Malachi 3:8
Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Robbed me.—Because the tithes are said to be offered to Jehovah, and then He gives them to the Levites in place of an inheritance (Numbers 18:24).

In tithes and offerings.—See Notes on Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:12; Numbers 18:21-24; Deuteronomy 18:4; Leviticus 3:1-17; Leviticus 7:11-21; Leviticus 7:28-36.

Malachi

THE LAST WORD OF PROPHECY

Malachi 3:1 - Malachi 3:12
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Deep obscurity surrounds the person of this last of the prophets. It is questioned whether Malachi is a proper name at all. It is the Hebrew word rendered in Malachi 3:1 of our passage ‘My messenger,’ and this has led many authorities to contend that the prophecy is in fact anonymous, the name being only a designation of office. Whether this is so or not, the name, if it is a name, is all that we know about him. The tenor of his prophecy shows that he lived after the restoration of the Temple and its worship, and the sins which he castigates are substantially those with which Ezra and Nehemiah had to fight. One ancient Jewish authority asserts that he was Ezra; but the statement has no confirmation, and if it had been correct, we should not have expected that such an author would have been anonymous. This dim figure, then, is the last of the mighty line of prophets, and gives strong utterance to the ‘hope of Israel’! One clear voice, coming from we scarcely know whose lips, proclaims for the last time, ‘He comes! He comes!’ and then all is silence for four hundred years. Modern critics, indeed, hold that the bulk of the Psalter is of later date; but that contention has much to do before it can be regarded as established.

The first point worthy of notice in this passage, then, is the concentration, in this last prophetic utterance, of that element of forward-looking expectancy which marked all the earlier revelation. From the beginning, the selectest spirits in Israel had set their faces and pointed their fingers to a great future, which gathered distinctness as the ages rolled, and culminated in the King from David’s line, of whom many psalms sung, and in the suffering Servant of the Lord, who shines out from the pages of the second part of Isaiah’s prophecy. This Messianic hope runs through all the Old Testament, like a broadening river. ‘They that went before cried, Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh.’

That hope gives unity to the Old Testament, whatever criticism may have to teach about the process of its production. The most important thing about the book is that one purpose informs it all; and the student who misses the truth that ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ has a less accurate conception of the meaning and inter-relations of the Old Testament than the unlearned who has accepted that great truth. We should be willing to learn all that modern scholarship has to teach about the course of revelation. But we should take care that the new knowledge does not darken the old certainty that the prophets ‘testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and of the glory that should follow,’ Here, at the very end, stands Malachi, reiterating the assurance which had come down through the centuries. The prophets, as it were, had lit a beacon which flamed through the darkness. Hand after hand had flung new fuel on it when it burned low. It had lighted up many a stormy night of exile and distress. Now we can dimly see one more, the last of his order, casting his brand on the fire, which leaps up again; and then he too passes into the darkness, but the beacon burns on.

The next point to note is the clear prophecy of a forerunner. ‘My messenger’ is to come, and to ‘prepare the way before Me.’ Isaiah had heard a voice calling, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,’ and Malachi quotes his words, and ascribes the same office to the ‘messenger.’ In the last verses of his prophecy he calls this messenger ‘Elijah the prophet.’ Here, then, we have a remarkable instance of a historical detail set forth in prophecy. The coming of the Lord is to be immediately preceded by the appearance of a prophet, whose function is to effect a moral and religious reformation, which shall prepare a path for Him. This is no vague ideal, but definite announcement of a definite fact, to be realised in a historical personality. How came this half-anonymous Jew, four hundred years beforehand, to hit upon the fact that the next prophet in Israel would herald the immediate coming of the Lord? There ought to be but one answer possible.

Another point to note is the peculiar relation between Jehovah and Him who comes. Emphatically and broadly it is declared that Jehovah Himself ‘shall suddenly come to His temple’; and then the prophecy immediately passes on to speak of the coming of ‘the Messenger of the covenant,’ and dwells for a time exclusively on his work of purifying; and then again it glides, without conscious breach of continuity or mark of transition, into, ‘And I will come near to you in judgment.’ A mysterious relationship of oneness and yet distinctness is here shadowed, of which the solution is only found in the Christian truth that the Word, which was Grod, and was in the beginning with God, became flesh, and that in Him Jehovah in very deed tabernacled among men. The expression ‘the Messenger {or Angel} of the covenant’ is connected with the remarkable representations in other parts of the Old Testament, of ‘the Angel of Jehovah,’ in whom many commentators recognise a pre-incarnate manifestation of the eternal Word. That ‘Angel’ had redeemed Israel from Egypt, had led them through the desert, had been the ‘Captain of the Lord’s host.’ The name of Jehovah was ‘in Him.’ He it is whose coming is here prophesied, and in His coming Jehovah comes to His temple.

