Reproof of the Priests for Violating the
Covenant; and the People Also for Mixed Marriages and
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
2. lay … to heart—My commands.
send a curse—rather, as Hebrew,
"the curse"; namely, that denounced in De
curse your blessings—turn the
blessings you enjoy into curses (Ps 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 (Mal 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 (De 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 (1Ki 14:10;
compare Jer 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 Mal 2:5, 6). Malachi's function was that of a
reformer, leading back the priests and people to the law (Mal 4:4).
5-9. He describes the promises, and also the
conditions of the covenant; Levi's observance of the conditions and
reward (compare Nu 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
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 (De 33:8, 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 (Ps 19:11).
6. law of truth was in his mouth—He
taught the people the truths of the law in all its fulness (De 33:10). The priest was the ordinary
expounder of the law; the prophets were so only on special
iniquity … not found—no
injustice in his judicial functions (De 17:8, 9; 19:17).
walked with me—by faith and obedience
in peace—namely, the "peace" which was
the fruit of obeying the covenant (Mal 2:5). Peace with God, man, and one's own
conscience, is the result of "walking with God" (compare Job
22:21; Isa 27:5; Jas 3:18).
turn may … from iniquity—both by
positive precept and by tacit example "walking with God" (Jer
23:22; Da 12:3; Jas 5:20).
7. In doing so (Mal 2:6) he did his duty as a priest, "for,"
knowledge—of the law, its doctrines,
and positive and negative precepts (Le 10:10,
11; De 24:8; Jer 18:18; Hag 2:11).
the law—that is, its true sense.
messenger of … Lord—the
interpreter of His will; compare as to the prophets, Hag 1:13. So ministers are called "ambassadors of
Christ" (2Co 5:20);
and the bishops of the seven churches in Revelation, "angels" or
messengers (Re 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; compare Ga 4:14).
8. out of the way—that is, from the
caused many to stumble—By scandalous
example, the worse inasmuch as the people look up to you as ministers
of religion (1Sa 2:17; Jer 18:15; Mt 18:6; Lu
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 (Zec 11:10; Ne 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 (Le 19:15).
10-16. Reproof of those who contracted
marriages with foreigners and repudiated their Jewish wives.
10. 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
4:3-6), and so including the
wives so injured)? namely, by putting away our Jewish wives, and
taking foreign women to wife (compare Mal 2:14 and Mal 2:11;
Ezr 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 (Ex 19:5; Le 20:24, 26; De 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; 1Co 8:6; Eph
4:6). "Created us": not
merely physical creation, but "created us" to be His peculiar and
chosen people (Ps 102:18; Isa 43:1; 45:8; 60:21;
Eph 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 (Mal 2:14; also Mal 2:10, 15, 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"
9:2; compare Jer 2:3). Or, "the holiness of the Lord" means
His holy ordinance and covenant (De 7:3). But "which He loved," seems to refer
to the holy people, Israel, whom God so gratuitously loved
1:2), without merit on their
married, &c.—(Ezr 9:1,
2; 10:2; Ne 13:23,
daughter of a strange god—women
worshipping idols: as the worshipper in Scripture is regarded in the
relation of a child to a father (Jer 2:27).
12. master and …
scholar—literally, "him that watcheth and him that
answereth." So "wakeneth" is used of the teacher or "master"
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 (Lu 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 (Ps 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 (Ne 13:23-31), in that it is a relapse into the sin
already checked once under Ezra (Ezr 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
Lord … witness between thee and …
wife—(so Ge 31:49, 50).
of thy youth—The Jews still marry very
young, the husband often being but thirteen years of age, the wife
younger (Pr 5:18; Isa 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
2:17), and to it the
reference may be (Ge 2:24; Mt 19:6; 1Co 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 Mal 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
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, see on Mal 2:10. One object of the marriage relation is to
raise a seed for God and for eternity.
16. putting away—that is, divorce.
for one covereth violence with …
"And (Jehovah hateth him who) covereth his garment (that is, his
wife, in Arabic idiom; compare Ge 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 De 22:30; Ru 3:9; Eze 16:8) with injury." The Hebrew favors
"garment," being accusative of the thing covered. Compare with
English Version, Ps 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 (De 24:1; compare Mt 19:6-9).
17. wearied … Lord—(Isa 43:24). This verse forms the transition to
Mal 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 (Mal 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 (Am 5:18, 19, 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 (2Pe 3:3, 4). Then, too, they shall affect to seek
His coming, while really denying it (Isa 5:19; Jer
17:15; Eze 12:22, 27).