Malachi Chapter 1:God’s Care for Israel and their Inappropriate SacrificesMar 1st, 2012 | By admin | Category: Malachi, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Malachi is the last prophetic book of the Old Testament both in format and in its writing. The Book of Nehemiah may have been written slightly later, but it is a historical book, the chronological sequence being Ruth, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Because these four are historical books, they were not mixed in with the 12 Minor Prophets, which are basically prophecy mingled with a little history.
Although it is conjectural to say the Book of Malachi was written about the time of Nehemiah, the conclusion is logical because of the time sequence of the prophetic books and the historical books. They were both going down separate paths, with Malachi being the last of the prophetic books and Nehemiah being the last of the historical books. Thus the two books were contemporaneous.
The Book of Malachi was purportedly written just after Nehemiah’s service. When he went back to Israel the first time, he was given a 12-year leave of absence to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. At that time, he had the cooperation of the Jews and their obedience and zeal in trying to accomplish almost the impossible. When that leave of absence expired, he returned to Persia, and some years later he got a second leave of absence, the length of which is unknown.
The conditions of the nation were radically different on this second return to Jerusalem, being much like those prior to Babylonian captivity. By Malachi’s message, we can tell the nature of those conditions in Israel at that late date, which was not too long before the coming of Jesus at the First Advent. In round numbers, Malachi’s ministry took place around 400 BC.
No detailed accurate historical information is known about Malachi as a person. Hebrew traditions furnish some light but not with a sufficiency of credibility as to who he was and his background.
Mal. 1:1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
Comment: “Malachi” means “my messenger,” that is, Jehovah’s messenger. The same Hebrew root word appears three other times in the Book of Malachi. “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” (Mal. 2:7). “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 3:1).
Reply: Yes, and verse 1, which is the first instance of the Hebrew word, can be read, “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by my messenger.” Thus this prophetic book is called the “Book of Malachi” because of this mysterious “my messenger.” Based on the New Testament, we find out who that messenger is from a spiritual standpoint, but certainly the book was written by some individual back there—a messenger used by God to record this prophecy and to speak to Israel. However, who he was and where he was born are a mystery. The identity of “my messenger” is unknown.
As stated the name Malachi means “my messenger.” A supposition is that the name means “messenger of Jehovah,” but to have this meaning, the name would have to be “Malachiah.” Of course the Jews feel he was a messenger of Jehovah and add the “ah.” Probably that is the case, although the definition is not ironclad. Elsewhere in the book, the theme of “messenger” is used.
“By Malachi” is “by the hand of Malachi” in the Hebrew. Because of the subsequent message, we know the book was addressed to both houses of Israel.
Mal. 1:2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
Mal. 1:3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
The Book of Malachi was written a little differently in that the prophet repeatedly raised a question and then answered it. He brought out the Jews’ thinking in question form, revealing their sad lack of appreciation for what Jehovah had done for them.
First, God spoke to Israel: “I have loved you.” Then the thinking of the Jews was given: “Wherein have you loved us?” God replied, “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother, yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”
This book starts with the chief individuals Jacob and Esau. God should not have been put in the embarrassing position of having to give a rebuttal to the Jews’ thinking. The Israelites had the nerve to question God, and now He condescended to come down to their level and answer the common gripe of much of the populace as to whether He really loved them.
Let us reason on the situation. Jacob and Esau were twins. When they were born, God exercised His prerogative to show a preference for Jacob above Esau. The Israelites were forgetting that God blessed Jacob more than Esau. Jacob got the spiritual blessing, as well as temporal blessings many years later, whereas Esau was blessed only along temporal lines.
What was the lesson for Israel? God was telling the people to go back to history where His providences had been exercised on their behalf as a people. He was saying, “Did not I show a preference for Jacob when he was born in contradistinction to Esau?”
Since Esau was the older twin brother, would he not have asked, “Why did the Lord choose Jacob?” There is a lot behind the buildup of feeling and animosity between Arabs and Jews.
Underneath is a current of controversy. To this day, a deep-rooted enmity exists between them, and the hostility began back in Genesis when Jacob fled for his life because Esau wanted to kill him. Later there was a reconciliation, and of course in the future, there will be a reconciliation, settling this hostility.
