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The Coming Messenger
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
Here the Prophet does not bring comfort to the wicked slanderers previously mentioned, but asserts the constancy of his faith in opposition to their blasphemous words; as though he had said, “Though they impiously declare that they have been either deceived or forsaken by the God in whom they had hoped, yet his covenant shall not be in vain.” The design of what is announced is like that of the declaration made elsewhere,
“Though men are perfidious and false, yet God remains true, and cannot depart from his own nature.” (Numbers 23:19.)
God then does here gloriously triumph over the Jews, and alleges his own covenant in opposition to their disgraceful slanders, because their wicked murmurings could not hinder him to accomplish his promises and to perform in due time what they thought would never be done; and he adopts a demonstrative adverb in order to show the certainty of what is said.
Behold, he says, I send my messenger, who will clear the way before my face 241241 As quoted by the Evangelists, it is “before thy face.” Jerome’s observation is, that the apostles and evangelists transferred the truth contained in passages without minding syllables and small words. — Ed. This passage ought doubtless to be understood of John the Baptist, for Christ himself so explains it, than whom no better interpreter can be found; and since John the Baptist was the messenger of Christ, the beginning of the verse can be applied to no other person. Afterwards the Father himself speaks as we shall see: but as he who appeared in the flesh is the same God with the Father, it is no wonder that he speaks, and then that the words which follow are spoken in the person of the Father.
There is here a striking allusion to Moses, whose office it was to intercede, that God might not in his just wrath destroy the whole people; for as then the majesty of God was more than could be borne without an intercessor, so that the people through fear cried out “Speak thou to us lest we die,” (Exodus 20:19,) so also now does Malachi teach us, that there is need of an intercessor, by whom God’s wrath might be mitigated, which the Jews had extremely provoked. This office John the Baptist undertook, who prepared the Jews to hear the voice of Christ.
By saying that he would send a messenger to clear his way, he indirectly reproved the Jews, by whom many hindrances were thrown as it were in the way; as though he had said, “They prevent by the obstacles they raise up the redemption and the promised salvation to be revealed: there will therefore be the need of a messenger to clear the way.” For the Jews had introduced impediments, as though they designedly wished to resist the favor which had been prepared and promised to them. But how the Baptist performed his work by clearing the way, is evident from the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, as well as from the Gospels; and hence may be gathered what I have already said — that God by his fidelity and mercy struggled with those obstacles which the Jews had raised up to prevent the coming of Christ. 242242 The verb פנה, rendered “purgabit” by Calvin in the sense of clearing, can hardly bear this meaning. It signifies to turn or look to a thing, and hence to provide or prepare. In this latter sense it occurs in six other places; and is rendered by the Septuagint ἑτοιμάζω, as in Genesis 24:31, and Isaiah 40:3, though here ἐπιβλέψεται, according to its primary meaning. The version of Theodoret, here is “ἐτοιμαζει — prepares.” The idea of Calvin may be said to be included; for as Henderson justly observes, “The language is borrowed from the custom of sending pioneers before an eastern monarch to cut through rocks and forests, and remove every impediment that might obstruct his course.” — Ed.
He afterwards adds, And presently shall
“Εξαίφνης — suddenly,” by the Septuagint, “statim — immediately,” by Jerome, and by some others, “unexpectedly.” The
meaning is, according to some, that his coming would be soon after that of John, about six months; or, according to others, unexpectedly, as a light suddenly arising in darkness, without any previous symptom of its appearance.
The literal rendering of these two lines is the following, —
And suddenly shall he come to his temple,
The Lord whom ye are seeking.
The remark of Henderson and of others on the ה before “Lord” as being emphatic, is not well founded. It is owing to the relative “whom” which follows, as it is in our language. — Ed. come to his temple the Lord, whom ye seek. After having said that he would open a way for his favor, he now adds, come shall the Lord. He introduces here, not Jehovah, but the Lord, אדון, Adun; and hence he speaks distinctly of Christ, who is afterwards called the Angel or Messenger of the covenant. But the word אדון, Adun, commonly used for a Mediator, as in Psalm 110, and also in Daniel 9:17; where it is expressly said, “Hear, O Jehovah, for the sake of the Lord,” למען אדוני, lamon Aduni; the word is the same as here, come then shall the Lord. The reason for this mode of speaking was, because Christ was shown to them under the type which re presented him. As then the kingdom of David was a representation of the kingdom of Christ our Lord, it is no wonder that the Prophets designate him by this title, especially those who were the nearest to the time of Christ’s manifestation. But he is promised by another title, the angel or messenger of the covenant; but it means not the same here as in the first clause. He called John the Baptist at the beginning of this verse a messenger, the messenger of Jehovah; and now he calls Christ a messenger, but he is the messenger of the covenant; 244244 “A phrase nowhere else in Scripture.” — Secker. for it was necessary that the covenant should be confirmed by him. The title of John the Baptist was then inferior to that of Christ; for though he was God manifested in the flesh, yet this did not prevent him from being God’s minister and interpreter in order to confirm his covenant; and we know that the office of Christ consists in confirming and sealing to us the covenant of God, not only by his doctrine, but also by his blood and the sacrifice of his cross.
Malachi then promises here to the Jews both a king and a reconciler, — a king under tee title of Lord, — and a reconciler under the title of the messenger of the covenant: and we know it was the main thing in the whole doctrine of the law, that a Redeemer was to come, to reconcile the Church to Cod and to rule it.
And he says that the Mediator was sought and expected by the Jews; and through him God was to be propitious to them: but this was not said but ironically. The faithful indeed at this day have all their desires fixed on Christ, after he has been revealed in the flesh, until they shall partake at his last coming of the fruit of his death and resurrection; and under the law we know that the groaning and the sighings of the godly were towards Christ: but Malachi here, by way of contempt, checks these unreasonable charges, by which the Jews accused God, as though he had disappointed their hope and their prayers. For we have said, and the fact is evident, that God had been presumptuously and shamefully impeached by them, as though he meant not to fulfill his promises: hence the Prophet says ironically, and sharply too, that Christ was expected by the Jews, for they murmured, because God had too long deferred his coming: “O! where is the Redeemer? when will he be revealed to us?” Since then they thus pretended that they earnestly expected the coming of Christ, the Prophet upbraids them with this, and justly too, for they had expressly manifested their unbelief.
Behold, he comes, saith Jehovah of hosts
Owing to this repetition, some of the fathers, Theodoret, Eusebius, and Augustine, held that this part refers to Christ’s second coming: but the repetition is only to confirm what had been previously said, and according to the usual manner of the Prophets, contains an expansion of the former idea. A literal rendering of the whole verse would exhibit this as the real meaning, —
Behold I send my messenger, And he shall prepare the way before me: And suddenly shall he come to his temple, The Lord whom ye are seeking; Yea, the angel of the covenant, in whom ye delight, Behold, he is coming, saith Jehovah of hosts.
The four last lines exhibit an example of parallelism which often occurs. The first and the last line correspond, and so do the second and the third. — Ed. Here he introduces the Father as the speaker, as it has been already stated; and the particle הנה, ene, behold, is used for the sake of removing every doubt; and then he confirms what he says by the authority of God. He might have asserted this in his own person as a teacher; but in order to produce an effect on the Jews by the majesty of God, he makes him the author of this prophecy. It follows —