Malachi 2 - Outline of Malachi (Book Notes menu page)
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.
...O ye priests, this commandment is for you...
The message to the priests continues (from 1:6). God expected them to serve Him faithfully, and to take their work seriously. He reminds them that He would hold them accountable.
What was the "commandment" which He directed to them? give glory unto my name...
Although this warning is directed to the Levitical priests, the believer priests of the NT should take heed, for the Lord expects no less of us (Rev 1:5,6; 1Pet 4:11; 1Cor 4:1,2).
     The charge against the Temple priests was outlined in the previous chapter (1:6-14). Rather than correcting the people who brought unacceptable sacrifices, they had actually encouraged and exemplified hypocritical worship.
I will send a curse upon you... curse your blessings... I have cursed them already...
For their part in dishonoring the LORD's Name, the priests would be judged along with the hypocritical people (1:14).
     The priestly 'blessings' which they had pronounced over the people would not be realized, for the LORD would disregard their pious sounding words and give them what they deserved.
Behold, I will corrupt your seed {HB=zera'}...
...and spread {HB=zarah, scatter, sow} dung upon your faces...
The judgment upon the unfaithful priests would include removal from the priesthood.
  • Their seed (ie., descendants) would be 'corrupted' {HB=ga'ar, rebuked, reproved}.
    The LORD was about to rebuke that generation of priests (via impending national judgment), in order to instruct their descendants, lest they, likewise, should be unfit for priestly service.
         Some think the 'corrupt seed' refers to God's curse upon the harvest (eg., Joel 1:17). While famine was often a means of chastening, and would clearly demonstrate the reversal of priestly blessings, the context deals specifically with the descendants of Levi (v.4-f).
  • The priests would be revealed in their uncleanness.
    Outwardly, they looked good as they performed the rituals, and pronounced their pieties. But God knew their hearts. He would make their uncleanness visible to everyone, and then He would have them removed from the Temple, just as the dung of sacrificial animals was disposed of, outside the city walls. (eg., 1Sam 2:29-30; Luk 14:34,35)
...that my covenant might be with Levi...
The LORD's judgment upon the priests, for failing to keep His commandment ('to give glory unto My Name'), was for the purpose of purifying and preserving the priesthood which was promised to the tribe of Levi (ie., his descendants, Num 1:50; 3:10; 1Chr 6:48,49).
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.
Levi was Jacob's third son. In his early years, in company with his brother Simeon, he murdered the men of a neighboring clan, to avenge the rape of his sister Dinah (Gen 34:25). The cruel and ungodly character, of these two sons, had disgraced Jacob, and was still fresh in his memory, at the end of his days (Gen 49:5-7). Levi was the great-grandfather of Aaron, Moses and Miriam. God's covenant with the tribe of Levi, regarding the priesthood, was actually made with Aaron and his sons, because of the honor which they had shown to the LORD's Name.
My covenant... I gave... to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.
At Mt. Sinai, as Moses was receiving the Law, the people gave themselves to the worship of a golden calf. Although Aaron had a part in their error, he and the children of Levi were moved with zeal to purge sin from the camp (Ex 32:26-28).
     This zeal was due to their 'fear' of the LORD's name (ie., of all that He is).
Three different words for fear are used in v.5.
  1. the 'fear' {HB=mora', terror in the presence of one who is superior in power}.
    (eg., In Isa 8:12,13, 'fear' or 'afraid' occurs 3x: the last 2 are this word,
    the first is HB=yare' see #2 below.)
  2. he 'feared' me {HB=yare', was moved with awe, revered, reverenced},
    (eg., Mal 1:14, 'dreadful')
  3. was 'afraid' {HB=chatat, to be dismayed, broken, terrified},
    (eg., Deu 31:8; Josh 1:9, 'dismayed')
This was not the only time that the sons of Levi, moved with the fear of the LORD, took action against those who dishonored God's name. When Israel came under the influence of the 'doctrine of Balaam,' Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, arose to put a stop to it (Num 25:1-13; Psa 106:30,31). Moses had these incidents in mind when, at the close of his life, he blessed the tribe of Levi (Deu 33:8-10).
     In Malachi's day, the priests no longer feared the LORD as they had in the days of Moses.
     Likewise, in the Church, today, some leaders, lacking a fear of the Lord, allow and encourage syncretism with unbiblical teaching and practices. Rev 2:14
The law of truth {HB='emet, truth, right, faithfulness} was in his mouth,
iniquity {HB='evel, injustice, unrighteousness} was not found in his lips...
In the days of Aaron and Moses, the priests had been faithful to God's Word, both in their teaching and in their correction of the people.
...he walked with me in peace {HB=shalom, peace, health, wellness}
and equity {HB=miyshor, concord, uprightness, straightness}...
In those early days, the priests had lived as godly examples before the people.
...and did turn many from iniquity.
So today, if we are moved by the fear of the LORD, to serve Him faithfully and aright, there will be fruit to His glory. 2Cor 5:9-11
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.
