Malachi Chapter 2: What God thinks of the Disobedient, Levi, Divorce

Mar 9th, 2012 | By | Category: Malachi, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Mal. 2:1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.

Verses 1-10 were again directed to Israel’s priests: “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.” God had a bone to pick with the priesthood. After hearing the rebuke in the previous chapter, the priests should have been sorry and repentant.

Mal. 2:2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.

If the priests did not repent and change their ways after hearing the instruction and being rebuked for past malpractices, God told them the consequences through the mouth of the Prophet Malachi; namely, they would be cursed. But why does the account say, “Yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart“? God knew that the priests would not have receptive hearts, that they would not repent. The principle is the same in Malachi 4:6 about the end of the Gospel Age: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” It is a foregone conclusion that the hearts will not be converted, so the curse will come on the earth.

God was saying to the priests, “I have just castigated you, but the lesson is not getting through.­­

I am telling you what the situation is, but your hearts are not receptive. Therefore, if you do not conform—and I know you will not do so based on your attitude—you will be cursed.”

Malachi made a great impression upon the Jews through several statements in his book that sounded like a curse (Mal. 3:1,2; 4:1,5,6). “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” When Elijah came, that day would be like an “oven,” and who would be able to “abide [stand]” it? The coming of Messiah was blended with those strong admonitions. The curse would come in a very strong way, yet mixed with that curse was the coming of Messiah, which was relatively near at hand.

Comment: Under the Law, the nation of Israel, the people, were told that if they obeyed, they would get blessings, and if they disobeyed, they would get curses.

Reply: Yes, that principle is inculcated in the Law. Similarly, we say that the law of gravity always exists, and so the basic principles in the Mosaic Law remain the same.

Q: Was God’s statement “I have cursed them already” part and parcel with the fact that the Israelites had been in captivity in one form or another ever since 606 BC, for even at this point, they were still a vassal state? That condition never ended until their destruction in AD 69-73.

A: Yes. Even though they went back to their land, they were a vassal state under the Persian Empire. Depending on who was the king in power, one period was quite brutal, and another was quite lenient.

“I [God] will curse your blessings.” This statement was addressed to the priests. Therefore, when the priests were asked to give a blessing, the opposite would result.

Comment: That statement is interesting. In other words, the blessings that the priests put on the people, who were giving corrupt sacrifices, turned into a curse.

“I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye [the priests] do not lay it [the commandment to give glory to my name] to heart.” God had started with an ultimatum: “If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, … I will even send a curse upon you.”

Mal. 2:3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.

The threat of punishment continued with verse 3 explaining the “curse.” “Behold, I [God] will corrupt your seed [grain].” Their “seed” was especially grain and food crops, but it could also be thought of as their children. Blight, a locust plague, a severe storm, or some other means would keep the seed from coming to full fruition for harvest. The seed would be sown, but it would not bring forth the anticipated crop.

Q: Would the curse affect the entire nation or just the seed of the priests?

A: The priests blessed the seed of others, but the blessing would not be effective. They were called upon to bless the seed of the fields of both individuals and households.

“Behold, I will … spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts.” The priests offered vital part(s) of the animal on the altar (for example, the breast, right shoulder, or inner organs), but God was saying, “When you come with an offering, I am going to put dung back in your face. Do you think I will accept the organs you are offering? I will give back the dung—I will push it onto your faces.” Thus we can see how repulsive the sick and polluted animal offerings were to God. “One shall take you away with it [the dung].” (Normally, the hide, hooves, and dung of the animals were taken outside the camp.)

A providence happens to individuals that will be understood better in the future. There are scriptural representations of the destiny of some of the false prophets and how they ended up.

Also, history records certain details of the retribution and demise of such individuals as Pontius Pilate. More information will be forthcoming in the Kingdom.

As time went on, the priesthood became a stench and an abomination to the people. This deterioration has also been true of the nominal Church in the Gospel Age; it started out pure but became the harlot. Because of money, ease, indolence, and the spirit (pleasures) of the world, the religious leaders became corrupt, bringing shame on the office of the priesthood—to reach a climax at the end of this age. A violent revolution will occur when the masses realize that Papacy’s reform (window dressing) is superficial, and Protestantism will have the same experience.

“The dung of your solemn feasts” referred in the type to animal sacrifices in the Temple. The animal was segmented at the altar into various parts for various purposes. Certain organs were to be sacrificed to the Lord, part of the animal was a meat offering or was given to the priesthood to be stored for later use, and part was to be burned outside the camp. Of course the entrails and excrement were also part of the animal. Some of the feasts took place on very solemn occasions. Therefore, when it came to the unpleasant and embarrassing parts (the entrails and the excrement), the priests had to discreetly cover them up in some way and carry them away lest they interfere with the lesson of the sacrifice. Only the organs to be offered on the altar were conspicuous. On these holy occasions, the excrement and entrails were handled with extra care. The hide, flesh, and dung were carried without the camp and burned in an appointed place, producing a stench in the nostrils of the people. However, like the aroma of roasting meat, the odor of the organs on the Brazen Altar was pleasing to those in the Holy.

God was displeased with the hypocrisy and the superficiality of the offerings, so He said He would rub the priests’ noses in the unpleasant parts (the dung): “I will … spread dung upon your faces.” He would actually do even more, as it were; He would plaster their faces with dung and cast the priests out with it. (Our delicate translations lose the power of this reasoning.)