We next note the aspect of the coming which is prominent here. Not the kingly, nor the redemptive, but the judicial, is uppermost. With keen irony the Prophet contrasts the professed eagerness of the people for the appearance of Jehovah and their shrinking terror when He does come. He is ‘the Lord whom ye seek’; the Messenger of the covenant is He ‘whom ye delight in.’ But all that superficial and partially insincere longing will turn into dread and unwillingness to abide His scrutiny. The images of the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ soap imply painful processes, of which the intention is to burn out the dross and beat out the filth. It sounds like a prolongation of Malachi’s voice when John the Baptist peals out his herald cry of one whose ‘fan was in His hand,’ and who should plunge men into a fiery baptism, and consume with fire that destroyed what would not submit to be cast into the fire that cleansed. Nor should we forget that our Lord has said, ‘For judgment am I come into the world.’ He came to ‘purify’; but if men would not let Him do what He came for, He could not but be their bane instead of their blessing.

The stone is laid. If we build on it, it is a sure foundation; if we stumble over it, we are broken. The double aspect and effect of the gospel, which was meant only to have the single operation of blessing, are clearly set forth in this prophecy, which first promises purging from sin, so that not only the ‘sons of Levi’ shall offer in righteousness, but that the ‘offerings of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasant,’ and then passes immediately to foretell that God will come in judgment and witness against evil-doers. Judgment is the shadow of salvation, and constantly attends on it. Neither Malachi nor the Baptist gives a complete view of Messiah’s work, but still less do they give an erroneous one; for the central portion of both prophecies is His purifying energy which both liken to cleansing fire.

That real and inward cleansing is the great work of Christ. It was wrought on as many of His contemporaries as believed on Him, and for such as did not He was a swift Witness against them. Nor are we to forget that the prophecy is not exhausted yet; for there remains another ‘day of His coming’ for judgment. The prophets did not see the perspective of the future, and often bring together events widely separated in time, just as, to a spectator on a mountain, distances between points far away towards the horizon are not measurable. We have to allow for foreshortening.

This blending of events historically widely apart is to be kept in view in interpreting Malachi’s prediction that the coming would result in Judah’s and Israel’s offerings being ‘pleasant unto the Lord as in former years.’ That prediction is not yet fulfilled, whether we regard the name of Israel and the relation expressed in it as having passed over to the Christian Church, or whether we look forward to that bringing in of all Israel which Paul says will be as ‘life from the dead.’ But by slow degrees it is being fulfilled, and by Christ men are being led to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God.

The more directly Messianic part of this prophecy is closed in Malachi 3:6 by a great saying, which at once gives the reason for the coming and for its severe aspect of witness against sin. The unchangeableness of God, which is declared in His very name, guarantees the continued existence of Israel. As Paul says in regard to the same subject, ‘The calling of God is without change of purpose’ {on His part}. But it is as impossible that God should leave them to their sins, which would destroy them, as that He should Himself consume them. Therefore He will surely come; and coming, will deliver from evil. But they who refuse to be so delivered will forfeit that title and the pledge of preservation which it implies.

A new paragraph begins with Malachi 3:7, which is not closely connected with the promises preceding. It recurs to the prevailing tone of Malachi, the rebuke of negligence in attending to the legal obligations of worship. That negligence is declared to be a reason for God’s withdrawal from them. But the ‘return,’ which is promised on condition of their renewed obedience, can scarcely be identified with the coming just foretold. That coming was to bring about offerings of righteousness which should be pleasant to the Lord. This section {Malachi 3:7 - Malachi 3:12} promises blessings as results of such offerings, and a ‘return’ of Jehovah to His people contingent upon their return to Him. If the two sections of this passage are taken as closely connected, this one must describe the consequences of the coming. But, more probably, this accusation of negligence and promise of blessing on a change of conduct are independent of the previous verses. We, however, may fairly take them as exhibiting the obligations of those who have received that great gift of purifying from Jesus Christ, and are thereby consecrated as His priests.

