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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Malachi 3



Verse 1

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

Behold. Calling especial attention to the momentous truths which follow. Ye unbelievingly ask, "Where is the God of judgment?" (Malachi 2:17.) "Behold," therefore, "I send," etc.

I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me. Your unbelief will not prevent MY keeping my covenant, and bringing to pass in due time that which ye say will never be fulfilled.

I will send my messenger, and ... he shall come. The Father sends the Son as "Messenger of the covenant:" the Son comes. Proving the distinctness of personality between the Father and the Son.

My messenger - John the Baptist; as Matthew 3:3; Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 1:76; Luke 3:4; Luke 7:26-27; John 1:23 - prove. This passage of Malachi evidently rests on that of Isaiah his predecessor (Isaiah 40:3-5). Perhaps, also, as Hengstenberg thinks, "messenger" includes the long line of prophets headed by Elijah (whence his name is put, in Malachi 4:5, as a representative name), and terminating in John, the last and greatest of the prophets (Matthew 11:9-11). John, as the representative prophet (the forerunner of Messiah, the representative God-man) gathered in himself all the scattered lineaments of previous prophecy (hence, Christ terms him "much more than a prophet," Luke 7:26), reproducing all its awful and yet inspiriting utterances: his coarse garb, like that of the old prophets, being a visible exhortation to repentance; the wilderness in which he preached symbolizing the lifeless, barren state of the Jews at that time, politically and spiritually; his topics, sin, repentance, and salvation, presenting for the last time the condensed epitome of all previous teachings of God by His prophets; so that he is called preeminently God's "messenger." Hence, the oldest and true reading of Mark 1:2 is, "as it is written in Isaiah the prophet;" the difficulty of which is, how can the prophecy of Malachi be referred to Isaiah? The explanation is, the passage in Malachi rests on that in Isaiah 40:3, and therefore the original source of the prophecy is referred to, in order to mark this dependency and connection.

And the Lord - Haa'aadown (Hebrew #136) in the Hebrew. The article marks that it is Yahweh (Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23 : cf. Joshua 2:11; Joshua 2:13). Compare Daniel 9:17, where the Divine Son is meant by "for THE Lord's sake." God, the speaker, makes "the Lord," the "messenger of the covenant," one with Himself: "I will send ... BEFORE ME," adding, "THE LORD ... shall ... come;" so that THE LORD must be one with the "ME" - i:e., He must be God "before" whom John was sent. As the Divinity of the Son, and His oneness with the Father, is thus proved, so the distinctness of personality is proved by "I send" and "He shall come," as distinguished from one another. He also comes to the temple as "His temple:" marking His Divine Lordship over it, as contrasted with all creatures, who are but "servants in" it (Haggai 2:7 ; Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 3:5-6).

Whom ye seek ... whom delight in. At His first coming they "sought" and "delighted in" the hope of a temporal Saviour; not in what He then actually was. In the case of those whom Malachi in his time addresses, "whom ye seek ... delight in" is ironical. They did seek a Saviour to glorify the Jewish nation and themselves, but not the meek and lowly Jesus of Nazareth. They unbelievingly asked, When will He come at last? Malachi 2:17, "Where is the God of judgment" (see the note there; also, Isaiah 5:19; Amos 5:18; 2 Peter 3:3-4). In the case of the godly, the desire for Messiah was sincere (Luke 2:25; Luke 2:38). He is called "the Angel of God's presence" (Isaiah 63:9), also the Angel of Yahweh. Compare His appearances to Abraham (Genesis 18:1-2; Genesis 18:17; Genesis 18:33), to Jacob as "the angel of God" (Genesis 31:11; Genesis 31:13, and "the God which fed me all my life long, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil," Genesis 48:15-16), to Moses in the bush (Exodus 14:2-6); He went before Israel as the Shekinah (Exodus 14:19; and of Him God said, "Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way," Exodus 23:20); and delivered the law at Sinai (Acts 7:38).

