Mal 1:1-14. God's Love: Israel's Ingratitude: THE Priests' Mercenary Spirit: A Gentile Spiritual Priesthood Shall Supersede Them.
1. burden -- heavy sentence.
to Israel -- represented now by the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with individuals of the ten tribes who had returned with the Jews from Babylon. So |Israel| is used, Ezr 7:10. Compare 2Ch 21:2, |Jehoshaphat king of Israel,| where Judah, rather than the ten tribes, is regarded as the truest representative of Israel (compare 2Ch 12:6; 28:19).
Malachi -- see Introduction. God sent no prophet after him till John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, in order to enflame His people with the more ardent desire for Him, the great antitype and fulfiller of prophecy.
2. I have loved you -- above other men; nay, even above the other descendants of Abraham and Isaac. Such gratuitous love on My part called for love on yours. But the return ye make is sin and dishonor to Me. This which is to be supplied is left unexpressed, sorrow as it were breaking off the sentence [Menochius], (De 7:8; Ho 11:1).
Wherein hast thou loved us? -- In painful contrast to the tearful tenderness of God's love stands their insolent challenge. The root of their sin was insensibility to God's love, and to their own wickedness. Having had prosperity taken from them, they imply they have no tokens of God's love; they look at what God had taken, not at what God had left. God's love is often least acknowledged where it is most manifested. We must not infer God does not love us because He afflicts us. Men, instead of referring their sufferings to their proper cause, their own sin, impiously accuse God of indifference to their welfare [Moore]. Thus Mal 1:1-4 form a fit introduction to the whole prophecy.
Was not Esau Jacob's brother? -- and so, as far as dignity went, as much entitled to God's favor as Jacob. My adoption of Jacob, therefore, was altogether by gratuitous favor (Ro 9:13). So God has passed by our elder brethren, the angels who kept not their first estate, and yet He has provided salvation for man. The perpetual rejection of the fallen angels, like the perpetual desolations of Edom, attests God's severity to the lost, and goodness to those gratuitously saved. The sovereign eternal purpose of God is the only ground on which He bestows on one favors withheld from another. There are difficulties in referring salvation to the election of God, there are greater in referring it to the election of man [Moore]. Jehovah illustrates His condescension and patience in arguing the case with them.
3. hated -- not positively, but relatively; that is, did not choose him out to be the object of gratuitous favor, as I did Jacob (compare Lu 14:26, with Mt 10:37; Ge 29:30, 31; De 21:15, 16).
laid his mountains ... waste -- that is, his territory which was generally mountainous. Israel was, it is true, punished by the Chaldeans, but Edom has been utterly destroyed; namely, either by Nebuchadnezzar [Rosenmuller], or by the neighboring peoples, Egypt, Ammon, and Moab [Josephus, Antiquities, 10.9,7; Maurer], (Jer 49:18).
dragons -- jackals [Moore] (compare Isa 34:13). Maurer translates, |Abodes of the wilderness,| from an Arabic root |to stop,| or |to abide.| English Version is better.
4. Whereas -- |But if| Edom say [Maurer]. Edom may strive as she may to recover herself, but it shall be in vain, for I doom her to perpetual desolation, whereas I restore Israel. This Jehovah states, to illustrate His gratuitous love to Israel, rather than to Edom.
border of wickedness -- a region given over to the curse of reprobation [Calvin]. For a time Judea seemed as desolate as Idumea; but though the latter was once the highway of Eastern commerce, now the lonely rock-houses of Petra attest the fulfilment of the prophecy. It is still |the border of wickedness,| being the resort of the marauding tribes of the desert. Judea's restoration, though delayed, is yet certain.
the Lord hath indignation -- |the people of My curse| (Isa 34:5).
5. from the border of Israel -- Ye, restored to your own |borders| in Israel, |from| them shall raise your voices to |magnify the Lord,| acknowledging that Jehovah has shown to you a gratuitous favor not shown to Edom, and so ought to be especially |magnified from the borders of Israel.|
6. Turning from the people to the priests, Jehovah asks, whereas His love to the people was so great, where was their love towards Him? If the priests, as they profess, regard Him as their Father (Isa 63:16) and Master, let them show the reality of their profession by love and reverential fear (Ex 20:12; Lu 6:46). He addresses the priests because they ought to be leaders in piety to the rest of the people, whereas they are foremost in |despising His name.|
Wherein have we despised, &c. -- The same captious spirit of self-satisfied insensibility as prompted their question (Mal 1:2), |Wherein hast Thou loved us?| They are blind alike to God's love and their own guilt.
