Malachi 1:3

The Lord had chosen Israel as his peculiar people, out of pure love and kindness, without any antecedent merit on their side. This love is strikingly exhibited by contrasting the Divine dealings with the two nations, Edom and Israel. Both came into Divine judgment for sin, and love triumphed in the restoration of Israel; but because of Edom's treatment of Israel, it was left, to its desolations. The word "hate" is employed, but South properly explains that "hating" is sometimes used comparatively for a less degree of love (Genesis 29:31; Luke 14:26). The English word "hate" has somewhat changed its meaning. Now it means, "have a personal aversion to," "regard with ill will." But when our Bible was translated, it had a simpler and kinder meaning, "love less," "show less favour to." It is important to note that the reference is not to God's personal feelings to individuals, but to his providential dealings with nations. Still, it stands out prominently that God's ways with Israel had been the indication of selecting love for her.

I. GOD'S LOVE FOR ISRAEL WAS A DISTINGUISHING LOVE. Of Israel, as of Christ's apostles, it could be said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." The race of Abraham is a selected race. It was separated in order to preserve, and to witness for, the great primary religious truths which are essential to the world's well being, but are imperilled by the free moral experiment of humanity. It was a sign of Divine love that Israel received such a trust.

II. GOD'S LOVE FOR ISRAEL WAS A PATIENT LOVE. And the patience was very severely tried by the wilfulness and waywardness of the loved ones. This can be illustrated from every stage of the history. The patience is seen in this, that God kept on endeavouring to correct By chastisement. Under no provocation did he give them up in despair, and let judgment prove finally overwhelming. Compare the case of Edom, which, as a nation, is lost beyond recovery. That patience of the Divine love is the holiest joy to us still.

III. GOD'S LOW FOE ISRAEL WAS A TRIUMPHANT LOVE. This is what seems chiefly in Malachi's mind. He wants the people to feel how the love had triumphed in their recovery from captivity, and their restoration as a nation. And these proofs of the Lord's love should have acted as persuasions to the Lord's service. - R.T.

was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
From the fate of the hunter Esau, we learn the peril of life's low ideals; the power of life's crucial moments; the continuity of life's irrevocable retributions; the anguish of life's fruitless tears. The fortunes of Jacob are indeed too eventful, his character too complex, to allow any attempt at exhaustive analysis. But we may learn something which will aid us in our daily difficult endeavour to choose the good and not the evil, and to give our hearts and lives to God.

1. "I loved Jacob, and hated Esau." Does not our first instinct almost rebel against this appeal? Do we not incline to prefer the elder, for all his frank earthliness, to the younger, with his mean servilities and subterranean shifts? Yet there the sentence stands; and all Scripture, and the long centuries of human history, set the seal of confirmation to the sacred verdict. The Aryan has prevailed in war and civilisation, but in all other things the Semite conquered his conqueror. More than any other nation, the Hebrew realised the intense grandeur and infinite supremacy of the moral law, and saw that the greatest and most awful aim for human life is not culture, but conduct. Let us see why Jacob, who seems to concentrate all the worst faults which we associate with the lowest type of Jewish character, is yet preferred to his more gallant and manly brother.

2. Let me reject at once two solutions of it. Some would settle it on the broad grounds of predestinated election and arbitrary decree, and would confuse our understanding with reasonings high of freedom and foreknowledge, will and fate. Others think it sufficient to silence us with the triumphant assertion, that we are but clay in the hands of the potter, that God may treat us as He wills. Others, again, argue that we must not judge Jacob's sins as though they were sinful, because Scripture records them without distinct condemnation, and because he may have been acting under Divine directions. I do not only reject all such solutions, I declare the first to be blasphemous, and the second deplorable. God is no arbitrary tyrant, but a merciful, loving, righteous Father. And the moral law, in its inviolable majesty, infinitely transcends the wretched "idols of the theatre" which men have called theories of inspiration. If God chose Jacob, it was because the true nature of Jacob was intrinsically worthy of that choice.

3. According to the Hebrew idiom, the strong antithesis of the text connotes less than it asserts, being but a more intense way of saying that, in comparison with his brother, Esau neither deserved nor received the approval of God. A second abatement — though not removal — of the difficulty lies in the fact that Jacob seems worse to us because his faults were essentially those of an Oriental, and are therefore peculiarly offensive to the heart of a true Englishman. And long may falseness and meanness be utterly abhorrent to our Northern character! But our special national scorn of Jacob's deceitfulness does not make it one whit more contemptible than Esau's animalism.

