The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4

Malachi 3

Mal 3:1

SEE, I WILL SEND MY MESSENGER: Yahweh predicted the coming of His messenger (cp Isa 40:3-5). Jesus identified this messenger as John the Baptist (Mat 11:10; cp Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27). This future messenger would clear the way in preparation for Yahweh (cp Isa 40:3; John 1:23). This of course puts Jesus in the role of Yahweh, and so he is: for John the Baptist would announce the coming to Israel of the manifestation of the Father (Mark 1:2n).

THEN SUDDENLY THE LORD YOU ARE SEEKING WILL COME TO HIS TEMPLE: Cp Eze 43:1-5: the glory of the LORD returning to the Temple; cp also Zec 8:3. Though Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem many times during His earthly ministry, this sudden coming was not fulfilled then (cp vv 2-5). It will occur when He returns to set up His messianic kingdom.

"Suddenly" does not necessarily mean esp "soon", but more likely "unexpectedly": cp ideas, Mat 24:29; Rev 22:12; Luk 21:35,36; 1Th 5:2-4.

THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT: Another name for the LORD -- or the LORD's representative, the Messiah, the Son of God -- who would come following the appearance of the first messenger promised in this verse. He would be the divine Messiah. "Messenger" means "angel," and the Angel of the LORD is in view here. The "covenant" is the New Covenant that God promised to make with the Jews in the future (cp Jer 31:31-34; Eze 37:26). Christ will be the "messenger" of this covenant because he will confirm that covenant (Rom 15:8), thru his death (ie Gen 15; cp Heb 9:15,23-25; 13:20).

WHOM YOU DESIRE: Or "seek" -- this is probably ironical! The Jews should have "delighted" in this Messenger because his coming had been a subject of messianic prophecy and an object of eager anticipation from early in Israel's history (Gen 3:15; etc).

The Jews had been expressing disbelief that God would intervene and establish justice in the world (Mal 2:17), but God promised He would.

Mal 3:2

BUT WHO CAN ENDURE THE DAY OF HIS COMING? WHO CAN STAND WHEN HE APPEARS?: Elsewhere the prophets foretold that this time would be a day of judgment on the whole world marked by disaster and death (Mal 4:1; Isa 2:12; Joel 3:11-16; Amos 5:18-21; Zec 1:14-18).

"To stand" here means to "stand upright" or "remain" -- ie, be approved (Psa 1:5; 5:5; Dan 12:13).

HE WILL BE LIKE A REFINER'S FIRE OR A LAUNDERER'S SOAP: As a fire he would burn up the impurities of the priests (cp Isa 1:25; Jer 6:29,30; Eze 22:17-22; 1Pe 1:7; 4:17; Heb 12:29), and as a laundryman's soap he would wash them clean (cp Jer 2:22; Zec 3:5) -- sig a moral cleansing (Isa 1:16-18; 4:3,4; Psa 51:2,7; Rev 1:5; 7:14). The Levitical priests would then be able to offer sacrifices to Yahweh in a righteous condition rather than as they were in Malachi's day (cp Mal 1:6 -- 2:9; Isa 56:7; 66:20-23; Jer 33:18; Eze 40:38-43; 43:13-27; 45:9-25; Zec 14:16-21). The multiple figures of cleansing and the repetition of terms for cleansing stress the thoroughness of the change that the LORD's Messenger would bring about.

Mal 3:3

HE WILL SIT AS A REFINER AND PURIFIER OF SILVER: The refiner must have patience; he sits and watches the pot where the metal is being melted, and continually removes impurities, and tests the product being purified. When his reflection is seen in the metal, then he knows that he is achieving the purity desired!

"That week this woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.

"The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot -- then she thought again about the verse, that he sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that, yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

"The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, how do you know when the silver is fully refined? He smiled at her and answered, 'Oh, that's easy -- it's finished when I can see my image in it.' "

HE WILL PURIFY THE LEVITES AND REFINE THEM LIKE GOLD AND SILVER: Here Malachi said no one would be able to endure his coming because he would purify the priesthood, the people who should have stood closest to him. Reference to the Levites shows that this passage is dealing with the mortal priesthood, not the immortal saints.

THEN THE LORD WILL HAVE MEN WHO WILL BRING OFFERINGS IN RIGHTEOUSNESS: Offering is accepted only when sins are forgiven, and Israel is "grafted in": Rom 11:23-26; Eze 37:25-27.

Mal 3:4

AND THE OFFERINGS OF JUDAH AND JERUSALEM WILL BE ACCEPTABLE TO THE LORD: In contrast to the present ones that were not (cp Mal 1:13,14).