The key-word of the Christian life is ‘sacrifice’-surrender, and that to God. That is to be stamped on the inmost selves, and by the act of the will, on the body as well. ‘Yield yourselves to God, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Him.’ It is to be written on possessions. Malachi necessarily keeps within the limits of the sacrificial system, but his impetuous eloquence hits us no less. It is still possible to ‘rob God.’ We do so when we keep anything as our own, and use it at our own will, for our own purposes. Only when we recognise His ownership of ourselves, and consequently of all that we call ‘ours,’ do we give Him His due. All the slave’s chattels belong to the owner to whom he belongs. Such thorough-going surrender is the secret of thorough possession. The true way to enjoy worldly goods is to give them to God.

The lattices of heaven are opened, not to pour down, as of old, fiery destruction, but to make way for the gentle descent of God’s blessing, which will more than fill every vessel set to receive it. This is the universal law, not always fulfilled in increase of outward goods, but in the better riches of communion and of larger possession in God Himself. He suffers no man to be His creditor, but more than returns our gifts, as legends tell of some peasant who brought his king a poor tribute of fruits of his fields, and went away from the presence-chamber with a jewel in his hand.Malachi 3:8-9. Will a man rob God — Grotius reads, “Would any one dare to rob his judges as ye have robbed me?” the word rendered God sometimes meaning judges or magistrates. Some others render the clause, Is it right that God should be robbed (or defrauded) by man? Here God gives them an answer to their question in the foregoing verse, Wherein shall we return; or, repent and amend? But ye have robbed me — Notwithstanding it is so unjust and presumptuous to defraud God, that men in general are afraid to do it, yet ye have done it. Do you ask, wherein you have robbed me? I answer, In tithes and offerings — By this seems to be meant the first-fruits of their ground and cattle, and other offerings which were allotted to the priests, Deuteronomy 18:4, out of which revenue they were to provide the daily sacrifices, and also maintain the Levites, who attended upon the service in the temple. Ye are cursed with a curse — Are greatly cursed, or, you lie under a heavy curse, and are likely still to do so, for the curse shall continue upon you while you continue in this your sinful course. For ye have robbed me, even this whole nation — This has not been the crime of a few only, but ye have in general defrauded me, and evil shall come upon you for it. In a note on Romans 2:22, where the apostle ranks sacrilege with idolatry, Grotius observes, “Non multum distat falsos deos colere et verum spoliare.” There is very little difference between adoring false gods and robbing the true God.3:7-12 The men of that generation turned away from God, they had not kept his ordinances. God gives them a gracious call. But they said, Wherein shall we return? God notices what returns our hearts make to the calls of his word. It shows great perverseness in sin, when men make afflictions excuses for sin, which are sent to part between them and their sins. Here is an earnest exhortation to reform. God must be served in the first place; and the interest of our souls ought to be preferred before that of our bodies. Let them trust God to provide for their comfort. God has blessings ready for us, but through the weakness of our faith and the narrowness of our desires, we have not room to receive them. He who makes trial will find nothing is lost by honouring the Lord with his substance.Shall a man rob or cheat - , defraud God? God answers question by question, but thereby drives it home to the sinner's soul, and appeals to his conscience. The conscience is steeled, and answers again, "In what?" God specifies two things only, obvious, patent, which, as being material things, they could not deny. "In tithes and offerings." The offerings included several classes of dues to God:

(a) the first fruits ;

(b) the annual half-shekel Exodus 30:13-15;

(c) the offerings made for the tabernacle Exodus 25:2-3; Exodus 35:5, Exodus 35:21, Exodus 35:24; Exodus 36:3, Exodus 36:6 and the second temple Ezra 8:25 at its first erection; it is used of ordinary offerings;

(d) of the tithes of their own tithes, which the Levites paid to the priests Numbers 18:26, Numbers 18:28-29;

(e) of the portions of the sacrifice which accrued to the priests Leviticus 7:14.