7. ye offer, &c. -- God's answer to their challenge (Mal 1:6), |Wherein have we despised?|
polluted bread -- namely, blemished sacrifices (Mal 1:8, 13, 14; De 15:21). So |the bread of thy God| is used for |sacrifices to God| (Le 21:8).
polluted thee -- that is, offered to thee |polluted bread.|
table of the Lord -- that is, the altar (Eze 41:22) (not the table of showbread). Just as the sacrificial flesh is called |bread.|
contemptible -- (Mal 1:12, 13). Ye sanction the niggardly and blemished offerings of the people on the altar, to gain favor with them. Darius, and probably his successors, had liberally supplied them with victims for sacrifice, yet they presented none but the worst. A cheap religion, costing little, is rejected by God, and so is worth nothing. It costs more than it is worth, for it is worth nothing, and so proves really dear. God despises not the widow's mite, but he does despise the miser's mite [Moore].
8. Your earthly ruler would feel insulted, if offered by you the offering with which ye put off God (see Le 22:22, 24).
is it not evil? -- Maurer translates, |There is no evil,| in your opinion, in such an offering; it is quite good enough for such a purpose.
9. now ... beseech God that he will be gracious -- Ironical. Think you that God will be persuaded by such polluted gifts to be gracious to you? Far from it.
this hath been by your means -- literally, |hand.| These contemptible offerings are your doing, as being the priests mediating between God and the people; and think you, will God pay any regard to you (compare Mal 1:8, 10)? |Accept thy person| (|face|), Mal 1:8, answers to |regard your persons,| in this verse.
10. Who ... for naught -- Not one even of the least priestly functions (as shutting the doors, or kindling a fire on the altar) would ye exercise without pay, therefore ye ought to fulfil them faithfully (1Co 9:13). Drusius and Maurer translate, |Would that there were absolutely some one of you who would shut the doors of the temple (that is, of the inner court, in which was the altar of burnt offerings), and that ye would not kindle fire on My altar in vain!| Better no sacrifices than vain ones (Isa 1:11-15). It was the duty of some of the priests to stand at the doors of the court of the altar of burnt offerings, and to have excluded blemished victims [Calvin].
11. For -- Since ye Jewish priests and people |despise My name| (Mal 1:6), I shall find others who will magnify it (Mt 3:9). Do not think I shall have no worshippers because I have not you; for from the east to the west My name shall be great among the Gentiles (Isa 66:19, 20), those very peoples whom ye look down upon as abominable.
pure offering -- not |the blind, the lame, and the sick,| such as ye offer (Mal 1:8). |In every place,| implies the catholicity of the Christian Church (Joh 4:21, 23; 1Ti 2:8). The |incense| is figurative of prayers (Ps 141:2; Re 8:3). |Sacrifice| is used metaphorically (Ps 51:17; Heb 13:10, 15, 16; 1Pe 2:5, 12). In this sense the reference to the Lord's Supper, maintained by many of the fathers, may be admitted; it, like prayer, is a spiritual offering, accepted through the literal offering of the |Lamb without blemish,| once for all slain.
12. Renewal of the charge in Mal 1:7.
fruit ... meat -- the offerings of the people. The |fruit| is the produce of the altar, on which the priests subsisted. They did not literally say, The Lord's table is contemptible; but their acts virtually said so. They did not act so as to lead the people to reverence, and to offer their best to the Lord on it. The people were poor, and put off God with the worst offerings. The priests let them do so, for fear of offending the people, and so losing all gains from them.
13. what a weariness is it! -- Ye regard God's service as irksome, and therefore try to get it over by presenting the most worthless offerings. Compare Mic 6:3, where God challenges His people to show wherein is the |weariness| or hardship of His service. Also Isa 43:22-24, wherein He shows that it is they who have |wearied| Him, not He who has wearied them.
snuffed at -- despised.
it -- the table of the Lord, and the meat on it (Mal 1:12).
torn -- namely, by beasts, which it was not lawful to eat, much less to offer (Ex 22:31).
thus ... offering -- Hebrew, mincha; the unbloody offering of flour, &c. Though this may have been of ordinary ingredients, yet the sacrifices of blemished animals accompanying it rendered it unacceptable.
14. deceiver -- hypocrite. Not poverty, but avarice was the cause of their mean offerings.
male -- required by law (Le 1:3, 10).
great King -- (Ps 48:2; Mt 5:35).
my name ... dreadful among ... heathen -- Even the heathen dread Me because of My judgments; what a reproach this is to you, My people, who fear Me not (Mal 1:6)! Also it may be translated, |shall be feared among,| &c. agreeing with the prophecy of the call of the Gentiles (Mal 1:11).