Malachi 3:4
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Days of old . . . former years.—Perhaps, if we must define the period, from the time of Moses to the first year of the reign of Solomon. But we cannot be certain on this point. It seems to be one of the characteristics of Malachi to be somewhat of a laudator temporis acti. (Comp. Malachi 2:5-7.)

3:1-6 The first words of this chapter seem an answer to the scoffers of those days. Here is a prophecy of the appearing of John the Baptist. He is Christ's harbinger. He shall prepare the way before him, by calling men to repentance. The Messiah had been long called, He that should come, and now shortly he will come. He is the Messenger of the covenant. Those who seek Jesus, shall find pleasure in him, often when not looked for. The Lord Jesus, prepares the sinner's heart to be his temple, by the ministry of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, and he enters it as the Messenger of peace and consolation. No hypocrite or formalist can endure his doctrine, or stand before his tribunal. Christ came to distinguish men, to separate between the precious and the vile. He shall sit as a Refiner. Christ, by his gospel, shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it, shall regenerate and cleanse souls. He will take away the dross found in them. He will separate their corruptions, which render their faculties worthless and useless. The believer needs not fear the fiery trial of afflictions and temptations, by which the Saviour refines his gold. He will take care it is not more intense or longer than is needful for his good; and this trial will end far otherwise than that of the wicked. Christ will, by interceding for them, make them accepted. Where no fear of God is, no good is to be expected. Evil pursues sinners. God is unchangeable. And though the sentence against evil works be not executed speedily, yet it will be executed; the Lord is as much an enemy to sin as ever. We may all apply this to ourselves. Because we have to do with a God that changes not, therefore it is that we are not consumed; because his compassions fail not.Then (And) shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem - The "law," the new revelation of God, was to Isaiah 2:3. "go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Judah and Jerusalem then are here the Christian Church. "They shall be, pleasant (literally sweet) unto the Lord." It is a reversal (using the self-same word) of what God had said of them in the time of their religious decay Hosea 9:4. "they shall not offer wine-offerings to the Lord, neither shall they be sweet unto Him; Jeremiah 6:20. your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto Me."

As in the days of old - , before the days of degeneracy; as it stands in the ancient Liturgies "Vouchsafe to look upon them (the consecrated oblations) with a propitious and serene Countenance, and to accept them, as Thou vouchsafedst to accept the gifts of Thy righteous Abel and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and the holy sacrifice, the immaculate offering, which Thy high priest Melchizedec offered unto Thee." "The oblation of the sacrament of the eucharist, made by the Jews who should believe in Christ, which is known to have been first instituted by Christ in the city of Jerusalem, and afterward to have been continued by His disciples (Matthew 26 (29); Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46.) shall be pleasing unto the Lord, as the sacrifices of the patriarchs, Melchizedec, Abraham, and the holy priests in the law, as Aaron; yea, the truth takes precedence of the figure and shadow; the sacrifice of the new law is more excellent and acceptable to God, than all the sacrifice, of the law or before the law. With this agrees what the Lord saith to the synagogue Isaiah 1:25-26, Isaiah 1:28, "I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin; and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors, as at the beginning: and the destruction of the transgressors, and of the sinners, shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed." So now it follows.

4. as in the days of old—(Mal 1:11; 2:5, 6). The "offering" (Mincha, Hebrew) is not expiatory, but prayer, thanksgiving, and self-dedication (Ro 12:1; Heb 13:15; 1Pe 2:5). Then; when the Lord, Messenger or Angel of the covenant, the King Messiah, shall be come, and set up his kingdom, framed his gospel church.

The offerings; the services and duties required of the church, and performed by it, expressed here in an allusion to the law services: such are now fervent prayers, Psalm 141:2, lively praises, thankful memorials of the death of Christ in the sacraments, attentive hearing the word, and giving up ourselves, soul and body, a holy, living sacrifice to God, Romans 12:1; and alms, Hebrews 13:15,16.

Of Judah and Jerusalem; the Christian church, expressed by the names of its type. Pleasant; delightful, as sweet odours to the smell, as savoury meats to the taste, as comely objects to the eye, every way acceptable to God.

As in the days of old, and as in former years; this acceptance God will give shall be as great and gracious as ever he gave to any of the services of his saints of old. We need not determine the precise times to which these expressions refer; it is certain God did greatly delight in the sacrifices and offerings of his people, when they offered them in right manner. He will give as gracious acceptance still, which implieth a continuance of these sacrifices which he will accept, and inferreth that this coming of Christ is not his coming to judge the world, his last coming. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord,.... Or "sweet" (b); grateful and well pleasing to him, as all spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God through Christ, being offered up in the faith of his atoning sacrifice and righteousness, without which it is impossible to please God:

as in the days of old, and as in former years: under the first temple, and when the tabernacle was set up by Moses, and in the times of the patriarchs; and even before the flood, and as early as Abel, who offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, Hebrews 11:4.