AS IN DAYS GONE BY, AS IN FORMER YEARS: A return to the "old paths" (Jer 6:16). A restitution of all things (cp Acts 3:21; Mat 19:28).

Mal 3:5

At that time the LORD assured His people that He would draw near to them, but it would be for judgment. He would quickly judge all types of sin that they practiced, whereas in Malachi's day, and now, He waits to judge (cp 2Pe 3:9,10). The Levites would not be the only Jews He judged; all the Israelites living then would come under His judgment (cp Eze 20:34-38). He would judge them for all types of activity forbidden for His people: sorcery; adultery; lying; oppression of employees, widows, and orphans; mistreatment of aliens; and even all forms of irreverence for Him. This was His answer to their claim that He was unjust, and that He would not act (Mal 2:17).

Mal 3:6

I THE LORD DO NOT CHANGE. SO YOU, O DESCENDANTS OF JACOB, ARE NOT DESTROYED: He was faithful to His covenant promises in the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants; He would never destroy them completely but would chasten them and finally bless them. Trials are essential, but not permanent. By calling the Jews "sons of Jacob," the LORD was connecting their behavior with that of their notorious patriarch. Promises are only as good as the person who makes them, so that fact that Yahweh does not change (cp Tit 1:2; Jam 1:17; Heb 6:13) strengthens the certainty of their fulfillment (cp Deu 4:31; Eze 36:22-32). The Apostle Paul gave the same reason for expecting Israel to have a future (Rom 3:3,4; 9:6; 11:1-5,25-29).

"The statement that Yahweh does not change (cp 1Sa 15:29; Heb 13:8) may seem to contradict other statements that the LORD changed His mind (eg, Exo 32:14). This statement that He does not change refers to the essential character of God. He is always holy, loving, just, faithful, gracious, merciful, etc. The other statements, that He changes, refer to His changing from one course of action to another. They involve His choices, not His character. If He did not change His choices, He would not be responsive; if He changed His character, He would be unreliable" (Const).

"It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change cannot affect; One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows. All things else have changed -- all things are changing. The sun itself grows dim with age; the world is waxing old; the folding up of the worn-out vesture has commenced; the heavens and earth must soon pass away; they shall perish, they shall wax old as doth a garment; but there is One who only hath immortality, of whose years there is no end, and in whose person there is no change. The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore, is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth -- 'I am the LORD, I change not.'

"The stability which the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a hold-fast, is like that which the Christian's hope affords him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth. With God 'is no variableness, neither shadow of turning' [Jam 1:17]. Whatever His attributes were of old, they are now; His power, His wisdom, His justice, His truth, are alike unchanged. He has ever been the refuge of His people, their stronghold in the day of trouble, and He is their sure Helper still. He is unchanged in His love. He has loved His people with 'an everlasting love'; He loves them now as much as ever He did, and when all earthly things shall have melted in the last conflagration, His love will still wear the dew of its youth. Precious is the assurance that He changes not! The wheel of providence revolves, but its axle is eternal love.

" 'Death and change are busy ever,
Man decays, and ages move;
But His mercy waneth never;
God is wisdom, God is love' " (CHS).

Mal 3:7

Vv 7-12: Fifth oracle: the people's sin of robbing God. The LORD had said that Israel's earlier history was a time when the priests and the people of Israel pleased Him (v 4). Now He said that those early days were short-lived (cp Exo 32:7-9). In contrast to His faithfulness (v 6), they had been unfaithful.

EVER SINCE THE TIME OF YOUR FOREFATHERS YOU HAVE TURNED AWAY FROM MY DECREES AND HAVE NOT KEPT THEM: From Israel's early history the people had deviated from the straight path that Yahweh had prescribed for them to walk in the Mosaic Covenant. They had disobeyed covenant stipulations. They had succumbed to the inherent weakness of the flesh (Deu 9:7; Psa 78:8-10; Eze 20:8; Luk 11:48-50).

RETURN TO ME, AND I WILL RETURN TO YOU: The almighty LORD called His people to return to Him with the promise that if they did He would return to them (cp Deu 4:30,31; 30:1-10; Isa 55:6,7; Deu 30:1-4).

BUT YOU ASK, 'HOW ARE WE TO RETURN?': The response of the people, however, was that they did not know how to return. The Mosaic Covenant specified how they were to return, by trusting and obeying Yahweh, so their question indicated a reluctance to change their ways.