8. rob—literally, "cover": hence, defraud. Do ye call defrauding God no sin to be "returned" from (Mal 3:7)? Yet ye have done so to Me in respect to the tithes due to Me, namely, the tenth of all the remainder after the first-fruits were paid, which tenth was paid to the Levites for their support (Le 27:30-33): a tenth paid by the Levites to the priests (Nu 18:26-28): a second tenth paid by the people for the entertainment of the Levites, and their own families, at the tabernacle (De 12:18): another tithe every third year for the poor, &c. (De 14:28, 29).

offerings—the first-fruits, not less than one-sixtieth part of the corn, wine, and oil (De 18:4; Ne 13:10, 12). The priests had this perquisite also, the tenth of the tithes which were the Levites perquisite. But they appropriated all the tithes, robbing the Levites of their due nine-tenths; as they did also, according to Josephus, before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Thus doubly God was defrauded, the priests not discharging aright their sacrificial duties, and robbing God of the services of the Levites, who were driven away by destitution [Grotius].

Will a man rob God? among the many deviations from God’s law (which they do not, because they will not, see) the prophet chargeth them with this kind of sacrilegious theft; they had detained his tithes, shortened him in that portion which he had reserved to himself and for his service, which is, as our version expresseth it, a robbing of God. And as the words lie in the original, they do, by arguing from the less to the greater, aggravate this sin; as they may be read, Will a man rob a great man, or, a judge? for the word used will bear these notions. Or, Will a man rob the gods? i.e. do not heathens abhor the foulness of such a fault, and fear the punishment of sacrilege, and therefore would not rob their idols? as another prophet asked once the question, Have any of

the nations changed their gods, which yet are no gods? Jeremiah 2:11; so now, Have the nations robbed their gods? Yet ye have robbed me; but blush, ye shameless priests and Jews, you have robbed not a great man, but the great God; not judges, but the Judge of judges; not an idol, but the living God! How great is your crime!

Wherein have we robbed thee? a question just like those Malachi 1:7 2:17 3:7, which see.

In tithes: the people robbed God not paying the full tenth, which God appointed should be paid to him. The priests robbed God in tithes, while they took too much, or it may be all, for their own particular and family use, and did not distribute them to all that by God’s law had a right to a proportion of them.

And offerings; either first-fruits, or other oblations and gifts, which were appointed to be brought to the temple for the service of God; in all which the people and priests had given him less than his due.

Will a man rob God? among the many deviations from God’s law (which they do not, because they will not, see) the prophet chargeth them with this kind of sacrilegious theft; they had detained his tithes, shortened him in that portion which he had reserved to himself and for his service, which is, as our version expresseth it, a robbing of God. And as the words lie in the original, they do, by arguing from the less to the greater, aggravate this sin; as they may be read, Will a man rob a great man, or, a judge? for the word used will bear these notions. Or, Will a man rob the gods? i.e. do not heathens abhor the foulness of such a fault, and fear the punishment of sacrilege, and therefore would not rob their idols? as another prophet asked once the question, Have any of

the nations changed their gods, which yet are no gods? Jeremiah 2:11; so now, Have the nations robbed their gods? Yet ye have robbed me; but blush, ye shameless priests and Jews, you have robbed not a great man, but the great God; not judges, but the Judge of judges; not an idol, but the living God! How great is your crime!

Wherein have we robbed thee? a question just like those Malachi 1:7 2:17 3:7, which see.

In tithes: the people robbed God not paying the full tenth, which God appointed should be paid to him. The priests robbed God in tithes, while they took too much, or it may be all, for their own particular and family use, and did not distribute them to all that by God’s law had a right to a proportion of them.

And offerings; either first-fruits, or other oblations and gifts, which were appointed to be brought to the temple for the service of God; in all which the people and priests had given him less than his due.