Shall suddenly come to his temple - "suddenly," "as a thief." This epithet marks the second coming rather than the first; the earnest of that unexpected coming (Luke 12:38-46; Revelation 16:15) to judgment was given in the judicial expulsion of the money-changing profaners from the temple by Messiah (Matthew 21:12-13), where also, as here, He calls the temple His temple. Also, in the destruction of Jerusalem, most unexpected by the Jews, who to the last deceived themselves with the expectation that Messiah would suddenly appear as a temporal Saviour. Compare the use of "suddenly" in Numbers 12:4-10, where He appeared in wrath (see note, Malachi 2:17).

The messenger of the covenant - namely, of the ancient covenant with Israel (Isaiah 63:9) and Abraham, in which the promise to the Gentiles is ultimately included (Galatians 3:16-17). The Gospel at the first advent began with Israel, then embraced the Gentile world; so also it shall he at the second advent. All the manifestations of God in the Old Testament, the Shekinah and human appearances, were made in the person of the Divine Son (Exodus 33:20-21; Hebrews 11:26; Hebrews 12:26). He was the messenger of the old covenant as well as of the new.

Verse 2

But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:

But who may abide the day of his coming? - (Malachi 4:1; Revelation 6:15; Revelation 16:17). The Messiah would come, not, as they expected, to flatter the theocratic nation's prejudices, but to subject their principles to the fiery test of His heart-searching truth (Matthew 3:10-12), and to destroy Jerusalem and the theocracy after they had rejected Him.

For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap. His mission is here regarded as a whole, from the first to the second advent; the process of refining and separating the godly from the ungodly, beginning during Christ's stay on earth, going on ever since, and about to continue until the final separation (Matthew 25:31-46). The refining process, whereby a third of the Jews is refined as silver of its dross, while two-thirds perish, is described, Zechariah 13:8-9 (cf. Isaiah 1:25).

Verse 3

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. The purifier sits before the crucible, fixing his eye on the metal, and taking care that the fire be not too hot, and keeping the metal in, only until he knows the dross to be completely removed, by his seeing his own image reflected in the glowing mass. So the Lord, in the case of His elect, applies the fire of trial, that He may purge away the dross, and see His own image reflected in the believer, and then He removes the saint out of the furnace (Romans 8:29; Job 23:10; Psalms 66:10; Proverbs 17:3; Isaiah 48:10; Hebrews 12:10; 1 Peter 1:7). He will sit down to the work, not perfunctorily, but with patient love and unflinching justice. The Angel of the covenant, as in leading His people out of Egypt by the pillar of cloud and fire, has an aspect of terror to His foes, of love to his friends. The same separating process goes on in the world as in each Christian. When the godly are completely separated from the ungodly, the world will end. When the dross is taken from the gold of the Christian, he will be forever delivered from the furnace of trial. The purer the gold, the hotter the fire now; the whiter the garment, the harder the washing (Moore).

And he shall purify the sons of Levi - of the sins specified above. The very Levites, the ministers of God, then needed cleansing, so universal was the depravity.

That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness - such as they offered originally (Malachi 2:6), not such as they offered latterly (Mal. 50:7-14 ). So believers, the spiritual priesthood (1 Peter 2:5).

Verse 4-5

Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.

Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old - (Malachi 1:11; Malachi 2:5-6). The "offering" ( minchaah (Hebrew #4503), Hebrew) is not expiatory, but beneficence, alms, "the sacrifice of praise to God continually," prayer, thanksgiving, and self-dedication (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5).

And I will come near to you to judgment - I whom ye challenge, saying, "Where is the God of judgment?" (Malachi 2:17.)

And I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers - I, whom ye think far off, and to be slow in judgment, am "near," and will come as a "swift witness;" not only a judge, but also an eye-witness against sorcerers; for mine eyes see every sin, though ye think I take no heed. Earthly judges need witnesses to enable them to decide aright: I alone need none. Sinners will be awfully undeceived, who flattered themselves, "God will never see it;" "How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?" (Psalms 10:11; Psalms 73:11; Psalms 94:7, etc.)