God was saying, “Jacob and Esau were twins, but I did not choose Esau, even though he was the elder brother.” God’s decision should have answered the argument. If we follow through on Jacob’s posterity, we can see that God dealt with Israel in a special sense through the Period of the Judges and the Period of the Kings. God went back to the beginning of their history and, by inference, also pointed to the present day. The root problem was with the complainers themselves.
“And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” Edom was laid waste by King Nebuchadnezzar. We should keep in mind that the Book of Malachi was written around 400 BC, which was after the destruction of the Babylonian Empire. The Jews returned to their homeland following the decree of Cyrus in 536 BC, and they had been in their land for approximately 100 years when the question was raised, “Wherein hast thou loved us?”
A twofold desolation of Edom was shown in Obadiah 10-12, as follows:
“For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.
“In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.
“But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.”
The Book of Obadiah was a prophecy of what would happen to Edom at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar. (The time setting was many years earlier than the writing of Malachi.) God pronounced His displeasure on Edom and prophesied of the waste that would occur. Ammon, Moab, Edom, Egypt, and other countries were all taken into captivity. To this day, Edom, which is now the southern portion of Jordan, is sparsely populated and poor compared to the Amman area in the north where the main population lives, crops are grown, and industry exists.
The Amplified Old Testament reads, “I have loved you, says the Lord. Yet you say, In what and how have You loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord; yet I loved Jacob (Israel), But [in comparison with the degree of love I have for Jacob] I have hated Esau [Edom], and have laid waste his mountains.” In other words, God’s love for Esau was as nothing compared to His love for Jacob.
Jeremiah 49:13 mentions the perpetual wastes of Edom: “For I have sworn by myself, saith the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.” From the prophetic standpoint, Edom, Bozrah, and Esau all represent Christendom. Once nominal Christendom falls, the desolation will be everlasting.
Thus literal Edom is a fitting picture of spiritual Edom.
Obadiah 19 reads, “And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain the Philistines”; that is, the Gaza Strip and Edom will become part of Israel.
What audacity for Israel to respond, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” Not only was Jacob the father of the nation, but his name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28).
“And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” Edom’s mountains were laid waste around 606 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar made Judah, Egypt, Edom, etc., desolate without inhabitant. But the fact that verse 3 was written much later in history suggests God’s wisdom in His preferential choice of Jacob because Esau’s subsequent behavior was not right. As a people, the Edomites were the very ones who condemned Israel. Also, Edom frustrated the Israelites at the time of the Exodus. When the Israelites wanted to go to the Land of Promise, Edom was the first country they encountered in going from south to north. Moses said, “We will not take even water from you. Just let us go peaceably by the highway, and I will guarantee that we will not do anything inordinate in our passage.” However, the Edomites refused to give permission, and Moses and the children of Israel had to travel down below in the hot desert to continue their journey. Eventually the Lord visited judgment on Ammon, Moab, and Edom.
Comment: The Book of Malachi was written about the time of Nehemiah, so when the Israelites said, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” the setting was after the 70 years of Babylonian captivity and after God had allowed the Jews to return to Israel.
Reply: God did a lot for the Israelites through the Period of the Judges and the Period of the Kings. He could have turned His back on them, but for Abraham’s sake, He did not do so. The books of Obadiah and Malachi bring out multiple facets of the Israelites’ disobedience. For one thing, they were superficial worshippers. They supposedly worshipped God, but their disobedience was rampant, just like nominal Christendom in the antitype.
The term “dragons of the wilderness” refers to misfits among the animals, such as rodents, foxes, poisonous snakes, and scorpions, which destroy crops and are dangerous to man. In addition to heat and the lack of water in the wilderness, these creatures were enemies.
Mal. 1:4 Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. [for a long time, Hebrew olam]
Verse 4 is a reaffirmation of what was stated in Obadiah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah regarding Edom’s experiences. Here we see the thoughts of the Edomites when they were displaced.
They had hope in their hearts that they would someday return to the original homeland and settle there again. The Edomites would try to rebuild what had been made desolate, but their efforts would come to naught. Accordingly, very few inhabitants live there today, and this is especially noticeable in the journey south to Petra, even though the soil is rich. The land is undeveloped desert, yet northern Jordan is relatively advanced.
Ever since this judgment under King Nebuchadnezzar, Edom has been nothing as a country. Previously, the land was very fertile with hundreds of thousands of sheep and goats, but after the 70-year captivity, the experience was the opposite.
