Malachi 1 - Outline of Malachi (Book Notes menu page)
1. The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
Malachi... his name means 'My Messenger.'
Apart from his name, we know nothing about him. In fact, his name appears only here in scripture. We have no record of his genealogy or position in life. The important thing about a messenger, is not his background but the message which he bears in behalf of the one who sent him.
The burden of the word of the LORD...
Malachi was commissioned to deliver a heavy message. It was from the LORD. It was the LORD's word {HB=dabar, speech, utterance, business, matter}, though it was delivered 'by {lit., by the hand of} Malachi {my messenger}'... Israel...-
From this book's position, as the last book in the OT, and from its description of the nation's moral condition, it appears that Malachi wrote in the time of Nehemiah, and probably during the period of Nehemiah's absence from Jerusalem (cf. Mal 1:8; Neh 5:15,18; 13:6). Temple worship had been restored. The city wall had been completed. The people, no longer threatened by potential enemies, were settled and at ease. The spiritual revival, led by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, during the returned remnant's time of distress (approximately 80 years earlier), had long since faded.
     The LORD's message is directed to 'Israel' (all twelve tribes) with special attention to those of Judah, who had returned to Jerusalem, from captivity in Babylon (Mal 2:11; 3:4). The message addresses several problems with which Nehemiah dealt, due to the sinfulness of the priests and of the people (Nehemiah ch. 13).
In the course of this message, four 'messengers' of the LORD are identified.
  • Malachi, the prophet (v.1)
  • John the Baptist, the forerunner of the LORD (3:1a).
  • The Lord, the Messiah, the Messenger of the Covenant (3:1b).
  • Elijah, who will prepare the nation prior to the Day of the LORD (4:5)
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.
I have loved you... -
Although the LORD's message is heavy, He begins by re-affirming His love for the people and nation of Israel. His love for them is an everlasting love... though His people have often shown little evidence of love for Him. Deu 7:6-8; Jer 31:3; Rom 11:28,29
Wherein hast thou loved us? -
To God's declaration of love, Israel responds with unbelieving cynicism.
     This is the first, of eight cynical questions, raised by the nation, as they hear the messenger's words, but do not receive them as the Word of God.
     Yet, the LORD, who would be right to deal with them in wrath, answers them with patience and grace.
Was not Esau Jacob's brother?... yet, I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau...-
The LORD demonstrates the reality of His love for Israel by the way in which He dealt with them, in contrast to His judgment upon Esau and his descendants.
     Jacob and Esau, though born as twins, would grow into very different men. Prior to their birth, the LORD foretold their differences (Gen 25:22,23; Rom 9:10-13). But at that time, He did not state His love for Jacob and hatred for Esau. Rather, He waited 1,500 years, until the contrasting content of their hearts was well known. Though both men were sinners from birth, each man responded differently to God.
  • Jacob lived up to his name which means 'supplanter' or 'deceiver.'
    Though Esau was the first born, Jacob coveted the rights and privileges that belonged to his father's chief heir. To obtain them, he took advantage of his brother's weakness, and he conspired to deceive his father. Gen 25:29-34; 27:1-42
         However, later in life, he turned away from his self-confident conniving. He recognized his fleshly weakness and failures, humbled himself, and placed his trust entirely in the LORD. Therefore, the LORD gave him a new name, 'Israel' {meaning 'a prince with God', Gen 32:28}. Jacob had learned that in his own strength he could do nothing but fail, and also that through faith in the LORD and His faithful promises, he would prevail.
  • Esau is a prime example of the fleshly man:
    self-focused, self-confident, self-dependent, without need of God or regard for His Word.
    Esau despised his birthright, which contained the blessings which God promised to Abraham and Isaac, and which find their ultimate fulfillment in and through Christ. Like Esau, his descendants, the nation of Edom, were lifted up with pride and self-confidence.
         The brief prophecy of Obadiah itemized the sins of Edom and foretold the destruction of that nation and the abandonment of their cities, though their mountainous location was naturally secure. The LORD emphasized His message of judgment upon Edom, through the voices of other prophets (Jer 49:16-18; Eze 25:13,14).
...your eyes shall see... ye shall say... (v.5) -
Here, the Hebrew text can be rendered in either the future or present tense (ie., "...your eyes do see... ye do say..."). From their recent history, Israel could already see that God had dealt with them very differently than with Edom.
     Prior to the time that Malachi wrote, judgment had fallen upon Israel and also upon Edom. The LORD had fulfilled His promise to Israel, in their partial return from captivity and their restoration to their land, to Jerusalem and to the Temple. But His judgment remained upon Edom. They would never be restored to their land. Their cities would never be rebuilt.
     The LORD loves that which is good and hates the evil (Psa 97:10; Prov 8:13; 6:16-19). The LORD judges righteously, for He examines the hearts of every man (Psa 11:4-7). He sees through the outward appearances by which men may judge one another.
A Rebuke of the Priests (1:6 - 2:9).
Though the priests in the Temple wore robes which declared their holiness, their outward appearance concealed the unholy condition of their hearts. The LORD's Word to them is a message of rebuke.
