The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
Verse 1. - § 1. Heading and author. The burden (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; see note on Nahum 1:1). The word of the Lord is heavy and full of threats, but, as St. Jerome notes, it is also consolatory, because it is not "against" but to Israel. By this name the whole covenanted nation is designated, here, perhaps, with some idea of reminding the people of Jacob's faith and patience, and stimulating them to imitate their great ancestor. By Malachi; literally, by the hand of Malachi (comp. Jeremiah 37:2). That Malachi is the proper name of the prophet, and not a mere official designation, see the proof in the Introduction, § II. The LXX. renders, ἐν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ, "by the hand of his angel," or" messenger," and some curious theories have been founded on this translation; e.g. that an angel was the real author of the book, or came and explained it to the people. A similar legend once obtained concerning Haggai, called" The Lord's Messenger" (Haggai 1:13). At the end of the verse the LXX. adds, "fix it in your hearts," which Jerome supposes to have been imported hither from Haggai 2:15.
I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
Verse 2-5. - § 2. The prophet declares God's special love for Israel Verse 2. - I have loved you. The prophet, desiring to bring home to the people their ingratitude, lays down his thesis; then, in his characteristic manner, repeats the objection of the sceptics in an interrogatory form, and refutes it by plain argument. God had shown his love for Israel by electing them to be his people, and by his treatment of them during the whole course of their history. Wherein hast thou loved us! This was the inward feeling of the people at this time. They doubted God's love and faithfulness. Events had not turned out as they expected. They had, indeed, returned from captivity, and the temple was rebuilt; but none of the splendid things announced by the prophets had come to pass. They were not great and victorious; Messiah had not appeared. Therefore they repined and murmured: they were ungrateful for past favours, and questioned God's power and providence. Was not Esau Jacob's brother? God refutes their unjust charge by referring them to a palpable fact, viz. the different fate of the descendants of the twin brothers, Esau and Jacob. How miserable the destiny of the Edomites! how comparatively fortunate the condition of the Israelites! Yet I loved Jacob.
And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
Verse 3. - And I hated Esau. St. Paul quotes these words (Romans 9:13) in order to illustrate his position, "that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth." Even before his birth Jacob was the chosen one, and Esau, the elder, was to serve the younger. This mystery of Divine election has seemed to some to be stated so harshly that they have thought that the words of the text need to be softened, or to be modified by their explanation. Thus they give the glosses, "I have preferred Jacob to Esau;" "I have loved Esau less than Jacob;" or they have limited the terms "love" end "hatred" to the bestowing or withholding of temporal blessings; or they have affirmed that Esau was hated because God foresaw his unworthiness, and Jacob was beloved owing to his foreseen piety and faithfulness. The whole question is discussed by Augustine, 'De Div. Quint. ad Simplic.,' 1:18 (11:433). He ends by saying, "Deus odit impietatem: in aliis etiam punit per damnationem, in aliis adimit per justificationem." But Malachi is not speaking of the predestination of the one brother and the reprobation of the other; he is contrasting the histories of the two peoples represented by them; as Jerome puts it, "In Jacob vos dilexi, in Esau Idumaeos odio habui." Both nations sinned; both are punished; but Israel by God's free mercy was forgiven and restored, while Edom was left in the misery which it had brought upon itself by its own iniquity. Thus is proved God's love for the Israelites (Knabenbauer). That it is of the two nations that the prophet speaks, rather than of the two brothers, is seen by what follows. Laid his mountains... waste. While the Israelites were repeopling and cultivating their land, and their cities were rising from their ruins, and the temple and the capital were rebuilt, Edom, which had suffered at the hand of the same enemies, had never recovered from the blow, and still lay a scene of desolation and ruin. It seems that Nebuchadnezzar attacked and conquered Edom some few years after he had taken Jerusalem. This event happened during one of his expeditions against Egypt, one of which took place in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, as we learn from a record lately deciphered (see 'Transact. of Soc. of Bibl. Archaeology,' 7:210, etc.). (For Edom and its history, see the Introduction to Obadiah.) Dragons; rather, jackals (Micah 1:8); Septuagint, εἰς δώματα ἐρήμου, "for habitations of the desert;" Vulgate, dracones deserti, whence the Authorized Version.
Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.
Verse 4. - Whereas; rather, if, or although; Vulgate, quod si. If Edom were to attempt to repair its desolation, the Lord would not permit it - a striking contrast to the national restoration of Israel. We are impoverished; or, as the Revised Version, we are beaten; Septuagint, ἡ Ἰδουμαία κατέστραπται, "Idumea has been overthrown." Vulgate, destructl sumus. The desolate places; Vulgate, quae destructa sunt, places once in habited and now deserted. Compare the boast of the Ephraimites (Isaiah 9:9, 10). I win throw down. Edom never recovered its power; it became the prey of the Per starts, the Nabatheans, the Jews under the Maccabees, the Macedonians, the Romans; and finally the Mohammedan conquest effected its utter ruin. They (men) shall call them, The border of wickedness. Edom shall be called, "The territory of iniquity," its miserable condition attesting the wicked ness of the inhabitants thus punished by Divine justice. Hath indignation; Septuagint, παρατέτακται, "hath" been set in battle array;" St. Jerome, "My anger is proved by their enduring desolation; and in contrast to the evils experienced by your brother, ye shall experience the goodness of God towards you."
And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
Verse 5. - Your eyes shall see. Jacob is addressed. When you see these proofs of God's love for you, you shall leave off murmuring and be ready to praise God for his goodness and power. The Lord will be magnified; better, the Lord is great; Septuagint, Ἐμεγαλύνθη Κύριος, "The Lord was magnified." God makes his greatness known. From (over) the border of Israel. This means either beyond the limits of Israel, i.e. in all the world, or upon Israel, i.e. by the protection which he vouchsafes to Israel.
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
Verses 6-14. ? § 3. Israel had shown no gratitude for all these proofs of God's love, and the very priests had been the chief offenders by offering defective sacrifices, and profaning the temple worship. Verse 6. - A son honoureth his father. The prophet commences with a general principle which every one allows, and argues from that what was the attitude which they ought to assume towards God. A father. God was the Father of Israel by creation, election, preservation, watchful guardianship (see Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8, etc.). My fear. The fear, respect, reverence, due to me. O priests. He addresses his reproof to the priests, as the representatives of the people, and bound to lead them to obedience and holiness, and to be a pattern to the flock. Wherein have we despised thy Name? The priests have grown so callous, and have so obscured true religion by Pharisaical externalism, that they profess to be utterly unconscious how they have shown contempt of God. The Name of God is God himself and all that has to do with him.
Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
Verse 7. - Ye offer polluted bread (food) upon mine altar. The prophet answers the priests simply by detailing some of their practices. The "bread" (lechem) is not the shewbread, which was not offered on the altar, but the flesh of the offered victims (see Leviticus 3:11, 16; Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 22:25). This was "polluted" in that it was not offered in due accordance with the ceremonial Law, as is further explained in the next verse. Wherein have we polluted thee? They did not acknowledge the truth that (as St. Jerome says) "when the sacraments are violated, he himself, whose sacraments they are, is violated" (comp. Ezekiel 13:19; Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 39:7). The table of the Lord is contemptible. This was the thought of their heart, if they did not give open expression to it in words. The "table of the Lord" (ver. 12) is the altar, on which were laid the sacrifices, regarded as the food. of God, and to be eaten by the fire (Ezekiel 41:22; Ezekiel 44:16). They showed that they despised the altar by fancying that anything was good enough for offering thereon, as the next verse explains.
