Malachi 3:5
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, said the LORD of hosts.
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(5) All these crimes were explicitly forbidden by the Law. Sorcery (Exodus 22:18), adultery (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), false-swearing (Leviticus 19:12), defrauding, or withholding of wages (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15), oppressing the widow and orphan (Exodus 22:22-24), doing injustice to a stranger (Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19). (Comp. also Zechariah 7:9-10; Zechariah 8:16-17.)

Malachi 3:5. And I will come near to you to judgment — In answer to their demand, Where is the God of judgment? Malachi 2:17, God here tells them that he will hasten the time of judgment, and it shall come speedily upon them, on account of those sins that were general among them: and that if they did not repent, and reform their conduct upon the preaching of the gospel by the forerunner of the Messiah, the Messiah himself, and his apostles and other servants, he would proceed to the utter excision of their nation. And I will be a swift witness, &c. — It belongs to God alone to be both witness and judge; for he alone seeth all the actions of men, and needeth not that any should testify against them, because he can himself convict them of their guilt, as having been present and looking on when their most secret sins were committed. Against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, &c. — The sins enumerated in this verse were very prevalent in Malachi’s time. Diviners, dreamers, and such as consulted oracles at the idols’ temples, are reproved, Zechariah 10:2; as are the false pretenders to prophecy, Nehemiah 6:12-14. False swearing and oppression are complained of, Zechariah 5:4; Nehemiah 5:3, &c. Their marrying strange women, and putting away their former wives to make room for them, was no better than adultery, and a breach of that solemn oath with which they had bound themselves, Nehemiah 10:29-30. And the same sins seem to have been commonly practised before and at the time of Christ’s appearance, till the destruction of Jerusalem. No nation was more given to charms, divinations, and fortune-telling, than the Jews were about that time, as Dr. Lightfoot has shown out of their own authors. Adulterers were then so common, that the Sanhedrim ordained that the trial of an adulteress, prescribed Numbers 5., should no longer be put in practice, as the same author observes out of the Talmud. Josephus informs us that magicians swarmed in Judea, under the government of Felix, and afterward. The denunciation here, that God would come near to judgment with all these, and be a swift witness against them, was fulfilled by that terrible destruction which was made of them by the Romans when Jerusalem was taken, and such havoc was made of the nation as never happened to any people before.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.And I will come near to you to judgment - They had clamored for the coming of "the God of judgment;" God assures them that He will come to judgment, which they had desired, but far other than they look for. The few would be purified; the great mass of them (so that He calls them "you"), the main body of those who had so clamored, would find that He came as a Judge, not for them but against them.

And I will be a swift witness - o "In judging I will bear witness, and witnessing, I, the same, will bring forth judgment, saith the Lord; therefore, the judgment shall be terrible, since the judge is an infallible witness, whom the conscience of no one will be able to contradict."

God would be a "swift witness," as He had said before, "He shall come suddenly." Our Lord calls Himself (Revelation 3:14; Revelation 1:5, "I, and not other witnesses, having seen with My own eyes." Theod. Jerome) "the Faithful and True witness," when He stands in the midst of the Church, as their Judge. God's judgments are always unexpected by those, on whom they fall. The sins are those especially condemned by the law; the use of magical arts as drawing men away from God, the rest as sins of special malignity. Magical arts were rife at the time of the Coming of our Lord; and adultery, as shown in the history of the woman taken in adultery, when her accusers were convicted in their own consciences. (John 8:9, "adulterous generation." Matthew 12:39. Lightfoot on John 8:3 quotes Sotah f. 47. 1. "From the time that homicides were multiplied, the beheading of the heifer ceased: from the time that adulterers were multiplied, the bitter waters ceased:" and Maimonides on Sotah, c. 3. "When the adulterers multiplied under the second Temple, the Sanhedrin abolished the ordeal of the adulteresses by the bitter water; relying on its being written, 'I will not visit your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery.'" Lightfoot subjoins, "The Gemarists teach that Johanan ben Zacchai was the author of that advice, who was still alive, in the Sanhedrin, and perhaps among those who brought the adulteress before Christ. For some things make it probable, that the "scribes and Pharisees," mentioned here, were elders of the synagogue." Justin reproaches them with having fresh wives, wherever they went throughout the world. Dial. fin. p. 243. Oxford translation.)