When the public realize in the future that the institution of Papacy is false—that the whole arrangement is wrong and hypocritical—they will want to do to Papacy what God said He would do to the priests. They will tear down the system with indignation, and they will shame any who played a religious role in it.

“Behold, I will corrupt your seed [both their grain and their offspring].” The curses under the Law specified that the ground would be cursed as well as the fruit of the womb (Lev. 26:20,25; Deut. 28:18,40,42,51,53). Moreover, in battle the Israelites would be defeated by the enemy, etc. The “curse” had many ramifications.

“I will … spread dung upon your faces.” The word “dung” is used twice in verse 3. It is one thing to have dung on the head, on the hair, and it is another thing to have it on the face. On the head, “dung” is usually in the form of ashes, but in real grief, dung is substituted for ashes to show that one thinks of himself as filth. The ashes could be insincere because many faked repentance, but the use of actual dung was quite meaningful.

“I will … spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts.” In other words, the people’s “solemn feasts” were like dung to Jehovah. The religion was formal and hypocritical and hence was a stench in His nostrils. The ceremonial features of the Law were symbols. If the people had entered into the spirit of the symbols, they would have manifested sincerity. However, to not be in heart sympathy with the ceremonial features meant the people were going through the motions in a perfunctory manner.

“One shall take you away with it.” The supplied word “one” should be omitted. “I [God] will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, … and shall take [turn] you away with it.”

Jehovah was acting rather than the parties themselves. Therefore, to “take” the people away meant He was brushing them away as being offensive.

Comment: The entrails and the dung of certain animals offered for sacrifice were taken without the camp.

Reply: In the antitype, that procedure shows how the sacrifices of the Christian are esteemed by the world; that is, they are viewed as a stench. However, there was nothing wrong with a proper sin offering. Usually it was only on special days that the entrails and the dung were taken outside the camp—for example, when a new high priest was consecrated upon the death of the previous high priest or when the priest or the congregation as a whole had sinned. Thus the sacrifices were viewed as a stench rather than as a pleasing smell in the Lord’s nostrils.

Comment: Verse 3 was still being addressed to the priests.

Reply: Yes, although secondarily the people were also involved.

Mal. 2:4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

Before discussing verses 4-6, we will take a related side path. Psalm 106:16 speaks of Aaron as “the saint of the LORD.” In the final analysis, Aaron was a very noble character who is referred to in Scripture in a favorable sense, notwithstanding the golden calf incident in Moses’ absence.

Numbers 16:3,4 reads, “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face.” The making of the golden calf is looked upon as a sign of weakness for Aaron, but let us consider the matter.

Certainly in a comparison, Moses was head and shoulders above Aaron in character, but Aaron is called a “saint.” When Moses was absent day after day after day, the people pressured Aaron and recognized him as the substitute head. As time passed, Aaron himself began to wonder what he should do, thinking perhaps Moses had died. After all, 40 days is a long time for someone to go up into a mountain and not return. (Since he had been second fiddle to Moses, he now felt a lack, a loss, when Moses did not return. If we had been greatly helped by someone we trusted and then he died, we, too, would be in a dilemma.) Thus Aaron was put in a very strange situation.

Based on other Scriptures where Aaron is given a favorable connotation, we reason that God must have appreciated his unique position and the great pressure put upon him by the people.

Normally when we are weakened by a sudden experience, we may not be as fully responsible for some things that we do because our mind and emotions are in a scrambled state. Such is not our normal attitude. In contrast, Israel’s priests habitually did wrong; offering polluted offerings was their normal practice. Chapters 1 and 2 of Malachi criticized the priests for their practiced deceit, whereas Aaron helped many people. His mouth and wisdom were a blessing to many of the Israelites.

Numbers chapter 16 records the incident where Korah, Dathan, and Abiram went to Moses and said, “You and Aaron speak too much and assume too much authority. What about us? Didn’t God appoint the tribe of Levi? Shouldn’t we share in the leadership role?”

Moses replied, “Don’t you realize that God has already blessed you with the privilege of coming near to Him in the Tabernacle services?” (The inference was that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were not a Moses or an Aaron.) As a person of renown in Israel, Korah was the spokesman for the rebellion, but he went even further, saying, “Everyone in the congregation is equal to you, Moses and Aaron, in the Lord’s sight. They are all holy.” (Korah was not referring just to the Levites but to the whole nation of Israel.) It is true that as long as the Israelites obeyed God, they were a separate people, but they were not in the category of Moses and Aaron (Amos 3:2). As a result, Moses had to make a test of Aaron’s rod, which budded, and Korah and the other rebels were destroyed.

The point is that Levi was pictured in a favorable light in the Book of Malachi, and the condemnation of the priesthood in the prophet’s day occurred around 400 BC, a long time afterward (Mal. 2:4,8). God’s covenant was with Levi, who was a man of “life and peace” (Mal. 2:5,6). He had a good stabilizing influence on the people, and he spoke words of instruction, wisdom, and purity. He brought many close to the Lord and turned them away from iniquity.

The Mosaic Law was even identified with the Levitical law, the law of Levi, showing that Levi was very reputable.

Back to the incident with Aaron and the golden calf. Yes, he did succumb and show weakness, but who would not have done the same in a similar circumstance? He was probably not in sympathy with the making of the golden calf but was merely stalling for time when Moses was gone for so many days. Aaron said he would go along with the idea if the calf could be made from gold earrings donated by the women. Trying a delaying tactic, he was surprised when the women responded—and so quickly. He had thought the costly personal sacrifice would stop the women or at least slow them down. In the meantime, he hoped Moses would return.

