in the great day of final accounts.

3:13-18 Among the Jews at this time, some plainly discovered themselves to be children of the wicked one. The yoke of Christ is easy. But those who work wickedness, tempt God by presumptuous sins. Judge of things as they will appear when the doom of these proud sinners comes to be executed. Those that feared the Lord, spake kindly, for preserving and promoting mutual love, when sin thus abounded. They spake one to another, in the language of those that fear the Lord, and think on his name. As evil communications corrupt good minds and manners, so good communications confirm them. A book of remembrance was written before God. He will take care that his children perish not with those that believe not. They shall be vessels of mercy and honour, when the rest are made vessels of wrath and dishonour. The saints are God's jewels; they are dear to him. He will preserve them as his jewels, when the earth is burned up like dross. Those who now own God for theirs, he will then own for his. It is our duty to serve God with the disposition of children; and he will not have his children trained up in idleness; they must do him service from a principle of love. Even God's children stand in need of sparing mercy. All are righteous or wicked, such as serve God, or such as serve him not: all are going to heaven or to hell. We are often deceived in our opinions concerning both the one and the other; but at the bar of Christ, every man's character will be known. As to ourselves, we have need to think among which we shall have our lot; and, as to others, we must judge nothing before the time. But in the end all the world will confess that those alone were wise and happy, who served the Lord and trusted in Him.Then they that feared the Lord spake often among themselves - The proud-speaking of the ungodly called out the piety of the God-fearing. "The more the ungodly spake against God, the more these spake among themselves for God." Both went on until the Great Day of severance. True, as those said, the distinction between righteous and wicked was not made yet, but it was stored up out of sight. They "spake among themselves," strengthening each other against the ungodly sayings of the ungodly.

And the Lord hearkened and heard it - God, whom these thought an idle looker-on, or regardless, all the while (to speak after the manner of men) was "bending the ear" from heaven "and heard." Not one pious loyal word for Him and His glory, escaped Him.

And a book of remembrance was written before Him - Kings had their chronicles written wherein people's good or ill deeds toward them were recorded. But the image is one of the oldest in Scripture, and in the self-same words , "the Lord said to Moses, Write this, a memorial in a book." God can only speak to us in our own language. One expression is not more human than another, since all are so. Since with God all things are present, and memory relates to the past, to speak of God as "remembering" is as imperfect an expression in regard to God, as to speak of "a book." , "Forgetfulness hath no place with God, because He is in no way changed; nor remembrance, because He forgetteth not." Both expressions are used, only to picture vividly to our minds, that our deeds are present with God, for good or for evil; and in the Day of Judgment He will make them manifest to men and angels, as though read out of a book, and will requite them. So Daniel had said Daniel 7:10, "the judgment was set, and the books were opened." And John says Revelation 20:12, "The books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." So Moses says to God, Exodus 32:32, "If not, blot me out of Thy book which Thou hast written;" and David, prophesying, prays Psalm 69:28, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written among the righteous;" and our Lord bids His discipies Luke 10:20, "Rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven."

And that thought upon His name - Rather, "esteemed, prized," it, in contrast with those who Malachi 1:6. "despised;" as, of Christ, when He should come, it is said Isaiah 53:3, "He was despised, and we esteemed Him not." "The thinking on His Name imports, not a bare thinking of, but a due esteem and awful regard of, so as with all care to avoid all things which may tend to the dishonor of it, as always in His presence and with respect to Him and fear of Him." "Those are meant who always meditate on the ways of the Lord and the knowledge of His Godhead, for His name is Himself, and He is His Name;" "the wise in heart who know the mystery of the awful glorious Name."