Sorcerers - a sin into which the Jews were led in connection with their foreign idolatrous wives. The Jews of Christ's time also practiced sorcery (Acts 8:9; Acts 13:6; Galatians 5:20; Josephus' 'Antiquities,' 20: 6; 'Bellum Judaicum,' 2:; 12: 23). It shall be a characteristic of the last anti-Christian confederacy about to be consumed by the brightness of Christ's coming (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13-14; Revelation 16:13-14; also 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15). Romanism has practiced it: an order of exorcists exists in that church.

Adulterers - stigmatized in Malachi 2:15-16.

Against those ... fear not me - the source of all sins.

Verse 6

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

For I am the Lord - Yahweh: a name implying his immutable faithfulness in fulfilling His promises: the covenant-name of God to the Jews (Exodus 6:3), called here "the sons of Jacob," in reference to God's covenant with that patriarch.

I change not. Ye are mistaken in inferring that, because I have not yet executed judgment on the wicked, I am changed from what I once was-namely, a "God of judgment" (Malachi 2:17).

Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Ye yourselves being "not consumed," as ye have long deserved, are a signal proof of my unchangeableness (Romans 11:29 : cf. the whole chapter, in which God's mercy in store for Israel is made wholly to flow from God's unchanging faithfulness to His own convenant of love. So here, as is implied by the phrase, "sons of Jacob;" Genesis 28:13; Genesis 35:12). They are spared because I am Yahweh, and they sons of that Jacob with whom, and with whose "seed" of old, I entered into covenant, engaging to him and them the possession of Canaan, and spiritual privileges, in Messiah, the premised Seed. While I spare them I will also punish them, and while I punish them I will not wholly consume them. The unchangeableness of God is the sheet-anchor of the Church. The perseverance of the saints is guaranteed, not by their unchangeable love to God, but by His unchangeable love to them, and His eternal purpose and promise in Christ Jesus (Moore). He upbraids their ingratitude, that they turn His very long-suffering and "compassions" (Lamentations 3:22) into a ground for sceptical denying of His coming as a Judge at all (Psalms 50:1; Psalms 50:3-4; Psalms 50:21; Ecclesiastes 8:11-12; Isaiah 7:11; Romans 2:4-10).

Verses 7-12

Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

Reproof for the non-payment of tithes and offerings, which is the cause of their national calamities, and promise of prosperity on their paying them. Verse 7. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away. Ye live as your fathers did when they brought on themselves the Babylonian captivity, and ye wish to follow in their steps. This shows that nothing but God's unchanging long-suffering had prevented their being long ago "consumed" (Malachi 3:6 ).

Return unto me - in penitence.

And I will return unto you - in blessings.

But ye said, Wherein shall we return? - (cf. Malachi 1:7; Malachi 2:17; Malachi 3:8; Malachi 3:13). The same insensibility to their guilt continues: they speak in the tone of injured innocence, as if God calumniated them.

Verse 8. Will a man rob God - literally, cover [ qaaba` (Hebrew #6906)], hence, defraud. Do ye call defrauding God no sin to be "returned" from? (Malachi 3:7.) Ye have done so to me in respect to the tithes due to me-namely, the tenth of all the reminder after the first-fruits were paid, which tenth was paid to the Levites for their support (Leviticus 27:30-33): a tenth paid by the Levies to the priests (Numbers 18:26-28): a second tenth paid by the people for the entertainment of the Levites and their own families at the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 12:18): another tithe every third year for the poor, etc. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

Offerings - the first-fruits, not less than one-sixtieth part of the core, wine, and oil (Deuteronomy 18:4). The priests had this perquisite, also the tenth of the tithes, which were the Levites' perquisite. But they appropriated all the tithes, robbing the Levites of their due nine-tenths; as they did also, according to Josephus, before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Thus doubly was God defrauded-the priests not discharging aright their sacrificial duties, and robbing God of the services of the Levites, who were driven away by destitution, (Grotius). The priests connived at the people's blemished offerings (Malachi 1:7-10; Malachi 1:13-14) and neglect of the due payment of the Levites' tithes, in order to ingratiate themselves with the people, and get to themselves whatever offerings were presented. This was the first abuse rectified by Nehemiah on his return to Jerusalem, in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 13:6-13).