However, Moses did not come down from the mount until after the calf was made, and as the people’s representative, Aaron now felt obligated to proceed. First, a mold was made. Then it took several days to get the fire hot enough to melt the gold. Although Aaron did show weakness in this incident, there evidently was a change subsequently. After this experience and the one with Miriam, both of which happened early in the wilderness wanderings, Aaron was faithful and was approved of God. Psalm 133 gives the idealistic picture of the holy anointing oil being poured on Aaron’s head and running down his beard to the hem of his garment.

Malachi 2:8 states, “Ye [the priests in Malachi’s day] have corrupted the covenant of Levi.” The suggestion is that Levi was an honorable person. When we read the accounts of David, Jacob, and Levi, we find some unfavorable characteristics. For example, a prophecy about Levi mentioned weapons, showing he had a disposition that needed to be overcome, and so did David. But in the final analysis, David was a man after God’s own heart, and Levi, too, ended up with an honorable connotation. Therefore, we cannot be so high-minded as to what we would have done in the same circumstance.

Some Christians who say, “I would never do such and such,” end up doing that very thing. God is merciful to those who take the proper steps to conform to His character.

Jonah is another example. He was a true prophet of God, but the Holy Spirit chose to tell us of only one incident in his life. Because he was a stickler for righteousness, he could not understand God’s sending him to such a wicked city—Nineveh.

Earlier God said that if the priesthood did not obey the commandment and glorify Him, He would punish them and their seed. However, all things being equal, if the priesthood obeyed, God would keep the Levites in honor and let the covenant remain with them because He so appreciated the stand they had taken with Moses against the golden calf many years earlier.

However, in the meantime, something else had happened so that the future priesthood in Ezekiel’s Temple will be taken only from the Zadok branch of the Levites. Zadok was very devout in David’ day. Therefore, the covenant stayed with the Levites but was narrowed down to the lineage of Zadok. Notice that the Levites were addressed here as one man: “Levi.”

Why were Levi and his good attributes and faithfulness brought into the account here? There was a lot of condemnation of the priesthood in Malachi’s day, so these verses reminded the priests of their pure beginning and how the priesthood had become corrupted. The priesthood was being addressed, not the populace (verse 1).

During the days of Moses, the priesthood was an honorable profession. Infractions such as the offering of strange fire by Nadab and Abihu were punished so that the priesthood was kept pure. But after Moses deceased and time went on, the priesthood became corrupt.

The same principle applied to the kings of Israel and Judah. The majority were corrupt. Even with Saul, when he was chosen to be king, he was so bashful and humble that he hid, yet he was one of the tallest men in the nation. From that humble beginning, he was corrupted. The same experience has happened to many individuals who were blessed of the Lord initially. As stated earlier, the principle is, “The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail” (Isa. 9:15). When God establishes the Third Temple in the Kingdom, no Canaanite will be involved with any of the services (Zech. 14:21).

Mal. 2:5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.

Comment: Numbers 25:10-13 reads, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.”

Reply: Phinehas was of the tribe of Levi. By killing a man and a woman who were grievously sinning in the sight of the nation, he stayed a plague. With a javelin, he pierced both of them through. He was related to Levi, and by that action, he confirmed God’s interest in the continuity of the Levitical priesthood. In other words, the Levites, the moral instructors, intervened in a morality issue through the person of Phinehas.

“My covenant [of life and peace] was with him [Levi]”; that is, God’s covenant was originally with the Levites. Early in their history, the Israelites worshipped the golden calf. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai and found the golden calf, an imaginary line was drawn, and the question was asked, “Who is on the LORD’S side?” (Exod. 32:26). The Levites all quickly decided to take a stand for God and then, upon instruction from Him, slew their brothers until He told them to stop. This obedience showed that the Levites properly feared God. Thus of all the tribes, they were best suited to represent the religious aspect and to mediate between God and the nation. By taking Moses’ side, they evidenced character and were in a position to teach. As a whole, the Levites faithfully performed for a while, but corruption crept in as time went on.

The Levites were substituted for the firstborn, who were delivered from the tenth plague in Egypt. By sparing the firstborn, God had really “purchased” them, but instead He took the tribe of Levi. A covenant was then made with the Levites that they should represent the priesthood.

In verses 4-6, it is interesting to read at this very late date about the beginnings of Levi. Things were done that were right, and things were done that had flaws. But in looking back, we see that God evidently judges in regard to one’s habit of serving Him. Sometimes there are flaws because all are imperfect. For example, even though Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land because he smote the rock twice, Paul said that Moses had no fault from God’s standpoint, that is, in his overall character (Heb. 3:2). Both those in olden times before Christ and those in the Spirit-begotten Church of the Gospel Age have faults, but the Lord knows how to judge properly.

Mal. 2:6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.

It is hard to “turn many away from iniquity” if one is not a good example himself of walking properly before God. The priesthood of Malachi’s day was doing the opposite and, consequently, was leading many into iniquity.

“The law of truth was in his [Levi’s] mouth.” Levi was the first parent of the priesthood; that is, he preceded Aaron. The firstborn sons were ransomed, redeemed, and replaced by the tribe of Levi. As already mentioned, when Moses asked, “Who is on the LORD’S side?” the whole tribe of Levi responded. These acts, including the righteous indignation of Phinehas, show that the Levitical priesthood not only stood behind Moses but also stood for Jehovah. Of course Aaron was a descendant of Levi, the lineage being Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Aaron.

