The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4

Malachi 2

Mal 2:1

Vv 1-9: The warning of the priests -- with particular emphasis on their failure to teach the people correctly.

Mal 2:2

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, KJV)!

Mal 2:3

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.

Mal 2:4

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).

Mal 2:5

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.

Mal 2:6

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).

Mal 2:7

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.

Mal 2:8

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.

Mal 2:9

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 2:11.

Mal 2:10

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 14:23-28).

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 His son.

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.

Mal 2:11

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 2:11,12)" (GCM).

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).

Mal 2:13

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!" (RP).

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.

Mal 2:14

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!

Mal 2:15

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 their husbands.)

Mal 2:16

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

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 (Deu 28:1-14).

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 subject.

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 3:3,4).

Previous Index Next