Tho' Malachi be the last of the prophets, and in him prophecy ceased: yet the spirit of prophecy shines as clear, as strong, as bright, in him, as in any that went before. The Jews call him the seal of prophecy, because in him the succession of prophets came to a period: God wisely ordering, that prophecy should cease, some ages before the Messiah came, that he might appear the more conspicuous, and be the more welcome. Haggai and Zechariah were sent to reprove the people, for delaying to build the temple: Malachi to reprove them for their neglect of it, now it was built, and for their profanation of the temple - service. And the sins he reproves, are those complained of by Nehemiah, with whom he is supposed to have been cotemporary. And now prophecy was to cease, he speaks more clearly of the Messiah, than any other of the prophets had done.
The prophet reproves the Jews for their ingratitude to God, ver. 1 - 5. For their neglect of his institutions, ver. 6 - 14.
Loved you - Both personally considered and relatively, in progenitors. Us - Who have been captives, and groaned under it all our days 'till of late. Was not Esau - Did not one father beget them, and one mother bear them I loved Jacob - I preferred him to the birthright, and this of free love. I loved his person, and his posterity.
I hated - I loved not Esau's posterity as I loved Jacob's. His heritage - Mount Seir with the neighbouring mountains. Waste - By Nebuchadnezzar's arms five years after the sacking of Jerusalem, and whereas Jacob's captivity returned, and their cities were rebuilt, Esau's never were. The dragons - Creatures which delight in desolate places, by which the utter desolation of Esau is signified.
Throw down - So he did in the times of the Maccabees. The border of wickedness - They will be a most wicked people, and so notorious, that all their neighbours shall brand them for it. Hath indignation - They will so highly provoke God, that his indignation will be kindled against them for ever.
From the border of Israel - Let Israel from all his borders give God praise.
O priests - Had undutifulness been found among the ignorant people, it might have been a little excusable. But you, O priests, whose business is to know me, have like Eli's sons despised me yourselves, and made others do so too.
Bread - Either the meal - offerings, or rather in a more large sense, all sacrifices and oblations. Ye say - Perhaps in words; at least your deeds speak your thoughts. The table - This comprehends all that was offered to God.
Evil - Is it not against the express command of God.
I pray you - O priests. Beseech - Intercede with God for his sinful people. This - This contempt of God.
Incense - A law term for a gospel duty, and under this type are contained the prayers and praises, nay, the whole gospel - worship. A pure offering - Both sincere, in opposition to hypocrisy, and holy, in opposition to impurity, superstition and idolatry.
But ye - O priests! And the people by your examples. Ye say - By your deportment. Is polluted - Not a sacred thing. His meat - Either the meat which fell to the priest's share, or the portion which was laid upon the altar.
What a weariness - What a toil and drudgery to observe every point of the law. This - With such minds snuffing at my service, and with such sacrifices, unfit for mine altar.
The deceiver - The hypocrite that would seem to offer a sacrifice of the best, but puts God off with the worst. A male - A perfect male, such as God requireth.
The priests reproved for profaning the holy things of God, ver. 1 - 9. The priests and people for various abuses with regard to marriage, ver. 10 - 17.
I have cursed them - I have already sent out the curse, and it is in part upon you.
I will corrupt - I will take away the prolific virtue and strength of it, that it shall bring forth no fruit. Spread dung - It is an expression of the greatest contempt. Of your solemn feasts - Your most solemn days and feasts, shall be as loathsome to me as dung, and shall make you, who offer them as unclean, and loathsome, as if I had thrown the dung of those sacrifices into your faces. Take you away - You shall be taken away with it, removed as equally unclean with the dung itself, equally fit to be cast out to the dunghill.
My covenant - If you will not confirm, and keep Levi's covenant among you, I will make it firm on my part, by punishing the violators of it.
With him - With Levi. Peace - Of long life, and prosperous, assured to the Levites in their due ministrations before God. Before my name - Behaved himself with reverence before God.
Was in his mouth - He taught to the people. Aaron, Eleazar, Phineas, every one of those priests or Levites, in what age soever they lived; who feared God, and were humble. Iniquity is not found - He judged not with respect of persons, or for bribes. He walked - His whole life was a continual walking with God; he lived with God, and to him. In peace - With God, and it was his aim to live peaceably with others.