Levi “walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity”; that is, when the tribe of Levi was selected for standing on God’s side, their wholesome influence turned many from iniquity. The covenant God made with Levi was that (1) he and his progeny were to be the priestly tribe with no inheritance in the land, and (2) from them, the priesthood would be selected. When the Law of Moses came, with all of its specifics, the continuity of the priesthood remained. Some of those specifics were observed before the Law was given; for example, there was some recognition of the sabbath day. However, the Mosaic Law added an abundance of detail and provided more structure. The point is that the Law Covenant God gave at the hand of Moses was separate from the covenant He had previously made with Levi.

Q: At the time of Jacob’s deathbed prophecy, it was said of Simeon and Levi that “instruments of cruelty” were in their habitations (Gen. 49:5). The King James margin has the clause “Their swords are weapons of violence.” This prophecy came true in a good sense in the incident at Mount Sinai when the Levites were on the Lord’s side. Was the prophecy a warning to Levi and his posterity that this tendency was in them, but if it was disciplined for the Lord and for righteousness, instead of for cruelty, it was a good characteristic?

A: A sermon could be given on this subject, but we think along the following line. The Apostle Peter had certain characteristics before consecration that needed disciplining. However, once Peter consecrated, dedicating his life to follow Jesus, this trait of violence and not wanting to be under rulership became constrained. Similarly, a wild horse that is broken is far superior to an ordinary horse that is brought up gently and fed well. The spirited horse that is broken and controlled is far more valuable than one that is docile by nature. The same is true with people.

Hence God chooses rough diamonds. The Lord’s jewels are not putty but have some backbone to start with. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that backbone has to be curbed and controlled, and when it is, the result is superior to the common lot of mankind, who lack that drive. Accordingly, Aaron’s character changed for the good, as did that of Paul and Peter.

When Jacob went into Egypt, 70 males accompanied him, including Levi, who was no youngster at that time. From the original cruel trait, there was a change, as we are reading in Malachi. After standing up for Moses and the Lord at Mount Sinai, a change came in the Levites’ lives. From that time forward in the wilderness, there were very good qualities.

Mal. 2:7 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.

“For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge.” The priests were to keep the knowledge of God’s Law and not to fabricate their own laws. The same principle applies to the vitals of both Old Testament times and Christianity of the Gospel Age. Loyalty to God’s Word and its principles is a mandatory requirement, as stated in verse 6: “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips.”

“They [the people] should seek the law at his [the priest’s] mouth: for he [the priest] is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” The priest should have taught the Law as dutifully and faithfully as he could, for he was the messenger of Jehovah. The word “messenger” is the theme of the Book of Malachi.

Comment: This principle is excellent to carry forth into the New Creation.

Reply: All of the consecrated, who are called to be kings and priests, have this additional responsibility. Therefore, knowledge is not to be decried or belittled because it is an important function. The “law of truth” is to be in their mouth for others to seek (verses 6 and 7).

Mal. 2:8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

Mal. 2:9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.

The priesthood became corrupt and left their responsibility of being proper instructors, examples, and representatives of God. They “departed out of the way.” Malachi was writing at a very late date—in the days of Nehemiah. In writing about the current situation, he was saying that originally the Levitical priesthood was worthy, but now it was so corrupt that even the people disesteemed the priesthood.

The Levites were “partial in the law” by showing favoritism in judgment and taking advantage of widows and orphans. One sin was that they were partial to their friends in matters of judgment. They were supposed to be impartial according to the Spirit of Jehovah, but instead they granted favors to family and friends and accepted bribes from others. In other words, the priesthood was mercenary. The priests not only made sure the tithes were paid but also tried to increase them.

Comment: The Levites put heavy burdens on others but not on themselves.

The message of Malachi is quite different from other messages in that it basically consists of fundamental principles rather than a lot of prophecy except as we get deeper into the book.

The message is supposedly a common-sense realization of what God requires of an individual. The priests should have dutifully taught those principles.

The government in the Kingdom Age will have to be a dictatorship, for a democracy would never prosper with a perfect Law. There will have to be a perfect Mediator, as well as a perfect Law and perfect enforcement and rewards. The whole arrangement in the Kingdom will be successful because of the completeness of the arrangement and the details for any emergency or contingency that would arise. If evil is nipped in the bud as it is starting to grow, it will not prosper. But when nothing is done, as in the present evil world, the iniquity just keeps spreading from one generation to another until the whole becomes corrupt.

God continued to speak: “Ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” One of the hardest things to do is to be impartial “in the law” and to not be prejudiced by gifts, family relationships, and friendships, all of which can sway judgment. In fairness, a judge should hear and consider both sides of an issue and not just take one side. Our attitudes are being judged in the present life.

Verse 6 mentions walking with God in equity and peace. The priest who did so both dispensed and was blessed himself in his service. The Levitical priesthood was honorable and pure as originally initiated. The priests in Malachi’s day were children of Levi, yet they were corrupt and did not measure up to the requirements of the Law. It was difficult not to have a root of bitterness or favoritism arise but to be a just judge dispensing justice.

