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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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12May the L ord cut off from the tents of Jacob anyone who does this—any to witness or answer, or to bring an offering to the L ord of hosts.

13 And this you do as well: You cover the L ord’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 L ord 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 L ord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the L ord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.

17 You have wearied the L ord with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “All who do evil are good in the sight of the L ord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

The Prophet now proves more clearly how God violates not his covenant, when he freely rebukes the priests, and exposes also their false attempts in absurdly applying to themselves the covenant of God, like the Papal priests at this day, who say that they are the Church. How? because they have in a regular order succeeded the apostles; but this is a foolish and ridiculous definition; for he who occupies the place of another ought not on that account only to be deemed a successor. Were a thief to kill the master of a family, and to occupy his place, and to take possession of all his goods, is he to be accounted his legitimate successor? So these dishonest men, to show that they are to be regarded as apostles, only allege a continued course of succession; but the likeness between them ought rather to be the subject of inquiry. We must see first whether they have been called, and then whether they answer to their calling; neither of which can they prove. Then their definition is altogether frivolous.

So also our Prophet here shows, that the priests made pretences and deceived the common people, while they sought to prove themselves heirs of the covenant which God had made with Levi their father, that is, with the tribe itself. “I shall be faithful,” says God, “and my faithfulness will be evident from the compact itself; my compact with your father was that of life and peace: 217217     That we may understand these terms we must have recourse to the case evidently alluded to, that of Phinehas, in Numbers 25:12,13. God promised to him the covenant of peace and of perpetual priesthood—of peace, that is, of reconcilement, because God through the zeal displayed by Phinehas became reconciled to the children of Israel — and of perpetuity as to the priesthood, signified here by life or “lives,” as the word is plural. — Ed. but it was mutual: ye seem not to think that there are two parties in a compact, and that there is, according to what is commonly said, a reciprocal obligation: but I on my part promised to your father to be his father, and I also stipulated with him that he was to obey me, to obey my word, and whatever I might afterwards require. Now ye will have me to be bound to you, and yourselves to be free from every obligation. What equity is this — that I should owe everything to you and you nothing to me? My compact then with him was that of life and peace; but what is your compact? what is it that ye owe to me? Even what the mutual compact which I made with your father Levi and his tribe requires; perform this, and ye shall find that I am faithful and constant in all my promises.” I cannot go farther now.

He explains mote fully how Levi responded to God’s command, — that he had the law of truth in his mouth. The chief duty of a priest is to show the right way of living to the people; for however upright and holy one may be through his whole life, he is not on that account to be deemed a priest. Hence our Prophet dwells especially on this point — that Levi taught the people. He does not speak of Levi himself; for we know that Levi was dead when Aaron was made a priest. For God does not here speak of individuals, but of the tribe; as though he had said, “Aaron and Eleazar, and those who followed them, knew for what end they were honored with the priesthood, and they faithfully performed their duties.” The Prophet now explains what God mainly requires from priests — to show to the people, as I have already said, the way of living a pious and holy life; but he adopts different words, which yet mean the same thing.

The law of truth, he says, was in his mouth. Why does he not commend the integrity of his heart rather than his words? Had he spoken of an individual, the Prophet might have justly said, that he who sought to be an approved servant of God, had conducted himself harmless towards men; but he speaks of a public office, when he says, that the law of truth was in his mouth; for he is not worthy of that honor who is mute: and nothing is more preposterous, or even more ridiculous, than that those should be counted priests who are no teachers. These two things are, as they say, inseparable — the office of the priesthood and teaching.

And that he might more clearly show that he speaks not of an ordinary matter, he repeats the same thing in other words, Iniquity was not found in his lips. We hence see that all this belongs peculiarly to the sacerdotal office. He afterwards adds, In peace and rectitude he walked before me. The Prophet here commends also the sincere concern for religion which the first priests manifested, for they walked with God in peace and uprightness; they not only carried signals in their lips and mouth, by which they might have been justly deemed the ministers of God and the pastors of his Church; but they also executed faithfully their office. And he alludes to the peace of which he had spoken: as God then had promised peace to the Levites, so also he says, that the Levites had lived themselves peaceably before God; for they did not break the covenant which he had made with them. As then they had responded to the stipulation of God, he says that they had walked in peace: but he also mentions how this was; it was, because they had walked in uprightness.

And the phrase, אתי, ati, with me, ought to be observed; for it confirms what I have stated, — that the honor of the priesthood in no way lessens God’s authority, for he keeps the priests devoted to himself. He intimates then that they were not elevated to such a height, that their dignity took away anything from God’s authority: for the obligation, which has been mentioned, ought to be mutual: God is faithful; the priests also must be faithful in their office, and show themselves to be the legitimate ministers of God. 219219     “The fear of God,” says Cocceius, “which was in the first priests, is more fully declared by its effects, which are twofold—sayings and doings. The doctrine of truth was in their mouth; they taught the truth, they were not silent, but sincerely taught it, without admiring what was false; for what is false is injustice, and it is the truth set forth either in a perverted form, or by addition, or by diminution. As to doings, they walked in peace, they did not rebel against God, nor did they seek devious and crooked ways, but walked in a strait course.”
   The word עולה is rendered “unrighteousness, or, injustice — ἀδικία,” by the Septuagint and the Targum, — “falsitas, falseness,” by Drusius, — and “iniquity” by many. There being no agreement in gender between it and the verb “formed,” Marckius suggests that דבר is understood, “the word of iniquity,” etc. — Ed.

He also mentions the fruit of their doctrine; for Levi turned many from iniquity, that is, he led many to repentance. It afterwards follows (for this verse ought to be joined) —

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