Malachi was the last of the prophets, and is supposed to have prophesied B.C. 420. He reproves the priests and the people for the evil practices into which they had fallen, and invites them to repentance and reformation, with promises of the blessings to be bestowed at the coming of the Messiah. And now that prophecy was to cease, he speaks clearly of the Messiah, as nigh at hand, and directs the people of God to keep in rememberance the law of Moses, while they were in expectation of the gospel of Christ.
The ingratitude of Israel. (1-5) They are careless in God's institutions. (6-14)
Verses 1-5 All advantages, either as to outward circumstances, or spiritual privileges, come from the free love of God, who makes one to differ from another. All the evils sinners feel and fear, are the just recompence of their crimes, while all their hopes and comforts are from the unmerited mercy of the Lord. He chose his people that they might be holy. If we love him, it is because he has first loved us; yet we all are prone to undervalue the mercies of God, and to excuse our own offences.
Verses 6-14 We may each charge upon ourselves what is here charged upon the priests. Our relation to God, as our Father and Master, strongly obliges us to fear and honour him. But they were so scornful that they derided reproof. Sinners ruin themselves by trying to baffle their convictions. Those who live in careless neglect of holy ordinances, who attend on them without reverence, and go from them under no concern, in effect say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. They despised God's name in what they did. It is evident that these understood not the meaning of the sacrifices, as shadowing forth the unblemished Lamb of God; they grudged the expense, thinking all thrown away which did not turn to their profit. If we worship God ignorantly, and without understanding, we bring the blind for sacrifice; if we do it carelessly, if we are cold, dull, and dead in it, we bring the sick; if we rest in the bodily exercise, and do not make heart-work of it, we bring the lame; and if we suffer vain thoughts and distractions to lodge within us, we bring the torn. And is not this evil? Is it not a great affront to God, and a great wrong and injury to our own souls? In order to the acceptance of our actions with God, it is not enough to do that which, for the matter of it, is good; but we must do it from a right principle, in a right manner, and for a right end. Our constant mercies from God, make worse our slothfulness and niggardliness, in our returns of duty to God. A spiritual worship shall be established. Incense shall be offered to God's name, which signifies prayer and praise. And it shall be a pure offering. When the hour came, in which the true worshippers worshipped the Father in Spirit and in truth, then this incense was offered, even this pure offering. We may rely on God's mercy for pardon as to the past, but not for indulgence to sin in future. If there be a willing mind, it will be accepted, though defective; but if any be a deceiver, devoting his best to Satan and to his lusts, he is under a curse. Men now, though in a different way, profane the name of the Lord, pollute his table, and show contempt for his worship.
Malachi 1:1-14 . GOD'S LOVE: ISRAEL'S INGRATITUDE: THE PRIESTS' MERCENARY SPIRIT: A GENTILE SPIRITUAL PRIESTHOOD SHALL SUPERSEDE THEM.
1. burden--heavy sentence.
to Israel--represented now by the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with individuals of the ten tribes who had returned with the Jews from Babylon. So "Israel" is used, Ezra 7:10 . Compare 2 Chronicles 21:2 , "Jehoshaphat king of Israel," where Judah, rather than the ten tribes, is regarded as the truest representative of Israel (compare 2 Chronicles 12:6 , 28:19 ). the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, in order to enflame His people with the more ardent desire for Him, the great antitype and fulfiller of prophecy.
2. I have loved you--above other men; nay, even above the other descendants of Abraham and Isaac. Such gratuitous love on My part called for love on yours. But the return ye make is sin and dishonor to Me. This which is to be supplied is left unexpressed, sorrow as it were breaking off the sentence [MENOCHIUS], ( Deuteronomy 7:8 , Hosea 11:1 ).
Wherein hast thou loved us?--In painful contrast to the tearful tenderness of God's love stands their insolent challenge. The root of their sin was insensibility to God's love, and to their own wickedness. Having had prosperity taken from them, they imply they have no tokens of God's love; they look at what God had taken, not at what God had left. God's love is often least acknowledged where it is most manifested. We must not infer God does not love us because He afflicts us. Men, instead of referring their sufferings to their proper cause, their own sin, impiously accuse God of indifference to their welfare [MOORE]. Thus Malachi 1:1-4 form a fit introduction to the whole prophecy.