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?
...where is mine honour?... where is my fear?
Sons honor their fathers in the same way that servants honor their masters: by respectful, submissive obedience to their authority. (eg., Ex 20:12; Eph 6:1-3; Titus 2:9,10)
     Israel regarded the LORD as their Father, in a national sense (Isa 1:2; 63:16; Ex 4:22,23). [The concept of God as the Father of individual believers is not found in the OT. Prior to the coming of the Savior, the 'children differed nothing from a servant.' The consciousness, of a NT believer's sonship, is due to the indwelling 'Spirit of His Son' (Gal 4:1-7).]
     The priests were set apart and appointed as servants of the LORD (2Chr 8:14; Ezra 6:18). Yet, the people and the priests were dishonoring Him by disobedience to His Word. They 'despised' {HB=bazah, held in contempt, disregarded as worthless} God's 'name' {HB=shem, name, reputation, fame, glory}.
...wherein have we despised thy name? -
(Here is the second question of unbelieving cynicism. The first was in v.2.)
The priests were performing their duties. They were going through the religious rituals. They could not see how this charge could be made against them. The LORD answers patiently...
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.
Wherein have we polluted thee?
This third cynical question is so closely related to the previous one (in v.6), that they could be counted as one. (Therefore, some scholars count seven rather than eight questions, and suggest that 'seven' reflects on the 'fullness' of the national unbelief.)
     'Polluted {HB=ga'al, desecrated, defiled} bread' may refer to the meal offerings which accompanied their unacceptable animal sacrifices. The priests were offering sacrificial animals, which they knew to be blemished. They were allowing worshippers to bring unfit offerings, contrary to God's written Word (Lev 22:20-23; Deu 15:21).
     The OT sacrifices were pictures foreshadowing the sinless Lamb of God who would not only cover, but take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Their blemished sacrifices defiled the picture and revealed their contempt for that promised perfect sacrifice (1Pet 1:18-21).
     The priests, who were instructed in the Law, and charged with keeping and teaching it, were not serving in obedience to their Master (Mal 2:7).
In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible {HB=bazah, despicable; translated 'despised' in v.6}.
Here, 'the table of the LORD' refers to the brazen altar of sacrifice. Whether or not they uttered these words with their lips, their actions spoke loudly, revealing what was in their hearts (Mark 7:21-23).
     However, the first two questions, in v.8, can also be read as statements, by the priests to the people: 'If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, [it is] not evil {HB=rasha, wickedness, a crime worthy of punishment}... and if ye offer the lame and sick, [it is] not evil.'
...offer it now unto thy governor...
They would not consider offending a human dignitary with such inferior gifts... at least, not if they desired his favor.
      Two different words are translated 'offer' in v.7-8 {HB=nagash (the first 3 occurrences), and HB=qarab (the fourth occurrence)}. These words are usually translated 'to approach,' 'to come near' or 'to bring near.' However, they have slightly different connotations.
  • The first biblical occurrence of HB=nagash is in Gen 18:23, where Abraham 'drew near' to the LORD to appeal for Lot's life. In this sense, Israel brought their offerings as they approached God, to seek His favor.
  • The other word {HB=qarab} signifies bringing something near enough to be clearly seen, heard, or touched (eg., as in Ex 32:19). Upon examination of an inferior gift, a human governor would be offended.
Yet, the people expected God's favor because of their offerings on the altar, saying to the priest...
...I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us...
This hath been by your means... who will regard your persons?
The word 'means' {HB=yad} is literally 'hand.' There may be two implications:
  • Because the people brought inferior offerings in their hands, they should not expect God's favor. To casual observers, the old sick bull may have looked like a very generous and expensive gift. But the LORD knows the heart of the giver. He weighs the gift accordingly (eg., Mark 12:41-44).
    Behind the gift in their hands, He saw the hypocrisy of their hearts.
  • Because the priests held (in their hands) the authority and responsibility to correct and instruct the people, but allowed them to persist in desecrating God's worship, He would hold them personally accountable.
    Behind the priestly activities of their hands, He saw their contempt for His service.
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.
I have no pleasure in you...
The LORD was displeased with the priests and with their empty ritual (cp. Isa 1:11-15).
Who... would shut the doors [for nought]?
Because their worship was empty, it would be better to close the Temple doors, rather than continuing in hypocrisy.
...neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought.
These phrases may have dual implications... (hinging on the meaning of 'for nought').
  • If and when the doors were shut, at least, the priests would no longer offer 'meaningless' or 'vain' fire upon the altar.
  • Until then, rather than serving God from their hearts, the covetous priests were unwilling to do the simplest tasks (such as shutting the gate, or kindling the fire) freely, without pay (Isa 56:11,12; Jer 6:13).
neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
The offering in the priests' hands was unacceptable, because their hands were defiled by their disobedient hearts (cp. v.9, where the word 'means' is literally 'hands').
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.
