Vv 1-9: The warning of the priests -- with particular emphasis
on their failure to teach the people correctly.
I WILL SEND A CURSE UPON YOU, AND I WILL CURSE YOUR
BLESSINGS: If they did not pay attention to the prophet's rebuke and
sincerely desired to honor Yahweh's name, the LORD would curse them (cp Deu
27:15-26; 28:15-68). He would cut off their blessings. This may include their
income from the people as well as spiritual blessings. In fact, He had already
begun to do so.
YES, I HAVE ALREADY CURSED THEM, BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT SET
YOUR HEART TO HONOR ME: Anything that seems to be a blessing (wealth,
success, children, health) might in fact be a curse, if it turns one's heart
away from God! Such is the "deceitfulness of riches" (Mat 13:22; Mark 4:19,
I WILL REBUKE YOUR DESCENDANTS; I WILL SPREAD ON YOUR FACES
THE OFFAL FROM YOUR FESTIVAL SACRIFICES, AND YOU WILL BE CARRIED OFF WITH
IT: Part of this curse involved rebuking the priests' offspring (Heb "zera",
seed, or physical descendants) and spreading (Heb "zarah") the offal from their
sacrifices on their faces (cp Zec 3:3,4). (Consequently both sacrifices and
priests would have to be taken outside for disposal!) This play on words
communicates a double curse (cp v 2). Their descendants would not continue
because the priests would cease to bear any or many children, and their inferior
sacrifices would render them unclean. They would not, then, be able to continue
to function in their office.
YOU WILL KNOW THAT I HAVE SENT YOU THIS ADMONITION:
When these things happened, the priests would know that this warning had indeed
come from the LORD. Its intent was to purify the priests so God's covenant with
Levi could continue (cp Mal 3:3). God had promised a continuing line of priests
from Levi's branch of the Chosen People (Deu 33:8-11; cp Exo 32:25-29; Num
25:10-13; Jer 33:21-22).
MY COVENANT WITH LEVI: This is the first of six
references to "covenant" in Malachi. The covenants in view are God's covenant
with Levi (vv 4,5,8), the Mosaic Covenant (v 10), the marriage covenant (v 14),
and the New Covenant (Mal 3:1).
Levi had received a promise of continuing blessing for a
special service rendered (Num 18:7,8,19-21; cp Num 25:10-13). The special
service that Levi and his descendants rendered to God involved serving as His
priests. The covenant that God made with Levi and his descendants resulted in
life and peace for them. God gave them these blessings because they respected
Yahweh and feared His name.
Also in contrast to the present priests, Levi and his
descendants had given the Israelites true instruction rather than perverted
teaching (cp Heb 13:17; James 3:1). Levi, who here represents his faithful
descendants, walked with the LORD (Gen 5:22) in peace (Heb "shalom") and
uprightness, and he turned many away from iniquity (Dan 12:3).
FOR THE LIPS OF A PRIEST OUGHT TO PRESERVE KNOWLEDGE, AND
FROM HIS MOUTH MEN SHOULD SEEK INSTRUCTION -- BECAUSE HE IS THE MESSENGER OF THE
LORD ALMIGHTY: Priests should speak true knowledge and should be reliable
sources of instruction (Heb "torah") because they are messengers of Yahweh. Levi
contrasts with the priests of Malachi's day, and Malachi ("my messenger") also
contrasts with the priests of his day. Ezra was the great example of a faithful
priest in post-exilic Judaism (cp Ezra 7:10,25; Neh 8:9).
In a later day, many priests became faithful to Christ (Acts
6:17), fulfilling the purpose of their office.
BY YOUR TEACHING...: "The definite article on...
(tora), 'instruction,' suggests that here it is not just any teaching in general
but indeed THE instruction, namely, the Torah, the law of Moses. The defection
of the priests is all the more serious, then, for they are actually creating
obstacles to the people's access to the Word of God itself. To cause the people
to 'stumble in the Torah' is to so mislead them in its meaning that they fail to
understand and keep its requirements. There can be no more serious indictment
against the man of God" (Merrill).
YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE COVENANT: The unfaithful priests
had corrupted the LORD's covenant with Levi in the sense that they had put its
continuance in jeopardy by their evil conduct. Far worse than an ill-prepared
preacher or teacher was a charlatan, a wolf in sheep's clothing -- and such were
some of the priests in Malachi's day.
SO I HAVE CAUSED YOU TO BE DESPISED AND HUMILIATED BEFORE
ALL THE PEOPLE: Since the priests had despised the LORD, the LORD had made
them despised in the eyes of the people. They did not obey His will but had told
the people what they wanted to hear. Their penalty should have been death (Num
18:32). Cp, generally, Mat 23: Christ's rebuke of the teachers of his day.
