a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

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 L ord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the L ord in righteousness. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the L ord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the L ord of hosts.

6 For I the L ord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. 7Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the L ord of hosts. But you say, “How shall we return?”

Do Not Rob God

8 Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! 10Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the L ord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. 11I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the L ord of hosts. 12Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the L ord of hosts.

13 You have spoken harsh words against me, says the L ord. Yet you say, “How have we spoken against you?” 14You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the L ord of hosts? 15Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.”

The Reward of the Faithful

16 Then those who revered the L ord spoke with one another. The L ord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the L ord and thought on his name. 17They shall be mine, says the L ord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. 18Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

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.”

Malachi pursues the same subject; for he answers the Jews in the name of God — that they unjustly complained of his rigour as being immoderate, since they themselves were the cause of all their evils. He says that they were cursed, but he adds that this happened to them deservedly, as though he had said — “Be that granted what you say, (for lamentations were continually made,) why is it that God afflicts us without end or limits?” God seems to grant what they were wont reproachfully to declare; but he says in answer to this — “But ye have defrauded Me; what wonder then that my curse consumes you? As then I have been robbed by you, as far as ye could, I will render to you your just recompense; for it is not right that I should be bountiful and kind to you, while ye thus defraud me, and take from me what is my own.”

The meaning then is this — that it was indeed true that the Jews lamented that they were under a curse, but that the cause ought to have been searched out. They indeed wished their rapines and sacrileges to be forgiven, by which they defrauded God; but God declares that he punished them justly in consuming them with poverty and want, since they so sparingly rendered to him what they owed.

He mentions the whole nation, 255255     The words are expressive, for literally they are —
   And me have ye robbed, the nation, the whole of it.

    — Ed.
and thus aggravates the wickedness of the Jews; for not a few were guilty of the sacrilege mentioned, but all, from the least to the greatest, they all plundered the tenths and the oblations. It hence follows that God’s vengeance did not exceed due limits, since there was as it were a common conspiracy; there were not ten or a hundred implicated in this sin, but, as he says, the whole people. It follows —

He at length declares that they profited nothing by contending with God, but that a better way was open to them, that is, to return into favor with him. After having then repelled their unjust accusations, he again points out the remedy which he had already referred to — that if they dealt faithfully with God, he would be bountiful to them, and that his blessing would be promptly extended to them. This is the sum of the passage. They had been sufficiently proved guilty of rapacity in withholding the tenths and the oblations; as then the sacrilege was well known, the Prophet now passes judgement, as they say, according to what is usually done when the criminal is condemned, and the cause is decided, so that he who has been defrauded recovers his right.

So also now God deals with the Jews. Bring, he says, to the repository 256256     The literal rendering is —
   Bring ye the whole of the tenth Into the house, the treasury, And let the prey be in my house.

   That is — “Let what you rob me of, the prey, or plunder, be in my house.” The word is טרף, properly prey, or plunder, and so rendered by the Septuagint, “διαρπαγὴ—plunder.” It was the Targum that gave a wrong meaning to the word, which most have followed. — Ed.
(for this is the same as the house of the treasury, or of provisions) all the tenths, or the whole tenths. We hence learn that they had not withholden the whole of the tenths from the priests, but that they fraudulently brought the half, or retained as much as they could; for it was not without reason that he said, Bring all, or the whole. They then so paid the tenths as to supply the priests with a part only, and thus they trifled with God, according to what hypocrites do, who ever claim to themselves high honor, and try to perform their duty in such a way as not to discover their own perfidy, and yet they are not ashamed of the liberty they take to illude God; and of this we have here a remarkable example. We then see that it is no new or unusual thing for men to pretend to do the duties they owe to God, and at the same time to take away from him what is his own, and to transfer it to themselves, and that manifestly, so that their impiety is evident, though it be covered by the veil of dissimulation.

He then adds, Let there be meat in my house. We have elsewhere explained this form of speaking, and in the last lecture the Prophet spoke also of the meat of God, not that God needs meat and drink, but that whatever he has given us ought to be deemed his. We have already stated, that it has been recorded for our sake, that the Jews offered bread, and victims, and things of this kind, and that they feasted at Jerusalem in the presence of God: for what is more desirable than that God should dwell in the midst of us? and this is often repeated in the law. But this could not have been set forth to us in a way so familiar, as when God is represented as in a manner sitting at table with us, as though he were our guest, eating of the same bread and of the other provisions: and hence it is said in the law, “Thou shalt feast and rejoice before thy God.” (Deuteronomy 2:18.) Now as God needs not meat and drink, as it has been said, and as men in their grossness are ever prone to superstitions, he substituted the priests and the poor in his own place, to prevent the Jews from entertaining earthly notions respecting him. And this kind of modification or correction deserves to be noticed: for the Lord on the one hand intended to draw men in a kind manner to himself; but, on the other hand, he proposed to raise their minds upward to heaven, lest they should ascribe to him anything unworthy of himself, as is wont to be done, and is very common.