Should keep knowledge - It is this that their office binds them to; it is the duty of all God's people to know his law, but the priest's duty to know it more than others. And they - The people.
But ye - Priests. Stumble at the law - By your false expositions of it. Have corrupted - You have violated it, have contradicted the great intentions of it, and done what in you lay, to defeat them.
Have been partial - You have perverted the law to please great men, or to serve some unworthy design. When we inquire into "the reasons of the contempt of the clergy," ought we to forget this
One father - Abraham, or Jacob, with whom God made the covenant by which their posterity were made a peculiar people. Created us - The prophet speaks of that great and gracious work of God, creating them to be a chosen people. And so we Christians are created in Christ Jesus.
Hath profaned - Profanely violated the law, confining Israel to marry within themselves, and not to endanger themselves, by contracting affinity with idolaters. Which he loved - Which he, Judah, once loved. The daughter - Idolatresses. Even tho' they had wives before, whom they now cast off.
The master and the scholar - There shall be left neither any to teach nor any to learn. Him that offereth - The priests.
And this - Beside that first fault, you have committed another, you misuse, and afflict your Jewish wives, whom alone you should have cherished. With tears - Your despised wives fly to the temple, weep and cry to God for redress. With weeping - This is added to shew the abundance of their tears. He - The Lord.
The wife of thy covenant - To whom thou art so firmly bound, that while she continues faithful, thou canst not be loosed.
One - But one man, and one woman. Yet - Yet he could have made more. Wherefore one - One couple, and no more. A godly seed - A holy seed born to God in chaste wedlock, and bred as they were born, in the fear of God. Take heed - Keep your heart from wandering after strange wives.
Putting away - Divorce, such as these petulant Jews used to make way for some new wives, which God hates as much as putting away.
Your words - Your perverse reasoning, and impious quarrellings against God. Is good - This wicked inference they drew, from their prosperity in the world. He delighteth in them - As appears (say these atheists) by his prospering them. Where is the God of judgment - If he is there, judging and governing the world, why does he not punish these men
A promise of the coming of the Messiah, and of his fore - runner, ver. 1 - 6. A reproof of the Jews, and charge to amend, ver. 7 - 12. A description of the wicked, ver. 13 - 15. And of the righteous, ver. 16 - 18.
I - The Messiah. My messenger - John the Baptist. The Lord - The Messiah. Whom ye seek - Whom ye, who truly fear God, long and wait for. Suddenly come - After the coming of his fore - runner. To his temple - That which was the second temple at Jerusalem, lately built by Zerubbabel and Joshua. The messenger - The angel of the covenant, the Messiah, in whose blood the covenant between God and man was confirmed. Whom ye delight in - You Jews, among whom, few there are, who do not please themselves to think of his coming, tho' from various motives.
Abide - Who shall be able to stand under the weight of those crosses which in that day, will fall on all sorts of men The day - This day was from his preaching, 'till the utter destruction of Jerusalem, about seventy years after the birth of Christ. A refiner's fire - Some are like metals, which nothing but a fierce fire can purge, such fire shall the troubles of these days be. Fuller's soap - As boiling waters, into which, spotted cloaths are thrown, and as the rubbing of them with soap; so that day will prove to all, a day of great trial, to purge and refine.
He shall fit - As resolved to attend his work and finish it. He shall purify - The effect of this fiery trial, shall be the thorough cleansing of the persons that are to pass through it. Sons of Levi - Either the Jewish Levites, or all Christians, who are made priests unto God. In righteousness - That they may offer themselves, their souls and bodies to God, in righteousness and true holiness.
The offerings - The services and duties of the whole Christian church. Pleasant - Well pleasing to him.
I will come near - You have spoken as if you thought I was far off, but you shall see I am near. To you - O Jews, not those very persons Malachi preached to, but those who were living when the Messiah came.
I change not - I have an unchangeable hatred to sin: and my long suffering also changeth not, therefore you are not consumed in your sins. Not consumed - God is the same in his wisdom to order the rewards of good and bad in the fittest season, therefore neither the one nor the other are consumed, but preserved to the season appointed of God.