PARTIALITY IN MATTERS OF THE LAW: Being a "respecter of
persons": cp Jam 2:3,4; Deu 1:17; 10:17; 16:19; Lev 19:15; Pro 24:23; Rom
Vv 10-16: Third oracle: the people's mixed marriages and
divorces. This message deals with the same social evils that Ezra and Nehemiah
faced: intermarriage with unbelievers, and divorce (cp Ezra 9:2; Neh
HAVE WE NOT ALL ONE FATHER? DID NOT ONE GOD CREATE US?:
Malachi said, by asking rhetorical questions, that God was the father of all the
Israelites (cp Exo 4:22; Hos 11:1). That one true God had created all of them.
Israel belonged to God because He had created the nation and had adopted it as
WHY DO WE PROFANE THE COVENANT OF OUR FATHERS BY BREAKING
FAITH WITH ONE ANOTHER?: Therefore it was inappropriate for the Israelites
to treat each others as enemies and deal treacherously with each other; they
should have treated each other as brothers and supported one another (Lev
19:18). By dealing treacherously with each other they had made the covenant that
God had made with their ancestors virtually worthless; they could not enjoy the
blessings of the Mosaic Covenant.
Vv 11,12: "The conditions described in this last prophetical
book are the same as those described in the last historical book of the OT.
Nehemiah deplored the defiled and corrupted priesthood, and Malachi's central
charge was that the priesthood had corrupted the covenant (cp Neh 13:29 and Mal
2:8). Nehemiah dealt with the mixed marriages and the evil that resulted from
this condition, and Malachi spoke against the same evil (cp Neh 13:23-25 and Mal
JUDAH HAS DESECRATED THE SANCTUARY THE LORD LOVES, BY
MARRYING THE DAUGHTER OF A FOREIGN GOD: The evidence of Judah's treachery
was that the Israelites were profaning (making common) Yahweh's beloved
sanctuary. This sanctuary may refer to the temple or His people. They did this
by practicing idolatry. They had married pagan women who worshipped other gods
(cp 2Co 6:14-16). Yahweh's "son" (v 10) had married foreign women that
worshipped other gods and, like Solomon, had become unfaithful to Yahweh (cp Exo
34:11-16; Deu 7:3,4; Jos 23:12,13; Ezra 9:1,2,10-12; Neh 13:23-27).
"He that marries a heathen woman is as if he made himself
son-in-law to an idol" (Jewish proverb).
Vv 13-15: "Marriage is a serious business. God created
marriage to last a lifetime. It is the commitment between a man and a woman to
be devoted to each other for as long as they live. It is about faithfulness,
sharing and unity. But today, as it was in Malachi's day, the marriage bond is
not respected as it should be. When a marriage breaks down, much more is
affected than just the lives of the couple: here we see that because of their
unfaithfulness in marriage, God no longer paid attention to those people or
accepted their offerings. In other words, if we want to be accepted by God and
we want him to hear our prayers we must stay faithful to our marriage partner.
"One of the reasons He makes the two halves of a married
couple as one is because He is looking for godly offspring. Can godly children
come from a broken home? Yes, they can, but it is so much more difficult.
"When Malachi finished his message about marriage, he ended
with a strong exhortation which is worth repeating: 'So guard yourself in your
spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth...' Amen!"
YOU FLOOD THE LORD'S ALTAR WITH TEARS. YOU WEEP AND WAIL
BECAUSE HE NO LONGER PAYS ATTENTION TO YOUR OFFERINGS: The people evidently
could not figure out why God was withholding blessing from them, so Malachi gave
them the reasons.
THE WIFE OF YOUR YOUTH, BECAUSE YOU HAVE BROKEN FAITH WITH
HER: At the same time they dealt treacherously with their wives (cp 1Pe
3:7). The marriage relationship is a covenant relationship, and those who break
their vows should not expect God to bless them. God Himself acted as a witness
when the couple made their covenant of marriage in their youth. This sin may
have in view particularly the Israelite men who were divorcing their Jewish
wives, and perhaps then marrying pagan women (cp v 12).
THE WIFE OF YOUR YOUTH: It has become quite common now,
in executive circles, and the higher echelons of all businesses and industries,
for very successful men to have a "trophy wife". The "wives of their youth" have
been put away, and newer, younger "models" have taken their places. And the
commercial, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory nature of this enterprise is
evident in the name: a "trophy" -- a life partner as a "plaything" or a status
symbol. How appropriately Malachi's words rebuke THIS generation!