“They shall build, but I will throw down.” For example, cities with big buildings are buried in the desert sand. In what way was Edom called, “The border of wickedness”? The part of Israel that borders Edom was like a line. If a person stepped over that boundary line, he was in the land “of wickedness.” Stated another way, a stigma became attached to Edom. The situation was tit for tat—Israel did not think too highly of Edom, and vice versa for various reasons. The Edomites were also called, “The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.”
For instance, even if the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah had not been buried under the Dead Sea, who would want to go into such an unholy place? The thought would be very much in mind that these were the cities God destroyed for wickedness. Actually, God did the same thing with Edom. Knowledge of the behavior of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah has persisted to this day, so the terms are part of our current language.
Mal. 1:5 And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
The Israelites would say, “The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.” From a practical standpoint, a line was drawn. On Israel’s side of the line, the land was blessed, and on the other side, it was cursed. Therefore, from that border inward into Israel, the land was blessed, and from that border outward into Edom, the land was cursed, for it was a land of wickedness and ill repute. Apparently, there was some obvious border line. Incidentally, even in the desert, there are border lines, which consist of one or two stones on top of each other.
Perhaps a hundred feet later is another boundary of stones for some bedouin tribe.
Q: Based on the Revised Standard Version, does verse 5 also include the thought that Israel’s borders will be extended into Edom in the Kingdom?
A: Yes, that is true, although the borders will not be extended too much into Edom, for that land was promised to Esau for a possession. The actual future borders of Israel will be from the river Arnon in Ammon and Moab. At the time the Israelites entered the land under Joshua, God gave 2 1/2 tribes an inheritance east of the Jordan River, but anything south of the river Arnon as a line of demarcation remained a possession of non-Israelites.
Other Scriptures tell us that God will extend the borders of Israel up into the land of Gilead.
When the influx of Jews occurs after the Kingdom is established, the land west of Jordan will be too small; it will be like a straitjacket. Therefore, Israel will get the east bank but up in the north. In addition, Israel will get part of the Sinai.
From the standpoint of the time after the 70 years’ captivity, there was a line of demarcation, but as regards the future, there will be a change from the border of Israel. The account here in Malachi does not tie down the change as including only the border between Israel and Edom.
Mal. 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
Mal. 1:7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
What condescension! The great Jehovah came down and reasoned with puny man on certain principles the people lacked. God asked, “Doesn’t a son honor his father? If I am a Father, why are you not honoring me as such?” In other words, the Israelites were not respecting God as their Father. We pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9). As a people, the Israelites were not hallowing God’s holy name and entreating Him as a Father, yet they were His children, for He had fostered that nation. It was unheard of for a human servant to talk back to his human master in those days. Up until relatively recent times, servants could be executed for insubordination, but here Israel, the “servant,” was not obeying its “master” (God). If God is the Master, where was their reverence?
God said, “O priests, that despise my name.” Worst of all, the priests, those most responsible, despised God’s name by their actions. Their lips professed one thing, but their thoughts and actions indicated otherwise. Hypocrites serve God in name only, taking His name in vain.
The priests asked, “How have we despised thy name?” God replied, “You offer polluted bread on my altar.” Imagine! The priests offered polluted bread on God’s altar, yet they had the nerve to ask, “How have we polluted you?” God answered them, “You say that the table of the LORD is contemptible.” Actions and deeds, as well as words, are indicators of the heart, at least to some extent. (We are not to secretly love God and Jesus, for if we do not outwardly demonstrate our love, we are hiding our light.) Therefore, by their actions, the priests showed their lack of respect for God. The indicator was that they offered “polluted bread,” that is, old or leavened bread, cereal, etc., offerings. In other words, the priests offered God what they felt they could conveniently dispose of. While ostensibly depriving themselves, they offered polluted bread to Him. Perhaps the flour was moldy, for example. The onlookers thought the offering was generous, but God knew the true condition of the offering and the offerer’s heart and motive. Instead of discarding the spoiled or inferior food, the priests put it on the altar— how blasphemous! They reasoned, “God will not come down here and strike us dead.” The Lord’s table was regarded as more or less ceremonial; it was meaningless as far as vitality or power was concerned, so the priests just went through the motions.
The priests’ errant and irreverent behavior influenced the populace, for what they did, the people did. The same is true today. The environment is corrupting the people, and the disobedience of the leaders hastens the disobedience of the people.