Was not Esau Jacob's brother?--and so, as far as dignity went, as much entitled to God's favor as Jacob. My adoption of Jacob, therefore, was altogether by gratuitous favor ( Romans 9:13 ). So God has passed by our elder brethren, the angels who kept not their first estate, and yet He has provided salvation for man. The perpetual rejection of the fallen angels, like the perpetual desolations of Edom, attests God's severity to the lost, and goodness to those gratuitously saved. The sovereign eternal purpose of God is the only ground on which He bestows on one favors withheld from another. There are difficulties in referring salvation to the election of God, there are greater in referring it to the election of man [MOORE]. Jehovah illustrates His condescension and patience in arguing the case with them.
3. hated--not positively, but relatively; that is, did not choose him out to be the object of gratuitous favor, as I did Jacob (compare Luke 14:26 , with Matthew 10:37 , Genesis 29:30 Genesis 29:31 , Deuteronomy 21:15 Deuteronomy 21:16 ).
laid his mountains . . . waste--that is, his territory which was generally mountainous. Israel was, it is true, punished by the Chaldeans, but Edom has been utterly destroyed; namely, either by Nebuchadnezzar [ROSENMULLER], or by the neighboring peoples, Egypt, Ammon, and Moab [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 10.9,7; MAURER], ( Jeremiah 49:18 ).
dragons--jackals [MOORE] (compare Isaiah 34:13 ). MAURER translates, "Abodes of the wilderness," from an Arabic root "to stop," or "to abide." English Version is better.
4. Whereas--"But if" Edom say [MAURER]. Edom may strive as she may to recover herself, but it shall be in vain, for I doom her to perpetual desolation, whereas I restore Israel. This Jehovah states, to illustrate His gratuitous love to Israel, rather than to Edom.
border of wickedness--a region given over to the curse of reprobation [CALVIN]. For a time Judea seemed as desolate as Idumea; but though the latter was once the highway of Eastern commerce, now the lonely rock-houses of Petra attest the fulfilment of the prophecy. It is still "the border of wickedness," being the resort of the marauding tribes of the desert. Judea's restoration, though delayed, is yet certain.
the Lord hath indignation--"the people of My curse" ( Isaiah 34:5 ).
5. from the border of Israel--Ye, restored to your own "borders" in Israel, "from" them shall raise your voices to "magnify the Lord," acknowledging that Jehovah has shown to you a gratuitous favor not shown to Edom, and so ought to be especially "magnified from the borders of Israel."
6. Turning from the people to the priests, Jehovah asks, whereas His love to the people was so great, where was their love towards Him? If the priests, as they profess, regard Him as their Father ( Isaiah 63:16 ) and Master, let them show the reality of their profession by love and reverential fear ( Exodus 20:12 , Luke 6:46 ). He addresses the priests because they ought to be leaders in piety to the rest of the people, whereas they are foremost in "despising His name."
Wherein have we despised, &c.--The same captious spirit of self-satisfied insensibility as prompted their question ( Malachi 1:2 ), "Wherein hast Thou loved us?" They are blind alike to God's love and their own guilt.
7. ye offer, &c.--God's answer to their challenge ( Malachi 1:6 ), "Wherein have we despised?"
polluted bread--namely, blemished sacrifices ( Malachi 1:8 Malachi 1:13 Malachi 1:14 , Deuteronomy 15:21 ). So "the bread of thy God" is used for "sacrifices to God" ( Leviticus 21:8 ).
polluted thee--that is, offered to thee "polluted bread."
table of the Lord--that is, the altar ( Ezekiel 41:22 ) (not the table of showbread). Just as the sacrificial flesh is called "bread."
contemptible--( Malachi 1:12 Malachi 1:13 ). Ye sanction the niggardly and blemished offerings of the people on the altar, to gain favor with them. Darius, and probably his successors, had liberally supplied them with victims for sacrifice, yet they presented none but the worst. A cheap religion, costing little, is rejected by God, and so is worth nothing. It costs more than it is worth, for it is worth nothing, and so proves really dear. God despises not the widow's mite, but he does despise the miser's mite [MOORE].
