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2. Admonition for the Priests

And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. 2If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. 3Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. 4And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. 5My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. 6The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. 7For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. 9Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law. 10Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

11Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of hosts. 13And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.

14Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

17Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

The Prophet accuses the Jews here of another crime — that they were perfidious towards God and their own brethren, and departed from that pre-eminence into which God had raised them, when they were chosen in preference to other nations to be a holy and peculiar people. This ingratitude the Prophet now condemns by saying, that they all had one father, and that they had been all created by one God

The word Father may be applied to God as well as to Abraham, and some interpreters will have it repeated, which is no uncommon thing in Hebrew: they say then that all had God as their Father, because he created them all; so that the latter clause is taken as an explanation. But it is better, as I think, to apply the word to Abraham, and the passage requires this; for it follows at the end of the verse, that the covenant which the Lord had made with their fathers had been violated; and this will appear still more certain, when we bear in mind the design of the Prophet. 225225     This is the view taken by most—Jerome, Theodoret, Drusius, Grotius, Marckius, and Henry. Henderson has been led astray by a supposed parallelism between this and the next sentence; and he regards God to be meant. Scott has taken it in both views, but this is not to explain the passage. Indeed the very argument here used renders it necessary that Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, should be intended. Taking God to be meant by “father,” some have been led to think that it is the language of the Jews who married strange wives, in their own defense, “Have we not all, Gentiles as well as Jews, one Father? and has not the same God created me?” This might do well until we come to the conclusion of the verse, where the violation of the covenant of the fathers is mentioned. — Ed. Presently a reproof follows, because they had taken many wives; but the Prophet seems not as yet to mention this vice, but speaks generally, that they did not preserve that purity to which they had been called, for they indiscriminately married heathen wives. As then they mingled without distinction with unbelievers and the despisers of God, the Prophet complains that they were unmindful of that dignity to which they had been elevated, when God deigned to adopt them as his holy people. For thus it happened, that the pre-eminence which Moses celebrates in Deuteronomy 4:8, disappeared, “What nation is so renowned, to whom God draws nigh, as thou seest that he is nigh to thee?” When therefore the Jews rendered themselves vile, the Prophet condemns them for ingratitude. He, at the same time, shows that they were become inhuman towards their brethren, with whom they had been united by a most sacred bond. It then seems probable to me, that God and Abraham are mentioned here, because God had chosen the race of Abraham and adopted them as his people, and also, because he had deposited his covenant with Abraham and the fathers: thus Abraham became, as it were, the mediator of the covenant which God made with his whole race. By thus understanding the subject of the Prophet, it is easier for us to see why he mentions Abraham as well as God.

Is there not one father, he says, to us all? that is, “Did not God select us from the rest of the world, when he promised to our father Abraham to be a God to him and to his seed? Since then God’s favor has flowed to us from that fountain, what sottishness it is to break that sacred bond by which God has joined us to himself in the person of Abraham?” For when the Jews did not consider that they derived their origin from the holy patriarch, the consequence was, that the covenant of God with them became void and of no effect. This then is the reason why he says, that one God was to them all a Father. And as other nations might have claimed the same privilege, he adds, Has not one God created us? He shows that the Jews had descended in no common or ordinary way from their holy father Abraham, but that God was the maker of his race, that he created them. Did not he also create the rest of the world? Not in the same manner; for this creation ought to be confined especially to the Church. God has created the whole human race; but he created also the race of Abraham: and hence the Church is often called in Isaiah the work and the formation of God, (Isaiah 66:21,) and Paul also adopts the same mode of speaking, (Ephesians 2:10.) Our Prophet then does not mean that the Jews had been created by God when born into this world, but that they had become his holy and peculiar people. As then God had thus created the Jews, and had given to them one father, that being mindful of their origin they might remain united in true religion, the Prophet here reprobates their sottishness in casting away from themselves this invaluable favor of God.

