Messiah's Coming, Preceded by His Forerunner,
to Punish the Guilty for Various Sins, and to Reward Those Who Fear
1. Behold—Calling especial attention to
the momentous truths which follow. Ye unbelievingly ask, Where is the
God of judgment (Mal 2:7)?
"Behold," therefore, "I send," &c. 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 … he shall
come—The Father sends the Son: the Son
comes. Proving the distinctness of personality between the
Father and the Son.
my messenger—John the Baptist; as
Mt 3:3; 11:10; Mr 1:2, 3; Lu 1:76;
3:4; 7:26, 27; Joh 1:23,
prove. This passage of Malachi evidently rests on that of Isaiah his
predecessor (Isa 40:3-5). Perhaps also, as Hengstenberg thinks, "messenger" includes the
long line of prophets headed by Elijah (whence his name is
put in Mal
4:5 as a representative
name), and terminating in John, the last and greatest of the prophets
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," Lu 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
pre-eminently God's "messenger." Hence the oldest and true reading of
Mr 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 Isa 40:3, and therefore the original
source of the prophecy is referred to in order to mark this
dependency and connection.
the Lord—Ha-Adon in
Hebrew. The article marks that it is Jehovah (Ex 23:17; 34:23; compare Jos 3:11, 13). Compare Da 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," that is, He must be God, "before" whom John was sent. As the
divinity of the Son and His oneness with the Father are 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
(Hag 2:7; Heb 3:2, 5, 6).
whom ye seek … whom ye delight
in—(see on Mal 2:17). At His first
coming they "sought" and "delighted in" the hope of a temporal
Saviour: not in what He then was. In the case of those whom Malachi in
his time addresses, "whom ye seek … delight in," is ironical.
They unbelievingly asked, When will He come at last? Mal 2:17, "Where is the God of judgment" (Isa 5:19; Am 5:18; 2Pe 3:3, 4)? In the case of the godly, the desire
for Messiah was sincere (Lu 2:25, 28). He is called "Angel of God's presence"
63:9), also Angel of Jehovah.
Compare His appearances to Abraham (Ge 18:1, 2, 17, 33), to Jacob (Ge 31:11;
48:15, 16), to Moses in the
3:2-6); He went before Israel
as the Shekinah (Ex 14:19),
and delivered the law at Sinai (Ac 7:38).
suddenly—This epithet marks the second
coming, rather than the first; the earnest of that unexpected coming
(Lu 12:38-46; Re 16:15) to judgment was given in the judicial
expulsion of the money-changing profaners from the temple by Messiah
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 Nu 12:4-10, where He appeared in wrath.
messenger of the covenant—namely, of
the ancient covenant with Israel (Isa 63:9) and Abraham, in which the promise to
the Gentiles is ultimately included (Ga 4:16, 17). The gospel at the first advent began
with Israel, then embraced the Gentile world: so also it shall be 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 (Ex 23:20, 21; Heb 11:26; 12:26). He was the messenger of the old
covenant, as well as of the new.
2. (Mal 4:1; Re 6:16, 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 (Mt 3:10-12), and to destroy Jerusalem and the
theocracy after they had rejected Him. 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 till the
final separation (Mt 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, Zec 13:8, 9
(compare Isa 1:25).
3. sit—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
8:29) in the glowing mass. So
the Lord in the case of His elect (Job 23:10; Ps 66:10; Pr 17:3; Isa 48:10; Heb 12:10; 1Pe
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 for ever delivered from the furnace
of trial. The purer the gold, the hotter the fire now; the whiter the
garment, the harder the washing [Moore].
purify … 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 … in
righteousness—as originally (Mal 2:6), not as latterly (Mal 1:7-14). So believers, the spiritual
priesthood (1Pe 2:5).
4. as in the days of old—(Mal 1:11; 2:5,
6). The "offering"
(Mincha, Hebrew) is not expiatory, but prayer, thanksgiving, and
self-dedication (Ro 12:1; Heb 13:15; 1Pe 2:5).
5. I … come near … to
judgment—I whom ye challenged, saying, "Where is the
God of judgment?" (Mal 2:17). 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 (Ps 10:11;
73:11; 94:7, &c.).
sorcerers—a sin into which the Jews
were led in connection with their foreign idolatrous wives. The Jews of
Christ's time also practised sorcery (Ac 8:9; 13:6; Ga 5:20; Josephus [Antiquities, 20.6; Wars of the
Jews, 2.12.23]). It shall be a characteristic of the last
Antichristian confederacy, about to be consumed by the brightness of
Christ's Coming (Mt 24:24; 2Th 2:9; Re 13:13, 14;
16:13, 14; also Re
9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15).
Romanism has practised it; an order of exorcists exists in that
adulterers—(Mal 2:15, 16).
fear not me—the source of all
6. the Lord—Jehovah: a name implying His
immutable faithfulness in fulfilling His promises: the covenant name of
God to the Jews (Ex 6:3),
called here "the sons of Jacob," in reference to God's covenant with
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.
therefore ye … are not
consumed—Ye yourselves being "not consumed," as ye have long
ago deserved, are a signal proof of My unchangeableness. Ro 11:29: compare 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 covenant of love. So here, as is
implied by the phrase "sons of Jacob" (Ge 28:13;
35:12). They are spared
because I am Jehovah, and they sons
of Jacob; 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 (La 3:22) into a ground for skeptical denial of
His coming as a Judge at all (Ps
50:1, 3, 4, 21; Ec 8:11, 12; Isa 57:11; Ro 2:4-10).
7-12. 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.
from … days of your fathers—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" (Mal 3:6).
Return unto me—in penitence.
