1. The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
1. Onus sermonis Iehovae ad Israel in manu Maleachi.
They who explain ms', mesha, burden, as signifying prophecy, without exception, are mistaken, as I have elsewhere reminded you; for prophecy is not everywhere called a burden; and whenever this word is expressed, there is ever to be understood some judgment of God; and it appears evident from Jeremiah 23:38, that this word was regarded as ominous, so that the ungodly, when they wished to brand the Prophets with some mark of reproach, used this as a common proverb, |It is a burden,| intimating thereby that nothing else was brought by the Prophets but threatenings and terrors, in order that they might have some excuse for closing their ears, and for evading all prophecies by giving them an unhappy and ominous name.
As we proceed it will become evident that the doctrine of Malachi is not without reason called a Burden; for as I have stated in part, and as it will be more fully seen hereafter, it was necessary that the people should be summoned before God's tribunal, inasmuch as many sins had again begun to prevail among them, and such as could not be endured: and for this reason he says that God's judgment was at hand.
But under the name of Israel he refers only to those who had returned to their own country, whether they were of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, or of the tribe of Levi. It is nevertheless probable that there were also some mixed with them from the other tribes: but the Jews and their neighbors, the half tribe of Benjamin, had almost alone returned to their country, with the exception of the Levites, who had been their guides in their journey, and encouraged the rest of the people. They were yet called Israel indiscriminately, since among them only pure religion continued: but they who remained dispersed among foreign and heathen nations, had as it were lost their name, though they had not wholly departed from the pure worship of God and true religion. Hence, by way of excellency, they were called Israel, who had again assembled in the holy land, that they might there enjoy the inheritance promised them from above.
The word hand, as we have observed elsewhere, means ministration. The meaning then is, that this doctrine proceeded from God, but that a minister, even Malachi, was employed as an instrument; so that he brought nothing as his own, but only related faithfully what had been committed to him by God from whom it came. It then follows --