Spiritually speaking, the same wrong principles exist in nominal Christendom. For example, one can go from the Mass to the tavern. The priesthood helps to corrupt the people by advocating the burning of a few candles, giving a donation, or entering the Confessional. Instead the priesthood should stress real repentance and godly living. Many violations in moral behavior are condoned by both Catholics and Protestants.
With God being invisible and far away, the temptation was to assume He could not see, but He sees everywhere. The darkest place on earth is like sunshine to Him.
No matter where the Christian is—in the desert, on a mountain, or in a dungeon covered with concrete—God can see him because He is the Emperor of the universe. He allows liberty and license now because mankind are living during the permission of evil, and the evil is a test.
The “polluted bread” was food, including both cereal and meat offerings—everything of a food value that was put on the altar. While the people offered the polluted bread, the priests took it from their hands and laid it on the Lord’s altar. The priests should have pointed out this bad behavior instead of condoning it. To think that Almighty God would even stoop to reason with fallen creatures shows His concern for and interest in people, especially the consecrated. Sooner or later He will give everybody an opportunity for a favorable destiny. Of course at the present time, He is looking for those at the highest level and mercifully provides for a secondary spiritual class. Faith would say that to have any kind of life in the spirit realm is far superior to perfect life on the human plane. In fact, for anything beautiful and wonderful down here, the spiritual correspondencies will be exceedingly marvelous. Our Heavenly Father is a gracious, loving God, and He does not want to visit Second Death on anyone until an individual merits it. Everyone will be given the opportunity to escape death and get life.
“The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy … dwell[s] in the high and holy place, [but stoops down to dwell] with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15). We appreciate this quality of our Heavenly Father, for when we see a person in a lowly condition crying for help, especially for deliverance from sin, our heart is also touched. Not only is God just, powerful, and wise, but He is loving as well.
How did the Israelites pollute God’s altar by saying, “The table of the LORD is contemptible”?
They were doing this by sign language, and actions are sometimes louder than words. For example, if we say something that sounds wonderful but do something contemptible, that behavior is louder than the words. Thus the priests were not literally saying, “God’s table is contemptible,” but they were doing and condoning evil practices.
Comment: The principle is the same in Jude 4, which states that ungodly individuals in the true Church turn the grace of God “into lasciviousness” and deny “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” They do not verbalize a denial but deny God and Jesus by their actions.
Reply: Similarly, Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4). By the act of persecuting Christians, Saul was, in effect, persecuting Jesus.
Q: Are we to understand that this father-son relationship was on a national level, rather than on a personal level?
A: Yes. The unique difference with the gospel Church, which was introduced as an entirely new relationship, is that the relationship is on a personal level. In the Exodus, God regarded the nation of Israel as a child in a collective sense.
Mal. 1:8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
Comment: The Revised Standard is good. “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that no evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that no evil? Present that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.”
What a scathing denunciation! Blind, lame, and sick animals were being offered to Almighty God! The priests incurred double responsibility in winking the eye at these perfunctory practices. They saw what was happening, but they said nothing because they wanted to stay friends with the offerers. They knew that the Law required perfect animals, healthy and whole, yet they allowed unacceptable offerings. The people were supposed to give their best. In fact, if the tithe selected a lame animal, a perfect one had to be substituted.
Here was the strong reality in question form: “Would you do such a thing to your earthly ruler?” If the Israelites gave their governor such an offering, he would spit in their face. It would be less hypocritical to give no sacrifice at all than to insult him with that offering.
Inherently, the people would not treat their governor that way because they knew what would result, yet they did not worry about the table of the Lord as long as they made a good appearance. Since the lamb was slain and skinned and the meat looked good on the altar, they reasoned, “Who will know?”
When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem the second time and saw how hypocritical the people were, he was boiling mad. By nature, he was generous and considerate in his thinking and not a firebrand like Ezra, but under these conditions, he was very disturbed. While he was back in Persia, the Israelites in Jerusalem had developed a lot of bad habits, which he now discovered.
And this was the setting for the Book of Malachi. Thus the traditional time placement of Malachi being contemporary with Nehemiah seems to be correct.
Q: What are some of the spiritual lessons in verses 1-8?