16. "Then," when the ungodly utter such blasphemies against God, the godly hold mutual converse, defending God's righteous dealings against those blasphemers (Heb 3:13). The "often" of English Version is not in the Hebrew. There has been always in the darkest times a remnant that feared God (1Ki 19:18; Ro 11:4).

feared the Lord—reverential and loving fear, not slavish terror. When the fire of religion burns low, true believers should draw the nearer together, to keep the holy flame alive. Coals separated soon go out.

book of remembrance … for them—for their advantage, against the day when those found faithful among the faithless shall receive their final reward. The kings of Persia kept a record of those who had rendered services to the king, that they might be suitably rewarded (Es 6:1, 2; compare Es 2:23; Ezr 4:15; Ps 56:8; Isa 65:6; Da 7:10; Re 20:12). Calvin makes the fearers of God to be those awakened from among the ungodly mass (before described) to true repentance; the writing of the book thus will imply that some were reclaimable among the blasphemers, and that the godly should be assured that, though no hope appeared, there would be a door of penitence opened for them before God. But there is nothing in the context to support this view.

Then; when atheism and bold contempt of God was grown so high, and was so plainly and smartly reproved by the prophet.

They that feared the Lord; those that were truly religious, that knew God’s judgments were a great deep, and that his ways were as high above our ways as heaven above the earth.

Spake often one to another; discoursed aright of God’s mercy, justice, patience, holiness, and wisdom in his government and manage of the sells of men; established one another against the assaults of such proud, contemptuous disputers; encouraged each other to wait for God in the way of his judgments. Though it is not said what they spake, we have reason to believe it was as good of God and his proceedings as the discourse of the wicked was evil. The godly spake things that did as much become the ways of God, as what the wicked spake did disparage the ways of an omniscient, holy, patient, and just God.

The Lord hearkened: after the manner of man, the Lord is represented as if he did listen to hear more distinctly, and as if he did incline his ear.

And heard it; clearly, perfectly, and fully understood and observed, and what the godly spake of him and for him.

A book of remembrance was written before him; a registry was made of the persons and their discourses. This is after the manner of men spoken of God, whose omniscience seeth, knoweth, and remembereth all; but this book is written before the Lord, he will have every good man, every good word of such, and every good thought such have for him, entered under his eye, that they may be assured of a comfortable reward for it.

For them, on their behalf, that feared the Lord: see above.

That thought upon his name, with love, esteem, and holy admiration.

Then; when atheism and bold contempt of God was grown so high, and was so plainly and smartly reproved by the prophet.

They that feared the Lord; those that were truly religious, that knew God’s judgments were a great deep, and that his ways were as high above our ways as heaven above the earth.

Spake often one to another; discoursed aright of God’s mercy, justice, patience, holiness, and wisdom in his government and manage of the sells of men; established one another against the assaults of such proud, contemptuous disputers; encouraged each other to wait for God in the way of his judgments. Though it is not said what they spake, we have reason to believe it was as good of God and his proceedings as the discourse of the wicked was evil. The godly spake things that did as much become the ways of God, as what the wicked spake did disparage the ways of an omniscient, holy, patient, and just God.

The Lord hearkened: after the manner of man, the Lord is represented as if he did listen to hear more distinctly, and as if he did incline his ear.

And heard it; clearly, perfectly, and fully understood and observed, and what the godly spake of him and for him.

A book of remembrance was written before him; a registry was made of the persons and their discourses. This is after the manner of men spoken of God, whose omniscience seeth, knoweth, and remembereth all; but this book is written before the Lord, he will have every good man, every good word of such, and every good thought such have for him, entered under his eye, that they may be assured of a comfortable reward for it.

For them, on their behalf, that feared the Lord: see above.

That thought upon his name, with love, esteem, and holy admiration.

Then; when atheism and bold contempt of God was grown so high, and was so plainly and smartly reproved by the prophet.

They that feared the Lord; those that were truly religious, that knew God’s judgments were a great deep, and that his ways were as high above our ways as heaven above the earth.

Spake often one to another; discoursed aright of God’s mercy, justice, patience, holiness, and wisdom in his government and manage of the sells of men; established one another against the assaults of such proud, contemptuous disputers; encouraged each other to wait for God in the way of his judgments. Though it is not said what they spake, we have reason to believe it was as good of God and his proceedings as the discourse of the wicked was evil. The godly spake things that did as much become the ways of God, as what the wicked spake did disparage the ways of an omniscient, holy, patient, and just God.