Every one dealt falsely with his brother; and thus they violated the covenant of the fathers. As to the verb, נכגד, nubegad, it has been variously explained by grammarians; but as to what is meant it is agreed, that the Jews are here condemned, because they were not only perfidious to God, but also fraudulent as to their neighbors: and thus they doubled their perfidy, the proof which was manifest, because they did not act with sincerity towards their brethren. 226226     The word בגד, as a noun, which is its root, means a robe, a cloak, or a covering; when used as a verb, it signifies to cover or cloak things over, and so to act falsely, hypocritically, or treacherously. Drusius’ definition is, to act perfidiously, to prevaricate, to deceive. It is rendered here improperly by the Septuagintεγκατελίπετε — ye have forsaken.” It is here in the future tense, and may be rendered as though it were in the subjunctive mood, —
   Why should we act perfidiously, each one with his brother,
By violating the covenant of our fathers?

   “Violating” is חלל, which means to perforate, to pierce, and to break in, so as to violate a holy place, and hence to profane; and so it is rendered by the Septuagintτου βεβηλωσαι. To profane one’s word in Numbers 30:2, is to break it; and to profane a covenant in Psalm 55:20, is to break it; and so it is rendered in both these places in our version. To break a covenant is a metaphor not very unlike that of piercing or perforating it. Newcome says that it refers to the ancient mode of cancelling bonds, which was done by striking a nail through them. See Colossians 2:14. “Hence the word,” he adds, “signifies to make void.” — Ed.
Why then, he says, do we deal falsely with man, that is, every one with his own brother, so that we pollute the covenant of our fathers? Here the covenant of the fathers is to be taken for that separation or laying apart which we have mentioned, by which God had adopted Abraham and his posterity, that they might be separated from all the nations of the world. Hence under this covenant of the fathers is God himself included; and as this has not been perceived, it is no wonder that this passage has been so frigidly explained, and that Malachi has been as it were wholly buried in darkness; though interpreters have tried to bring light, yet the effect has been to pervert the real meaning of the Prophet. But it appears now plain, I think, that the Jews are here said to be guilty of a twofold perfidy — because they rejected the honor offered to them by God’s gratuitous election, and also because they acted fraudulently towards their own brethren. It hence followed that the covenant of the fathers, that is, what God had deposited with the patriarchs, that it might come from hand to hand to their posterity, had been violated and made void by their wickedness.

We must yet notice what I have already referred to — that the priests are so reproved that the whole people are also included; and this we shall again presently see, and I add also, that the Prophet connects God with Abraham, in order to show that we shall fail to seek God effectually, if we seek him apart from his covenant, and also that our minds ought not to be fixed on men. There are indeed two vices against which we ought carefully to guard. Some, passing by all means, seek to fly upward to God; and so they entertain many vain thoughts and devise for themselves many labyrinths, from which they never emerge. We see how many fanatics there are at this day, who proudly speak against God’s word, and yet touch neither heaven nor earth; and why? because they would be superior to angels, and do not acknowledge that they need any helps by which they might by degrees, according to their weakness, ascend up to God himself. Now this is to seek God without the covenant or without the word. This is the reason why the Prophet here unites father Abraham to God himself; it was done that the Jews might know that they were confined by certain limits, in order that they might in humility make progress in God’s school, and be carried by degrees into heaven: for God, as it has been said, had deposited his covenant with Abraham. But yet as they might have depended on a mortal man, the Prophet adds a corrective — that they had been created by God; for they were not to separate their father Abraham from the very author of the covenant.

This passage then is worthy of special notice; for men from the beginning and in all ages have been inclined to the two vices which I have mentioned; and at this day we see that some indulge their dreams and despise the outward preaching of the word; for many fanatics say, that there is no need of rudiments or of the first elements, since God has promised that the sons of the Church would be spiritual. Hence Satan by such delusions strives to draw us away from pure simplicity of doctrine. It is therefore necessary to set up this shield — that God is not exhibited to us without Abraham, that is, without a Prophet and an interpreter. The Papists are also sunk in the same mud; for they have always the fathers in their mouths, but make no account of God. This is also very preposterous. Let us then remember that God is not to be separated from his word, and that the authority of men is of no account, when they depart from it. And the Prophet confirms the same thing at the end of the verse, when he speaks of the covenant of the fathers; for he does not here simply commend the covenant of the fathers, as the Turks might do, or as it is done by Papists and Jews; but he means the covenant which God had given, and which the holy patriarchs faithfully handed down to their posterity, according to what Paul says in the twenty-second chapter of the Acts, when speaking of his father’s religion; he did not speak of it as heathens might do of their religion, but he took it as granted that the law promulgated by Moses was not his invention, but had God as its author. It now follows-

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