But, at the same time, he again accuses them of sacrilege, for he complains that he was deprived of meat; Let there then be meat in my house; and prove me by this, saith Jehovah, if I wily not open, etc. He confirms what he said before, and yet proceeds with his promise, for by subjecting himself to a proof, he boldly repels their calumny in saying that they were without cause consumed with want, and that God had changed his nature, because he had not given a large supply of provisions. God then briefly shows, that wrong had been done to him, for he admits of a proof or a trial, as though he had said, “If you choose to contest the point, I will soon settle it, for if you bring to me the tenths and them entire, there will immediately come to you a great abundance of all provisions: it will hence be evident, that I am not the cause of barrenness, but that it is your wickedness, because ye have sacrilegiously defrauded me.”

Then he adds, If I will not open to you the windows of heaven. It is the first thing as to fertility that the heavens should water the earth, according to what Scripture declares: and hence God threatens in the law that the heaven would be iron and the earth brass, (Deuteronomy 28:23,) for there is a mutual connection between the heaven and the earth, and he says elsewhere by a Prophet,

“The heaven will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the corn and wine, and the corn and wine will hear men.”
(Hosea 2:22.)

For when famine urges us, we cry for bread and wine, as our life seems in a manner to be dependent on these supplies. When there is no wine nor corn, we meet with a denial; but the wine and the corn cry to the earth, and why? because according to the order fixed by God, they seek as it were to break forth; for when the bowels of the earth are closed, neither the corn nor the vine can come forth, and then they in vain call on the earth. The sense is the case with the earth; for when it is dry and as it were famished, it calls on the heavens, but if rain be denied, the heavens seem to reject its prayer. Then God in this place shows that the earth could not produce a single ear of corn, except the heavens supplied moisture or rain. God indeed could from the beginning have watered the earth without rain, as Moses relates he did at first, for a vapor then supplied the want of rain. Though then rain descends naturally, we are yet reminded here that God sends it. This is the first thing.

But as rain itself would not suffice, he adds, I will unsheath, etc.; for רק, rek, means properly to unsheath; but as this metaphor seems unnatural, some have more correctly rendered it, “I will draw out” Unnatural also is this version, “I will empty out a blessing,” and it perverts the meaning. Let us then follow what I have stated as the first — that a blessing is drawn out from God when the earth discharges its office, and becomes fertile or fruitful. 257257     The verb in Hiphil, as it is here, is applied to the drawing forth of a sword or lance, Exodus 15:9, and to the drawing out of an army for battle, Genesis 14:14. It is rendered, “εκχεῶ—I will pour out, or forth,” by the Septuagint. — Ed. We hence see that God is not only in one way bountiful to us, but he also intends by various processes to render us sensible of his kindness: he rains from heaven to soften the earth, that it may in its bosom nourish the corn, and then send it forth from its bowels, as though it extended its breast to us; and further, God adds his blessing, so as to render the rain useful.

He subjoins the words עד-בלי-די, od-beli-di, which some render, “that there may not be a sufficiency,” that is, that granaries and cellars might not be capable of containing such abundance. They then elicit this meaning — that so great would be the fruitfulness of the earth, and so large would be its produce, that their repositories would not be sufficiently capacious. But others give this version, “Beyond the measure of sufficiency.” The word די, di, means properly sufficiency, or what is needful, as by inverting the letters it יד, id 258258     די not only means sufficiency, but also what is necessary to suffice, demand, requirement, as in Leviticus 25:26, כדי גאלתו, according to the demand of his redemption, or what was necessary or sufficient for his redemption. See Deuteronomy 25:2, where it means “according to what his sin may require,” or literally, “according to the requirement of his sin.” See also Nahum 2:13, בדי גרותיו, “for the demand of his whelps,” or, for what was necessary to suffice his whelps. There is a similar phrase to what we find here in Psalm 72:7, עד בלי ירח, “until no moon,” that is, until there be no moon. The literal rendering then of the phrase here would be, “until no demand,” that is, until nothing be required fully to suffice. Corresponding with this is the version of the Septuagintεως το ἱκανωθηναι —until there should be enough.” — Ed. With regard to the general meaning there is but little difference. Suitable also is this version, “Beyond sufficiency;” that is, I will not regard what is needful for you, as though it were measured, but the abundance shall be overflowing. It follows —

VIEWNAME is study