Strong & McClintock Cyclopedia
(Heb. Malaki’, מִלְאָכַי, nmessenger; Sept. in the title Μαλαχαίς, but in ch. 1, it renders ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ, Vulg. Malachias), the last of the minor prophets, and the latest writer in the canon of the O.T. (comp. Mal_4:4-6). What is known of him is so intimately connected with his prophecies that it will be most convenient to consider the whole subject together. In doing so we will, at the same time, treat any doubtful questions involved. I. Personal Account. — The name Malachi is rendered by some my angel, but it is usually regarded as contracted from Malachijah, “messenger of Jehovah,” like Abi (2Ki_18:2) from Abijah (2Ch_29:1). The traditionists regard the name as having been given to the prophet on account of the beauty of his person and his unblemished life. The name means an angel, angels being, in fact, the messengers of God; and, as the prophets are often styled angels or messengers of Jehovah, it is supposed by some that “Malachi” is merely a general title descriptive of this character, and not a proper name. So Hengstenberg, Christol. 3:372 sq.
Of his personal history nothing is known (see Dr. Davidson in Horne’s Introd. new ed. 2:894 sq.). A tradition preserved in Pseudo-Epiphanius (De Vitis Proph.) relates that Malachi was of the tribe of Zebulun, and born after the captivity at Sopha (Σοφᾶ,? Saphir) in the territory of that tribe. According to the same apocryphal story he died young, and was buried with his fathers in his own country. Jerome, in the preface to his Commentary on Malachi, mentions a belief which was current among the Jews, that Malachi was identical with Ezra the priest, because the circumstances recorded in the narrative of the latter are also mentioned by the prophet. The Targum of Jonathan ben-Uzziel, on the words “by the hand of Malachi” (Mal_1:1), gives the gloss “whose name is called Ezra the scribe.” With equal probability Malachi has been identified with Mordecai, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel. The Sept., as above noted renders “by Malachi” (Mal_1:1), “by the hand of his angel;” and this translation appears to have given rise to the idea that Malachi, as well as Haggai and John the Baptist, was an angel in human shape (comp. Mal_3:1; 2Es_1:40; Jerome, Comm. in Mag. 1:13). Cyril alludes to this belief only to express his disapprobation, and characterizes those who hold it as romancers (ο‰μάτην ἐῤῥαψῳδήκασιν, κ. τ. λ.). The current opinion of the Jews is that of the Talmud, in which this question is mooted, and which decides, it seems to us rightly, that this prophet is not the same with Mordecai, or Ezra, or Zerubbabel, or Nehemiah, whose claims had all been advocated by different parties, but a distinct person named Malachi (Bab. Megillah, 15:1). Another Hebrew tradition associates Malachi with Haggai and Zechariah as the companions of Daniel when he saw the vision recorded in Dan_10:7 (Smith’s Select Discourses, p. 214; A.D. 1660), and as among the first members of the Great Synagogue, which consisted of 120 elders (Isidore, De Vita et Morte Sanct. ch. li). For a notice of prophecy of the succession of the Roman pontiffs attributed to him, see the Studien u. Kritiken, 1857, p. 555 sq.). SEE MALACHY, ST.
II. Date of his Prophecies. — Although there has been a faint disposition to regard Zechariah as the last of the prophets (Lactant. De Velra Sapent. 4:5), the received opinion decides for Malachi. Accordingly Aben-Ezra calls him “‘ the end of the prophets;” Kimchi, “the last of them;” and not seldom he is distinguished by the rabbins as “the seal of the prophets.” Cyril makes him contemporary with Haggai and Zechariah, or a little later. Syncellus (p. 240 B) places these three prophets under Joshua the son of Josedec. That Malachi was contemporary with Nehemiah is rendered probable by a comparison of Mal_2:8 with Neh_13:15; Neh_2:10-16 with Neh_13:23, etc.; and Mal_3:7-12 with Neh_13:10, etc. That he prophesied after the times of Haggai and Zechariah is inferred from his omitting to mention the restoration of the Temple, and from no allusion being made to him by Ezra. The captivity was already a thing of the long past, and is not referred to. The existence of the Temple-service is presupposed in 1:10; 3:1, 10. The Jewish nation had still a political chief (Mal_1:8), distinguished by the same title as that borne by Nehemiah (Neh_12:26), to which Gesenius assigns a Persian origin. Hence Vitringa concludes that Malachi delivered his prophecies after the second return of Nehemiah from Persia (Neh_13:6), and subsequently to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes Longimanus (B.C. cir. 420), which is the date adopted by Kennicott and Hales, and approved by Davidson (Introd. p. 985). The date B.C. 410 cannot be far from correct.
