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Malachi 1-4 Listen
An introduction to Malachi
We don't know exactly when Malachi prophesied. We do know that it had to have been written after the rebuilding of Zerubbabel's Temple, completed in 515 B.C. Good scholars disagree on their preference for an exact date after 515 B.C. However, we do have strong clues that would help us zero in more closely on a date.
Let's establish a time line of known events to help us intelligently speculate on the dating of the Book of Malachi:
Tough outcome for the Edomites (Malachi 1:1-5)
1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
4 Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.
5 And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother. Throughout Jewish history, they'd experienced some good times, but no more. Malachi's prophecy for these people is bleak - gone forever. Their land had been east of south Israel. However, they were driven out of their land into the southern part of Judah, never to return to their own land again. Edom had sought to block Israels first entrance into Canaan (Numbers 20:14-21, see notes; Numbers 24:15-19, see notes).
Note these other conflicts with the Edomites:
Other prophets also prophesied concerning Edom:
During the period between the Testaments, the Maccabean period, John Hyrcanus compelled the people to become Jews and to submit to circumcision. By New Testament times we see them in Judah identified as people from Idumea (Mark 3:8, see notes), which is what this southern part of Judah came to be known as. The entire Book of Obadiah was a prophecy against the Edomites prophesying their utter dissolution. Likewise, Jeremiah issues a stinging prophecy regarding their impending fall to the Babylonians in Jeremiah 49 (see notes). Well, in Malachi's day this fall had already taken place, and their demise was to be permanent according to verse 4; these Edomites would be known as "The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever."
Paul uses verses 2-3 in this passage to make his point in Romans 9:13 (see notes). Esau was the father of the Edomites, while Jacob was the father of the Jews.
So much for the laws regarding unblemished sacrifices (Malachi 1:6-14)
6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
9 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.
10 Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
12 But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.
14 But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
"That animal's blind; it'll make a good sacrifice down at the temple." Such was the practice of the priests with the sacrifices at their newly-rebuilt temple. So much for the provisions of the Mosaic law requiring unblemished sacrifices in Leviticus 1-4 (see notes). They brought lame and sickly animals as sacrifices as well. Malachi proclaims that this practice is "evil" and "contemptible." Both the people bringing the sacrifices and the priests who accept them should be ashamed!
Yuck! What's that on your face? (Malachi 2:1-9)
1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.
4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.
6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.
7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
These priests surely didn't get the big picture. Here's that "talkin' to" they desperately needed - and extremely blunt. Verse 3 may just take your appetite away, "Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it." Malachi is referring to the internal excrement ("dung") from the sacrificed animals which was ordinarily carried outside the camp for disposal after the sacrifice. Malachi's prophecy strongly suggests that their corrupt actions regarding their sacrificial practices are not meeting God's approval. They are disgracing the Levite tradition. Verse 8 proclaims that they are causing people in Israel to stumble because of their actions. Were these priests well respected? According to verse 9, I guess not, "Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people."
Out with the old wife; in with the young (Malachi 2:10-17)
10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?
11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.
12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.
13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.
14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
These Jewish men were marrying young women of the land who worshiped false gods. Moreover, some were apparently divorcing their old wives to make room for the new pagan-worshiping ones. Verse 16 makes it clear that God despised this practice. To marry a pagan-worshipping woman is to forsake God, because one is saying that it makes no difference who your god is. So you see, this practice wasn't just the actions of unbridled lust, but rather a forsaking of God himself.
Perhaps Paul was thinking of this passage of scripture when he wrote in II Corinthians 6:14-18 (see notes):
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
This is an issue also tackled in Ezra 9-10 (see notes) and Nehemiah 13 (see notes).
John the Baptist makes an appearance (Malachi 3:1-5)
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.
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:
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.
4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
In Matthew 11:10 and Luke 7:27 (see notes), Jesus clearly quotes this passage and says that this messenger is John the Baptist. Click here to view an article on Jesus' identification of John the Baptist as a fulfillment of this prophecy. Be sure to look at that summary; it is very important to understand what Jesus said about John the Baptist being the forerunner of the Messiah. Mark also clearly identifies Jesus with this prophecy in Mark 1:2 (see notes).
How they robbed God (Malachi 3:6-18)
6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
7 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?
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?
15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
So, Israel is back, but they're not really back - not with right attitude anyway. Their hearts didn't really seem to be into nation rebuilding. We saw in chapter 1 (see above) that their sacrifices were intentionally substandard - a clear violation of Mosaic law. Now we see that they did not want to contribute to the very centerpiece of their national pride - their temple. They obviously did not want to pay the price of national restoration. Malachi's admonition to them is simple, "Do right!"
It is necessary to point out that in 535 B.C. when the exiles first began returning to Israel, they were very excited about their national prospects. Now that they have been back in their homeland for a century or so, they have lapsed back into the same frame of mind that caused their fall to the Babylonians in the first place. They had lost their vision to recapture the spirit of the Old Israel. Nominal service was really all they gave God at this point. Malachi's words here are intended to fire the people back up as we see his very confrontational statement in verse 8, "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings." Then notice his words in verse 9, "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation." Sometimes it just takes an in-your-face declaration to shake people up.
Who is this Elijah? (Malachi 4:1-6)
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.
2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Well, we know who Elijah is (I Kings 17, see notes), but what about the future. We already saw in chapter 3 (see above) that Jesus identifies the messenger as John the Baptist.
Look at verses 5-6 here regarding the coming of Elijah:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
While John the Baptist did introduce Jesus at the first advent, the nation of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah at that time; that's key to understanding the role of John the Baptist in this prophecy. Click here to view the article on Jesus' identification of John the Baptist as a fulfillment of this prophecy. The reference to "the great and dreadful day of the LORD" is surely addressing the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19:11-21 (see notes). Therefore, certainly this reference must be to the appearance of the two prophets in Revelation 11:1-14 (see notes) before the Battle of Armageddon takes place. It is obvious to most Bible students that one of the witnesses of Revelation 11 must be Elijah. So, Malachi's prophecy describes the ministry of the Messiah at his first and second advents.