The priests reproved for neglecting their covenant. (1-9) The people reproved for their evil practices. (10-17)
Verses 1-9 What is here said of the covenant of priesthood, is true of the covenant of grace made with all believers, as spiritual priests. It is a covenant of life and peace; it assures all believers of all happiness, both in this world and in that to come. It is an honour to God's servants to be employed as his messengers. The priest's lips should not keep knowledge from his people, but keep it for them. The people are all concerned to know the will of the Lord. We must not only consult the written word, but desire instruction and advice from God's messengers, in the affairs of our souls. Ministers must exert themselves to the utmost for the conversion of sinners; and even among those called Israelites, there are many to be turned from iniquity. Those ministers, and those only, are likely to turn men from sin, who preach sound doctrine, and live holy lives according to the Scripture. Many departed from this way; thus they misled the people. Such as walk with God in peace and righteousness, and turn others from sin, honour God; he will honour them, while those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed.
Verses 10-17 Corrupt practices are the fruit of corrupt principles; and he who is false to his God, will not be true to his fellow mortals. In contempt of the marriage covenant, which God instituted, the Jews put away the wives they had of their own nation, probably to make room for strange wives. They made their lives bitter to them; yet, in the sight of others, they pretend to be tender of them. Consider she is thy wife; thy own; the nearest relation thou hast in the world. The wife is to be looked on, not as a servant, but as a companion to the husband. There is an oath of God between them, which is not to be trifled with. Man and wife should continue to their lives' end, in holy love and peace. Did not God make one, one Eve for one Adam? Yet God could have made another Eve. Wherefore did he make but one woman for one man? It was that the children might be made a seed to serve him. Husbands and wives must live in the fear of God, that their seed may be a godly seed. The God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away. Those who would be kept from sin, must take heed to their spirits, for there all sin begins. Men will find that their wrong conduct in their families springs from selfishness, which disregards the welfare and happiness of others, when opposed to their own passions and fancies. It is wearisome to God to hear people justify themselves in wicked practices. Those who think God can be a friend to sin, affront him, and deceive themselves. The scoffers said, Where is the God of judgement? but the day of the Lord will come.
Malachi 2:1-17 . REPROOF OF THE PRIESTS FOR VIOLATING THE COVENANT; AND THE PEOPLE ALSO FOR MIXED MARRIAGES AND UNFAITHFULNESS.
1. for you--The priests in particular are reproved, as their part was to have led the people aright, and reproved sin, whereas they encouraged and led them into sin. Ministers cannot sin or suffer alone. They drag down others with them if they fall [MOORE].
2. lay . . . to heart--My commands.
send a curse--rather, as Hebrew, "the curse"; namely, that denounced in Deuteronomy 27:15-26 , 28:15-68 .
curse your blessings--turn the blessings you enjoy into curses ( Psalms 106:15 ).
cursed them--Hebrew, them severally; that is, I have cursed each one of your blessings.
3. corrupt, &c.--literally, "rebuke," answering to the opposite prophecy of blessing ( Malachi 3:11 ), "I will rebuke the devourer." To rebuke the seed is to forbid its growing.
your--literally, "for you"; that is, to your hurt.
dung of . . . solemn feasts--The dung in the maw of the victims sacrificed on the feast days; the maw was the perquisite of the priests ( Deuteronomy 18:3 ), which gives peculiar point to the threat here. You shall get the dung of the maw as your perquisite, instead of the maw.
one shall take you away with it--that is, ye shall be taken away with it; it shall cleave to you wherever ye go [MOORE]. Dung shall be thrown on your faces, and ye shall be taken away as dung would be, dung-begrimed as ye shall be ( 1 Kings 14:10 ; compare Jeremiah 16:4 , 22:19 ).
4. ye shall know--by bitter experience of consequences, that it was with this design I admonished you, in order "that My covenant with Levi might be" maintained; that is, that it was for your own good (which would be ensured by your maintaining the Levitical command) I admonished you, that ye should return to your duty [MAURER] (compare Malachi 2:5 Malachi 2:6 ). Malachi's function was that of a reformer, leading back the priests and people to the law ( Malachi 4:4 ).
5-9. He describes the promises, and also the conditions of the covenant; Levi's observance of the conditions and reward (compare Numbers 25:11-13 , Phinehas' zeal); and on the other hand the violation of the conditions, and consequent punishment of the present priests. "Life" here includes the perpetuity implied in Numbers 25:13 , "everlasting priesthood." "Peace" is specified both here and there. MAURER thus explains it; the Hebrew is, literally, "My covenant was with him, life and peace (to be given him on My part), and I gave them to him: (and on his part) fear (that is, reverence), and he did fear Me," &c. The former portion of the verse expresses the promise, and Jehovah's fulfilment of it; the latter, the condition, and Levi's steadfastness to it ( Deuteronomy 33:8 Deuteronomy 33:9 ). The Jewish priests self-deceivingly claimed the privileges of the covenant, while neglecting the conditions of it, as if God were bound by it to bless them, while they were free from all the obligation which it imposed to serve Him. The covenant is said to be not merely "of life and peace," but "life and peace"; for the keeping of God's law is its own reward ( Psalms 19:11 ).
