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3. The Day of Judgment
1Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye desire, behold, he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts. 2But who can abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap: 3and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer unto Jehovah offerings in righteousness. 4Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto Jehovah, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years. 5And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the sojourner from his right, and fear not me, saith Jehovah of hosts. 6For I, Jehovah, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts. But ye say, Wherein shall we return? 8Will a man rob God? yet ye rob me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9Ye are cursed with the curse; for ye rob me, even this whole nation. 10Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before the time in the field, saith Jehovah of hosts. 12And all nations shall call you happy; for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith Jehovah of hosts. 13Your words have been stout against me, saith Jehovah. Yet ye say, What have we spoken against thee? 14Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his charge, and that we have walked mournfully before Jehovah of hosts? 15And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are built up; yea, they tempt God, and escape. 16Then they that feared Jehovah spake one with another; and Jehovah hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name. 17And they shall be mine, saith Jehovah of hosts, even mine own possession, in the day that I make; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. 18Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
Will a man defraud the gods? Some give this version, “Will a man defraud God?” But it is strained and remote from the Prophet’s design; and they pervert the meaning. For I do not see what can be elicited from this rendering, “Will a man defraud God?” But there are other two meanings which may be taken. The first is, “Will a man defraud his gods?” The word אלהים, Aleim, though it be in the plural number, is applied, as it is well known, to the true God; but it is applied also to idols; and in this place the Prophet seems to me to compare the Jews to the Gentiles, that their impiety might be made more evident. The same is the object of Jeremiah, when he says,
“Go, and survey the islands, is there a nation which has changed its gods, while yet they are no gods.” (Jeremiah 2:10.)
Since their blindness and obstinacy held fast the Gentiles in darkness, that they continued to worship the gods to whom they had been accustomed, it was an abominable wickedness in the Jews, that having been taught to worship the true God, they were yet continually influenced by ungodly levity, and sought new modes of worship, as though they wished to devise another god for themselves. So also in this place the Prophet seems to bring forward the Gentiles as an example to the Jews; for they discharged their duty towards their gods; but the Jews despised the supreme and the only true God: “Behold,” he says, “go round the world, and ye shall not find among the nations so unbridled a liberty as prevails among you; for they render obedience to their gods, and sacrilege is abominable to them; but ye defraud me. Am I inferior to idols? or is my state worse than theirs?”
Some take the word אלהים, Aleim, for judges, as judges are sometimes so named; but this meaning seems not suitable on account of the word, Adam. As then this word generally means man, the Prophet, I have no doubt, intimates what I have stated, — that unbelievers, though sunk in darkness, are yet restrained by reverence and fear from changing their deity, and that they dare not to show levity when the name only of their god is pronounced. Since then such humility prevailed among unbelievers, could the impiety of that people, who had been trained up in the law, be excusable? a people too, upon whom God had ever made the doctrine of the law to shine. 253253 Most differ from Calvin as to the word אלהים in this passage. The Septuagint render it “God — Θεον,” the Targum, “judges,” but commentators generally “God,” i.e., the true God, supposing the audacity of the people to be here reprobated. The word for “defraud or rob,” is only found here and in Proverbs 22:23, and rendered “supplant” by the Septuagint, but “rob — αποστερησει,” by Aq. and Sym., the only meaning consistent with the context. — Ed.
He afterwards adds, Because ye have defrauded me; and ye have said, Thereby have we defrauded thee? In tenths and in oblations 254254 Literally it is, “in the tenth (or, tithe) and the heave-offering.” The last word comes from רם, to raise or lift up, because this offering was raised or heaved, and thus presented as it were to the Lord. See Exodus 29:27,28. It is rendered “first-fruits” by the Septuagint Here the Prophet again proves the people guilty of perverseness: it was indeed hypocrisy, and though gross, it was yet surpassed by impudence; for they asked, whereby they had defrauded God? and yet this was evident even to children: for we know, and we have seen elsewhere, that avarice so ruled among them, that every one, bent on their own profit, neglected the temple and the priests. Since then they were openly sacrilegious, how shameless they must have been to ask whereby they had defrauded God! The thing itself was indeed manifest and commonly known, so that children could see it. God however deemed it enough to convict them by one sentence, — that they defrauded him in the tenths and in the first-fruits; not that any advantage accrued to him from oblations, as he had no need of any such things; but he rightly calls and counts that his own which he had appointed for his own service. Since then he had instituted that order among the Jews, that they might by the tenths support the priests, and a part also was required for the poor, since God designed the firstfruits and other things to be offered to him, that men might thereby be continually reminded, that all things were his, and that whatever they received from his hand was sacred to him, he had previously called the bread laid on the table his own, and had called the sacrifices his own food, as though he did eat and drink. But as I have already said, we ought to regard the object in view, because his will was to be thus worshipped, and at the same time to keep as his own whatever belonged to his service. This then is the reason why he now complains of being defrauded of the tenths.
But we know that other sacrifices are now prescribed to us; and after prayer and praises, he bids us to relieve the poor and needy. God then, no doubt, is deprived by us of his right, when we are unkind to the poor, and refuse them aid in their necessity. We indeed thereby wrong men, and are cruel; but our crime is still more heinous, inasmuch as we are unfaithful stewards; for God deals more liberally with us than with others, for this end — that some portion of our abundance may come to the poor; and as he consecrates to their use what we abound in, we become guilty of sacrilege whenever we give not to our brethren what God commands us; for we know that he engages to repay, according to what is said in Proverbs 19:17, “He who gives to the poor lends to God.”