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And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse on you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and I will put you out of my presence.
4 Know, then, that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may hold, says the Lord of hosts. 5My covenant with him was a covenant of life and well-being, which I gave him; this called for reverence, and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction.
The Covenant Profaned by Judah
10 Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors? 11Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob anyone who does this—any to witness or answer, or to bring an offering to the Lord of hosts.
13 And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. 14You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. 16For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “All who do evil are good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
Mal 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.
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 Nu 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 (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 occasions.
walked with me—by faith and obedience (Ge 5:22).
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).
7. In doing so (Mal 2:6) he did his duty as a priest, "for," &c.
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 covenant.
at the law—that is, in respect to the observances of the law.
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 above (1Th 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!
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" (Ezr 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 (Mal 1:2), without merit on their part (Ps 47:4).
married, &c.—(Ezr 9:1, 2; 10:2; Ne 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 (Jer 2:27).
12. master and … scholar—literally, "him that watcheth and him that answereth." So "wakeneth" is used of the teacher or "master" (Isa 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 offerings?
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" (Pr 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 (Ge 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 … garment—Maurer translates, "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).