A: While Edom was desolate and represents Christendom in a spiritual sense, there is a triple fulfillment based on other prophecies. (1) Of course literally in the type, prior to Malachi’s day,
King Nebuchadnezzar had taken Edom captive to Babylon. The desolation still remains, for Edom is a “mean” nation even today. But now the prophet was writing of a subsequent and lasting desolation. (2) Some prophecies indicate there will be another destruction of Edom by Israel at the end of the age, still future. As indicated by the prayer in Psalm 83, Israel will have an astounding victory over the Arabs prior to Jacob’s Trouble. (3) In addition, the desolation of Edom pictures the destruction of Christendom.
The Book of Malachi started out with the people’s question to God: “What evidence is there that you love us?” God used Jacob as a lesson or proof of His love for Israel. Not only had He shown His preference for Jacob over Esau, but He laid a curse of punishment, or judgment, on Edom as a people. Then He said, “In addition to the love I showed you in the past in regard to Jacob and Esau and a judgment already inflicted on Esau, there will be another judgment. Then, eventually, your eyes will be opened to see my love for you.” This love will be manifested after the Jews are converted as a nation at the end of Jacob’s Trouble.
If an earthly ruler would not accept a lame or blind animal, how much less would God accept such a sacrifice! In the antitype, the nominal Church, which professes to be the people of God, has committed these sins in principle. And in regard to the true brotherhood, we must carefully search our own lives to see if we are guilty.
Q: Aside from the literal sacrifices where the Israelites cheated with sick animals, would the next level of application be when Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for being hypocrites and spiritually blind and lame?
A: Yes, and natural Israel is committing the same sins today. The nation is not godly, and neither is the United States. Despite Israel’s rich heritage, the people have not proclaimed a national fast with heartfelt mourning. Now we can see the reason for the Holy Remnant’s being chosen. Sincere, godly Jews will be richly blessed.
Comment: It is confusing because Edom and Israel are both mentioned, and both can represent nominal spiritual Israel. Can Israel also represent true spiritual Israel?
Reply: That is why we are studying Malachi. When we observe what natural Israel did, we should ask, “Are we, as individuals, doing the same thing? Are we taking the Lord’s name in vain?” We are studying the principles of how to show the Lord by our deeds that we are either a true or a nominal spiritual Israelite.
Q: In what way does Edom picture Christendom?
A: Esau lost the birthright because he esteemed a meal (a mess of pottage) to be of more value (Gen. 25:29-34). Jacob properly appreciated the spiritual birthright, the spiritual promise given to Abraham (“In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed”—Gen. 8:14), whereas Esau wanted material things, the goods of this life. Jacob pictures the true Church, who are looking for the spiritual birthright. Esau pictures the nominal Church, who forfeit the spiritual blessings, even though they had them first.
For us to have an insight into and an appreciation of God’s Word is an unbelievable privilege. In ignoring the Bible, people are missing a Godsend. The early settlers of America greatly appreciated the Scriptures and religious freedom. Proportionately speaking, many more people were godly back there than today.
Mal. 1:9 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.
The Amplified Old Testament reads, “Now then I [Malachi] beg of you priests, Entreat God earnestly that he will be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand [that is, as a defective animal for sacrifice], will he accept it or show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts.”
Verse 9 was scathingly directed to the priestly leadership.
Malachi was speaking: “And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us.” In his long prayer as an exponent of his people before the throne of grace, Daniel said, “We have sinned.” Similarly, the exemplary Malachi wanted the priests to petition God to be gracious “unto us.”
Comment: Instead the priests should have been asking Malachi to beseech God on their behalf. Reply: Yes, they would have manifested a repentant attitude by requesting Malachi to do the praying: “Would you pray to God for us? Because of our behavior and our sins, we feel we are not fit to be before the throne of grace.”
“This hath been by your means”; that is, “This has been the result of your doings.” The priests were responsible for what they had done.
“Will he regard your persons?” In other words, if the people did not thoroughly repent and change their behavior, would God just forgive them? If they did not repent, their habitual conduct would lead to harsh judgment. The priests were to pray that God would be gracious, and they were to acknowledge that any judgment against His people under this circumstance was thoroughly justified. God was giving opportunity for repentance. Ostensibly, the people were making offerings for their sins, but offerings of sick and lame animals were meaningless.
Would God regard this insincere outward show of penance? No! The people needed to beseech God for mercy and forgiveness for their contemptible actions that were so displeasing to Him.