And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
Verse 8. - If ye offer the blind. The Law ordered that the victims should be perfect and without blemish (see Leviticus 22:19-25). Is it not evil! It is more forcible to read this without the interrogation, "It is no evil!" and to regard it as the priests' thought or word, here introduced by the prophet in bitter irony. Their conscience had grown so dull, and they had become so familiarized with constant dereliction of duty, that they saw no wrong in these violations of the Law, and never recalled the people to their duty in these matters. Offer it now unto thy governor. The word for "governor" is pechah, as in Haggai 1:1 (where see note). It denotes a ruler set over a province by a Persian king. As Nehemiah had refused to be burdensome to the people (Nehemiah 5:14-18), it is thought that Malachi must have written this when some other person was acting as governor. But Nehemiah's generosity was exhibited in his earlier administration, and he may have thought it right to take the dues under a more prosperous state of affairs. The prophet may be putting the ease generally - Would you dare offer such things to your governor? At any rate, the question is not about provisions and dues supplied to the governor and liable to be exacted by him in his official capacity, but about voluntary offerings and presents, without which no inferior would presume to appear before his prince (see Introduction, § II.). To offer to such a one what was mean and defective would be nothing less than an insult; and yet they thought this was good enough for God. Accept thy person. Regard thee with favour (Genesis 19:21; Job 13:10; Job 42:8).
And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.
Verse 9. - Beseech God; literally, the face of God. This is not a serious call to repentance, but an ironical appeal. Come now and ask the favour of God with your polluted sacrifices; intercede, as is your duty, for the people; will he accept you? will he be gracious to the people for your sakes? This hath been by your means. These words form a parenthesis, implying that it was from the priests that the evil custom of offering blemished animals proceeded, and they were answerable for the consequences; that their intercessions were vain was the result of their transgressions in these matters. Others interpret, "The thing depends on you," i.e. whether God shows favour or not. Will he regard your persons? Will he show favour to any one because ye intercede for him? So it might be translated, Will he accept any because of you?
Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
Verse 10. - The prophet continues his severe reprobation of the priests. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for naught, etc.? Thus rendered, the passage rebukes the mercenary spirit of the priests, who would not even shut the temple door nor kindle the altar fire unless they were paid for it; or else it means that, though all the officers of the temple were remunerated for their most trivial services, yet they were remiss in attending to their duties, and neglected the law of sacrifices. The Latin Version omits the negative in the last clause, Quis est in vobis qui claudat ostia, et incendat altare meum gratuito? The LXX., with some little variation in the reading, renders, Διότι καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν σὐκλειθήσονται θύραι καὶ οὐκ ἀνάψεται τὸ θυσιαστήριον, μου δωρεάν, "Wherefore also among you the doors shall be shut, and my altar shall not be kindled for nothing," i.e. God threatens that the temple services shall wholly cease. But it is best to consider the passage as continuing the sarcastic strain of the preceding verse, and saying in effect that it would be better to have no pretence of worship at all than to have it thus profaned. Translate as in the Revised Version, Oh that there were one among you that would shut the doors, that ye might not kindle fire on mine altar in vain! The doors are those of the inner court of the temple, where the great altar stood; and the polluted sectaries is offered "in vain," because it offends God rather than propitiates him. An offering (minchah). Here not sacrifice in general, as many commentators suppose, because it would be unnatural to take the word in one sense in this verse, and in a different sense in the following, where it is confessedly used in its restricted signification. The term is applied technically to the offering of fine flour combined with off and frankincense, burnt on the altar (Leviticus 2:1, etc.); though it is also occasionally used even of bloody sacrifices; e.g. of Abel's (Genesis 4:4; comp. 1 Samuel 2:17). As liturgically employed, it denotes the unbloody offering. So in this verse we may note a kind of climax. God would not accept the victims sacrificed, no, nor even the meat offering, which was naturally pure and unpolluted,
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
Verse 11. - My Name shall be great. The course of thought is this: God does not need the worship of the Jews and their impious priests; he needs not their maimed sacrifices; his majesty shall be recognized throughout the wide world, and pure worship shall be offered to him from every nation under heaven. How, then, shall he not punish those who, being his elect, ought to have been an example of holiness, and prepaid the way for his universal reception? The LXX. treats this circumstance as already occurring at this time, Τὸ ὄνομά μου δεδόξασται, "My Name hath been and is glorified." This could only be said if it was allowed that the heathen in some sense, however blindly and imperfectly, did worship the true God. But the notion cannot be upheld for a moment; and there is a general consensus of commentators in referring the time to the Messianic future, when God's power is acknowledged and worship offered to him, not in Jerusalem alone, but in every place. The participles in this verse may be rendered by presents or futures, but there can be little doubt that a prophecy is intended, and not a statement of a fact - which, indeed, could not be truthfully maintained. When such a future is in stere, is this a time for Jewish priests to dishonour Jehovah? Incense shall be offered unto my Name, and a pure offering (minchah). The universal worship is expressed in the terms of the Jewish ritual (see note on Zephaniah 3:10). The Hebrew is more forcibly rendered, In every place incense is burned, oblation made unto my Name, and indeed a pure oblation. Incense is to our minds a type of prayer (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3, etc.); the pure oblation is the symbol of the Christian sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; and the prophet, rising superior to Jewish prejudices, announces that this prayer and sacrifice shall no longer be confined to one place or one specially favoured country, but be universal, worldwide. The Fathers and mediaeval writers, and many modern commentators, see in this verse a prophecy of the Holy Eucharist, the "pure offering" commemorative of Christ's sacrifice, which is found in every nation under heaven where the Name of Christ is adored.