...the priest's lips... he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
The priests were to teach the Law and also to execute justice according to the Law (Lev 10:8-11; Deu 17:8-11). About fifty years prior to Malachi's ministry, Ezra had faithfully exercised his priestly responsibilities in the teaching of God's Word (Ezr 7:10; Neh 8:2-8).
     This role parallels that of the Pastor-Teacher in the NT. Eph 4:11,12; 1Tim 3:2 (an essential qualification for a pastor: 'he must be... apt to teach'); 2Tim 2:15,16; Titus 1:7-9
but ye are departed out of the way... caused many to stumble... corrupted {HB=shamad, destroyed} the covenant of Levi...
In contrast to Ezra, these unfaithful priests had effectively 'destroyed' the covenant under which they served, as they led the people into error. Around the time that Malachi wrote, Nehemiah had to correct the priests for their neglect of the Sabbath and for their miss-management of Temple resources (Neh 13:7-22).
Therefore have I... made you contemptible {HB=bazah, despised} and base {HB=shapal, humble, lowly} before the people...
The priests had lost the respect of the people, 'according as' (in proportion to)...
  • their failure to tend to the paths prescribed in the Law of the LORD (whom they had despised, Mal 1:6), and
  • their failure to exercise justice without respect of persons. (The word 'partial' {HB=panim} is literally 'face, countenance, or person.' Their judgments were not impartial. v.9; Deu 1:17)
In the remainder of this chapter, the LORD's faithful messenger (Malachi) turns to address the people.
Because the priests had not fulfilled their role as God's messengers, they had caused many to fall from the path of righteousness. Yet, the people would also be held accountable for their willful disobedience. (See Jer 5:31.)
A Rebuke of Divorce (v.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.
In v.10, Malachi asks three questions to call Israel's attention to their sinful ways.
  1. Have we not all one father?
    It is not clear whether Malachi was referring to the LORD or to Abraham, as the 'one father' of the nation of Israel (Mal 1:6; Isa 51:2). Perhaps he had both in mind, since the Jewish people were a family which shared both physical and spiritual roots.
  2. Hath not one God created us?
    At first glance, this question seems to broaden the family to include the whole human race (as in Acts 17:24-29; Job 31:15). However, Malachi's message is directed to Israel, not to the Gentile nations. In a unique way, God is the Creator of Israel (Isa 43:1,7,15). Yes, all men should treat one another well, because we all have one Creator. But for Israelites, the brotherly bond should have been much closer, because they were all under the one Covenant, which the LORD had made with the nation of His choosing.
  3. Why do we deal treacherously {HB=bagad, deceitfully, unfaithfully}...
    ...every man against his brother, profaning {HB=chalal, defiling, polluting (as in Mal 1:12)} the covenant of our fathers?
    In spite of their family ties, the Israelites were defrauding one another (Mic 7:2-6). Their unrighteous interactions with each other, demonstrated that they were not right with God.
Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination {HB=tow'ebah, a disgusting thing, a deep wickedness} is committed in Israel...
In the context of these verses, the wicked thing, which had desecrated the holiness of the God whom they professed to serve, was intermarriage with unbelievers (v.11). Jewish men had taken idolatrous women who served the false gods of the nations. The children of Israel, as the LORD's chosen people, were supposed to be separated unto Him alone.
     Once again, the error, into which the nation had fallen, hundreds of years earlier, through the 'doctrine of Balaam,' had raised its ugly head (see the notes at vs.5-6 above). About fifty years prior to Malachi's message, when this error overtook the remnant who had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, Ezra had led the nation in repentance and had taken corrective action (Ezr 9:11-15; 10:1-8-f).
     At about the time that Malachi was writing, Nehemiah had to deal with this issue, yet again (Neh 13:23-29). Both Ezra and Nehemiah took severe measures against this deep rooted wickedness, for such sin had brought God's judgment upon the nation, causing the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivities, from which they had only recently returned. They were no less worthy of His judgment, on this occasion...
The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this... out of the tabernacles of Jacob...
The punishment would be permanent exclusion from the nation of Israel, and from the blessings of the LORD's Covenant (Lev 18:29; 20:3). One judicial sentence would apply, to every participant in this practice, regardless of his station in life, and regardless of his adherance to outward religious ritual. A man's sacrificial offering meant nothing, if in his heart, he defiled the holiness of God (Mal 1:12,13; eg., 1Sam 15:22,23).
     The phrase 'the master and the scholar' is literally 'him that waketh, and him that answereth.' The teachers had not awaken the people to follow God's Word. God's judgment would fall upon teacher and student alike, so that there would be none remaining to answer (Isa 9:14-16).
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.
...this have ye done 'again' {repeatedly, additionally, or, doubling the offense}...
As noted above, Israeli men had repeatedly fallen into forbidden relationships with ungodly women. But in addition to that, their actions were causing tears to be poured out upon the LORD's altar. Observing the sorrows represented by these tears, the LORD was not able to accept their offerings.
Wherefore? - (This is the nation's fourth cynical question of unbelief, in response to God's Word.)
Taking offense that God would not accept their costly sacrifices, they demanded to know, 'Why?'
Because the LORD hath been a witness between thee and the wife of thy youth...