HAS NOT THE LORD MADE THEM ONE?... AND WHY ONE? BECAUSE HE
WAS SEEKING A GODLY OFFSPRING. SO GUARD YOURSELF IN YOUR SPIRIT, AND DO NOT
BREAK FAITH WITH THE WIFE OF YOUR YOUTH: "For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh"
(Gen 2:24; Mat 19:5; Eph 5:20-33). No individual Israelite who benefited from
even a small amount of the Holy Spirit's influence would break such a covenant
as the marriage contract. God Himself would not break His covenant with Israel.
In both cases godly offspring were a major reason for not breaking the
respective covenants. The welfare of the children is still a common and
legitimate reason for keeping a marriage intact. (But notice that, in context,
the "godly offspring" may be the parents, as well as the children!) The
Israelites needed to be careful, therefore, that no one of them dealt
treacherously with the wife he married in his youth by breaking his marriage
covenant and divorcing her. (The man is the responsible party in the text
because in Israel husbands could divorce their wives but wives could not divorce
I HATE DIVORCE: The Israelites were not to break their
marriage covenants because Yahweh, Israel's God, hates or detests divorce (cp
Mat 19:6; Mark 10:9). He hates it because it constitutes covenant
unfaithfulness, breaking a covenant entered into that God Himself witnessed (v
14). Furthermore, He hates it because He is a covenant-keeping God; He keeps his
promises. To break a covenant (a formal promise) is to do something that God
Himself does not do; it is ungodly.
A MAN COVERING HIMSELF WITH VIOLENCE: God also hates
someone who covers himself with wrong. This is a play on a Hebrew euphemism for
marriage, namely covering oneself with a garment (cp Rth 3:9; Eze 16:8). One
covers himself with wrong when he divorces his wife whom he has previously
married (ie, covered with his garment). For these Jews divorce was similar to
wearing soiled garments; it was a disgrace.
The fact that Ezra commanded divorce (Ezra 10) may appear to
contradict God's prohibition of divorce here. (Nehemiah neither advocated
divorce nor spoke out against it: Neh 13:23-29.) The solution seems to be that
Malachi addressed the situation of Jewish men divorcing their Jewish wives,
perhaps to marry pagan women. Ezra faced Jewish men who had already married
pagan women. Does this mean that it is all right to divorce an unbelieving
spouse but not a believer? Paul made it clear that the Christian is to divorce
neither (1Co 7:10-20). Evidently it was the illegitimacy of a Jew marrying a
pagan that led Ezra to advocate divorce in that type of case.
Mal 2:17 -- 3:6: The fourth oracle: the problem of God's
justice. This v 17 contains the question and answer, and the discussion follows
in Mal 3:1-6. The Israelites' changeability (Mal 2:17) contrasts with Yahweh's
constancy (Mal 3:6).
YOU HAVE WEARIED THE LORD WITH YOUR WORDS: Malachi
announced to his hearers that they had wearied God with their words; He was
tired of hearing them say something.
An apparent contradiction: on the one hand God said He does
not grow weary (Isa 40:28), but on the other hand He said He was weary (here).
The solution is that in the first case He was speaking about His essential
character; He does not tire out like human beings do. In the second case He
meant that He was tired of the Israelites speaking as they did.
"HOW HAVE WE WEARIED HIM?" YOU ASK: Their response was
again hypocritical incredulity.
BY SAYING, "ALL WHO DO EVIL ARE GOOD IN THE EYES OF THE
LORD, AND HE IS PLEASED WITH THEM" OR "WHERE IS THE GOD OF JUSTICE?": They
seem to have lost their conscience for right and wrong and assumed that because
God did not intervene He approved of their sin. Really their question amounted
to a challenge to God's justice. If they were breaking His law and He was just,
He surely must punish them. Their return to the land indicated to them that He
was blessing them, and He promised to bless the godly in the Mosaic Covenant
Modern people say the same thing. "If there is a just God, why
doesn't He do something about all the suffering in the world?" "If God is just,
why do the wicked prosper?" Scripture reveals that God blesses the wicked as
well as the righteous (Mat 5:45; Acts 14:17), and the righteous suffer as well
as the wicked because of the Fall and sin (Gen 3:16-19; Ecc 2:17-23). Moreover,
God may afflict the righteous as well as the wicked (Job 1; 2). God will
eventually punish the wicked and bless the righteous, but perhaps not in this
life (cp Job 21:7-26; 24:1-17; Psa 73:1-14; Ecc 8:14; Jer 12:1-4; Hab 1).
Malachi's audience had forgotten part of what God had revealed on this
WHERE IS THE GOD OF JUSTICE?: "In the last days
scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will
say, 'WHERE is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died,
everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation' " (2Pe