6. law of truth was in his mouth--He taught the people the truths of the law in all its fulness ( Deuteronomy 33:10 ). The priest was the ordinary expounder of the law; the prophets were so only on special occasions.
iniquity . . . not found--no injustice in his judicial functions ( Deuteronomy 17:8 Deuteronomy 17:9 , 19:17 ).
walked with me--by faith and obedience ( Genesis 5:22 ).
in peace--namely, the "peace" which was the fruit of obeying the covenant ( Malachi 2:5 ). Peace with God, man, and one's own conscience, is the result of "walking with God" (compare Job 22:21 , Isaiah 27:5 , 3:18 ).
turn may . . . from iniquity--both by positive precept and by tacit example "walking with God" ( Jeremiah 23:22 , Daniel 12:3 , 5:20 ).
7. In doing so ( Malachi 2:6 ) he did his duty as a priest, "for," &c.
knowledge--of the law, its doctrines, and positive and negative precepts ( Leviticus 10:10 Leviticus 10:11 , Deuteronomy 24:8 , Jeremiah 18:18 , Haggai 2:11 ).
the law--that is, its true sense.
messenger of . . . Lord--the interpreter of His will; compare as to the prophets, Haggai 1:13 . So ministers are called "ambassadors of Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 5:20 ); and the bishops of the seven churches in Revelation, "angels" or messengers ( Revelation 2:1 Revelation 2:8 Revelation 2:12 Revelation 2:18 , Revelation 3:1 Revelation 3:7 Revelation 3:14 ; compare Galatians 4:14 ).
8. out of the way--that is, from the covenant.
caused many to stumble--By scandalous example, the worse inasmuch as the people look up to you as ministers of religion ( 1 Samuel 2:17 , Jeremiah 18:15 , Matthew 18:6 , Luke 17:1 ).
at the law--that is, in respect to the observances of the law.
corrupted . . . covenant--made it of none effect, by not fulfilling its conditions, and so forfeiting its promises ( Zechariah 11:10 , Nehemiah 13:29 ).
9. Because ye do not keep the condition of the covenant, I will not fulfil the promise.
partial in the law--having respect to persons rather than to truth in the interpretation and administration of the law ( Leviticus 19:15 ).
10-16. Reproof of those who contracted marriages with foreigners and repudiated their Jewish wives.
Have we not all one father?--Why, seeing we all have one common origin, "do we deal treacherously against one another" ("His brother" being a general expression implying that all are "brethren" and sisters as children of the same Father above, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 and so including the wives so injured)? namely, by putting away our Jewish wives, and taking foreign women to wife (compare Malachi 2:14 and Malachi 2:11 , Ezra 9:1-9 ), and so violating "the covenant" made by Jehovah with "our fathers," by which it was ordained that we should be a people separated from the other peoples of the world ( Exodus 19:5 , Leviticus 20:24 Leviticus 20:26 , Deuteronomy 7:3 ). To intermarry with the heathen would defeat this purpose of Jehovah, who was the common Father of the Israelites in a peculiar sense in which He was not Father of the heathen. The "one Father" is Jehovah ( Job 31:15 , 1 Corinthians 8:6 , Ephesians 4:6 ). "Created us": not merely physical creation, but "created us" to be His peculiar and chosen people ( Psalms 102:18 , Isaiah 43:1 , 45:8 , 60:21 , Ephesians 2:10 ), [CALVIN]. How marked the contrast between the honor here done to the female sex, and the degradation to which Oriental women are generally subjected!
11. dealt treacherously--namely, in respect to the Jewish wives who were put away ( Malachi 2:14 ; also Malachi 2:10 Malachi 2:15 Malachi 2:16 ).
profaned the holiness of . . . Lord--by ill-treating the Israelites (namely, the wives), who were set apart as a people holy unto the Lord: "the holy seed" ( Ezra 9:2 ; compare Jeremiah 2:3 ). Or, " the holiness of the Lord" means His holy ordinance and covenant ( Deuteronomy 7:3 ). But "which He loved," seems to refer to the holy people, Israel, whom God so gratuitously loved ( Malachi 1:2 ), without merit on their part ( Psalms 47:4 ).
married, &c.--( Ezra 9:1 Ezra 9:2 , 10:2 , Nehemiah 13:23 , &c.).
daughter of a strange god--women worshipping idols: as the worshipper in Scripture is regarded in the relation of a child to a father ( Jeremiah 2:27 ).
12. master and . . . scholar--literally, "him that watcheth and him that answereth." So "wakeneth" is used of the teacher or "master" ( Isaiah 50:4 ); masters are watchful in guarding their scholars. The reference is to the priests, who ought to have taught the people piety, but who led them into evil. "Him that answereth" is the scholar who has to answer the questions of his teacher ( Luke 2:47 ) [GROTIUS]. The Arabs have a proverb, "None calling and none answering," that is, there being not one alive. So GESENIUS explains it of the Levite watches in the temple ( Psalms 134:1 ), one watchman calling and another answering. But the scholar is rather the people, the pupils of the priests "in doing this," namely, forming unions with foreign wives. "Out of the tabernacles of Jacob" proves it is not the priests alone. God will spare neither priests nor people who act so.
him that offereth--His offerings will not avail to shield him from the penalty of his sin in repudiating his Jewish wife and taking a foreign one.