The tears on the altar were shed by the Jewish wives and children of these men, who were divorcing their wives and abandoning their families, to follow their fleshly lusts. (There is One who sees the tears of the oppressed. Eccl 4:1; Psa 56:8,9; Deu 10:17,18)
...yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant...
A man and his wife are meant for each another, by God's design, and in His eyes (Gen 2:18). The word 'companion' {HB=chabereth} is the feminine form of 'chaber', meaning 'a close associate,' with whom one is 'knit together.' The word 'wife' {HB=ish-shah} conveys the idea that she is the counterpart of her husband {HB=ish}.
     "Thy covenant" might refer to the marriage vows. However, if so, it would be an unusual use of the Hebrew word for covenant. In Malachi, all other occurrences of this word refer to the LORD's covenant with Israel's priestly tribe or with Israel as a nation (Mal 2:4,5,8,10; 3:1).
     The Jewish husband and his Jewish wife were bound together under the blessings and constraints of Israel's Covenant relationship with the LORD. The man who was unfaithful to his wife was dealing treacherously with his 'sister' under God's Covenant (cf. v.10-12), and was, therefore, in transgression of that 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.
and did not He make one?
Yes. Two (a man and his wife) were to become one flesh. Gen 2:20-25
Yet had he the residue {ie., the remainder, remnant} of the spirit.
God intended the union of marriage to be more than physical, because men and women are more than fleshly beings. The 'remainder' of their beings, their spirits, were also to be in agreement, so that they might serve the LORD, together. Without this spiritual union, the physical union produces conflict (2Cor 6:14-18) and profanes the holiness of God (1Cor 6:15-20).
And wherefore {why} one? That He might seek a godly seed.
It was God's design that godly parents (the children of His Covenant) should produce godly seed {offspring}. The word 'godly' has both a possessive and a descriptive sense. The children of Israel belonged to God, and they were to display the characteristics of their God. Therefore, their parents, living in separation from the ungodly ways of the world, must bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the LORD. Deu 6:4-7; Eph 6:4
     Tragically, the nation, at large, did not follow God's design. Yet, He would reserve a godly remnant for Himself (Isa 10:20-22; 11:11; Rom 11:5).
For the LORD... hateth putting away {ie., divorce}...
...for one covereth {ie., conceals} violence {hurtful wrong, injustice} with his garment...
Symbolically, a man covered his wife with his garment to demonstrate his commitment to provide for her and to protect her (eg., Ruth 3:9). In divorce, a man removes the covering from his first wife, to cover another. But that covering cannot conceal the damage which he has done... both to his former wife, and to God's design for marriage.
     From the beginning, God's plan was for two to become one, and to remain in that state.
     The Law of Moses allowed for divorce, in specific cases (Deu 24:1, where 'uncleanness' refers to a lack of virginity). In NT times, some religious leaders were interpreting this provision much more widely: '...for every {ie., any} cause.' The Lord Jesus corrected them (Mat 19:3-9), and restated the one permissible reason for divorce, as the unfaithfulness of the spouse (Mat 19:9-12). [See the Book Notes at that passage. This restriction may be more limited than it sounds to modern ears.] Jesus' warning, that divorce may cause a spouse to commit adultery, is in keeping with Deu 24:2-4. (For more concerning divorce, see 1Cor 7:10-16.)
Therefore, take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously...
This admonition, occurring twice in these two verses (v.15,16), is an emphatic warning.
Do I have a hard heart? If I claim to belong to the LORD, is my spirit aligned with His? Psa 139:23,24; 1Cor 6:19,20; 11:28; 2Cor 13:5
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?
Wherein have we wearied him? - (This is the fifth cynical question of unbelief.)
This verse may be taken as a summary of the first two chapters. The priests and people were weary with the work of their ritualistic worship (1:13). They could not imagine that God could be weary of them. Yet, their words and actions were like a great burden upon the LORD. He was tired of carrying those who continuously rebelled against His Word. Isa 1:14; 7:13; 43:24
When ye say...
Here, the LORD answers their preceding question, by revealing the thoughts and intents of their hearts. The people probably had not voiced these words, but the LORD knew their minds.
  • Every one that does evil is good in the sight of the LORD... He delights in them.
    The priests approved and encouraged the people who brought unfit sacrifices (1:7,8). Yet, the LORD had no pleasure {no delight} in their hypocrisy (1:10).
    The people excused their physical and spiritual adultery (2:14), while the LORD hated what they were doing (2:16).
    In saying (or thinking) that God took pleasure in their sinful ways, they were profaning {desecrating, defiling} His holy Name (Psa 50:19-23).
  • or, Where is the God of judgment?
    [Because this question appears to be unspoken, we will not count it among Israel's other cynical responses to the LORD.]
    That is... If, in fact, the holy God must judge sin, where was the judgment that the prophets declared was coming? Psa 10:11-13; Isa 5:18-20; 2Pet 3:3-10
    The LORD answers their unspoken question, without delay, in the next chapter.

Click here to continue the study in Malachi 3
Return to Malachi - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from

Go to The Book opening page.