Oppress the hireling - , literally "oppress the hire," i. e., deal oppressively in it. "Behold," says James Jam 5:4, "the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is by you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." The mere delay in the payment of the wages of the laborer brought sin unto him, against whom he cried to God Deuteronomy 24:14-15. It is no light sin, since it is united with the heaviest, and is spoken of as reaching the ears of God. The widow and the fatherless stand in a relation of special nearness to God.

And fear not Me - He closes with the central defect, which was the mainspring of all their sins, the absence of the fear of God. The commission of any of these sins, rife as they unhappily are, proves that those who did them had no fear of God. "Nothing hinders that this should be referred to the first coming of Christ. For Christ, in preaching to the Jews, exercised upon them a judgment of just rebuke, especially of the priests, Scribes and Pharisees, as the Gospels show."

5. I … come near … to judgment—I whom ye challenged, saying, "Where is the God of judgment?" (Mal 2:17). I whom ye think far off, and to be slow in judgment, am "near," and will come as a "swift witness"; not only a judge, but also an eye-witness against sorcerers; for Mine eyes see every sin, though ye think I take no heed. Earthly judges need witnesses to enable them to decide aright: I alone need none (Ps 10:11; 73:11; 94:7, &c.).

sorcerers—a sin into which the Jews were led in connection with their foreign idolatrous wives. The Jews of Christ's time also practised sorcery (Ac 8:9; 13:6; Ga 5:20; Josephus [Antiquities, 20.6; Wars of the Jews, 2.12.23]). It shall be a characteristic of the last Antichristian confederacy, about to be consumed by the brightness of Christ's Coming (Mt 24:24; 2Th 2:9; Re 13:13, 14; 16:13, 14; also Re 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15). Romanism has practised it; an order of exorcists exists in that Church.

adulterers—(Mal 2:15, 16).

fear not me—the source of all sins.

And I; either God the Father, or Christ the Messiah, to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, John 5:22.

Will come near; you have spoken as if you thought I was far off, but by what I do you shall see I am near to you, and you shall feel my hand, that you may believe I am a God of judgment, and they happy who wait for him, and they miserable who fall under his judgments.

To you O Jews; not those very persons Malachi preached to, but those who should be then living when the Messiah cometh, which was more than four hundred years after Malachi’s preaching, by which time his hearers were all dead.

To judgment, against the wicked, to whom he would be what fire is to the dross in the furnace; to the righteous what the fire is to purer parts of the gold: he will consume the wicked, he will refine the good, he will be terrible to both in doing this.

I will be a swift witness: in that he will be a witness, they may be assured that they should. not be quitted in judgment for want of evidence; and in that a swift witness, they may be sure he will come in timely enough against them. And further yet, he that comes near as Judge to call them to an account, was always near them to observe all they did, all they spake, or thought, and he will be near as witness against them.

Against the sorcerers: sorcery was forbidden, and God testifies his detestation of the sin, and such as practise it, Deu 18:10-14: the people of God, who may consult with their God, his word, and prophets, do very abominably if they consult with the devil; a sin their fathers learnt among the Egyptians, a sin they had learnt among the Chaldeans during the captivity, and practised under the second temple.

The adulterers; who transgressed the law of nature and of God, Exodus 20:14 Deu 5:18 22:22; and were by the law to die for it.

False swearers; perjury, against which Zechariah 5:3,4, and God hateth this sin, Zechariah 8:17.

Those that oppress the hireling in his wages; either detaining it, or lessening it, Jeremiah 22:13 Jam 5:4.

The widow; who should be relieved, Deu 24:19-21, not oppressed, Isaiah 1:17.

The fatherless: such are not only those who have lost their fathers by death, but all friendless ones; God requires us to assist and help such, not oppress them, Psalm 82:1-4.