Because the priests had departed out of the way and caused many to stumble, “therefore have I [God] also made you [the priests] contemptible and base before all the people.” While the people saw that the priesthood was not walking up to par and properly discharging its responsibilities, that did not mean the people themselves were just and righteous. And that is true with us too. It is easy to see the faults of others and very difficult to see our own. We can be sure that whoever God selects to be of the Little Flock will be tried and true in heart.

Comment: As a practical example, when management is poor in the workforce, bad principles filter down through the employees.

Reply: Yes. Whether the situation has to do with moral laws or efficiency of service, the manager of even a little outlet can run things very nicely, even though the store is part of a chain, but unfortunately, the managers are often lax and take liberties, just like the employees, with unwarranted sick days and being unjust.

A prime example of laxity in the priesthood is Eli. He failed to properly reprimand his two sons, who stirred the pot to obtain the choicest meat for themselves and used the office for fornication purposes right in the Temple precincts. Apparently, Eli was oblivious to the sins at first, but when the people complained to him about his sons’ violations, he was disobedient in not expelling them from the priesthood. Here is a case where the heart of the old man was deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). Eli probably reasoned, “Who would take their place if I removed them from the priesthood?” Instead he should have obeyed principle and trusted that the Lord would provide. God dealt with Samuel, who was the replacement, and Eli and his progeny were eventually rejected. At any rate, the people recognized the errancy of the priesthood.

Mal. 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Malachi was speaking. He identified himself with the priests in pleading with them and using the pronoun “we.” He was saying that there was a distinction between clergy and laity (just as in the nominal Church) with the Levites taking advantage of the people. Partiality, a feeling of superiority, and taking advantage of certain prerogatives for self-aggrandizement were all examples of dealing treacherously.

From a natural standpoint, treachery and false dealing are less apt to occur in an actual fleshly family. Family members may argue, but there is a certain amount of loyalty and respect because they are all related according to the flesh.

Spiritually speaking, there would be fewer problems if brethren truly loved one another according to the scriptural injunction. Christians are to regard one another as equals, all having the same Father. Then they will have sympathy and tolerance for one another’s shortcomings, differences in doctrinal beliefs, differences in social practices, etc., and they will try to help one who strays.

We are all part of a spiritual family, but the danger when someone differs with us doctrinally or on another point—and we are sure we are right—is that we will begin to think the individual is not loyal to the truth. If we have this attitude, our heart will shrink a little, it will be harder to deal with that one as a brother or sister in Christ, and we will have a certain amount of reserve, such as not calling on that one for prayer. This caution would not include one who openly sins grossly or renounces a fundamental doctrine, for such individuals should be noted and treated according to the situation. The high standard should be for ourselves, and the judgment of others should be left with the Lord, although we can try to help without getting unduly spun into the web ourselves (Jude 23).

If the priests had regarded the Israelites properly as children of the Most High, they would not have taken advantage of the people but would have wanted to help and serve them. If the priests had had the spirit of oneness as God’s chosen people, and if they had been sincerely dedicated to the office, they would have realized what a privilege and honor it was to serve the people, and the base treachery would have been eliminated. They did not recognize the unity of the one calling—that the Israelites were a peculiar people called out of the world. The Christian is to deal with his brethren as new creatures. “Henceforth know we no man after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16 ). The Jewish nation should have had that principle or spirit in dealing with each other.

Note: These questions were treated in the commentary from the 1992 Malachi study.

Originally, there was so little study on prophecy that it was practically nil. Therefore, in the past, we led studies differently and more or less spoke at length in a relatively coherent fashion, rather than speaking in fits and spurts as we do now. Since then society has changed, and we are living more and more in a democracy, in which it is felt that everyone has equal rights, men and women alike, in every field of endeavor. Thus the clime is different today.

Having personally been 60 or more years in the truth, we have seen conditions radically change, including the behavior of the brethren and their attitude toward consecration. No wonder it has taken so long to get the remaining members of the Little Flock! The present decadent society is sterile in bringing forth the type of Christian God is looking for to complete the body of Christ. The Harvest work is now an obvious gleaning process. While individuals are still consecrating, certain improvements should be expected as they grow older in the truth.

The harvesting of olives is an illustration of the general harvest versus the subsequent gleaning. Initially the ripe olives fall easily off the trees, but to glean the small residue of the crop, one must climb a ladder and use a rod to hit the limb. We are living in the end time of the Gospel Age, of which Jesus said, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find [the] faith on the earth?” The number of Christians who will make the high calling becomes fewer and fewer, and the proportion of the Great Company class becomes greater and greater, to the point where it is overwhelming. However, the Lord judges the heart and knows just how true we are to our vows. It is good that he has burning eyes which can search the will—not just the heart, the mouth, or the brain but the intent (Rev. 1:14). As Charles Dickens said, “We are living in the best of times and the worst of times.”

Mal. 2:11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.

How had Judah “profaned the holiness” of God? It was like history repeating itself a double time. Much earlier Israel, the ten tribes, had been taken into captivity for their sins and disobedience. Judah should have learned the lesson and reformed but did not. Consequently, King Nebuchadnezzar was permitted to take the two tribes into captivity. After 70 years, the Jews were allowed to return and rebuild the Temple, but they still had not learned the lesson. The Jews who returned from exile were predominantly from Judah, and they began to do the same evil things all over again.

It was now about 454 BC, and the return from the 70-year Babylonian captivity had taken place in 536 BC. The Jews who had returned to Israel were mostly Levites and people from Judah.

Hence this message, this scathing denunciation, was especially addressed to the two-tribe kingdom and the Levites.