It may be mentioned that in the Seder Olam Rabba (p. 55, ed. Meyer) the date of Malachi’s prophecy is assigned, with that of Haggai and Zechariah, to the second year of Darius; and his death in the Seder Olam Zuta (p. 105) is placed, with that of the same two prophets, in the fifty-second year of the Medes and Persians. The principal reasons adduced by Vitringa, and which appear conclusively to fix the time of Malachi’s prophecy as contemporary with Nehemiah, are the following: The offenses denounced by Malachi as prevailing among the people, and especially the corruption of the priests by marrying foreign wives, correspond with the actual abuses with which Nehemiah had to contend in his efforts to bring about a reformation (comp. Mal_2:8 with Neh_13:29). The alliance of the high-priest’s family with Tobiah the Ammonite (Neh_13:4; Neh_13:28) and Sanballat the Horonite had introduced neglect of the customary Temple-service, and the offerings and tithes due to the Levites and priests, in consequence of which the Temple was forsaken (Neh_13:4-13) and the Sabbath openly profaned (Neh_13:15-21). The short interval of Nehemiah’s absence from Jerusalem had been sufficient for the growth of these corruptions, and on his return he found it necessary to put them down with a strong hand, and to do over again the work that Ezra had done a few years before. From the striking parallelism between the state of things indicated in Malachi’s prophecies and that actually existing on Nehemiah’s return from the court of Artaxerxes, it is on all accounts highly probable that the efforts of the secular governor were on this occasion seconded by the preaching of “Jehovah’s messenger,” and that Malachi occupied the same position with regard to the reformation under Nehemiah as Isaiah held in the time of Hezekiah, and Jeremiah in that of Josiah. The last chapter of canonical Jewish history is the key to the last chapter of its prophecy. See Noel Alexander, De Malachia Propheta, in his Hist. Eccles. 3:642 sq.; Vitringa, idem, in his Observationes Sociae, vol. 2; Hebenstreit, Disp. in Malachi (Lips. 1731 sq.).
The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi – This prophet is undoubtedly the last of the Jewish prophets. He lived after Zechariah and Haggai; for we find that the temple, which was begun in their time, was standing complete in his. See Mal_3:10. Some have thought that he was contemporary with Nehemiah; indeed, several have supposed that Malachi, is no other than Ezra under the feigned name of angel of the Lord, or my angel. John the Baptist was the link that connected Malachi with Christ. According to Abp. Usher he flourished b.c. 416, but the authorized version, which we have followed in the margin, states this event to have happened nineteen years later. Both the Hebrew language and poetry had declined in his days.
Israel – Here means the Jewish people in general.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
I have loved you — above other men; nay, even above the other descendants of Abraham and Isaac. Such gratuitous love on My part called for love on yours. But the return ye make is sin and dishonor to Me. This which is to be supplied is left unexpressed, sorrow as it were breaking off the sentence [Menochius], (Deu_7:8; Hos_11:1).
Wherein hast thou loved us? — In painful contrast to the tearful tenderness of God’s love stands their insolent challenge. The root of their sin was insensibility to God’s love, and to their own wickedness. Having had prosperity taken from them, they imply they have no tokens of God’s love; they look at what God had taken, not at what God had left. God’s love is often least acknowledged where it is most manifested. We must not infer God does not love us because He afflicts us. Men, instead of referring their sufferings to their proper cause, their own sin, impiously accuse God of indifference to their welfare [Moore]. Thus Mal_1:1-4 form a fit introduction to the whole prophecy.
Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? — and so, as far as dignity went, as much entitled to God’s favor as Jacob. My adoption of Jacob, therefore, was altogether by gratuitous favor (Rom_9:13). So God has passed by our elder brethren, the angels who kept not their first estate, and yet He has provided salvation for man. The perpetual rejection of the fallen angels, like the perpetual desolations of Edom, attests God’s severity to the lost, and goodness to those gratuitously saved. The sovereign eternal purpose of God is the only ground on which He bestows on one favors withheld from another. There are difficulties in referring salvation to the election of God, there are greater in referring it to the election of man [Moore]. Jehovah illustrates His condescension and patience in arguing the case with them.
for the dragons] Rather, jackals. The unusual form of the word here (fem. instead of masc. as elsewhere) has led many to render, dwellings (LXX. δώματα ἐρήμου; and Syr.). But the derivation and meaning are not satisfactory. Rather, with R.V., I made his mountains a desolation, and gave his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness. Unless indeed we neglect the accents and adopt a third rendering, which seems still better to preserve the parallelism, I made his mountains a desolation, and his heritage a wilderness for jackals.
The desolation of Edom here referred to was in all probability caused by Nebuchadnezzar, in fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jer_49:17-22. Comp. Jer_27:3-6). See Obadiah, Introd. pp. 20, 22, in this Series.