I will return unto you—in
Wherein, &c.—(Mal 3:16). The same insensibility to their guilt
continues: they speak in the tone of injured innocence, as if God
8. rob—literally, "cover": hence,
defraud. Do ye call defrauding God no sin to be "returned" from (Mal 3:7)? Yet ye have done so to Me in
respect to the tithes due to Me, namely, the tenth of all the remainder
after the first-fruits were paid, which tenth was paid to the Levites
for their support (Le 27:30-33): a tenth paid by the Levites to the
priests (Nu 18:26-28): a second tenth paid by the people for
the entertainment of the Levites, and their own families, at the
tabernacle (De 12:18):
another tithe every third year for the poor, &c. (De 14:28, 29).
offerings—the first-fruits, not less
than one-sixtieth part of the corn, wine, and oil (De 18:4; Ne
13:10, 12). 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 God was 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].
9. cursed—(Mal 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 ever yet lost by serving God with a whole
heart, nor gained by serving Him with a half one. We may compromise
with conscience for half the price, but God will not endorse the
compromise; and, like Ananias and Sapphira, we shall lose 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
10. (Pr 3:9, 10).
storehouse—(2Ch 31:11, Margin; compare 1Ch
26:20; Ne 10:38; 13:5, 12).
prove me … herewith—with this;
by doing so. Test Me whether I will keep My promise of blessing you, on
condition of your doing your part (2Ch 31:10).
pour … out—literally, "empty
out": image from a vessel completely emptied of its contents: no
blessing being kept back.
windows of heaven—(2Ki 2:7).
that … not … room enough,
&c.—literally, "even to not … sufficiency," that is,
either, as English Version. Or, even so as that there should be
"not merely" "sufficiency" but superabundance [Jerome, Maurer]. Gesenius not
so well translates, "Even to a failure of sufficiency," which in the
case of God could never arise, and therefore means for ever,
perpetually: so Ps 72:5, "as
long as the sun and moon endure"; literally, "until a failure of the
sun and moon," which is never to be; and therefore means, for
11. I will rebuke—(See on Mal 2:3). I will no longer "rebuke (English
Version, 'corrupt') the seed," but will rebuke every agency that
could hurt it (Am 4:9).
12. Fulfilling the blessing (De 33:29; Zec
delightsome land—(Da 8:9).
13-18. He notices the complaint of the Jews
that it is of no profit to serve Jehovah, 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
words … stout—Hebrew,
"hard"; so "the hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken
against Him" (Jude 15)
have we spoken—The Hebrew
expresses at once their assiduity and habit of speaking
against God [Vatablus]. The niphal form
of the verb implies that these things were said, not directly to
God, but of God, to one another (Eze 33:20) [Moore].
14. what profit … that we … kept,
&c.—(See on Mal 2:17). They here
resume the same murmur against God. Job 21:14, 15; 22:17 describe a further stage of the same
skeptical spirit, when the skeptic has actually ceased to keep God's
service. Ps 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 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, "His observances."
walked mournfully—in mournful
garb, sackcloth and ashes, the emblems of penitence; they forget
58:3-8, where God, by showing
what is true fasting, similarly rebukes those who then also said,
Wherefore have we fasted and Thou seest not? &c. They mistook the
outward show for real humiliation.
15. And now—Since we who serve Jehovah
are not prosperous and "the proud" heathen flourish in prosperity, we
must pronounce them the favorites of God (Mal 2:17; Ps
set up—literally, "built up": metaphor
from architecture (Pr 24:3;
16:2, Margin; Ge 30:3, Margin.)
tempt God—dare God to punish them, by
breaking His laws (Ps 95:9).
16. "Then," when the ungodly utter such
blasphemies against God, the godly hold mutual converse, defending
God's righteous dealings against those blasphemers (Heb 3:13). The "often" of English Version
is not in the Hebrew. There has been always in the darkest times
a remnant that feared God (1Ki 19:18; Ro 11:4).
feared the Lord—reverential and loving
fear, not slavish terror. When the fire of religion burns low, true
believers should draw the nearer together, to keep the holy flame
alive. Coals separated soon go out.
book of remembrance … for
them—for their advantage, against the day when those found
faithful among the faithless shall receive their final reward. The
kings of Persia kept a record of those who had rendered services to the
king, that they might be suitably rewarded (Es 6:1, 2; compare Es 2:23; Ezr 4:15; Ps 56:8; Isa 65:6; Da 7:10; Re
20:12). Calvin makes the fearers of God to be those awakened
from among the ungodly mass (before described) to true repentance; the
writing of the book thus will imply that some were reclaimable
among the blasphemers, and that the godly should be assured that,
though no hope appeared, there would be a door of penitence opened for
them before God. But there is nothing in the context to support
17. jewels—(Isa 62:3). Literally, "My peculiar treasure"
(Ex 19:5; De 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Ps
135:4; Tit 2:14; 1Pe 2:9;
2:8). Calvin translates more in accordance with
Hebrew idiom, "They shall be My peculiar treasure in the day
in which I will do it" (that is, fulfil My promise of gathering My
completed Church; or, "make" those things come to pass foretold in
Mal 3:5 above [Grotius]); so in Mal 4:3 "do" is used absolutely, "in the day
that I shall do this." Maurer,
not so well, translates, "in the day which I shall make," that is,
appoint as in Ps 118:24.
as … man spareth …
18. Then shall ye … discern—Then
shall ye see the falseness of your calumny against God's government
3:15), that the "proud" and
wicked prosper. Do not judge before the time till My work is complete.
It is in part to test your disposition to trust in God in spite of
perplexing appearances, and in order to make your service less
mercenary, that the present blended state is allowed; but at last
all ("ye," both godly and ungodly) shall see the eternal
difference there really is "between him that serveth God and him that
serveth Him not" (Ps 58:11).
return—Ye shall turn to a better state
of mind on this point.