The LORD proclaims that whereas Israel and the Temple priests were dishonoring His Name,
there will come a time when His Name will be exalted everywhere, and by everyone, including the Gentile nations. Isa 45:6 every place incense shall be offered...-
The offering {HB=nagash, drawing near, approach} of incense is a picture of prayer (Psa 141:2; Heb 10:22).
...and a pure {HB=tahor, clean, pure, totally free of any impurity} offering.-
This one truly acceptable 'offering' {HB=minchah, oblation} stands in stark contrast to a multitude of unacceptable 'offerings' (as in v.10, where the same word is used).
     In all of earth's history, there has been only one completely pure oblation for sin. It was the sacrifice of which Abraham spoke, as he climbed Mt. Moriah, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb..." (Gen 22:8). That Lamb, the sinless Son of God was offered, for all who place their trust in Him, to cleanse the sinner, to open the way of access into the presence of the holy God (Rom 8:32; Heb 9:22-28; 10:1-22).
     It is on the basis of His sacrifice that the nations will come to know and praise the LORD (Rev 5:9,10).
Yet, the prophecy of v.11 is only partially fulfilled in the Church, today.
Yes, the LORD's Name has been proclaimed worldwide to Jew and Gentile (eg., Rom 1:15,16). Yes, those, who trust in Christ, offer praise to the LORD, and should present ourselves unreservedly to His service, because of His sacrifice in our behalf (Heb 13:15; Rom 12:1,2).
     But in the church today, He is not worshipped with the honor that is due unto His Name. For we also are guilty of hypocritical worship. How often do our lips sing His praise, while our hearts pursue selfish interests (Php 2:21)? How many church leaders promote apostasy, performing empty rituals and pushing false teachings (2Pet 2:1,2)?
     The Lord Jesus Christ is the only man who truly gave Himself fully to the Father's will. Therefore, the prophecy awaits final fulfillment in the Messianic Kingdom, when He reigns, and when His people will be transformed into His likeness (1John 3:1,2). In that day, there will be no false teachers, for all nations will come to learn of Him. Psa 22:27-31, Mic 4:1-3
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.
...My name shall be great among the Gentiles (v.11)... but ye have profaned it...
Whereas the worship of Israel (and also of the Church) should honor the LORD's Name,
the empty worship of God's people...
  • profanes His Name - The word 'profane' is HB=chalal, pollute, defile.
    By their disobedience to the LORD, Israel defiled His name, treating Him as something of little value. However, in spite of their rebellion, He withheld His wrath, and revealed Himself to the surrounding nations, through His mighty deliverance of undeserving Israel. (See Eze 20:6-9, where, in v.9, 'pollute' is HB=chalal.)
  • pollutes His Table - This word for 'pollute' {HB=ga'al, desecrate, defile} occurs twice in v. 7.
    As the priests defiled the Altar of sacrifice with the labor of hypocritical hearts (v.6), so, Christians often approach the Lord's Table unworthily, treating the remembrance of the Lord's sacrifice as something despicable (1Cor 11:26-32). True worship must be 'in spirit and in truth' (Joh 4:23,24).
Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye snuffed at it... - Amos 8:5; Mic 6:3
They regarded the Temple worship as a lot of trouble... and of little value (something to 'snuff' at, with a derogatory puff of air from the nostrils). It had become meaningless ritual, which they would have blown away, if they could.
     Their inward disrespect for the LORD was outwardly demonstrated in the blemished offerings which they brought in their hands.
     Knowing that the people were bored with His worship, why didn't the LORD take measures to make it more interesting (eg., by adding new programs, entertainment, music, games and food)?
Because the trouble was not with His work, but with their hearts.
...cursed be the deceiver, which... sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing {HB=shachat, marred, ruined, spoiled}...
The word 'cursed' {HB='arar} is applied in judgment upon sin (eg., Gen 3:14,17; Jer 11:3). Someone who is cursed of God, will not enjoy His blessing (contrast Deu 27:15-f with Deu 28:1-f).
     The outward appearance of our gifts and service may look good to others, but the LORD knows our hearts, and He will hold us accountable (eg., Acts 5:3-5). This warning applies, not only to hypocrisy in financial giving, but also to every aspect of life (1Cor 10:31). It was not only for the priests of Nehemiah's time, but also for believer priests, whom Christ has redeemed from the curse (Gal 3:13,14; Rev 5:9,10). We call Him 'Lord' {HB=Adonai, Master}. But do we serve Him to the best of our abilities? The LORD will hold us accountable. For example: Woe to the pastor or teacher who gives half-hearted attention to the study of God's Word.
for I am a great King, the LORD of Hosts... my name is dreadful {HB=yare', fearful, to be reverenced} among the heathen.
God reveals Himself to the nations in the salvation of His people.
It is incumbent upon all, whom the Lord has redeemed, to revere Him, lest we bring His name into disrepute before the world.
     [The Lord instructed Israel to erect monuments, lest they forget what He had done for them (eg., Josh 4:21-24). Meanwhile, according to Rahab's testimony, the Gentiles were in dreadful awe of Israel's God (Josh 2:9-11). Are you one who trembles before Him? Isa 66:1,2]

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