Whereas; rather, if, or although; Vulgate, quod si. If Edom were to attempt to repair its desolation, the Lord would not permit it—a striking contrast to the national restoration of Israel. We are impoverished; or, as the Revised Version, we are beaten; Septuagint, ἡ Ἰδουμαία κατέστραπται, “Idumea has been overthrown.” Vulgate, destructl sumus. The desolate places; Vulgate, quae destructa sunt, places once in habited and now deserted. Compare the boast of the Ephraimites (Isa_9:9, Isa_9:10). I will throw down. Edom never recovered its power; it became the prey of the Persians, the Nabatheans, the Jews under the Maccabees, the Macedonians, the Romans; and finally the Mohammedan conquest effected its utter ruin. They (men) shall call them, The border of wickedness. Edom shall be called, “The territory of iniquity,” its miserable condition attesting the wicked ness of the inhabitants thus punished by Divine justice. Hath indignation; Septuagint, παρατέτακται, “hath” been set in battle array;” St. Jerome, “My anger is proved by their enduring desolation; and in contrast to the evils experienced by your brother, ye shall experience the goodness of God towards you.”
your eyes shall see] Unharmed and in safety yourselves you shall witness the overthrow of Edom (comp. Psa_91:7-8).
will be magnified from] Rather, be magnified over. It is an ascription of praise (comp. Psa_48:1) to God who extends, as it were, His tutelary care over Israel, while utter destruction overtakes Edom. The contrast with Edom is emphasized by the insertion of the personal pronoun, “ye (Jews) shall say.”
A son honoureth his father. The prophet commences with a general principle which every one allows, and argues from that what was the attitude which they ought to assume towards God. A father. God was the Father of Israel by creation, election, preservation, watchful guardianship (see Exo_4:22; Deu_32:6; Isa_63:16; Isa_64:8, etc.). My fear. The fear, respect, reverence, due to me. O priests. He addresses his reproof to the priests, as the representatives of the people, and bound to lead them to obedience and holiness, and to be a pattern to the flock. Wherein have we despised thy Name? The priests have grown so callous, and have so obscured true religion by Pharisaical externalism, that they profess to be utterly unconscious how they have shown contempt of God. The Name of God is God himself and all that has to do with him.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
ye offer, etc. — God’s answer to their challenge (Mal_1:6), “Wherein have we despised?”
polluted bread — namely, blemished sacrifices (Mal_1:8, Mal_1:13, Mal_1:14; Deu_15:21). So “the bread of thy God” is used for “sacrifices to God” (Lev_21:8).
polluted thee — that is, offered to thee “polluted bread.”
table of the Lord — that is, the altar (Eze_41:22) (not the table of showbread). Just as the sacrificial flesh is called “bread.”
contemptible — (Mal_1:12, Mal_1:13). Ye sanction the niggardly and blemished offerings of the people on the altar, to gain favor with them. Darius, and probably his successors, had liberally supplied them with victims for sacrifice, yet they presented none but the worst. A cheap religion, costing little, is rejected by God, and so is worth nothing. It costs more than it is worth, for it is worth nothing, and so proves really dear. God despises not the widow’s mite, but he does despise the miser’s mite [Moore].
And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? – Others, “it is not evil,” as we should say, “there is no harm in it.” Both imply, alike, an utter unconsciousness on the part of the offerer, that it was evil: the one, in irony, that this was always their answer, “there is nothing amiss;” the other is an indignant question, “is there indeed nought amiss?” And this seems the most natural.
The sacrifice of the “blind” and “lame” was expressly forbidden in the law Deu_15:21, and the sick in manifold varieties of animal disease. “Whatever hath a blemish ye shall not offer Lev_22:22, blind or with limb broken, or wounded or mangy or scabby or scurfy.” Perfectness was an essential principle of sacrifice; whether, as in the daily sacrifice, or the sin or trespass-offerings, typical of the all-perfect Sacrifice, or in the whole-burnt-offering, of the entire self-oblation. But these knew better than God, what was fit for Him and them. His law was to be modified by circumstances. He would not be so particular (as people now say so often.)
Is it then fit to offer to God what under the very same circumstances man would not offer to man? Against these idle, ungrateful, covetous thoughts God saith,
“Offer it now unto thy governor.” He appeals to our own instinctive thought of propriety to our fellow creature, which may so often be a test to us. No one would think of acting to a fellow-creature, as they do to Almighty God. Who would make diligent preparation to receive any great one of the earth, and turn his back upon him, when come? Yet what else is the behavior of most Christians after holy communion? If thou wouldest not do this to a mortal man, who is but dust and ashes, how much less to God Almighty, the King of kings and Lord of lords! “The words are a reproof to those most negligent persons, who go through their prayers to God without fear, attention, reverence or feeling; but if they have to speak to some great man, prelate or prince, approach him with great reverence, speak carefully and distinctly and are in awe of him. Do not thou prefer the creature to the Creator, man to God, the servant to the Lord, and that Lord, so exalted and so Infinite.”
beseech God] lit. stroke or smooth the face of God, i.e. propitiate or seek the favour of God. See Dan_9:13; Psa_45:12, and note on Zec_7:2.