The Lord hearkened: after the manner of man, the Lord is represented as if he did listen to hear more distinctly, and as if he did incline his ear.

And heard it; clearly, perfectly, and fully understood and observed, and what the godly spake of him and for him.

A book of remembrance was written before him; a registry was made of the persons and their discourses. This is after the manner of men spoken of God, whose omniscience seeth, knoweth, and remembereth all; but this book is written before the Lord, he will have every good man, every good word of such, and every good thought such have for him, entered under his eye, that they may be assured of a comfortable reward for it.

For them, on their behalf, that feared the Lord: see above.

That thought upon his name, with love, esteem, and holy admiration.

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another,.... Abarbinel thinks this is a continuation of the speech of the wicked; observing, that while they that work wickedness were set up, and they that tempted God escaped punishment, they that were religious, and feared God, "were destroyed one with another", particularly by the plague; so he would have the word rendered, which we translate, "spake often one to another"; in which sense he observes that root is used in Hosea 13:14 but rather this is opposed unto what they said, by such, who, at the time referred to (which seems to be between the time of Christ's coming, spoken of in the beginning of the chapter Malachi 3:1, and the destruction of Jerusalem after mentioned), feared the Lord, and served him; embraced the Messiah, and professed his name; for the fear of God takes in the whole of religious worship, both internal and external; and describes such, not that have a dread of the majesty of God, and of his judgments and wrath, or distrust his power, providence, grace, and goodness; but who have a filial and holy fear of God, a fiducial and fearless one, a reverential affection for him, and are true and sincere worshippers of him: these "spake often one to another"; of the unbelief, impiety, and profaneness of men, with great concern and lamentation; and of the great and good things they were led into the knowledge of; the everlasting love of the Father in the choice of them, and covenant with them in Christ; of redemption by the Son; of the glories of his person, and the fulness of his grace; of the work of the Spirit of God upon their souls; and of the various truths of the everlasting Gospel; and of the gracious experiences they were indulged with; and all this they said for the glory of God's grace, and for the comforting and strengthening, and edifying, of each other's souls: it follows,

and the Lord hearkened, and heard it; what they said one to another: this is spoken after the manner of men, and does not so much regard the omniscience of God, who hearkens and hears everything that is said by wicked men, as by good men; as his special regard unto, peculiar notice he takes of, and the approbation he has of his people, and of their words and actions, and even of their thoughts, as is afterwards intimated:

and a book of remembrance was written before him; in allusion to kings that keep registers, records, annals, and chronicles, as memorials of matters of moment and importance: see Ezra 4:15 Esther 2:23, otherwise there is no forgetfulness in God; he bears in his own eternal mind a remembrance of the persons, thoughts, words, and actions of his people, and which he will disclose and make mention of another day; even our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God over all, and who will let the churches and world know that he is the searcher of hearts, and trier of the reins of the children of men:

for them that feared the Lord, as before,

and that thought upon his name; either the name of the Father; not any particular name of his, by which he is known, but him himself; for, as Kimchi observes, his name is himself, and he himself is his name; and especially as he is in Christ, and proclaimed in him; and this is expressive of faith in him, love to him, and reverence of him: or the name of Christ; and not any particular name of his, unless it be Jesus the Saviour: but rather his person as the Son of God; his office as Mediator; and his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice: and it is not a bare thinking of him that is here intended, but such a thought of him as is accompanied with esteem and value for him, because of the dignity of his person, and the riches of his grace. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "and that reverence his name"; and the Syriac version, "that praise his name"; and the Targum is, that think of the glory of his name.

{o} Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a {p} book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

(o) After these admonitions of the Prophet, some were strongly touched, and encouraged others to fear God.

