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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy Third

I repeated yesterday the last verse of the first chapter, but I did not explain it. The Prophet declares here, that all who dealt deceitfully and unfaithfully with God were under a curse; and at the same time he specifies the kind of fraud practiced; they chose from the flock such as were diseased or defective to offer as sacrifices to God. It was indeed a proof of extreme dishonesty thus perversely to mock God: for as we have seen no man would bear such an insult. Then the Prophet, in order at once to complete what he had begun, distinctly says, that they were all accursed

The verb, nkl, necal, means in Hebrew, to think; but it is taken almost at all times in a bad sense: hence interpreters have not improperly rendered it here, deceitful; but the deceit the Prophet meant to express is of this kind -- when men craftily contrive for themselves vain pretences; for when they can cover their baseness before the world, they think that they are at the same time absolved in heaven. The Prophet then says, that they who think that they can escape God's judgment by such artifices are under a curse.

I come now to the kind of fraud they practiced, If there be, he says, in his flock a male, that is, a lamb or a ram, when he vows, then what is corrupt he offers to Jehovah. He then means, that though they pretended some religion, yet nothing was done by them with a sincere and honest heart; for they immediately repented of the vow made to God; they thought that they might be reduced to poverty, if they were too bountiful in their sacrifices. Hence then the Prophet proves that they offered to God with a double mind, and that whatever they thus offered was polluted, because it did not proceed from a right motive.

We said yesterday, that the Prophet did not require fat or lean beasts, because God valued either the blood or flesh of animals on its own account, but for the end in view; for these were the performances of religion by which God designed to train up the Jews for the end contemplated, and in the duty of repentance. As then they were so sordid as to these sacrifices, it was easy to conclude, that they were gross and profane despisers of God, and had no concern for religion.

The reason follows, For a great king am I, saith Jehovah, and my name is terrible among the nations. God declares here that his majesty was of no account among the Jews, as though he had said, |With whom do you think that you have to do?| And this is what we ought carefully to consider when engaged in God's service. We indeed know that it is a vice which has prevailed in all ages, that all nations and individuals thought that they worshipped God, when they devised foolish and frivolous rites according to their own fancies. If then we have a desire to worship God aright, we must remember how great he is; for his majesty will raise us up above the whole world, and cease will that audacity which possesses almost all mankind; for they think that their own will is a law, when they presumptuously obtrude anything on God. The greatness of God then ought to humble us, that we may not worship him according to the perceptions of our flesh, but offer him only what is worthy of his celestial glory.

He again repeats what we have before observed, though it was disregarded by the Jews, -- that he was a great king through the whole world. As then the Jews thought that sacrifices could not be offered to God, such as he would accept, in any other place but at Jerusalem, and in the temple on Mount Sion, he testifies that he is a great king even in the farthest parts of the world. It hence follows, that God's worship would not be confined to Judea, or to any other particular part of the world; for by the gospel the Lord would receive to himself all nations, and come into the possession of his kingdom. Now follows

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