(b) "dulcescet", Vatablus, Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius; "dulce", Piscator.

Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. former] i.e., as margin and R.V., ancient. See ch. Malachi 2:5-6; Jeremiah 2:2-3.Verse 4. - The offering of Judah and Jerusalem. When the purification has taken place, and the priests offer pure worship, then the sacrifices of the whole nation will be acceptable. Judah and Jerusalem represent the kingdom of the Messiah; for salvation is of the Jews, and the gospel was first preached at Jerusalem. As in former (ancient) years. As in the days of Moses, David, and Solomon, or still earlier in the case of Abel, noah, Abraham, and the patriarchs. (See the account of the ideal priesthood, ch. 2:5, etc.) The prophet does not necessarily expect that the Mosaic ritual is to last forever and to be maintained throughout the world, but he employs the terms with which the Jewish people were conversant to express the worship of the new covenant (comp. Malachi 1:11, and note there). Zechariah 7:1-3 describe the occasion for this instructive and consolatory "word of God," which was addressed to Zechariah in the fourth year of Darius, i.e., two years after the building of the temple was resumed, and two years before its completion, and therefore at a time when the building must have been far advanced, and the temple itself was possibly already finished in the rough. Zechariah 7:1. "It came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of Jehovah came to Zechariah, on the fourth (day) of the ninth month, in Kislev." In this definition of the time we are surprised first of all at the circumstance, that, according to the Masoretic accentuation, and the division of the verses, the statement of the time is torn into two halves, and the notice of the year is placed after ויהי, whilst that of the month does not follow till after התה דבר יי; and secondly, at the fact that the introduction of the occurrence which led to this word of God is appended with the imperfect c. Vav rel. (vayyishlach), which would then stand in the sense of the pluperfect in opposition to the rule. On these grounds we must give up the Masoretic division of the verses, and connect the notice of the month and day in Zechariah 7:1 with Zechariah 7:2, so that Zechariah 7:1 contains merely the general statement that in the fourth year of king Darius the word of the Lord came to Zechariah. What follows will then be appended thus: On the fourth day of the ninth month, in Kislev, Bethel sent, etc. Thus the more precise definition of the time is only given in connection with the following occurrence, because it was self-evident that the word of God which was addressed to the prophet in consequence of that event, could not have been addressed to him before it occurred. The rendering of the words in Zechariah 7:2 is also a disputed point. We adopt the following: Zechariah 7:2. "Then Bethel sent Sharezer and Regem-melech, and his people, to entreat the face of Jehovah, (Zechariah 7:3) to speak to the priests who were at the house of Jehovah of hosts, and to the prophets, thus: Shall I weep, abstaining in the fifth month as I have now done so many years?" As Bēth-ēl may either signify the house of God, or be the name of the town of Bethel, it may be taken either as accus. loci, or as the subject of the sentence. Against the first explanation, which is very widely spread, viz., "it sent to the house of God, or to Bethel, Sharezer," etc., or "they sent to the house of God Sharezer," etc., it may be argued not only that the prophet, in order to make himself intelligible, ought either to have written 'el Bēth-'ēl, or to have placed Bēth-'ēl after the object, but also that beeth-'eel cannot be shown to have been ever applied to the temple of Jehovah, and that it would have been altogether out of place to speak of sending to Bethel, because Jehovah could not be prayed to in Bethel after the captivity. We must therefore take bēth-'ēl as the subject, and understand it as denoting the population of Bethel, and not as a name given to the church of the Lord, since there are no conclusive passages to support any such use, as bēth Yehōvâh only is used for the church of God (see at Hosea 8:1), and here there could be no inducement to employ so unusual an epithet to denote the nation. A considerable number of the earlier inhabitants of Bethel had already returned with Zerubbabel, according to Ezra 2:28 and Nehemiah 7:32; and, according to Nehemiah 11:31, the little town appears to have been soon rebuilt. The inhabitants of this city sent an embassy to Jerusalem, namely Sharezer and Rechem-Melech, and his men. The omission of the nota accus. את has indeed been adduced as an objection to this interpretation of the names as the object, and the names have been therefore taken as the subject, and regarded as in apposition to Bēth-ēl: "Bethel, namely Sharezer and Rechem, etc., sent;" that is to say, two men are mentioned in connection with Bethel, who are supposed to have acted as leaders of the embassy. But there is something so harsh and inflexible in the assumption of such an apposition as this, that in spite of the omission of the את we prefer to regard the names as accusatives. The name Sharezer is evidently Assyrian (cf. Isaiah 37:38; Jeremiah 39:3, Jeremiah 39:13), so that the man was probably born in Babylonia.