Comment: Verse 9 is confusing because of the change from Malachi’s speaking to the phrase “saith the LORD of hosts.”
Reply: Malachi was quoting God, who had instructed him to speak this way. Having learned from the Lord what was displeasing, he transmitted this message but in a way that was different from the other prophets. Malachi had the liberty to use common-sense thinking.
Mal. 1:10 Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
Comment: A transliteration of part of verse 10 is, “I would that one among you would shut the doors of the temple that no more vain fire should kindle on my altar.” It would have been better for the Israelites to offer no sacrifices than to offer sick animals.
Verse 10 is still directed to the priests. Again we will read from the Amplified Old Testament, which takes some liberties: “O that there were one among even you, whose duty it is to minister to me, who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar to no purpose—an empty, futile, fruitless pretense. I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts; nor will I accept an offering from your hand.”
Q: What is the thought of “shut the doors”?
A: In their leadership position, the priests could have stopped the pretense, sham, and hypocrisy. By being derelict in their responsibility, they were actually leading the people astray.
The priests should have “shut the doors” to this malpractice.
If the sick, blind, and lame animals being offered in the outer court of the Temple were unacceptable, then any incense kindled in the Holy was also unacceptable.
Comment: The Revised Standard reads, “Oh, that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire upon my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.”
God had no pleasure in the people’s offerings. The Israelites thought that their lame and diseased animals would be acceptable and that thereby they were rendering their dues to the Creator of the universe. However, by bringing such animals, the people were, in reality, shutting the doors for God’s approval. Did they now expect Him to open the doors for them?
Ostensibly, they came in a reverential attitude, but actually, they were cheating God.
The wording was intentional so that the verse could be interpreted in different ways. The wrong principle of offering sick animals was being emphasized, but what is a “sick” animal? Perhaps the animal looked normal and could run around and be quite frisky, but it may have had a lesion on one leg, for example. Other animals actually looked sick, especially if they were lame and hobbled.
Comment: Since Malachi was the last of the prophetic books, it was written quite far down in Israel’s history. The priesthood was hereditary, and by this time, it had deteriorated. Isaiah 9:15 is applicable to the degenerating situation: “The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.”
Reply: Yes, the “ancient and honourable” head began with the Patriarchs. Abraham was almost like a priest in his own way, that is, until he met Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20). At the time of Moses, specific laws were given, making a distinction between the civil and the ecclesiastical.
Mal. 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
The King James future tense is correct. The Gentiles would be favored because of Israel’s defective offerings. God was saying to Israel, “With your polluted practices, is it any wonder that in the future, I will turn to the Gentiles, and their purer offerings will be acceptable?” The Gentiles would eventually be drawn into God’s inner circle, as it were. Stated another way, subsequent offerings by Gentiles in the Gospel Age would be acceptable to God.
Some Jews appreciate this reasoning, especially the ultra-Orthodox, who know that the God of Israel will convert the world. In Malachi’s day, the Israelites’ behavior had gotten to such a low common denominator that while they offered clean animals, their spirit was wrong. A wrong spirit was bad enough, but to make matters tenfold worse, they offered sick and lame animals.
But even if they had offered good animals, their offerings would still have been offensive because of their attitude. By their offering lame animals, their wrong motives were clearly apparent. Jesus said that we are to judge people by their fruits, by their actions (Matt. 7:16-20).
We judge a tree by its fruit, but we cannot judge a tree before the time of fruit bearing. As a general rule, we cannot judge motives, but once the motives come out in behavior, that is another matter. We can then recognize certain things that take place.
“And in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.” This language is figurative yet literal, and of course the message would not have been too popular when Malachi was addressing the priesthood. The words “heathen” and “Gentiles” are synonymous terms in this instance.
Comment: The people wanted to keep the best animals for themselves, and the priests were culpable for not intervening and stopping the offering of diseased and lame animals.
Reply: Yes, that was the people’s habitual practice. Surely the priests would not have taken the right shoulder, leg, etc., of a sick animal for themselves, for their portion. In many cases, a piece of the animal was offered to God, a piece went to the priests, and the residue went to the person making the offering.
