For this is he of whom it is written
( Malachi 3:1 )
Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy
way before thee.
That these words belong (abh Mlwel) , to the world to come, or the times of the Messiah, that is, the Gospel dispensation, the Jews F26 themselves own; but as to the particular person meant by the "messenger", or "angel", because they are not willing to acknowledge the right person, are at the utmost loss. Jarchi makes him to be the angel of death, who is to destroy the wicked; Aben Ezra conjectures it may be Messiah the son of Joseph, who they fancy will come before Messiah the son of David. Kimchi thinks an angel from heaven is designed; and Abarbinel Malachi himself: but the more ancient sense of the synagogue was, that the same person is meant, as in ( Mark 9:5 ) under the name of Elijah the prophet; and some have thought, that Elijah the Tishbite himself, is intended; though others think, that some great prophet of equal degree with him, and who is called by his name, is what the prophecy has regard unto F1; which last is the true sense of the passage: nor should it be once called in question, when our Lord himself has applied it to John the Baptist; to whom the things said in it perfectly agree. He was an "angel", not by nature, but by office; a "messenger" sent by God, "before the face" of the Messiah; six months before him: such a space of time he was born before him; and such a space of time he entered on his public ministry before him; and "prepared" his "way before" him, by preaching the doctrine of repentance, administering the ordinance of baptism, pointing at the Messiah, and exhorting persons to believe on him. All which proves him to be, what Christ says he was, "more than a prophet".
F26 Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 15. fol. 219. 4.
F1 Vid. Pocock in Mal. iii. 1.