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Malachi 2:11

11. Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.

11. Perfide egit Iehudah, et abominatio facta est in Israele et Ierusalem; quia polluit Iehudah sanctuarium Iehovae quod dilexit (vel, sanctitatem; dicemus de hac voce) et matrimonium contraxerunt cum filia dei alieni.

 

The Prophet now explains how the Jews departed from the covenant of their fathers, and he exaggerates their sin and says, that abomination was done in Israel; as though he had said, that this perfidy was abominable. Some render the verb, בגד, begad, 227227     It is בגדה in the feminine gender, because by Judah is meant the tribe or the family; so Ephraim is often regarded. See Hosea 4:18; 5:9; 9:13. We find here Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem mentioned; and probably because the purpose was to include the whole of the people, as some of Israel or of the ten tribes were among them. — Ed. transgressed, and so it is often taken in Hebrew: but as in the last verse the Prophet had said, נבגד, nubegad, “Why do we deal perfidiously every one with his brother?” I doubt not but that it is repeated here in the same sense. But as I have already stated, he shows the crime to be detestable, and says that it existed in Judah and in Jerusalem. God had indeed, as it is well known, preferred that tribe to others; and it was not a common favor that the Jews almost alone returned to their own country, while others nearly all remained in their dispersions. He adds Jerusalem, not for honor’s sake, but for greater reproach, as though he had said, that not only some of the race of Abraham were subject to this condemnation, but that even the Jews were so, who had been allowed to return to their own country, and that even the holy city rendered itself subject to this reproof, in which the temple was, the sanctuary of God, which was then alone the true one in the whole world. By these circumstances then does the Prophet enhance their crime.

But he immediately comes to particulars: Polluted, he says, has Judah the holiness of Jehovah, which he loved; 228228     This last clause has been variously explained: “whom,” i.e., Judah, “he loved,” or, “which,” i.e., holiness, “he loved,” or, “which he,” Judah “had loved.” The last seems the most natural construction according to the tenor of the passage, if אשר be a relative; for Judah is the subject in the sentence. Judah did in former times love and delight in that separating which God had made and appointed between his people and the heathen world. To say that God loved it seems an odd idea; but to say that Judah delighted in it was much to the purpose, and added it for the sake of enhancing the guilt of that generation.
   Dathius gives this version, —

   For he profanes Judah, the holiness of Jehovah, Who loves and marries a foreign wife.

   But more suitable to the genius of the language would be this, —

   For profaned has Judah the holiness of Jehovah, Because he has loved and married The daughter of a strange God.

   The word אשר is often a conjunction as well as a relative; because, for, inasmuch as. See Genesis 34:13; Deuteronomy 30:16; 1 Samuel 15:15. — Ed.
that is, because they individually indulged their lusts, and procured for themselves wives from heathen nations.

Some take, קדש, kodash, for the sanctuary or the temple; others for the keeping of the law; but I prefer to apply it to the covenant itself; and we might suitably take it in a collective sense, except the simpler meaning be more approved — that Judah polluted his separation. As to the Prophet’s object and the subject itself, he charges them here, I have no doubt, with profanation, because the Jews rendered themselves vile, though God had consecrated them to himself. They had then polluted holiness, even when they had been separated from the world; for they had disregarded so great an honor, by which they might have been pre-eminent, had they continued in their integrity. It may be also taken collectively, they have polluted holiness, that is, they have polluted that nation which has been separated from other nations: but as this exposition may seem hard and somewhat strained, I am inclined to think that what is here meant is that separation by which the Jews were known from other nations. But yet what I have stated may serve to remove whatever obscurity there may be. And that this holiness ought to be referred to that gratuitous election by which God had adopted the Jews as his peculiar people, is evident from what the Prophet says, that they married foreign wives. 229229     “The holiness of Jehovah,” i.e., the holiness required and enjoined by Jehovah. Most agree that what is meant is the separation from any alliance with heathens. See Deuteronomy 7:3. Ezra mentions Israel as “the holy seed,” Ezra 9:2. See also Jeremiah 2:3. Marckius, after Jerome and Cyril, takes this view, and so do Henry, Scott, Newcome, and Henderson. — Ed.

We then see the purpose of this passage, which is to show, — that the Jews were ungrateful to God, because they mingled with heathen nations, and knowingly and wilfully cast aside that glory by which God had adorned them by choosing them, as Moses says, to be to him a royal priesthood. (Exodus 19:6.) Holiness, we know, was much recommended to the Jews, in order that they might not abandon themselves to any of the pollutions of the heathens. Hence God had forbidden them under the law to take foreign wives, except they were first purified, as we find in Deuteronomy 21:11,12; if any one wished to marry a captive, she was to have her head shaven and her nails pared; by which it was intimated, that such women were impure, and that their husbands would be contaminated, except they were first purified. And, yet it was not wholly a blameless thing, when one observed the law as to a captive: but it was a lust abominable to God, when they were not content with their own nation, and burnt in love with strange women. As however the Jews, like all mortals without exception, were inclined to corruptions, God purposed to keep them together as one people, lest the wife by her flatteries should draw the husband away from the pure and legitimate worship of God. And Moses tells us, that there was a crafty counsel given by Balsam when he saw that the people could not be conquered in open war; he at length invented this artifice, that the heathens should offer to them their wives and their daughters. It hence happened that the people provoked God’s wrath, as we find it recorded in Numbers 25:4.

As then the Jews after their return had again lapsed into this corruption, it is not without reason that the Prophet so severely reproves them, and that he says, that by marrying strange women they had polluted holiness, or that separation, which was their great honor, as God had adopted them alone as his people; and he calls it a holiness which God loved. Thus their crime was doubled, because God had not only bound them to himself, but he had also embraced them gratuitously. For if the cause of the separation be enquired, whether they excelled other nations, or whether they had any worthiness or merit? the answer is, No; but God loved them freely. For by the word love, the Prophet means the mere kindness and bounty of God, with which he favored Abraham and his race, without regard to any worthiness or excellency. He therefore condemns them for this ingratitude, because they had not only departed from the covenant which the Lord had made with their fathers, but had also neglected and despised that gratuitous love, which ought to have softened even their iron hearts. For if God had found anything in them as a reason why he preferred them to other nations, they might have been more excusable, at least they might have extenuated their fault; but since God had adopted them as his peculiar people, though they were unworthy and wholly undeserving, they must surely have been extremely brutish, to have thus despised the gratuitous favor of God. Their baseness then is increased, as I have said, by this circumstance, — that so great a kindness of God did not turn their hearts to obedience.

At the end of the verse the Prophet makes known, as I have already stated, their profanation; they had married the daughters of another god. By way of reproach he calls them the daughters of a strange god. He might have simply said foreign daughters; but he intended here to imply a comparison between the God of Israel and idols: as though he had said, “Whence have these wives come to you? from idols. Ye ought then to have hated them as monsters: had you any religion in your heart, what but detestable to you must have been everything which may have come from idols? but your hearts have become attached to the daughters of false gods.”

And we find that this vice had been condemned by Moses, and branded with reproach, before the giving of the Law, when he said, that the human race had been corrupted, because the sons of God married the daughters of men, (Genesis 6:2,) even because the posterity of Seth, who were born of the holy family, degraded themselves and polluted that small portion, which was holy and consecrated to God, by mixing with the world; for the whole world had at that time departed from God, except the descendants of Seth. The Lord then had before the Law marked this lust with perpetual disgrace; but when the Law itself which ought to have been like a rampart, again condemned it, was it not a perverseness wholly inexcusable, when the wantonness of the people broke through all restraints? He then adds —


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