It is not a call to repentance, but a challenge to put it to the proof whether, their conduct being such as it is (“this hath been by your means”), God will regard them in the discharge of their office as intercessors for the people.
this hath been] such irreverence as has been described above. Or if we follow the more exact marginal rendering both of A.V. and R.V., “This hath been,” i.e. such offerings have been received, “from your hand.”
regard your persons] Rather, accept any of your persons, R.V. Is there one of you whose person He will accept?
Who is there even &c. Rather, with the majority of modern commentators and with R.V. Oh, that there were one among you that would shut the doors, that ye might not kindle [fire on] my altar in vain!
Better no sacrifices at all than such sacrifices as these. Better a Temple closed than a Temple profaned. Comp. Isa_1:12-13.
the doors] not of the Sanctuary or Temple proper (ναός), but either of the inner court in which the altar stood, or perhaps of the whole sacred inclosure (ἱερόν). Comp. 2Ch_28:24; 2Ch_29:3; Act_21:30.
an offering] The Hebrew word (minchah) is that commonly used for vegetable, as distinguished from animal sacrifices (Psa_40:7; Jer_17:26; Dan_9:27). Here however, as elsewhere (Gen_4:4-5; 1Sa_2:17; Zep_3:10), it has the more general sense of offerings of any kind. The proper meaning of the word, with which this general sense most nearly accords, is a gift. See Gen_32:14; Gen_32:19; Gen_32:21; Gen_43:11.
For] “I will no longer accept the local and polluted offering, for I will substitute for it a pure and universal offering.” “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”
my name shall be great] The A.V. supplies shall be here and twice again in this verse (incense shall be offered; my name shall be great), and the R.V. is, though with shall be in the margin. The reference may well be to the present as foreshadowing the future; to the spiritual offering of prayer and praise already offered in their synagogues and προσευχαί by the Jews of the Dispersion, whereby proselytes were won, and the way prepared for the New Dispensation and the abolition of the Temple ritual. The view that Almighty God is here recognising the worship of the heathen world as in reality offered to Him is quite inadmissible. The whole tenor of the Old Testament emphatically contradicts it, and the teaching of the New Testament is accordant and explicit: “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God” (1Co_10:20, cited from Deu_32:17). The terms of the prophecy itself forbid such an interpretation: for Jehovah Himself expressly declares that incense and offering are offered to His name, and that His name is great.
The prophecy of this verse is at once repeated and expounded by our Lord Himself. Joh_4:21-24.
incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering] There has been difference of opinion as to the grammatical construction of this clause, but the arrangement and rendering of A.V. is retained in R.V. and has the support of many critical authorities.
By “incense” and “offering” we are to understand those “spiritual sacrifices” of prayer and praise (Heb_13:15) and almsgiving (ib. Heb_13:16; Php_4:18) and self-dedication (Rom_12:1), which all Christians as a “holy priesthood” (1Pe_2:5) are privileged to offer, and which are “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. The more enlightened among the Jews recognised such spiritual sacrifices under the typical offerings of the ceremonial law, and they were therefore in no danger of giving a material interpretation to a prophecy like this. Before the prophecy was fulfilled it had come to be a matter of popular Jewish belief and practice that incense was the symbol of prayer. (Luk_1:9-10). The Psalmist saw the same spiritual significance in “incense” and “offering” (minchah, as here, Psa_141:2). It has been supposed that by the offering, or minchah, of this verse, the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are intended. But if that be the case we have here a prophecy of the universal offering of literal incense also; for by no sound canon of interpretation can we give a material sense to one (offering) and a figurative sense to the other (incense) of two words which are thus placed by a writer in the same category. And then it follows that incense is as necessary a part of Christian worship, as “the bread and wine, which the Lord hath commanded to be received.”
It has been too hastily assumed that the early Christian writers put this interpretation on the minchah here foretold. Justin Martyr, for example, affirms that Almighty God in this passage declares by anticipation His acceptance of those who offer the sacrifices prescribed by Christ, that is to say “those sacrifices which in the eucharist of the bread and cup are offered by Christians in every part of the earth.” But he presently makes it clear that it is not the bread and cup themselves that he means. “I too assert,” he says, “that prayers and giving of thanks, offered by worthy worshippers, are the only sacrifices which are perfect and acceptable to God. And these alone moreover have Christians learned to offer even in the memorial of their dry and liquid sustenance, in which too the remembrance is made of the passion which for their sakes the Son of God endured.” (Dial. cum Tryph. § 177.)