4. Herein lies the first great moral of these two lives. That which is holy is not to be cast to the dogs. Esau lost the blessing because he reeked not of it. Jacob gained it, because his whole soul yearned for its loftiest hopes. Men, on the whole, do win what they will: they do achieve that at which they resolutely aim. This is perfectly true in worldly things. But there is one ambition which is worth the absorbing devotion of a human being. It is the ambition of holiness, the treasure of eternity, the object of seeing the face of God.

5. What a difference is made by different ideals. Each of these twin-brothers lost and gained much more beside their immediate wish. Esau the rough becomes by scornful memorial Edom the red; Jacob the supplanter becomes Israel the prince with God.

6. Another lesson is, that however lofty be our aims, we must not, in order to hasten them, deflect, were it but one hair's breadth, from the path of perfect rectitude. Jacob inherited the blessing because his faith yearned for its spiritual promises; but because he compassed its immediate achievement by a crime, therefore, with the blessing there fell on him a retribution so heavy, so unremitted, as made his look back over life a bitter pain.

7. In spite of all which stained his life, Jacob was still a patriarch and a saint. You must not judge of him as a whole by the instances, so faithfully recorded, of his guilty plottings. In two main respects Jacob was certainly greater, better, and worthier than Esau. The sins of Esau's life were, so to speak, the very narrative; the sins of Jacob's life were but the episode of his career.

8. There is this further difference. There is not the faintest sign that Esau ever repented of his sin. But in Jacob's life there was many a moment when he would have forfeited the very blessing to purchase back the innocence by which it had been gained. Learn lastly, that the continuity of godliness is the choicest gift of all, and innocence is better than repentance. And we see in the case of Esau's red pottage and ravenous hour, that one failure under sudden temptation may be alike the ruin and epitome of a man's career, because the impulse of the hour is nothing less than the momentum of the life.

(Dean Farrar.)

1. Some men on this earth seem to be more favoured by providence than others, yet they are often unconscious of it. This is true of individuals, and of nations.

2. This difference in the privileges of men is to be ascribed to the sovereignty of God. That sovereignty does not imply either partiality on His part, or irresponsibleness on man's part.

3. Those whom the sovereignty of God does not favour are left in a secularly unenviable condition. They will —

(1)Have their possessions destroyed.

(2)Their efforts frustrated.

(3)Their enemies prospering.


The first fault reproved in this people is their ingratitude, and not observing or esteeming of God's love toward them, which therefore He demonstrates, from His choosing of Jacob their father, and preferring him to Esau the elder brother; not only in the matter of election to eternal life, but in that God had chosen Jacob to be the root out of whom the blessed seed should come, and the Church propagated in his posterity; and accordingly (as an eternal evidence of this rejection of Esau and his posterity) the Lord had given to him but a hilly, barren country, and had now cast them out of it, and laid it desolate, as a habitation for wild beasts; whereas the seed of Jacob had gotten a fruitful land, and were now restored to it again after their captivity. Doctrine —

1. The chief and principal study of the visible Church, and the godly in it, ought to be the love of God manifested toward them, as being that which God will not allow to be suspected, and which ought to oblige them to Him; that which will be the sad ground of a process when it is forgotten and undervalued; and that which, being looked on when God reproves, will encourage and strengthen to take with it, and make use of it. Therefore doth He begin this doctrine, and the sad challenges with this, "I have loved you, saith the Lord," that is, all of you in general have tasted of respects suitable, and beseeming My Bride and the visible Church; and particularly the elect among you have tasted of My special love.

2. God's love to His Church is often met with great ingratitude, in not being seen and acknowledged as becomes, especially under cross dispensations, in undervaluing the effects of it, when they fit not our mould, and in deeds denying it, while thoughts of it do not beget love to Him again; for "yet ye say, wherein hast Thou loved us?"

3. Election unto eternal life is a sufficient testimony of God's love, to be acknowledged and commended, although all things else went cross, and seemed to speak disrespect: for in this — "The Lord loved Jacob, and hated Esau," as is exponed (Romans 9:13); and this is sufficient to answer their quarrelling.