13. done again--"a second time": an aggravation of your offense ( Nehemiah 13:23-31 ), in that it is a relapse into the sin already checked once under Ezra ( Ezra 9:10 ) [HENDERSON]. Or, "the second time" means this: Your first sin was your blemished offerings to the Lord: now "again" is added your sin towards your wives [CALVIN].
covering . . . altar . . . with tears--shed by your unoffending wives, repudiated by you that ye might take foreign wives. CALVIN makes the "tears" to be those of all the people on perceiving their sacrifices to be sternly rejected by God.
14. Wherefore?--Why does God reject our offerings?
Lord . . . witness between thee and . . . wife--(so Genesis 31:49 Genesis 31:50 ).
of thy youth--The Jews still marry very young, the husband often being but thirteen years of age, the wife younger ( Proverbs 5:18 , Isaiah 54:6 ).
wife of thy covenant--not merely joined to thee by the marriage covenant generally, but by the covenant between God and Israel, the covenant-people, whereby a sin against a wife, a daughter of Israel, is a sin against God [MOORE]. Marriage also is called "the covenant of God" ( Proverbs 2:17 ), and to it the reference may be ( Genesis 2:24 , Matthew 19:6 , 1 Corinthians 7:10 ).
15. MAURER and HENGSTENBERG explain the verse thus: The Jews had defended their conduct by the precedent of Abraham, who had taken Hagar to the injury of Sarah, his lawful wife; to this Malachi says now, "No one (ever) did so in whom there was a residue of intelligence (discriminating between good and evil); and what did the one (Abraham, to whom you appeal for support) do, seeking a godly seed?" His object (namely, not to gratify passion, but to obtain the seed promised by God) makes the case wholly inapplicable to defend your position. MOORE (from FAIRBAIRN) better explains, in accordance with Malachi 2:10 , "Did not He make (us Israelites) one? Yet He had the residue of the Spirit (that is, His isolating us from other nations was not because there was no residue of the Spirit left for the rest of the world). And wherefore (that is, why then did He thus isolate us as) the one (people; the Hebrew is 'the one')? In order that He might seek a godly seed"; that is, that He might have "a seed of God," a nation the repository of the covenant, and the stock of the Messiah, and the witness for the one God amidst the surrounding polytheisms. Marriage with foreign women, and repudiation of the wives wedded in the Jewish covenant, utterly set aside this divine purpose. CALVIN thinks "the one" to refer to the conjugal one body formed by the original pair ( Genesis 2:24 ). God might have joined many wives as one with the one husband, for He had no lack of spiritual being to impart to others besides Eve; the design of the restriction was to secure a pious offspring: but compare Note, raise a seed for God and for eternity.
16. putting away--that is, divorce.
for one covereth violence with . . . garment--MAURER translates, "And (Jehovah hateth him who) covereth his garment (that is, his wife, in Arabic idiom; compare Genesis 20:16 , 'He is to thee a covering of thy eyes'; the husband was so to the wife, and the wife to the husband; also Deuteronomy 22:30 , Ruth 3:9 , Ezekiel 16:8 ) with injury." The Hebrew favors "garment," being accusative of the thing covered. Compare with English Version, Psalms 73:6 , "violence covereth them as a garment." Their "violence" is the putting away of their wives; the "garment" with which they try to cover it is the plea of Moses' permission ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ; compare Matthew 19:6-9 ).
17. wearied . . . Lord--( Isaiah 43:24 ). This verse forms the transition to Malachi 3:1 , &c. The Jewish skeptics of that day said virtually, God delighteth in evil-doers (inferring this from the prosperity of the surrounding heathen, while they, the Jews, were comparatively not prosperous: forgetting that their attendance to minor and external duties did not make up for their neglect of the weightier duties of the law; for example, the duty they owed their wives, just previously discussed); or (if not) Where (is the proof that He is) the God of judgment? To this the reply ( Malachi 3:1 ) is, "The Lord whom ye seek, and whom as messenger of the covenant (that is, divine ratifier of God's covenant with Israel) ye delight in (thinking He will restore Israel to its proper place as first of the nations), shall suddenly come," not as a Restorer of Israel temporally, but as a consuming Judge against Jerusalem ( Amos 5:18 Amos 5:19 Amos 5:20 ). The "suddenly" implies the unpreparedness of the Jews, who, to the last of the siege, were expecting a temporal deliverer, whereas a destructive judgment was about to destroy them. So skepticism shall be rife before Christ's second coming. He shall suddenly and unexpectedly come then also as a consuming Judge to unbelievers ( 2 Peter 3:3 2 Peter 3:4 ). Then, too, they shall affect to seek His coming, while really denying it ( Isaiah 5:19 , Jeremiah 17:15 , Ezekiel 12:22 Ezekiel 12:27 ).