How had Judah “married the daughter of a strange god”? King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah had joined together years earlier to fight the common enemy Syria. In this league, the son of Jehoshaphat had married the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. God frowned upon this union, for Israel was in a far worse spiritual condition than Judah. Because of the marriage, the sins of Israel would filter into and, in time, permeate Judah. Verse 11 is based on that past incident, but it also had a current application in Malachi’s day.

Comment: According to the Law, the Jews were to marry within their own tribe, let alone within the nation, but Nehemiah 13:23 tells, “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab.” Mixed marriages were forbidden.

Reply: Earlier Ezra had made the Jews separate from their foreign wives, but in a very short time, they reverted back to mixed marriages. In Ezra’s day, many of the marriages had occurred back in Babylon, whereas in Nehemiah’s day, just a short while later, the Jews again disobeyed by marrying local foreign wives. Ezra 9:1,2 tells how the Jews who returned from exile intermarried with the daughters of the surrounding heathen lands (Canaanites, Hittites, etc.). As a result, the holy seed was again corrupted—Balaam’s counsel to King Balak was again being followed. Even though Ezra had made the Jews separate from their heathen wives, the people returned to their wrong practices in Malachi’s day, thus diluting the Jewish religion, especially through the children. (Heathen mothers raised their children to worship heathen gods.) Incidentally, Papacy followed this practice for years. When there was intermarriage with a Protestant, the Catholic was expected to raise all children in the Catholic religion.

What is the thought of the clause “which he loved”? At one time in the past, Judah did love the holiness of Jehovah. The King James margin has the alternate reading “which [Judah] ought to love.” God’s mercy to Judah lasted longer than it did to the ten tribes because the latter were a little more wicked. Eventually the two tribes were also taken into captivity, and the land was made desolate.

The principle is similar to Jesus’ admonition to the Ephesian church, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left [or forgotten] thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). This can easily happen.

Judah “hath married the daughter of a strange god.” By intermarriage with Gentile women, contrary to the Law, the religion of false gods was introduced into Israel. As an earlier example, the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, and one of the last tests before entering the Promised Land came through the influence of Balaam. King Balak of Moab had hired him to prophesy against the Israelites, but when Balaam went to curse them, he ended up issuing a marvelous prophecy about the Messiah, the Star that would come out of Jacob (Num. 24:17).

However, Balaam also counseled Balak how to trap the children of Israel into sin, namely, by befriending them and getting them to commingle with the daughters of strangers. Hence the daughters of Moab successfully seduced the Israelite men, and as a result, many died of a plague. With all of the schooling during the 40 years and with the Israelites being so close to entering the Promised Land, it is surprising how many failed this test.

The gods of the Egyptians and surrounding nations, such as the queen of heaven and Molech, entered Israel (Jer. 7:18; 32:35; 44:25). To his credit, King Josiah cleaned house of the heathen religions, but as soon as he died, the false religions again flourished. Truth, as well as history, is stranger than fiction.

Incidentally, leisure time brings corruption. In the early 1900s, work often extended from sunrise to sunset. Then the 12-hour workday was shortened to a 10-hour day, a 9-hour day, an 8-hour day, and finally a 7-hour day. Also, the workweek was decreased from six days to five days. Society was more puritanical when the workday and workweek were longer; the standards were much higher than today with all the additional leisure time. With few exceptions, people do not use the extra time to meditate on the Lord.

Mal. 2:12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.

God would cut off those who intermarried regardless of who they were—”the master [teacher] and [even] the scholar.” The NIV reads, “As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.” All would be held accountable. To “cut off” implied even putting to death.

Comment: The master and the scholar were regarded as being very intelligent and having the ability to reason, but their intelligence and position did not matter, for all would be cut off.

After the 70-year Babylonian captivity and the return of the Jews to Israel, not much detailed information was given in the Scriptures about the priesthood—at least not like that in the books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. After the 70 years, much of the information was prophetic and historical, yet we know that society was very corrupt. In AD 69-70, the Jews lost the Temple that was rebuilt under Zerubbabel. Also at that time, the Jews were scattered in Diaspora, so that today the descendants do not know their lineage.

Mal. 2:13 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.

God did not accept the offerings because of insincere sorrow and repentance. The people cried and repeatedly said they were sorry, but they kept making the same willful mistakes, which they were capable of correcting.

Comment: We are reminded of Judas, who cried but was not forgiven.

Reply: Yes, the colloquial term “crocodile tears” indicates insincerity while appearing to be contrite. Since God can read the heart, He knows when sorrow is misleading.

Comment: In the antitype, it is like the wrong principle of sinning on Saturday night and going to Confession on Sunday without trying to correct the matter.

Reply: The “tears” are not necessarily literal in that case but refer to superficial repentance by a person’s going to the Confessional booth to have sins remitted yet not effecting any change in his life in regard to proper worship of the Lord.

Comment: A practice down through history was to hire women as mourners for a funeral, thereby producing a hypocritical atmosphere of extreme sorrow that may not have been felt by the family members of the deceased.

Comment: Jesus contrasted the publican who stood afar off and beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Meanwhile, the Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Jesus said that the sinner, who humbled himself, was justified but not the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14).

Malachi was saying that the people’s insincere tears would not make God change His mind.

The same evil practices were repeated so often throughout Israel’s history that God would not listen to them.

