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Commentary on Zechariah, Malachi
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Malachi 4:1

1. For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

1. Quia ecce dies venit ardens tanquam clibanus; et erunt omnes superbi et omnes facientes iniquitatem stipula; et inflammabit eos dies qui venturus est, dicit Iehova exercituum, qui non relinquet illis radicem et ramum.

 

He confirms the previous verse, for he denounces ruin on all the reprobate and the despisers of God; and he also confirms what I have mentioned, — that he sets this threatening in opposition to the slanders which they commonly uttered against God, as though he had ceased to discharge his office as a Judge. Though indeed he speaks in the third person, yet he is not deficient in force when he says,

Behold, come shall the day, which shall consume all the ungodly, as a burning oven the stubble. The comparison is very common which the Prophet uses, when he says, that the ungodly shall be like stubble: I trill not therefore quote passages which must be well known, and they are so many that there is no need to adduce here either two or three of them. The vengeance of God is also often compared to fire and to a flame; and we know how fierce and how dreadful an element is fire, when it lays hold on wood or some other dry material. Hence according to the common usage of Scripture, the Prophet says, that the day of the Lord would be like an oven, and that the ungodly would be like stubble. The demonstrative particle, Behold, shows certainty, Behold, I come. The present time is put here for the future, a common thing in Hebrew. But the Prophet called the attention of the Jews as it were to what was present, that his prophecy might not appear doubtful, and that they might understand that God’s vengeance was not far distant, but already suspended over their heads.

There is however a question as to the day which he points out. The greater part think that the Prophet speaks of the last coming of Christ, which seems not to me probably. It is indeed true that these and similar expressions, which everywhere occur in Scripture, have not their full accomplishment in this world; but God so suspends his judgements, as yet never to withhold from giving evidences of them that the godly may have some props to their faith: for if God gave no specimen or proof of his providence, it would immediately occur to our minds, that there is to be no judgement; but he sets before us some examples, that we may learn that he will some time be the judge of the world. It seems then to me more probable, that the Prophet speaks here of the renovation of the Church: for the wrath of God was then at length more kindled against the Jews, when they had alienated themselves from Christ; for their last hope and their last remedy in their evils was the aid of the Redeemer, and it was for the rejection of his favor that the Jews had to feel the dreadful punishment of their ingratitude. No sin could have been more atrocious than to have rejected the offered favor, in which their happiness and that of the whole world consisted. When the Prophet then says, that the day would come, be refers I think to the first coming of Christ; for the Jews made a confident boast of the coming of a Redeemer, and he gives them this answer — that the day of the Lord would come, such as they did not imagine, but a day which would wholly consume them, according to a quotation we have made from another Prophet,

“What will be the day of the Lord to you? that day will not be light, but darkness, a thick darkness and not brightness.” (Amos 5:18.)

The day of the Lord will be an unhappy event to you, as though one escaped from the jaws of a lion, and fell at home on a serpent. So in this place he says that the day would come, which would consume them like an oven.

He says that all the proud and the workers of iniquity would be like stubble. He repeats their words, but somewhat ironically; for when they had said before that the proud were happy, they regarded themselves as being far from being such characters. Isaiah also in like manner condemned hypocrites, because they exposed to contempt their own brethren; for the worshippers of God were at that time in great reproach among the Jews; yea, hypocrites disdainfully treated the godly and the upright, as though they were the dregs and filth of the people. So also they said, “Behold, we are constrained, not without great sorrow, to look on the happiness of the ungodly; for the proud and the despisers of God enjoy prosperity, they live in pleasures.” The Prophet now answers them ironically and says, “Ye shall see the difference which ye so much wish; for God will consume the proud and the ungodly.” He says this of them; but it is, as I have stated, as though he had said, “When your mask is taken away, Ye shall see where impiety is, that it is even in you; and therefore ye shall suffer the punishment which you have deserved.” This is the return which he had before mentioned: for though the ungodly do not seriously and sincerely return to God, yet they are forced, willing or unwilling, to acknowledge their impiety when God constrains them. Hence after they had been constrained to examine their own life, God visited them with the punishment they most justly deserved, though judgement had been invoked by themselves.

He now adds, And it will leave neither root nor branch. He means here that their ruin would be complete, as though he had said, that no residue of them would be found. As he had made them like stubble, so he mentions root and stalk; for branch is improper here, as he speaks of stubble, and branches belong to trees. The meaning, however, is not obscure, which is — that such would be the consumption that nothing would remain. This, indeed, properly belongs to the last judgement; but, as I have said, this is no reason why God should not set before our eyes some evidences of that vengeance which awaits the ungodly, by which our faith may be more and more confirmed daily. 271271     Exceedingly forcible are the words of this verse —
   For behold the day! It comes burning like a furnace; And all the proud, and every worker of iniquity, shall be stubble; And burn them up shall the day that is coming, Saith Jehovah of hosts, So that not left to them shall be a root or a branch.

   Very many MS., have “workers” instead of “worker;” but it is of no consequence, as the singular is often used poetically for the plural. “Root” and “branch” is no doubt a proverbial phrase, including every thing. — Ed.

With regard to God’s name, which is mentioned twice, he reminds us that God does not execute his judgements in an even or a continued course, but that he has a fixed time, now for forbearance, then for vengeance, as it seems good to him. Whenever then the day of the Lord is mentioned in Scripture, let us know that God is bound by no laws, that he should hasten his work according to our hasty wishes; but the specific time is in his own power, and at his own will. On this subject I lightly touch only, because I have explained it more fully elsewhere. It follows —


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