4. To be chosen and selected to be the Lord's Church and people, speaks so much respect from God unto a nation, as may counterbalance many other hard lots.

5. The Lord's love will not be so clearly seen and acknowledged, when we compare some dispensations with the privileges bestowed upon us, but when we consider our own original, and wherein we are dealt favourably with beyond others, as good as ourselves, if not better: for however Israel, looking on their many privileges, could not see God's love in their low condition, yet it would better appear when they looked back that "Esau was Jacob's brother" (and the elder too), yet "I loved Jacob and hated Esau."

6. The grace of God is not dispensed differently in the world, upon any difference in the point of worth among men: but grace itself makes the difference in choosing out one, and leaving another, as good in himself, to his own ways, according to His pleasure, who hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, for Jacob and Esau are equal, till love makes the difference.

7. However, no man can know love or hatred by outward dispensations, simply considered in themselves, yet afflictions are to wicked men real testimonies of God's displeasure, and God's people, being at peace with Him, may look on external mercies as speaking special love; for Esau's hilly land, and the desolation thereof, speaks "hating of Esau," not only as rejection from Canaan was a type of the rejection from the Church and heaven, but as it was a judgment inflicted on a nation unreconciled, whereas (at least) the godly in Israel might look otherwise on their land and restitution.

(George Hutcheson.)

God is love. This is true even when He afflicts, for whom He loveth He chasteneth. We must not therefore infer that He does not love because He afflicts. The gardener prunes the grape which he values, not the thistle which he hates. The fruit-tree that is highly prized is trimmed that it may bear more fruit: the forest tree that is designed for the flames is left to grow in unpruned luxuriance. God still addresses us with the same touching appeal, "I have loved you," and He still meets the same hard, ungrateful response, "Wherein hast Thou loved us?" Men suffer many forms of outward evil and inward grief because of their sins; but instead of referring them to the proper cause — their own wickedness — they impiously accuse God in their hearts of being indifferent to their welfare. They refuse to look at the tokens of love strewed all along their history, and dwell in obstinate ingratitude on the evils that their own sin has entailed upon them. And yet that history is crowded with such tokens.

(T.V. Moore, D. D.)

I. THE PROPHET'S REPROOF. He is, in the name of God, taxing the people with ingratitude. There is no sin more hateful to God than the sin of ingratitude. Another charge is that of neglect. They offer a polluted sacrifice. All they want is a cheap religion. They are willing to make some offering, but not the best offering. They would be glad to do something for God, but it must cost them nothing.

II. THE THREAT. There should, in consequence, be the rejection of their prayers, the rejection of their persons, and the rejection of their services, and a transfer of their privileges to others.


1. God's service is a real service, not a nominal service. Formality is not enough.

2. It is a sure sign of want of grace in your hearts, when God's service is a weariness.

3. Confidence in God is a necessary part of acceptable prayer and acceptable service.

(Montagu Villiers, M. A.)

The two nations, Israel and Edom. were utterly opposed in genius and character. Edom was a people of as unspiritual and self-sufficient a temper as ever cursed any of God's human creatures. Like their ancestor they were "profane," without repentance, humility, or ideals, and almost without religion. Apart, therefore, from the long history of war between the two peoples, it was a true instinct which led Israel to regard their brother as representative of that heathendom against which they had to realise their destiny in the world as God's own nation. In choosing the contrast of Edom's fate to illustrate God's love for Israel, "Malachi" was not only choosing what would appeal to the passions of his contemporaries, but what is the most striking and constant antithesis in the whole history of Israel: the absolutely diverse genius and destiny of these two Semitic nations who were nearest neighbours, and, according to their traditions, twin brethren after the flesh. If we keep this in mind we shall understand Paul's use of the antithesis in the passage in which he clenches it by a quotation from Malachi: "as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." In these words the doctrine of the Divine election of individuals appears to be expressed as absolutely as possible. But it would be unfair to read the passage except in the light of Israel s history. In the Old Testament it is a matter of fact that the doctrine of the Divine preference of Israel to Esau appeared only after the respective characters of the nations were manifested in history, and that it grew more defined and absolute only as history discovered more of the fundamental contrast between the two in genius and destiny. In the Old Testament, therefore, the doctrine is the result, not of an arbitrary belief in God's bare flat, but of historical experience; although, of course, the distinction which experience proves is traced back, with everything else of good or evil that happens, to the sovereign will and purpose of God. Nor let us forget that the Old Testament doctrine of election is of election to service only. That is to say, the Divine intention in electing covers not the elect individual or nation only, but the whole world, and its need of God and His truth. The event to which "Malachi" appeals as evidence for God's rejection of Edom is the deso lation of the latter's ancient heritage, and the abandonment to the "jackals of the desert."