Mal. 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

Malachi was speaking about the marriage covenant. The “wife of thy youth” was the original Jewish wife who was put away for a heathen wife. Thus the Israelite men were not being faithful to their marriage vows. There was a double problem: (1) The wife of their youth was cast aside because the men wanted younger women. (That problem also exists today where the original wife is forgotten and despised or ignored.) (2) The new wife was of “foreign” extraction, that is, not a Jew. The men married the daughter of a “strange god” (verse 11).

In reading these verses, we can see that God hates divorce—and what usually motivates it: adultery and unfaithfulness. The Jewish man’s divorcing the wife of his youth and marrying a heathen woman, thus forsaking his earlier marriage vows, was an analogy to how the nation was unfaithful to God and forsook its vows to Him. Both priesthood and people were guilty of divorce and remarriage to foreign wives. Covenant breaking is dealing “treacherously.”

Mal. 2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

Mal. 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

The NIV is good: “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Marital fidelity within a given tribe and within the nation would lead to a godly seed. God despised divorce because it was a disguise for lust and the desire to change. In many cases, the bill of divorce was a cover-up of wrong motives by the man. That was dealing treacherously with God and His commandments.

God wanted a pure and godly Jewish seed so that Messiah would come from that lineage.

Consider the circumstances of the Jewish nation. If a male Jew wanted to be faithful to the God of Israel, he hearkened to the instructions and commandments laid down in the Law. The people knew that the Messiah was to be born of the seed of a Jewish woman, and as a people, the Jews were looking forward to the Messiah. Therefore, the nation would become contaminated through mixed marriages.

Some in Old Testament times who were more advanced in the study of the Law realized that Messiah would have associates and not just be one individual. In fact, the thought has been inbred in the Jews down through many centuries that the Messiah is Israel. In the spiritual sense, Messiah is the holy seed of which Christ is the Head and the Church is his body. From a natural standpoint, the Holy Remnant will be a holy seed, or class, down here on the human plane.

“And did not he [God] make one?” is a reference to Adam and Eve, who were “made one.”

God approved the marriage relationship, and all should abide by it. When Eve sinned, Adam could not bear the thought of separation from her—he thought that if she was removed from him, he would be all alone again—so he “committed suicide” by also partaking of the forbidden fruit. That situation was directly opposite to the one Malachi was rebuking, but a certain lesson concerning providence was common to both. If the one to whom the Jew was married was undesirable in God’s sight (like Eve when she sinned), he should have had forbearance and sufficient faith to wait for God’s providence to remove the wife (that is, if she was as bad as he thought). The Jews should not have forced the issue by obtaining a divorce.

Adam’s rash act indicated a lack of faith. Instead he could have reasoned, “God breathed the breath of life into me, and I became a living soul. Subsequently God took Eve out of my side. Surely a residue of that spirit remains, and God’s hand is not shortened so that He cannot create another woman.” Instead of sinning, Adam should have abided by the contract he had made with God, and in time, another woman would have been raised up. But Adam lacked experience and faith.

Therefore, Malachi was saying, “Isn’t there enough residue of the spirit of God? If the Jews have this problem with their marriage, isn’t there enough faith to wait for providence to remedy the situation?” The danger was in jumping out ahead of the Lord and marrying a foreigner. God is the One who instituted the marriage relationship in the first place.

As already stated, the purpose of this reasoning was that God wanted a pure, godly seed.

Matthew 19:7,8 tells that He had arranged for a bill of divorcement under the Law because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. Under certain circumstances, the Jew could be divorced. It takes the efforts of both parties to make a satisfying marriage. Because problems sometimes developed with one party, the people wanted a divorce arrangement, and the Lord made provision for divorce under certain circumstances.

Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 tell that with the Christian, the one contingency where divorce is permitted is fornication. When husband and wife are both consecrated, divorce is not permitted unless one of them commits adultery and thus causes a breach in the contract.

Some feel the Scriptures teach this matter only one way—that the man can put away the wife and remarry but that the wife cannot put away the husband and remarry. That was the case under the Law but not with the Christian. Since there is neither male nor female in Christ, either husband or wife can obtain a divorce if the other party has committed adultery. The condition was stated in the masculine gender, but so are all the promises to the Christian. In the type, the man represents the Lord, and the woman represents the Church. The Lord is always faithful; the Church is sometimes unfaithful. Perhaps that is the reason the Holy Spirit expressed matters from the masculine standpoint both in the Law and with the Christian.

Based on Matthew 5:32, if the law of the land grants a divorce to a man when his wife has not committed adultery, she cannot remarry, even though she is legally divorced. Separation is permitted but not remarriage. The reverse is also true: the husband cannot remarry. In other words, a consecrated individual has no right to divorce and remarry unless the spouse has committed adultery. If one marries a divorced party who has committed adultery (thus causing the former marriage to dissolve), that one commits adultery. However, one can marry an innocent divorced party whose spouse has committed adultery.

Brothers who disobey on these matters should not be elders. And any brother or sister who commits adultery should be disfellowshipped in a class trial. Incidentally, the term “put away” in the scriptural context of marriage means divorce, not mere separation.

In regard to the Law favoring the man, we should remember that the Law was typical. Because the type had to remain pure, the man, who represented the Lord, got the advantage in many instances. However, the New Testament cannot be interpreted from the standpoint of the Law.