The object of sending these men is given first of all in general terms: viz., להלּות את־פּני יי, lit., to stroke the face of Jehovah, - an anthropomorphic expression for affectionate entreaty (see at Psalm 119:58), and then defined more precisely in Zechariah 7:3, where it is stated that they were to inquire of the priests and prophets, i.e., through their mediation, to entreat an answer from the Lord, whether the mourning and fasting were to be still kept up in the fifth month. Through the clause אשׁר לבית יי the priests are described as belonging to the house of Jehovah, though not in the sense supposed by Kliefoth, namely, "because they were appointed to serve in His house along with the Levites, in the place of the first-born, who were the possession of Jehovah" (Numbers 3:41; Deuteronomy 10:8-9). There is no such allusion here; but the meaning is simply, "as the persons in the temple, who by virtue of their mediatorial service were able to obtain an answer from Jehovah to a question addressed to Him in prayer." The connection with the prophets points to this. The question האבכּה is defined by the inf. absol. הנּזר, as consisting in weeping or lamentation connected with abstinence from food and drink, i.e., with fasting. On this use of the inf. abs., see Ewald, 280, a; הנּזר, to abstain (in this connection from meat and drink), is synonymous with צוּם in Zechariah 7:5. זה כּ מּה שׁנים: "these how many years," for which we should say, "so many years." Kammeh suggests the idea of an incalculably long duration. זה, in this and other similar combinations with numerical data, has acquired the force of an adverb: now, already (cf. Zechariah 1:12, and Ewald, 302, b). The subject to אבכּה is the population of Bethel, by which the men had been delegated. The question, however, had reference to a subject in which the whole community was interested, and hence the answer from God is addressed to all the people (Zechariah 7:5). So far as the circumstances themselves are concerned, we can see from Zechariah 7:5 and Zechariah 8:19, that during the captivity the Israelites had adopted the custom of commemorating the leading incidents in the Chaldaean catastrophe by keeping fast-days in the fifth, seventh, fourth, and tenth months. In the fifth month (Ab), on the tent day, because, according to Jeremiah 52:12-13, that was the day on which the temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed by fire in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, though the seventh day of that month is the date given in 2 Kings 25:8-9 (see the comm. in loc.). In the seventh month, according to Jewish tradition, they fasted on the third day, on account of the murder of the governor Gedaliah, and the Judaeans who had been left in the land (2 Kings 25:25-26; Jeremiah 51:1.). In the fourth month Tammuz) they fasted on the ninth day, on account of the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the eleventh year of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:6-7). And lastly, in the tenth month, a fast was kept on the tenth day on account of the commencement of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar on that day, in the ninth year of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1 and Jeremiah 39:1).

(Note: The later Jews kept the 9th Ab as the day when both the first and second temples were destroyed by fire; and in Mishna Taanit iv. 6, five disasters are enumerated, which had fallen upon Israel on that day: viz., (1) the determination of God not to suffer the fathers to enter the promised land; (2 and 3) the destruction of the first and second temples; (4) the conquest of the city of Bether in the time of Bar-Cochba; (5) the destruction of the holy city, which Rashi explains from Micah 3:12 and Jeremiah 26:18, but which others refer to the fact that Turnus Rufus (either Turannius Rufus or T. Annius Rufus: cf. Schttgen, Horae hebr. et talm. ii. 953ff., and Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums, ii. 77) ploughed over the foundation of the temple. Also, on the seventeenth of the fourth month (Tammuz), according to Mishna Taan. iv. 6, five disasters are said to have befallen Israel: (1) the breaking of the tables of the law (Exodus 32); (2) the cessation of the daily sacrifice in the first temple from the want of sacrificial lambs (cf. Jeremiah 52:6); (3) the breach made in the city walls; (4) the burning of the law by Apostemus; and (5) the setting up of the abomination, i.e., of an idol, in the temple (Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:13). Vid., Lundius, Codex talm. de jejunio, Traf. ad Rhen. 1694, p. 55ff.; also in abstract in Mishna ed. Surenhus. ii. pp. 382-3.)

The question put by the delegates referred simply to the fasting in the fifth month, in commemoration of the destruction of the temple. And now that the rebuilding of the temple was rapidly approaching completion, it appeared no longer in character to continue to keep this day, especially as the prophets had proclaimed on the part of God, that the restoration of the temple would be a sign that Jehovah had once more restored His favour to the remnant of His people. If this fast-day were given up, the others would probably be also relinquished. The question actually involved the prayer that the Lord would continue permanently to bestow upon His people the favour which He had restored to them, and not only bring to completion the restoration of the holy place, which was already begun, but accomplish generally the glorification of Israel predicted by the earlier prophets. The answer given by the Lord through Zechariah to the people refers to this, since the priests and prophets could give no information in the matter of their own accord.

The answer from the Lord divides itself into two parts, Zechariah 7:4-14 and ch. 8. In the first part He explains what it is that He requires of the people, and why He has been obliged to punish them with exile: in the second He promises them the restoration of His favour and the promised salvation. Each of these parts is divisible again into two sections, Zechariah 7:4-7 and Zechariah 7:8-14; Zechariah 8:1-17 and Zechariah 8:18-23; and each of these sections opens with the formula, "The word of Jehovah (of hosts) came to me (Zechariah), saying."

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