Mal. 1:12 But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
Verse 12 is similar to verse 5. The Amplified Old Testament has, “But you priests profane it when, by your actions, you say, The table of the LORD is polluted, and the fruit of it is contemptible and may be despised [disregarded].” In other words, the priests did not think it was important to be that careful about the offerings. They thought of the sacrifices from a ceremonial standpoint only, but God desired the proper spirit with the ceremony.
“Ye say” means “by your actions or deeds you are saying”; that is, the disobedience was not necessarily done audibly by the lips. A common saying is, “Actions speak louder than words.”
Verse 12 is a summarization of the Lord’s table being polluted. Fruit, meat, and bread are more or less synonymous terms, relatively speaking. The deeds that accompanied these offerings were similar to the offerings in that the offerers were sick and lame, let alone what they were offering. Such acts were an outward manifestation of an inward moral sickness.
Mal. 1:13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.
Verses 13 and 14 applied to both the individual offerers and the priests; both were responsible.
The offerings were regarded as drudgery. Instead the Israelites should have simply accepted the offerings as God’s will, even if they did not understand them. Today, as people develop intellectually, they tend to regard all sacrifices as bloody and offensive, but God instituted the animal sacrifices—and He will do so again in the future with Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezek. 40:38-43; 42:13; 43:18-27; 44:11,15,27,29; 45:15-25; 46:2-7,11-15,20,23,24).
Comment: What a great blessing it will be when the Jews back there are raised from the tomb and given an explanation of the sacrifices! Then they will understand why the instructions were so particular.
To those Israelites who meditated on the sacrifices, it would have been clear that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22). Realizing that the life was in the blood would have helped them to accept a crucified Savior—a suffering Messiah. The Law was a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ, but the Israelites forgot (and failed to reason on) God’s works and miracles (Gal. 3:24).
The common-sense logic was, If the Israelites brought polluted animals, would God accept them? No! But the Israelites viewed the ceremonies as having no power. Their attitude was, “Who can say nay if we bring a lame animal?” They felt there was no danger in disobedience.
Faith was required for the people to see that disrespect for God and the divine will would jeopardize their future.
Comment: An example of an improper offering in the antitype, that is, in nominal spiritual Israel, is a prayer that is read. The prayer should come spontaneously from the heart.
“Behold, what a weariness is it!“ The worshippers were weary of all the sacrificing. There were two reasons for the fatigue.
1. Sometimes the animal had to be carried, and that was a physical burden, let alone a temporal loss in sacrificing the animal. The whole arrangement did not appeal to the Israelites.
It would have been much easier and quicker to just have a monetary exchange. Trying to explicitly follow all of the instructions was very wearying—taking the animal to the door of the Holy, skinning it, etc., etc. The people would rather have paid someone else to do the work.
2. The Israelites began to question why God wanted these things done. They were saying in effect, “The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof … is contemptible” (verse 12).
They murmured in their hearts, and their discontent manifested itself when they offered diseased animals. In fact, they brought animals that were sick, blemished, lame, blind, female (only males were to be offered), and even dead. They did not appreciate God’s care for them (“Wherein hast thou loved us?”—verse 2). They felt God was very impersonal and not helping them, so their attitude was, “Why do these things? Why should we expend money and effort when we cannot even see God with our eyes?” Yet they continued to offer imperfect sacrifices out of habit because everyone else did and that was the norm. Many do things—and have done them all down the age—without enthusiasm because they say, “What will the neighbors think if we do not do such and such?” That motivation is not proper for either Christian or Jew.
God had done tremendous miracles for Israel, such as delivering them from bondage in Egypt and through the Red Sea. From time to time, the prophets referred to such miracles as if to say, “If you are asked to do something you do not understand, do not question; obey on faith. God does not have to explain every detail to you. Trust Him!” The Israelites failed to think of God as their Father, as a personal, caring Deity. Thus the requirements of sacrifice were burdensome to them.
Comment: In the antitype in our day, this condemnation shows that nominal priests and ministers preside at a table that is full of rottenness.
Reply: In the Harvest period, the nominal spiritual table is likened to a table of vomit (Isa. 28:8;
1 Cor. 10:21). The responsibility of the religious leaders is thus shown. However, while we criticize those in the nominal Church, we have to be careful with regard to ourselves. It is easy to be critical of others, but we need to examine our own personal behavior. God is looking for the proper qualities in anyone who will be a priest and a king in the next age.
“Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts.” What is another way of saying the same thing? After the people had been making their offerings in a perfunctory, superficial manner for a while, not only did they develop a character along those lines, but their attitude led to utter contempt where they did not even bring an offering because of weariness. Spiritually speaking, we have to be careful that we do not get discouraged and disappointed but that we hold fast the profession of our faith to the end of our course, no matter what others do or say that is contrary to God’s Word, the bottom line.
Here, then, were those who became ungodly outwardly. What can happen in the antitype?
Some get tired of being a Christian and say, “What is the use? Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.” They then forsake even the profession of Christianity.
There are three conditions or circumstances for the Christian: (1) A person is growing in grace, (2) he comes to a standstill, or (3) he is backsliding. Before a person backslides, he usually comes to a standstill. Individuals are very enthusiastic when they first consecrate, but as time goes on, a lot of temptations and discouragements occur. Sometimes a person comes to a standstill, and that is the critical time because any backsliding is like going downstream, making it more difficult to retrace one’s steps against the current. In some of his sermons, the Apostle Paul seemed to be addressing individuals who had come to a standstill and were in danger of going backward into oblivion.
Mal. 1:14 But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
“I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is [shall be—future tense] dreadful among the heathen.” The word “dreadful” means “reverentially feared.” God’s name will be reverentially feared and thoroughly respected in the future.
“But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing.” The implication is that female animals were offered. An individual had a male in his flock but offered a substitute female.
Comment: The thought of verse 14 is, “Cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a perfect male but sacrifices unto God a corrupt thing (a female).”
Reply: Yes. Also, inferior and diseased animals were substituted.
Why did God conclude by saying, “I am a great King, and my name shall be reverentially feared among the heathen”? God’s silence was not a sign of weakness. He was giving the Israelites an opportunity to manifest their love, but there was a limit to His patience. God was patient because He was merciful to them, but the Israelites had gone too far and judgment would come! A lesson for Christians is that we should tremble at the Lord’s Word and never minimize its importance.
Verse 11 and the end of verse 14 use the same reasoning: “My name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering.” A day will come in the future when God’s name is exalted in all nations. In every nation, “incense” will be offered to His name—a “pure offering.” Verse 14 shows that because the Israelites were misusing their grant of favor, the light and blessing would be extended to the Gentiles. Jesus was “a light to [en]lighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32).
We should keep in mind that the Book of Malachi was written after the end of the 70-year captivity in Babylon. The Israelites still had not learned their lesson. Later this book will mention the “messenger of the covenant” (3:1). Some would give this reference to Jesus a superficial interpretation by saying it applies to Malachi himself, for his name means “messenger of Jehovah.”
Verse 14 is a lesson or caution that comes down to us, for we have made a vow of consecration and we sacrifice unto the Lord. It is easy to criticize others, but we, too, could be guilty of offering “a corrupt [or unacceptable] thing.” However, we cannot deceive the Heavenly Father. For that reason, the Pastor suggested there are times when we should do some soul searching and take spiritual inventory, especially when we come to a standstill and are discouraged. We must weigh matters, for to forsake the way would be utterly foolish and would lead to losing our sense of reasoning on spiritual matters. We cannot fake honoring the Lord, and these matters require soul searching because every one of us is imperfect. All are corrupt; “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). That statement is still true of the consecrated, the difference being that they have the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Therefore, we must watch out for the old man, the old creature, that is in us and reasons with us, for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). At one time or another, deceitful things come into all of our minds, and we must deal with them. Malachi repeated over and over this practical, common-sense lesson about lame and sick animals—as if he were trying to drum it into dull heads.
Verse 14 can also be explained as follows. It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the offerer had good intentions. He had “in his flock a male, and voweth,” but he “sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing.” In other words, he had a male in his flock and vowed to give it to the Lord—and probably the animal was not sick to start with. But subsequently the offerer had second thoughts, so at the time of the offering, he substituted an inferior animal.
“For I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.” The heathen feared their gods, thinking they were easily angered and had to be pacified. They did not regard them as gods of love. Consequently, they would be afraid to offer a sick animal. A lesson for the Christian is not to get too familiar with the Heavenly Father, for to do so leads to carelessness.
Comment: The Lord is not looking for flowery language. He wants humility, simplicity, and wholesomeness. The Law forbade the offering of “honey” with sacrifices because it pictured flattery (Lev. 2:11).
(2001, 1992, and 1971 Studies)