8. Your earthly ruler would feel insulted, if offered by you the offering with which ye put off God (see Leviticus 22:22 Leviticus 22:24 ).
is it not evil?--MAURER translates, "There is no evil," in your opinion, in such an offering; it is quite good enough for such a purpose.
9. now . . . beseech God that he will be gracious--Ironical. Think you that God will be persuaded by such polluted gifts to be gracious to you? Far from it.
this hath been by your means--literally, "hand." These contemptible offerings are your doing, as being the priests mediating between God and the people; and think you, will God pay any regard to you (compare Malachi 1:8 Malachi 1:10 )? "Accept thy person" ("face"), Malachi 1:8 , answers to "regard your persons," in this verse.
10. Who . . . for naught--Not one even of the least priestly functions (as shutting the doors, or kindling a fire on the altar) would ye exercise without pay, therefore ye ought to fulfil them faithfully ( 1 Corinthians 9:13 ). DRUSIUS and MAURER translate, "Would that there were absolutely some one of you who would shut the doors of the temple (that is, of the inner court, in which was the altar of burnt offerings), and that ye would not kindle fire on My altar in vain!" Better no sacrifices than vain ones ( Isaiah 1:11-15 ). It was the duty of some of the priests to stand at the doors of the court of the altar of burnt offerings, and to have excluded blemished victims [CALVIN].
11. For--Since ye Jewish priests and people "despise My name" ( Malachi 1:6 ), I shall find others who will magnify it ( Matthew 3:9 ). Do not think I shall have no worshippers because I have not you; for from the east to the west My name shall be great among the Gentiles ( Isaiah 66:19 Isaiah 66:20 ), those very peoples whom ye look down upon as abominable.
pure offering--not "the blind, the lame, and the sick," such as ye offer ( Malachi 1:8 ). "In every place," implies the catholicity of the Christian Church ( John 4:21 John 4:23 , 1 Timothy 2:8 ). The "incense" is figurative of prayers ( Psalms 141:2 , Revelation 8:3 ). "Sacrifice" is used metaphorically ( Psalms 51:17 , Hebrews 13:10 Hebrews 13:15 Hebrews 13:16 , 1 Peter 2:5 1 Peter 2:12 ). In this sense the reference to the Lord's Supper, maintained by many of the fathers, may be admitted; it, like prayer, is a spiritual offering, accepted through the literal offering of the "Lamb without blemish," once for all slain.
12. Renewal of the charge in Malachi 1:7 .
fruit . . . meat--the offerings of the people. The "fruit" is the produce of the altar, on which the priests subsisted. They did not literally say, The Lord's table is contemptible; but their acts virtually said so. They did not act so as to lead the people to reverence, and to offer their best to the Lord on it. The people were poor, and put off God with the worst offerings. The priests let them do so, for fear of offending the people, and so losing all gains from them.
13. what a weariness is it!--Ye regard God's service as irksome, and therefore try to get it over by presenting the most worthless offerings. Compare Micah 6:3 , where God challenges His people to show wherein is the "weariness" or hardship of His service. Also Isaiah 43:22-24 , wherein He shows that it is they who have "wearied" Him, not He who has wearied them.
it--the table of the Lord, and the meat on it ( Malachi 1:12 ).
torn--namely, by beasts, which it was not lawful to eat, much less to offer ( Exodus 22:31 ).
thus . . . offering--Hebrew, mincha; the unbloody offering of flour, &c. Though this may have been of ordinary ingredients, yet the sacrifices of blemished animals accompanying it rendered it unacceptable.
14. deceiver--hypocrite. Not poverty, but avarice was the cause of their mean offerings.
male--required by law ( Leviticus 1:3 Leviticus 1:10 ).
great King--( Psalms 48:2 , Matthew 5:35 ).
my name . . . dreadful among . . . heathen--Even the heathen dread Me because of My judgments; what a reproach this is to you, My people, who fear Me not ( Malachi 1:6 )! Also it may be translated, "shall be feared among," &c. agreeing with the prophecy of the call of the Gentiles ( Malachi 1:11 ).