From mine ordinances - Which either directed my worship, or your dealings one with another.
Cursed with a curse - Are greatly cursed.
Bring ye - Make a punctual and full payment of all tithes; about this did Nehemiah contend with the rulers, and made them comply, and then all Judah obeyed and did the like, Nehem 13:10 - 13. To the store - house - This was one or more large rooms, built on purpose for this use. That there may be meat - For the priests and Levites to live upon. Prove me - Make the experiment. The windows of heaven - A kind of proverbial speech, to express great abundance. A blessing - First of rain to water the earth, next a blessing of corn, wine and oil, and all other products of the earth.
The devourer - All kind of devourers, the locusts, the canker - worm, and the caterpillar, which though they are in incredible multitudes, yet a rebuke from God will check them all at once, as if they were but one. For your sakes - For your good. Your vine - Your vine shall carry their fruit 'till they are fully ripe.
All nations - All that are about you. A delightsome land - The revival of religion in a land, will make it delight - some, both to God, and to all good men.
And now - You say, we see before our eyes, that the proud contemners of God and his law, are the flourishing ones. Delivered - Escape all punishment.
Then - When contempt of God was grown so high. That feared the Lord - Those that were truly religious. Spake often - Conversed together the more frequently. And a book - All this is spoken after the manner of men. For them - On their behalf.
Make up my jewels - This shall be fully made good in the last great day, and in heaven to eternal ages. I will spare them - In the mean time they shall be spared, pitied, preserved, and loved.
Ye - Ye contemners of God and religion, return to your reason, forced by the convincing power of God's judgments. Discern - Clearly see the happiness of the righteous, and your own misery, who perish in your wickedness.
The approaching misery of the wicked, and happiness of the righteous, ver. 1 - 3. A direction to keep to the law, and to expect Elijah, that is, John the Baptist, the fore - runner of the Messiah, ver. 4 - 6.
Cometh - Tho' it be at a distance from you, yet it is coming and will overtake you and overwhelm you too. As an oven - The refiner's fire, chap. 3:2, is now represented as a fire, burning more dreadfully, as it did indeed when Jerusalem and the temple were on fire, when the fire raged every where, but most fiercely where the arched roofs made it double itself, and infold flames with flames. And this may well be an emblem of the day of judgment.
The sun of righteousness - Christ, who is fitly compared to the sun, being the fountain of light, and vital heat to his church. And of mercy and benignity; for the Hebrew word imports both. With healing - His beams shall bring health and strength, with delight and joy, safety and security. Go forth - Go out of Jerusalem, before the fatal siege. Grow up - In strength, vigour and spiritual stature. Of the stall - Where they are safe guarded and well ordered.
Tread down the wicked - When believers by faith overcome the world, when they suppress their corrupt appetites and passions, and when the God of peace bruises Satan under their feet, then they indeed tread down the wicked.
Remember - Now take leave of prophecy, for you shall have no more 'till the great prophet, 'till Shiloh come, but attend ye diligently to the law of Moses. For all Israel - So long as they should be a people and church. Statutes and judgments - Be not partial; statutes and judgments, that is, the whole law must you attend to, and remember it as God requires.
Behold I will send - Though the spirit of prophecy cease for four hundred years, yet at the expiring of those years, you shall have one sent, as great as Elijah. Elijah - Namely John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17, and therefore bears his name. Before - That is, immediately before; so he was born six months before Christ, and began his preaching a few years before Christ began to exercise his publick office. The great and dreadful day of the Lord - This literally refers to the times of vengeance upon the Jews, from the death of Christ to the final desolation of the city and temple, and by accommodation, to the end of the world.
And he - John the Baptist. Shall turn the heart - There were at this time many great and unnatural divisions among the Jews, in which fathers studied mischief to their own children. Of the children - Undutiful children estranged from their fathers. With a curse - Which ends in utter destruction; leaving Jerusalem a desolate heap, and a perpetual monument of God's displeasure. Some observe, that the last word of the Old Testament is a curse: whereas the New Testament ends with a blessing, yea, the choicest of blessings, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all! Amen.
Dec. 24, 1766.