(Geo. Adam Smith, D. D.)

Why should God say, Jacob I loved, Esau I hated? Why should He choose one nation of the earth to favour beyond all others? Is not that an arbitrary and unfair exercise of His will? Now, no doubt that is the case if we only put on election the interpretation common among the later Jews, and the one most familiar to ourselves. We need to correct it by the larger ideas which St. Paul suggests to us, and which are, at least, latent in the Old Testament. For one thing, let us remember that God's purposes are wider than anything we can conceive of, and that we have to make allowances for that, whenever we seek to understand or criticise His providential dealings. As St. Paul tried to teach the Christians in Rome, God chose Israel not for the sake of Israel alone, but for the sake of the world. To him this explains at once the apparent arbitrariness of the choice, and the narrowness of the groove within which Israel had moved. God elected and trained the people for a certain special end. It was not that by nature they were specially fitted for that end, but rather that they were made to fit it by His grace. Here is one Semitic people out of many showing a peculiar temperament and genius for religion, and subjected to influences all of which tended to emphasise its peculiarities and fit it for its destiny among mankind. And its history can only be read aright in the light of some larger and even world-wide scheme, which it was being prepared to fulfil. But, of course, it is not only in Israel, or, indeed, in any of the nations of the world, that this apparent arbitrariness of Providence is to be seen. It runs through human life. Take the story of Jacob and Esau, as only referring to the men themselves, and we find that it is one that is constantly repeated in our experience. The inequality of human destinies is one of the stock themes of the pessimist; one man is chosen and another rejected, and it is certainly not of works but of Him that calleth. One of the most disconcerting things in all our experience is the apparent failure of goodness to secure its reward. Sometimes it is the most unworthy who is selected for the crown, while the saint is passed by or made to stoop under the cross. Then men enter for the race of life strangely and even unfairly handicapped. One man inherits a physique and a nervous system which means a happy temperament and unusual strength of character; another is the victim of congenital weakness, which dooms him to much misery and possibly to sin. One man is elected to conditions altogether favourable to the development of his higher self, while another's circumstances tend constantly to drag him down. We have all experienced at times the baffling and tragic sense of wrong to which such thoughts as these give rise. But do we remember that most of our perplexity is due to the fact that we confine our views to the earthly and material side of life? We have to take much else into account before we can hope to face the prospect which God's providence presents with anything like equanimity. His purposes are surely not confined in their scope either to the lives of individuals or to this world in which we now live in the flesh. Nor is the supreme object of His dealing with us the happiness of many or of most. If we are to trust all the indications of natural and revealed religion, God's purpose is supremely ethical In His eyes goodness is as far above happiness as heaven is above the earth; and that even happiness should be sacrificed that high moral ends may be secured is something which should cause us no concern. Then, again, if we have read our Bibles to any purpose, or even studied intelligently the average experiences of men, we shall know that no view of life which leaves out of account its spiritual aspect can be either just or sane. We cannot, gaze as we will, see the end from the beginning. Events that seem most contrary and cruel in our experience have in them a soul of goodness for those that have eyes to see. The wicked may flourish like a green bay-tree, but he perishes like the green hay-tree too when his time comes; and the righteous may obtain no reward but that of a good conscience, yet in the end he is received into everlasting habitations. There is more being done all round us to redress the balance than we have any conception of, hut it is not until we come to look at life from a higher standpoint than that of mere earthly interests that we can see it. The work of Providence in a man's life is not finished when the man himself has passed away; sometimes it is only just begun. But we need to bear in mind that God's election of a man or of a race is not always, as we think, an election to favour or privilege alone. Under Providence special privilege means special responsibilities, and election is election to service. Men and nations alike are instruments in God's hands, and He makes them serve His ends. Where there is a special endowment or fitness, there is a special function to be fulfilled, and this function is one in which many have an interest outside the individual. We must learn to judge therefore in the light, not only of the special endowment given, but of the special ends to be