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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Malachi 2:13

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.

13. Et hoc secundo fecistis, operiendo lachrymis altare Iehovae fletu et ploratu, eo quod amplius non respicitur ad oblationem, et non suscipitur beneplacitum e manu vestra.

The Prophet amplifies again the fault of the priests, because the people, when they perceived that God was adverse to them, found no means of pacifying him. And when men have an idea that God is inexorable to them, every zeal for religion must necessarily decay; and hence it is said in Psalm 130:4 -- |With thee is propitiation, that thou mayest be feared.| As the people then gained nothing by sacrificing, they had now nearly fallen off from divine worship. This evil, a most grievous one, the Prophet says, was to be justly ascribed to the priests; for as they were become polluted, how could their persons have been accepted by God, that they might be mediators to expiate sins and to pacify God?

This is the real meaning of the Prophet, which none of the interpreters have perceived. The Rabbins think that the priests are here reproved, because their wives filled the altar in the sanctuary with weeping, because they saw that their husbands did not faithfully treat them, according to the law of marriage; and almost all have agreed with them. Thus then they explain the verse -- Ye have in the second place done this; that is, |That sin was of itself sufficiently grievous, when ye suffered lean victims to be sacrificed to me, as it were in mockery; but in addition to this comes your sin against your wives, who continually complain and deplore their condition before the altar of God, even because they are not loved by you, as the right of marriage requires.| They thus refer the tears, the weeping, and lamentation, to the wives of the priests, which were so cruelly treated by their husbands: they were not able to do anything else than to fill God's sanctuary with their constant complaints. Hence they render, m'yn vd phnvt, main oud penut, |I will not therefore regard,| or, |no one regards;| but both versions are not only obscure, but wholly pervert the sense of the Prophet.

But what I have already stated is the most suitable -- that it was to be ascribed to the priests that no one could from the heart worship God, at least with a cheerful and willing mind; for God was implacable to the people, because the only way of obtaining favor under the law was when the priests, who represented the Mediator, humbly entreated pardon in the name of the whole people. But how could God attend to the prayers of the priests when they had polluted his altar by the filth of wickedness? We then see the object of this amplification -- Ye cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping and wailing. The praises of God ought to have resounded in the temple, according to what is said --

|Praise, O God, waits for thee in Zion.| (Psalm 65:1.)

And the principal sacrifice was, that the people exercised themselves in contemplating the blessings of God, and in thanksgiving. But he says that none went forth before the altar with a cheerful mind, but all were sad and sorrowful, because they found that God was severe and rigid.

And the reason is added -- m'yn vd phnvt, main oud penut, literally, |Is it not any more by regarding,| etc.? It is easy to see how far they depart from the meaning of the Prophet who read -- |They shall therefore offer no more;| for is this to be applied to God? Others also, who give this rendering -- |I shall not therefore accept,| pervert also the very letter of the text. But the most appropriate meaning is this -- that all wept and groaned before the altar, because they saw that they came there without any advantage, that their sacrifices did not please God, and that the whole worship was in vain, inasmuch as God did not answer their prayers. The Prophet ascribes the fault to the priests, that God did not turn to mercy, so as to forgive the people when they sacrificed. With weeping, then, he says, was the altar filled or covered, because God received not what pleased him from their hand; that is, because no victims pleased him which were offered by polluted and impure hands. He afterwards joins

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