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
Verse 12. - But ye have profaned it; ye profane God's Name. The prophet contrasts the negligence and profanity of the priests with the piety of the Gentile nations, which he foresees. The table of the Lord (see note on ver. 7). The fruit thereof, even his meat. The food and meat of the altar are the victims offered thereon. By their conduct the priests made both altar and offerings contemptible. Septuagint, Τὰ ἐπιτιθέμενα ἐξουδένωται βρώματα αὐτοῦ, "Its meats that are laid thereon are set at naught;" Vulgate, Quod superponitur contemptibile est, cum igne qui illud devorat. This is either a free paraphrase, or for "meat" Jerome must have read a participle, "eating," and taken "that which eats" the offering to be the fire which consumes it, as "lick up" (1 Kings 18:38). Others explain the Vulgate to mean that the priests complain of the scantiness and inferiority of the victims, the flesh of which formed their support. But as this was owing to their own neglect, they were not likely to make it a subject of complaint
Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.
Verse 13. - What a weariness is it! The reference is to the table of the Lord. Despising the altar, and performing their duties without heart or faith, the priests found the services an intolerable burden. Vulgate, ecce de labore, which seems to be an excuse of the people, urging that they offer such things as their toil and poverty allow. Septuagint, ταῦτα ἐκ κακοπαθείας ἐστί, which has much the same meaning. The present Hebrew text is represented by the Authorized Version. Ye have snuffed at it; i.e. at the altar. The phrase expresses contempt. "It" has been supposed to be a "scribes' correction" for "me." The Septuagint and Syriac give, "I snorted at them." That which was torn; rather, that which was taken by violence - that which was stolen or unjustly taken. Septuagint, ἁρπάγματα: Ecclus. 34:18 (31:21), "He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten, his offering is ridiculous (μεμωκημένη)" Lame... sick (see Leviticus 22:19-25). Thus ye brought an (bring the) offering (minchah). Subject to analogous defects is even your meat offering, the accessory to other sacrifices, and therefore it is unacceptable.
But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
Verse 14. - But (and) cursed be the deceiver. The curse is fulminated against all who are guilty of these violations of the Law. The prophet mentions two instances out of many. The first is of one who offers a female victim, on pretence that he has no male in his flock. This will be clearer if we translate, with Keil, "And cursed is he who deceives, whereas there is in his flock a male animal." Septuagint, "Cursed is he who was able and bad in his flock a male." And voweth...a corrupt (blemished) thing. The second case is of one who in some emergency vows an offering, and then pays it by presenting a blemished animal (Leviticus 3:1, 6). With a slightly altered punctuation, some editors give, "a faulty female." For I am a great King. This is the reason that they are cursed who dishonour him. Dreadful. Held in awe and reverence. Septuagint, ἐπιφανές, notable." He whom the Gentiles honour will not permit his own people to profane his Name.