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3. The Day of Judgment
1Lo, I am sending My messenger, And he hath prepared a way before Me, And suddenly come in unto his temple Doth the Lord whom ye are seeking, Even the messenger of the covenant, Whom ye are desiring, Lo, he is coming, said Jehovah of Hosts. 2And who is bearing the day of his coming? And who is standing in his appearing? For he [is] as fire of a refiner, And as soap of a fuller. 3And he hath sat, a refiner and purifier of silver, And he hath purified the sons of Levi, And hath refined them as gold and as silver, And they have been to Jehovah bringing nigh a present in righteousness. 4And sweet to Jehovah hath been the present of Judah and Jerusalem, As in days of old, and as in former years. 5And I have drawn near to you for judgment, And I have been a witness, Making haste against sorcerers, And against adulterers, And against swearers to a falsehood, And against oppressors of the hire of an hireling, Of a widow, and of a fatherless one, And those turning aside a sojourner, And who fear Me not, said Jehovah of Hosts. 6For I [am] Jehovah, I have not changed, And ye, the sons of Jacob, Ye have not been consumed. 7Even from the days of your fathers Ye have turned aside from My statutes, And ye have not taken heed. Turn back unto Me, and I turn back to you, Said Jehovah of Hosts. And ye have said, `In what do we turn back?` 8Doth man deceive God? but ye are deceiving Me, And ye have said: `In what have we deceived Thee?` The tithe and the heave-offering! 9With a curse ye are cursed! And Me ye are deceiving -- this nation -- all of it. 10Bring in all the tithe unto the treasure-house, And there is food in My house; When ye have tried Me, now, with this, Said Jehovah of Hosts, Do not I open to you the windows of heaven? Yea, I have emptied on you a blessing till there is no space. 11And I have pushed for you against the consumer, And He doth not destroy to you the fruit of the ground, Nor miscarry to you doth the vine in the field, Said Jehovah of Hosts. 12And declared you happy have all the nations, For ye are a delightful land, said Jehovah of Hosts. 13Hard against Me have been your words, Said Jehovah, and ye have said: `What have we spoken against Thee?` 14Ye have said, `A vain thing to serve God! And what gain when we kept His charge? And when we have gone in black, Because of Jehovah of Hosts? 15And now, we are declaring the proud happy, Yea, built up have been those doing wickedness, Yea they have tempted God, and escape.` 16Then have those fearing Jehovah spoken one to another, And Jehovah doth attend and hear, And written is a book of memorial before Him Of those fearing Jehovah, And of those esteeming His name. 17And they have been to Me, said Jehovah of Hosts, In the day that I am appointing -- a peculiar treasure, And I have had pity on them, As one hath pity on his son who is serving him. 18And ye have turned back and considered, Between the righteous and the wicked, Between the servant of God and him who is not His servant.
The Prophet in this verse contends more sharply with the Jews, and shows that it was a mere presence that they so much expected the coming of the Mediator, for they were far different from him through the whole course of their life. And when he says that the coming of Christ would be intolerable, what is said is to be confined to the ungodly; for we know that nothing is more delightful and sweeter to us than when Christ is nigh us: though now we are pilgrims and at a distance from him, yet his invisible presence is our chief joy and happiness. (Romans 8:22, 23.) Besides, were not the expectation of his coming to sustain our minds, how miserable would be our condition! It is therefore by this mark that the faithful are to be distinguished, — that they expect his coming; and Paul does not in vain exhort us, by the example of heaven and earth, to be like those in travail, until Christ appears to us as our Redeemer.
But the Prophet here directs his discourse to the ungodly, who though they seem to burn with desire for God’s presence, do not yet wish him to be nigh them, but they flee from him as much as they can. We have met with a similar passage in Amos,
“Wo to those who desire the day of the Lord! What will it be to you? for it will be darkness, yea darkness and not light, a day of sorrow and not of joy.” (Amos 5:18.)
Amos in this passage spoke on the same subject; for the Jews, inflated with false confidence, thought that God could not forsake them, as he had pledged his faith to them; but he reminded them that God had been so provoked by their sins, that he was become their professed and sworn enemy. So also in this place, Come, the Prophet says, come shall the Redeemer; but this will avail you nothing; on the contrary, his coming will be dreadful to you. We indeed know that Christ appeared not for salvation to all, but only to the remnant, and to those of Jacob who repented, according to what Isaiah says. (Isaiah 10:21, 22.) But since they obstinately rejected the favor of God, it is no wonder that the Prophet excluded them from the blessings of the Redeemer.
Who then will endure his coming? 246246 For “who will endure,” the Vulgate, after Jerome, has, “quis poterit cogitare — who can think of?” etc. But this is inconsistent with the Septuagint and the Targum, and with the context. The verb indeed is capable of being derived from כל as well as from יכל; but the latter is the meaning alone suitable to this passage. — Ed. and who shall stand at his appearance? as though he had said, “In vain do ye flatter yourselves, and even upbraid God, that he retains the promised Redeemer as it were hidden in his own bosom; for he will come in due time, but without any advantage to you; nor will it be given you to enjoy his favor; but on the contrary he will bring to you nothing but terrors; for he will be like a purifying fire, and as the herb of the fullers 247247 The version of the Septuagint is “ὡς πυρ χωνευτηρίου και ὡς ποια< pluno>ντων — as the fire of the crucible (or, of the furnace) and as the herb of the washers.” The word, מצרף, may be either a participle or a noun—the refiner or the place or instrument of refining. See Proverbs 17:3; 27:21. The latter sense is most suitable to this place. “Herb” is rendered “smegma — soap,” by Picator, — “Lanaria -cudwort,” by Drusius,—and “alkaline salt,” by Michaelis. It was probably the salt-wort mentioned by an author quoted by Parkhurst, a plant very common in Judea. It was burned, and water was poured on its ashes. This water became impregnated with strong lixivial salt, “proper for taking,” he says, “stains and impurities out of wool or cloth.” It is not supposed that what we call “soap” was known to the Jews. — Ed. The latter clause may be taken in a good or a bad sense, as it is evident from the next verse. The power of the fire, we know, is twofold; for it burns and it purifies; it burns what is corrupt; but it purifies gold and silver from their dross. The Prophet no doubt meant to include both, for in the next verse he says, that Christ will be as fire to purify and to refine the sons of Levi as gold and silver. With regard then to the people of whom he has been hitherto speaking, he shows that Christ will be like fire, to burn and consume their filth; for though they boasted with their mouth of their religion, yet we know that the Church of God had many defilements and pollutions; they were therefore to perish by fire. But Malachi teaches us at the same time, that the whole Church was not to perish, for the Lord would purify the sons of Levi
There is here a part stated for the whole; for the promise belongs to the whole Church. The sons of Levi were the first-fruits, and the whole people were in the name of that tribe consecrated to God. This is the reason why he mentions the sons of Levi rather than the whole people; as though he had said, that though the Church was corrupt and polluted, there would yet be a residue which God would save, having purified them. The words which I had omitted are these -