Will a man rob God? among the many deviations from God’s law (which they do not, because they will not, see) the prophet chargeth them with this kind of sacrilegious theft; they had detained his tithes, shortened him in that portion which he had reserved to himself and for his service, which is, as our version expresseth it, a robbing of God. And as the words lie in the original, they do, by arguing from the less to the greater, aggravate this sin; as they may be read, Will a man rob a great man, or, a judge? for the word used will bear these notions. Or, Will a man rob the gods? i.e. do not heathens abhor the foulness of such a fault, and fear the punishment of sacrilege, and therefore would not rob their idols? as another prophet asked once the question, Have any of

the nations changed their gods, which yet are no gods? Jeremiah 2:11; so now, Have the nations robbed their gods? Yet ye have robbed me; but blush, ye shameless priests and Jews, you have robbed not a great man, but the great God; not judges, but the Judge of judges; not an idol, but the living God! How great is your crime!

Wherein have we robbed thee? a question just like those Malachi 1:7 2:17 3:7, which see.

In tithes: the people robbed God not paying the full tenth, which God appointed should be paid to him. The priests robbed God in tithes, while they took too much, or it may be all, for their own particular and family use, and did not distribute them to all that by God’s law had a right to a proportion of them.

And offerings; either first-fruits, or other oblations and gifts, which were appointed to be brought to the temple for the service of God; in all which the people and priests had given him less than his due. Will a man rob God?.... Or "the gods"; the false gods, the idols of the Gentiles; the Heathens will not do that, accounting sacrilege a great sin, and yet this the Jews were guilty of: or "the judges" (c), as the Targum; civil magistrates; will any dare to defraud them of their due? see Malachi 1:8.

Yet ye have robbed me; keeping back from the priests and Levites, his ministers, what was due to them; and which, being no other than a spoiling or robbing of them, might be interpreted a robbing of God:

But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? as not being conscious of any such evil; or, however, impudently standing in it, that they were not guilty: to which is returned the answer,

In tithes and offerings; that is, they robbed God in not giving the tithes, and not offering sacrifices, according as the law required: but it may be objected, that the Jews in Christ's time did pay tithes, even of all things; yea, of more than the law required, Matthew 23:23 to which it may be replied, that though they gave tithes, yet it was , "with an evil eye", as Aben Ezra says; grudgingly, and not cheerfully, and with an evil intention; not to show their gratitude to God, and their acknowledgment of him as their Lord, from whom they had their all, but in order to merit at his hands; besides, our Lord suggests that they did not give to God the things that were God's, Matthew 22:21 and the apostle charges them with being guilty of sacrilege, Romans 2:22 and, moreover, the priests might not give it to the Levites, as they ought; and which is what they are charged with in Nehemiah 13:10 and Grotius says that they were guilty of this before the destruction by Vespasian, as appears by Josephus.

(c) "deos, vel judices", Calvin, Drusius, Grotius.

Will a {h} man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In {i} tithes and offerings.

(h) There are none of the heathen so barbarous, that will defraud their gods of their honour, or deal deceitfully with them.

(i) By which the service of God should have been maintained, and the priests and the poor relieved.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. ye have robbed] Rather, rob; lit. are robbing: it is still going on.

tithes] By the Law of Moses (1) “the tenth of all produce, as well as of flocks and cattle, belongs to Jehovah and must be offered to Him” (Leviticus 27:30; Leviticus 27:32); and (2) this tenth is “assigned to the Levites as the reward of their services” (Numbers 18:21; Numbers 18:24). Nehemiah in his day had to deal once and again with the evil here rebuked. Notwithstanding the “sure covenant” into which they had entered (Nehemiah 9:38 with Nehemiah 10:32-39), he had occasion, on his return to Jerusalem after an absence of a few years, to reform them again in this very particular (Nehemiah 13:10-14).Verse 8. - Will a man rob God? The prophet shows the people how they have departed from God, in not keeping even the outward observances of religion. The word translated "rob," defraud, found also in Proverbs 22:23, etc., is rendered in the Septuagint, πτερνιεῖ, "trip up," "supplant;" Vulgate, si affliget homo Deum, or, as St. Jerome first translated, "si affiget homo Deum," and referred the words to the crucifixion of our Lord. In tithes and offerings. These were due to the Lord, and therefore in withholding them they were defrauding not man but God. (For tithe, see Leviticus 27:30, etc.; Numbers 18:21. See the complaint of Nehemiah, Nehemiah 13:10-12.) The "offering" meant is the heave offering, the breast and shoulder of the peace offering, which were the priests' portion (Exodus 29:27; Leviticus 7:14, 32-34; comp. Nehemiah 10:37-39). 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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