Verses 14-16, which pertain to practical everyday living, show that adultery was commonly practiced in Malachi’s day. Even Jesus mentioned adultery at his First Advent. He said that divorce was permissible under certain circumstances because of the hardness of the hearts of the males, who had the upper hand and misused it. Counsel was subsequently given in the New Testament that elders should be the husband of one wife at a time (1 Tim. 3:2). (Of course if a wife died, the husband could remarry.) The practice of “putting away” meant divorce, which was commonly done. Jesus said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). Not only is divorce rampant today, but conditions are so bad that many cohabit without marriage and just go from one partner to another. Society is so callous that people either marry or do not marry for tax purposes depending on what law is in effect at the time. A man frequently puts aside the wife who sacrificed on his behalf, perhaps even building up his business, and looks for a younger woman. Someone else gets the fruit of all that labor and the affection, care, and interest.

“Did not he [God] make one [of Adam and Eve]? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.” What happens with reproduction in a society that condones immoral behavior? Generally speaking, the offspring do not have much of an example to behold. Of course there are exceptions in history where, in spite of adultery and fornication, some very unusual people have come on the scene who are to be credited for what good they have done, but that is not the norm. For the most part, the ungodly seed overwhelms the few exceptional cases. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.”

Comment: The statement “Yet had he the residue of the spirit” is somewhat cryptic in the King James. The RSV has, “Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth.”

Reply: The purpose of marriage should be honorable in producing a seed that the parents would care for. Today many parents have little or no interest in their offspring, and this situation exists even among supposed Christians.

“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away [divorce]: for one covereth violence with his garment [that is, he sweeps the dirt under the rug], … therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”

Mal. 2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

Both back there in Malachi’s day and in our day, evil was called good. To be faithful, we must recognize that evil is evil and good is good.

The expression “yet ye say” followed by a question is used multiple times in the Book of Malachi, but actions speak louder than words (Mal. 1:2; 2:14,17; 3:13). In this case, the action bespeaks the words. Two polarized views are given in the illustration of verse 17: (1) Some look on the evildoer with compassion and mercy and overlook the evil characteristics and traits to the injury of the person and to the disgust of God, who is aware of this situation. (2) Others recognize the evil as evil, but they question God’s providence, asking, “Why does God permit wrong? Where is the God of judgment?” In their sourness and bitterness, they become rejects.

Thus some are more loving than God, and others are so severe in their judgment that when they see providence favoring the evildoer, they question God. Both classes manifest wrong conditions. Instead we should recognize evil as evil and good as good and try to be as merciful as possible, especially if proper repentance is manifested. We should be concerned for longterm salvation and not for short-term expediency for the sake of fellowship.

James 5:20 states, “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” The one who converts a sinner from the error of his way hides a multitude of sins of both the sinner and himself. In other words, if we see a wrong and endeavor to help such a one so that proper steps of repentance are taken and amends are made, God will be more merciful to us in overlooking some of our sins. However, mercy must be extended according to the instruction of Scripture.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy,” but that mercy is predicated upon doing things God’s way (Matt. 5:7). We are to be merciful as God is merciful.

Israel was a covenanted people, yet they said one of the following:

1. “All who do evil are good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.” The Israelites saw that those doing evil were prospering materially, so they concluded that God liked the evil ones. Because there was no radical punishment, they assumed that evil was permissible.

2. “Where is the God of judgment?” The Israelites criticized God for not justly punishing the disobedient and rewarding the obedient. This attitude slandered God and His methods.

The first question pertains to wearying Jehovah. “Ye have wearied the LORD with your words.

Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him?” Words become meaningless and wearisome to God when the deeds of the one who is speaking are inconsistent with his profession. The common thought was, “Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them.” Today the thought is not verbalized in this way. Instead people are soft on things such as homosexuality, lesbianism, divorce, and fornication, which are contrary to God’s Word. Sometimes both partners agree to do as they wish and then come together just to have a home and a meal. The Book of Malachi is quite different from the other Minor Prophets in that it uses common sense to show society is going downhill and becoming increasingly decadent. Although still a superpower, the United States is not what it used to be.

Comment: Revisionist history tries to say our Founding Fathers were corrupt and decadent.

Reply: Those who are in the tomb cannot defend themselves.

Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, portrays conditions not just back in the prophet’s day but also today, in the end time. Jews consider Malachi to be an end-time prophecy because of the way it concludes. They say, “Elijah the prophet is coming. Who shall abide that day?”

The other question that was asked in Malachi’s day was, “Where is the God of judgment?” Some feel that God was unjust to punish Adam and Eve for eating of the forbidden fruit, but they were given a simple test of obedience. The Old Testament is regarded as too rigid and severe and as unkind, unloving, unsympathetic, and lacking in tenderness. Many have a negative view of God and His Law, which is a perfect standard. However, the problem is not with the Law but with us, as imperfect people. The question “Where is the God of judgment?” is almost like Satan’s asking in Genesis 3:1,4 (paraphrased), “Did God say, ‘If you eat of that tree, you will die’? You shall not surely die.” Satan was the father of lies, and of those who question the whereabouts of the “God of judgment,” it could be said, “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).

There is no information about where the Prophet Malachi came from and how he was treated. To the contrary, we are well aware of the background of other prophets and the opposition they received for preaching—prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah. But here was a prophet whose preaching was really kosher, so we can imagine that the nation regarded him as a lead balloon. Especially because of the way his message concluded, the Jews would have considered Malachi a messenger of doom, but that “doom” was merited, for it expressed God’s judgments.

 

(2001, 1992, and 1971 Studies)

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