served by it. The history of Israel, for example, were almost inexplicable apart from its results on the religion of mankind. The key to it is to be found not in Moses or the prophets or the rabbis, but in Christ. The people had been fitted for a particular work, and it was their fitness which constituted their election. This helps to explain the strange one-sidedness there is in national life. It is a question of selection as well as election, the power or faculty most regularly employed growing at the expense of the rest. And to the religious mind each nation alike is an instrument of Providence, and in them all is to be seen something of the grand purpose of God working itself out slowly but surely, through difficulty and apparent defeat, towards that best which is yet to be. But we need to come a little closer to the subject yet. All that has been said may be quite true, but it does not dispose of the difficulty in our text. There may be a great deal to be said for the doctrine of election in the abstract; but when it is couched ill such language as this, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated," it is difficult to avoid a sense of undue favouritism, and the thought that God is, after all, a respecter of persons, in the sense of having personal preferences. And yet we have only to look behind the words to see that the conclusion is unwarranted. As it is, we see behind the words a law or principle which we must not ignore. If we may argue from human analogies, it is but natural and just to say that God loves those who love Him. One of the things we learn most surely flora Bible history is that God does not look for moral perfection in those to whom He grants His favours, and whom He chooses to do His work. Jacob was far from being a perfect character; but with all his faults he had the supreme virtue of religion, he had learned to take God into account in his actions, and to work and think with reference to His will. Esau, on the other hand, is the type of those who are without God in the world — profane persons, who are blind to their highest interests, and live wilfully on the lower side of life. What wonder that from such God's face should be turned away! God loves those who love Him, and the shadow cast by His love is His hatred of all that would lead men away from Him and keep them in the dark of selfishness and sin. As has been said already, we have to reckon with man's will as well as God's. He compels no man to be either righteous or sinful, and the fact that we are free adds a brighter halo to our goodness, and deepens immeasurably the stain of our guilt. We are always working either with God or against Him, and this fact, while it adds a new hope and assurance to our efforts after righteousness, makes the evil that is in us point only to despair. Judged by the only standards we can use, we have to lay the blame on man and not on God for whatever is dark and terrible in the words, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." A subject like this brings vividly home to us the supreme needs of the religious man — faith in God and co-operation with Him. It is often cruelly enough revealed to us that in this life — in spite of the light of reason — we are as those that grope in the dark. After all, the world is only in the making as yet, and we have to learn to judge not by the intricate mass of scaffolding, rubbish heaps, and half-built walls that we see, but by the Architect's plans. In spite of all the perplexities and inconsistencies which puzzle us here, we have to learn to look at the design which runs through them all, and the purpose which by them is being slowly evolved. Sometimes all we can do is to trust and wait, to be sure that there is a secret to this mystery and a solution to that riddle, but that we have not yet eyes to see them; and we must remember, too, that faith will never sit with folded hands doing nothing, but that true faith always works. The greater the trouble and the difficulty the more need there is for work, and the effort to do God's will as far as it is known is the only means by which that will can be more clearly understood.

(W. B. Selbie, M. A.)

The dragons of the wilderness
Ancient history is full of legends concerning the deadly power of dragons. The Bible has many references to these imaginary monsters. In Church history they are represented as winged crocodiles, and regarded as emblems of sin and the devil. There are spiritual dragons now. Consider —

I. THESE DRAGONS. They are besetting sins, turbulent passions, sinful customs, fascinating vices, evil spirits, etc.

II. WHERE THEY DWELL. The wilderness. The world, though beautiful, is yet cursed by sin. To the saintly heart it is often a wilderness —

1. For its loneliness.

2. For its barrenness.

3. For its dangers.Dragons lurk there. They may pour forth their fire and fury upon us there at any time. Application. Be watchful. Seek the help of the great dragon-slayer — Christ. In all legends of the slaying of dragons it was one hero that did it — Hercules, Perseus, Siegfried, St. Michael, St. George — these slew the dragons, and delivered the people.

(W. Osborne Lilley.)

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