(p) Both because the thing was strange that some turned to God in that great and universal corruption, and also that this might be an example of God's mercies to all repentant sinners.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. Then] When they heard “the hard speeches which ungodly sinners spake against Him” (Judges 15), then they spake one to another words of reverent trust and love and piety. “The more the ungodly spake against God, the more these spake among themselves for God’ ” Pusey.

Some modern commentators, however (e.g. Maurer and Hitzig), regard Malachi 3:14-15 as the substance of what the godly spake one to another; and this view, unsatisfactory as it is, appears to be that of the LXX.: ταῦτα κατελάλησαν οἱ φοβούμενοι τὸν κύριον, ἕκαστος πρὸς τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ.

spake often] Omit often. See note on Malachi 3:13 above.

a book of remembrance] Canon Rawlinson (in The Speaker’s Commentary, on Esther 6:3) says, “It was a settled principle of the Persian government that ‘Royal Benefactors’ were to receive an adequate reward. The names of such persons were placed on a special roll (Herod. VIII. 85), and great care was taken that they should be properly recompensed (see Herod. III. 140, v. II, VIII. 85; Thucyd. I. 138; Xen. Hel. 111. 1. § 6, &c.). It is a mistake, however, to suppose (Davidson) that they were always rewarded at once. Themistocles was inscribed on the list in b.c. 480, but did not obtain a reward till b.c. 465. Other ‘benefactors’ waited for months (Herod. Malachi 3:11) or perhaps years (ib. IX. 107) before they were recompensed.” The figure of a Book of record or remembrance, as kept or directed to be kept by Almighty God, is of early as well as of very general occurrence in Holy Scripture. Moreover there was a ‘Recorder’ in the court of the Hebrew kings. See Exodus 17:14; Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 7:10; Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12.

thought upon] Gesenius compares “which shall not regard silver”, Isaiah 13:17; “he regardeth no man”, Isaiah 33:8; “we esteemed him not”, Isaiah 53:3; in all which places the same Hebrew word is used. In all these places in Isaiah (though not here in Malachi) the LXX. have λογίζομαι as the equivalent, which is the word employed by St Paul in a similar sense, ταῦτα λογίζεσθε, Php 4:8.

