The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4

Malachi 4

Mal 4:1

The LORD now elaborated on the day of judgment, to which He had just referred (Mal 3:17). This day of the LORD would be a day of judgment, which He compared to a fiery furnace in which all the arrogant and every evildoer would burn like chaff (or stubble; cp Mal 3:2,3,15). He would so thoroughly purge them that they would be entirely consumed, like a shrub thrown into a hot fire is totally burned up. The judgment of wicked unbelievers, at the return of Christ, is in view (cp Mat 13:41,42; 25:46; Isa 66:15,16; 2Th 1:7,8; Dan 12:2,3).

Mal 4:2

BUT TO YOU WHO REVERE MY NAME, THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL RISE WITH HEALING IN ITS WINGS: In contrast, the Israelites who fear Yahweh (1:14; 3:5, 16-17) will experience a reign of righteousness compared here to sunshine (cp Isa 60:1-3). Jesus as the Light of the World (John 8:12), will be the "sun" of that day! The sun can blister and burn (as in v 1), but it can also bless, and its blessing effect is in view here. The prophet visualizes the rays of this "Sun of righteousness', like the wings of a bird stretching over the earth. This righteous day will have a healing effect on the inhabitants of the earth, healing them, and the planet, from the harmful effects of past millennia of sin (cp 2Sa 23:4).

AND YOU WILL GO OUT AND LEAP LIKE CALVES RELEASED FROM THE STALL: The figure of vigorous calves cavorting in open pasture after having been cooped up in a stall pictures the joy and freedom that the righteous will enjoy in that day (cp Isa 65:17-25; Hos 14:4-7; Amos 9:13-15; Zep 3:19-20).

"The glorified in the Kingdom are likened to calves which have been fed, fattened, and kept in small dark pens waiting to be slaughtered -- who then suddenly break out into the daylight, and go prancing away through the meadows. This will be our leap of joy and taste of true freedom" (DH).

Mal 4:3

THEY WILL TRAMPLE DOWN THE WICKED; THEY WILL BE ASHES UNDER THE SOLES OF YOUR FEET: The righteous would also enjoy superiority over the wicked in that day, the opposite of the situation in Malachi's day. The wicked would be as ashes trampled under their feet (ie Gen 3:15) in that the wicked would suffer judgment and offer no resistance (cp Psa 58:10,11; Isa 66:24; Mat 3:12; Mark 9:48). Almighty Yahweh was preparing that day, so it would inevitably come.

Mal 4:4

Vv 4-6: A concluding promise and warning. The final three verses of the book, which are also the final message in the OT, are sufficiently different from what immediately precedes to indicate another message from Malachi. Essentially Malachi says, Be prepared for God's coming.

"Malachi began with an illustration from Genesis (Jacob and Esau) and spent most of the first half of the book reminding priests and people of the need to keep the Mosaic Law. Now, close to the end of his book, he gives another terse reminder of their continuing obligation to those laws" (EBC).

REMEMBER THE LAW OF MY SERVANT MOSES, THE DECREES AND LAWS I GAVE HIM AT HOREB FOR ALL ISRAEL: Moses' last words to the Israelites in Deuteronomy contain numerous exhortations to remember the Law that God had given them. Malachi closed his book, and God closed the OT, with the same exhortation. The Israelites had forgotten and disregarded God's law, and Malachi had pointed out many specific instances of that. Now he urged the people to recall and to obey their Law. By calling Moses "My servant", the LORD was reminding Malachi's audience of how faithful Moses had carried out God's will. He was to be their model of obedience.

Mal 4:5

SEE, I WILL SEND YOU THE PROPHET ELIJAH BEFORE THAT GREAT AND DREADFUL DAY OF THE LORD COMES: An angel later told John the Baptist's parents that their son would minister in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). Yet John denied that he was Elijah (John 1:21-23). Jesus said that John WOULD have been the Elijah who was to come if the people of his day had accepted Jesus as their Messiah (Mat 11:14). Since they did not, John did not fulfill this prophecy about Elijah coming, though he did fulfill the prophecy about Messiah's forerunner (Mal 3:1).

This interpretation has in its favor Jesus' words following the Transfiguration (and John the Baptist's death). Jesus said that Elijah would come and restore all things (Mat 17:11). Whether the original Elijah will appear before the day of the LORD or whether an Elijah-like figure, similar to John the Baptist, will appear remains to be seen. Since Jesus went on to say that Elijah had come and the Jews failed to recognize him, speaking of John (Mat 17:12,13), the view that yet another Elijah-like person will come would seem the more likely.

What John did for Jesus at His first coming, preparing the hearts of people to receive Him, this latter-day Elijah will do for Him at His second coming. Evidently the two witnesses in the Tribulation will carry out this "Elijah" ministry (Rev 11:1-13), which could last 3 1/2 years. (The ministry of the first Elijah also had a significant 3 1/2 year phase: Jam 5:17.)

Mal 4:6

HE WILL TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS TO THEIR CHILDREN, AND THE HEARTS OF THE CHILDREN TO THEIR FATHERS; OR ELSE I WILL COME AND STRIKE THE LAND WITH A CURSE: The Last Days "Elijah" will unite the hearts of the Jews -- young and old alike -- to turn back and worship Yahweh. (Or, possibly, the hearts of the "fathers" in Israel will become like small "children" -- ie Mat 18:3; and the hearts of the "children" of Israel will be turned back to their "fathers" -- ie the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.)

At his first coming Jesus said that because of him families would experience division. Some fathers would believe on him but their sons would not, and daughters would disagree with their mothers over him (Mat 10:35-36; Luke 12:49-53; cp Mic 7:6). When this new "Elijah" comes, he will cause the Jews to believe on their Messiah as they had in the past. In this new belief all generations will be united, and no longer divided.

OR ELSE I WILL COME AND STRIKE THE LAND WITH A CURSE: Without the work of this coming "Elijah", and the resultant repentance of Israel, the LORD will come (in the person of Jesus Christ) only to bring a curse! But, thankfully, this will not be the case: after the preparatory work of the new forerunner, the coming Messiah will initiate a righteous worldwide rule that will last 1,000 years (Rev 20:1-6) -- bringing, not a curse, but the greatest blessing!
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