That turn aside the stranger from his right; pervert judgment, or wrest the law, or admit false witness against a stranger. Not doing right is ill, though to an enemy, but it is a crying sin to do wrong to a stranger, and God will punish it when it crieth, as he did upon your fathers, Ezekiel 22:7, with Malachi 3:13-16.

And fear not me; neither reverence my precepts to keep them, not tremble at my threats to prevent the execution of them by declining the sins I threaten. Irreligion is the root of all these oppressions, and God will punish them. And I will come near to you to judgment,.... And so will manifestly appear to be the God of judgment they asked after, Malachi 2:17 this is not to be understood of Christ's coming to judgment at the last day, but of his coming to judge and punish the wicked Jews at the time of Jerusalem's destruction; for the same is here meant, who is spoken of in the third person before, and who will not be afar off; there will be no need to inquire after him, when he will come he will be near enough, and too near for them:

and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers; not only a judge, but a witness; so that there will be no delay of judgment, or protracting or evading it, for want of witnesses of facts alleged; for the Judge himself, who is Christ, will be witness of them, he being the omniscient God, before whom all things are manifest. The Targum is,

"my Word shall be among you for a swift witness.''

Mention is made of "sorcerers", because there were many that used the magic art, enchantments, and sorceries, in the age of Christ and his apostles, and before the destruction of Jerusalem, even many of their doctors and members of the sanhedrim; See Gill on Isaiah 8:19,

and against the adulterers; with whom that age also abounded; hence our Lord calls it an adulterous generation, Matthew 12:39,

and against false swearers; who were guilty of perjury, and of vain oaths; who swore by the creatures, and not by the Lord, and to things not true; see Matthew 5:33,

and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless; defrauding of servants of their wages, devouring widows' houses, and distressing the fatherless, were sins the Jews were addicted to in those times, as appears from James 1:27 who wrote to the twelve tribes; and from what our Lord charges them with, Matthew 23:14,

and that turn aside the stranger from his right; and so Kimchi supplies it,

"that turn aside the judgment of the stranger;''

that do not do him justice in civil things; yea, persecuted those that became proselytes to the Christian religion:

and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts; which was the root and cause of all their sins; irreverence of Christ, disbelief of him, and contempt of his Gospel.

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
5. to judgment] This is the answer to the challenge of the people at large, “Where is the God of judgment?” The “messenger” shall be sent. The Lord of the temple shall suddenly follow him (Malachi 3:1). His first work shall be to purify the priesthood (Malachi 3:2-4). That accomplished, He shall open His solemn assize for the people generally (Malachi 3:5).

a swift witness] What need of further witnesses, when the Judge Himself is Witness also! “How great the dread of judgment, when He is witness and Judge! Witness too He is against all ‘sorcerers’ and ‘adulterers’, for these crimes are perpetrated in secret, and shall thus be brought forth to light, that they be hid no longer.” Jerome, quoted by Rosenmuller. We have a similar example of the identity of Judge and Witness, Psalm 50:6-7.

By “swift” is denoted not only the alacrity of the witness, but the suddenness with which the judgment falls: “not only that which happens without delay, but also that which bursts unexpectedly, after an interval of time, upon those who forgetful of warnings are living in security. In that sense the day of final judgment is predicted as αἰφνίδιος and sudden, Luke 21:34.” Rosenm. Comp. “suddenly”, Malachi 3:1 above.

from his right] These words are added both in A.V. and R.V. The fuller, though somewhat different expression, “turn aside (‘pervert’ A.V., ‘wrest’ R.V.) the judgment of the stranger”, occurs Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19. All the sins enumerated in this verse are condemned in terms in the Law.