Verse 16. - With these impious murmurers the prophet contrasts those who fear God, as above (Malachi 2:5-7) he set the picture of the true priest in opposition to his delineation of the evil ministers. Then. When the impious made the above infidel remarks, the pious spake often, conversed together. What they said is not repeated, but it was language well pleasing unto God, who deigned to listen to their words, and to console them by announcing the future destiny of the good and the evil. They may have argued with these impious talkers, and warned others against them; or they may have expostulated as Jeremiah 12:1, but yet with full faith that what God does is always good; and this sentiment was all the harder to cherish because they lived under a system of temporal rewards and punishments. The Septuagint and Syriac have, "These things spake they that feared the Lord," as if the two preceding verses reported the words of the pious. Some Fathers and commentators have taken the same view. But it is difficult to conceive such words coming from the mouth of those who fear God; unless they are so called ironically. But this is inadmissible, as we see that in the present verse they are represented in their true character, and such a sudden change from irony to actuality is unnatural and quite opposed to the prophet's usual manner. A book of remembrance was written before him. The hook represents God's providence and omniscience, his ever-wakeful care, his unfailing knowledge. "Are not these things noted in thy book?" says the psalmist (Psalm 56:8); and when the dead were judged, Daniel saw that the books were opened (Daniel 7:10). The idea is taken from the national records wherein were noted events of importance, such as we find in the cuneiform inscriptions (comp. 1 Kings 11:41, etc.; Ezra 4:15; Ezra 6:1; Esther 6:1; Revelation 20:12). This book was to lie, as it were, always before the eyes of the Lord, to remind him of the pious. Rosenmuller compares the proverbial saying, Αγράφη ἐν Διὸς δέλτοις, "It is written on the tablets of Zeus" on which Erasmus comments in his 'Adagia,' under the title "Fides et Gravitas." For them that feared the Lord. For their benefit, to preserve their name forever. Thought upon his Name. Prized his Name, regarded it with awe. Septuagint, ἐυλαβουμένοις τὸ ὅνομα αὐτοῦ, " who reverenced his Name." Malachi 3:16With these foolish speeches the prophet proceeds in Malachi 3:16. to contrast the conduct of those who fear God, pointing to the blessing which they derive from their piety. Malachi 3:16. "Then those who feared Jehovah conversed with one another, and Jehovah attended and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for those who fear Jehovah and reverence His name. Malachi 3:17. And they will be to me as a possession, saith Jehovah of hosts, for the day that I create, and I will spare them as a man spareth his son that serveth him. Malachi 3:18. And ye will again perceive the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not." אז, then, indicates that the conversation of those who feared God had been occasioned by the words of the ungodly. The substance of this conversation is not described more minutely, but may be gathered from the context, namely, from the statement as to the attitude in which Jehovah stood towards them. We may see from this, that they strengthened themselves in their faith in Jehovah, as the holy God and just Judge who would in due time repay both the wicked and the righteous according to their deeds, and thus presented a great contrast to the great mass with their blasphemous sayings. This description of the conduct of the godly is an indirect admonition to the people, as to what their attitude towards God ought to be. What was done by those who feared Jehovah ought to be taken as a model by the whole nation which called Jehovah its God. Jehovah not only took notice of these conversations, but had them written in a book of remembrance, to reward them for them in due time. Writing in a book of remembrance recals to mind the custom of the Persians, of having the names of those who deserved well of the king entered in a book with a notice of their merits, that they might be rewarded for them at some future time (Esther 6:1); but it rests upon the much older idea, that the names and actions of the righteous are written in a book before God (cf. Psalm 56:9; Daniel 7:10). This book was written לפניו, before Jehovah, i.e., not in His presence, but in order that it might lie before Jehovah, and remind Him of the righteous and their deeds. ליראי is a dat. com.: "for those who fear God," i.e., for their good. חשׁב שׁם, to consider or value the name of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 13:17; Isaiah 33:8). This writing was done because the Lord would make them His own on the day of His coming, and show them mercy. Layyōm: for the day equals on the day; the lamed denoting the time, as in Isaiah 10:3; Genesis 21:2, etc. The day which Jehovah makes is the day of the judgment which attends His coming. Segullâh is the object, not to ‛ōseh, as we might suppose according to the accents, but to hâyū: they will be my possession on the day which I create. This is evident partly from a comparison of Malachi 4:3, where the words יום אשׁר אני עשׂה recur, and partly from the original passage in Exodus 19:5 : ye will be to me segullâh, i.e., a valued possession (see the comm.). The righteous will then be a possession for Jehovah, because on that day the glory of the children of God will first be revealed, and the Israel of God will reach the mark of its heavenly calling (see Colossians 3:4). The Lord will spare them in the judgment as a father spares his son who serves him. The expression to spare may be explained from the contrast to the punishment of the ungodly. In Malachi 3:18 the prophet bids the murmurers consider what has been said concerning the righteous, by telling them that they will then see the difference between the righteous who serve God, and the wicked who do not serve Him, that is to say, will learn that it is always profitable to serve God. שׁבתּם before ראיתם is to be taken adverbially: ye will see again. The expression "again" presupposes that the difference between those who feared God and the ungodly was to be seen before, and that the Lord had already made it manifest by former judgments. This had been the case in Egypt, where the Lord had caused such a separation to be made (Exodus 11:7). The words do not imply that the persons addressed had previously stood in a different relation to this question from that in which they were standing then (Koehler). ראה בין does not mean to look in between (Hitzig), but בּין is used in the sense of a substantive, signifying that which is between the two, the difference between the two. That בּין was originally a noun is evident from the dual הבּינים in 1 Samuel 17:4, 1 Samuel 17:23.
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