Verse 9. Ye are cursed with a curse - (Malachi 2:2). As ye despoil me, so I despoil you, as I threatened I would, if ye continued to disregard me. In trying to defraud God we only defraud ourselves. The eagle who robbed the altar set fire to her nest from the burning coal that adhered to the stolen flesh. So men who retain God's money in their treasuries will find it a losing possession. No man over yet lost by serving God with a whole heart, nor gained by serving Him with a half one. We may comprise with conscience for the half the price, but God will not endorse the compromise; and, like Ananias and Sapphire, we shall loss not only what we thought we had purchased so cheaply, but also the price we paid for it. If we would have God "open" His treasury we must open ours. One cause of the barrenness of the Church is the parsimony of its members (Moore).

Verse 10. Bring ye all the tithes - if ye desire to be prospered by the Lord (Proverbs 3:9-10).

Into the storehouse - (margin, 2 Chronicles 31:11 : cf. 1 Chronicles 26:20; Nehemiah 10:38). "Eliashib the priest, having oversight of the chamber of the house of God," having become "allied to Tobiah," had, in Nehemiah's absence, given him the use of the "great chamber" which had been previously used as the "storehouse" of the tithes which ought to have been paid to the Levites. Malachi here supports Nehemiah in his resolute restoration of the chamber to its right use. Nehemiah "cast forth all the stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber," and cleansed it (Nehemiah 13:4-12), and caused "all Judah to bring the tithe of the grain, new wine, and the oil unto the treasuries" (margin, ''(storehouses'). Prove me now herewith - with this, by doing so. Test me whether I will keep my promise of blessing you, on condition of your doing your part. God was the same promise-keeping God now as in the days of Hezekiah, to whom "Azariah the chief print said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty; for the Lord hath blessed His people, and that which is left is this great store" (2 Chronicles 31:10).

If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing - (2 Kings 7:2), literally, empty out: image from a vessel completely emptied of its contents; no blessing being kept back.

That there shall not be room enough to receive it , [ `ad (Hebrew #5703) b

Verses 13-18

Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

He notices the complaint of the Jews, that it is of no profit to serve Yahweh, for that the ungodly-proud are happy; and declares he will soon bring the day when it shall be known that He puts an everlasting distinction between the godly and the ungodly.

Your words have been stout - Hebrew [chaazquw], 'hard:' so "the hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 1:15). (Henderson.)

Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? The Hebrew [ nidbarnuw (Hebrew #1696)] expresses at once their assiduity and habit of speaking God (Vatablus). The Niphal form of the verb implies that these things were said, not directly to God, but of God, to one another (Ezekiel 33:30). (Moore.)

Verse 14. Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have his ordinance - (note, Malachi 2:17). They here resume the same murmur against God. Job 21:14-15; Job 22:17, describes a further stage of the same sceptical spirit, when the sceptic has actually ceased to keep God's service. "What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?" Psalms 73:1-14 describes the temptation to a like feeling in the saint, when seeing the really godly suffer and the ungodly prosper in worldly goods now. The Jews here mistake utterly the nature of God's service, converting it into a mercenary bargain; they attended to outward observances, not from love to God, but in the hope of being well paid for it in outward prosperity; when this was withheld, they charged God with being unjust, forgetting alike that God requires very different motives from theirs to accompany outward observances, and that God rewards even the true worshipper not so much in this life as in the life to come.

His ordinance - literally, what He requires to be kept [mishmadtow], 'His observances.'

And that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? [ q


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Malachi 3:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

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