fear not me] To this as to their root all the sins already mentioned are traced up, while at the same time many who were free from gross outward sins are by this condemned.Verse 5. - I will come near to you to judgment. They had asked, "Where is the God of judgment?" (Malachi 2:17). He tells them that his judgment shall extend beyond the Levites even unto all the people; they will then see whether, as they supposed, the evil went unpunished. The announcement applies especially to the circumstances of Malachi's time, though, of course, it has an extended reference. Swift witness. God's judgments fall swiftly and unexpectedly; and when they fall the sinner is at once convicted, and no con-comment, excuse, or subterfuge is possible. "How terrible is that judgment," says St. Jerome, "where God is at once Witness and Judge!" Sorcerers; τὰς φαρμακούς (Septuagint); maleficis (Vulgate); see Exodus 7:11; Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:10. The Jews had grown familiar with magical arts during the Captivity; that they practised them later we learn from Acts 8:9; Acts 13:6. Adulterers. They who were ready to marry heathen wives would not be likely to be restrained by any law from gratifying their passions, False swearers; Septuagint, "those who swear falsely by my name," which is from Zechariah 5:4 (comp. Leviticus 19:12; and see note on Zechariah 5:3). Oppress the hireling. Defraud him of his just wages (see Deuteronomy 24:14, 15; James 5:4). The widow, and the fatherless (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17). Turn aside (bow down) the stranger; Septuagint, "pervert the judgment of the stranger;" Vulgate, opprimunt peregrinum (Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 27:19; Amos 5:12). And fear not me. This was the root of all the evil. The first of these four words of God contains an exposure of what might be unwarrantable in the question and its motives, and open to disapproval. Zechariah 7:4. "And the word of Jehovah of hosts came to me thus, Zechariah 7:5. Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh (month), and that for seventy years, did ye, when fasting, fast to me? Zechariah 7:6. And when ye eat, and when ye drink, is it not ye who eat, and ye who drink? Zechariah 7:7. Does it not concern the words, which Jehovah has preached through the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and satisfied, and her towns round about her, and the south country and the low land were inhabited?" The thought of Zechariah 7:6 and Zechariah 7:7 is the following: It is a matter of indifference to God whether the people fast or not. The true fasting, which is well pleasing to God, consists not in a pharisaical abstinence from eating and drinking, but in the fact that men observe the word of God and live thereby, as the prophets before the captivity had already preached to the people. This overthrew the notion that men could acquire the favour of God by fasting, and left it to the people to decide whether they would any longer observe the previous fast-days; it also showed what God would require of them if they wished to obtain the promised blessings. For the inf. absol. see at Haggai 1:6. The fasting in the seventh month was not the fast on the day of atonement which was prescribed in the law (Leviticus 23), but, as has been already observed, the fast in commemoration of the murder of Gedaliah. In the form צמתּני the suffix is not a substitute for the dative (Ges. 121, 4), but is to be taken as an accusative, expressive of the fact that the fasting related to God (Ewald, 315, b). The suffix is strengthened by אני for the sake of emphasis (Ges. 121, 3). In Zechariah 7:7 the form of the sentence is elliptical. The verb is omitted in the clause הלוא את־הדּברים, but not the subject, say זה, which many commentators supply, after the lxx, the Peshito, and the Vulgate ("Are these not the words which Jehovah announced?"), in which case את would have to be taken as nota nominativi. The sentence contains an aposiopesis, and is to be completed by supplying a verb, either "should ye not do or give heed to the words which," etc.? or "do ye not know the words?" ישׁבת, as in Zechariah 1:11, in the sense of sitting or dwelling; not in a passive sense, "to be inhabited," although it might be so expressed. שׁלוה is synonymous with שׁקטת in Zechariah 1:11. ישׁב, in the sense indicated at the close of the verse, is construed in the singular masculine, although it refers to a plurality of previous nouns (cf. Ges. 148, 2). In addition to Jerusalem, the following are mentioned as a periphrasis for the land of Judah: (1) her towns round about; these are the towns belonging to Jerusalem as the capital, towns of the mountains of Judah which were more or less dependent upon her: (2) the two rural districts, which also belonged to the kingdom of Judah, viz., the negeb, the south country (which Koehler erroneously identifies with the mountains of Judah; compare Joshua 15:21 with Joshua 15:48), and the shephēlâh, or lowland along the coast of the Mediterranean (see at Joshua 15:33).
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