" 'How should we return?' is not an earnest entreaty for information but a self-serving declaration of innocence. The people, in effect, are saying, 'What need do we have to return since we never turned away to begin with?' " (Merrill).

Mal 3:8

WILL A MAN ROB GOD?: How absurd it is for human beings to rob or defraud God. To rob Him one would have to be stronger and smarter than He. Yet that is what the Israelites were doing because God was allowing it. They were thieves of the worst kind, robbers of God.

IN TITHES AND OFFERINGS: They had withheld the tithes (Lev 27:30,32; Deu 12:5-18; 14:22-29; cp, generally, Psa 29:2; Mat 22:17-21) and offerings (Num 18:21-32) that the Law commanded them to bring to God. Earlier the LORD criticized the priests for offering inferior quality sacrifices (1:7-14), and now He criticized the people for offering an insufficient quantity of sacrifices (cp v 10). Failure to adequately support the priests and Levites resulted in the breakdown of priestly service (cp Neh 10:32-39; 13:10).

Historical background: "I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, 'Why is the house of God neglected?' Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts. All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and oil into the storerooms" (Neh 13:10-12).

Mal 3:9

YOU ARE UNDER A CURSE -- THE WHOLE NATION OF YOU -- BECAUSE YOU ARE ROBBING ME: All the people were guilty of this offense. That is, it was widespread in the nation, not that every individual Israelite was guilty necessarily. Robbing the priests and Levites of what was due them was really robbing God since they were His servants and they maintained His house, the temple. They would receive a curse from the LORD for this covenant violation (v 11; cp Mal 4:6).

Mal 3:10

THAT THERE MAY BE FOOD IN MY HOUSE: Then there would be food in the LORD's house for the priests and for Himself. The sacrifices were, in a figurative sense, food for the LORD (cp Mal 1:7).

TEST ME IN THIS... AND SEE IF I WILL NOT THROW OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF HEAVEN AND POUR OUT SO MUCH BLESSING THAT YOU WILL NOT HAVE ROOM ENOUGH FOR IT: Israel had probably justified withholding the tithes because of the drought (cp Hag 1:2,11; Neh 5:4), but if they were to obey God, then He would bless them! The principle is: put God first, and then He will bless you (Mat 6:33; Pro 3:9,10). The LORD urged His people to put Him to a test by doing this (cp Acts 5:9; 15:10; 1Co 10:9; Heb 3:9).

He had promised to bless them for obedience, so their obedience in bringing the full amount of tithes that the Law required would test His faithfulness to His promise. He promised to reward their full obedience with rain and harvests abundant enough to satisfy their needs. His heavenly "storehouse" of blessings for them was full to brimming over, and He would gladly pour it out upon them!

This verse has often been used to urge Christians to tithe. However, the New Covenant under which we live never specified the amount or percentage that we should give back to God of what He has given to us. Rather it teaches that we should give regularly, sacrificially, as the LORD has prospered us, and joyfully (cp 1Co 16:1,2; 2Co 8; 9; Phi 4). In harmony with the principle of grace that marks this dispensation, the LORD leaves the amount we give back to Him unspecified and up to us.

"Have you ever hung up a hummingbird feeder? Have you observed these lightning quick little creatures sipping the sweet nectar and then flying off to a nearby limb to guard the feeder from other birds? Have you ever seen a tiny hummingbird dive-bomb another kind of bird who was also trying to take a sip of the sweet stuff?

"The little hummingbird doesn't know that the person who put up the feeder also has an unlimited supply of food so that however many birds may come, there will always be enough. Instead, the hummingbird worries and frets and spends needless energy warding off what he thinks are his competitors for food. Actually he could have done with a lot less nectar himself if he hadn't burnt up so much energy protecting his supply from those he thought were his enemies.

"Can we see ourselves in this? How much energy do we spend protecting what we have instead of sharing it with others? We, like the hummingbird, fail to realize that there is an unlimited supply of all that we need. Our Heavenly Father is able 'to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.' [Eph 3:20] Actually God issues us a challenge saying, 'Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.' [Mal 3:10]

"How much fuller our lives can be once we recognize that all we have has come from God and He is not only able but willing to open the very windows of heaven to pour out blessings upon us. We think lack instead of plenty, we think we must conserve, and store and hoard instead of giving. Jesus says, 'Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.'

"We think how foolish is the little hummingbird yet he is more justified in behaving as he does than we are, for he does not have the advantage of hearing God say that He will provide.

"When Jesus says 'give', what is it we are to give? Our money? Yes, God gave it to us in the first place and He's watching to see if we regard our assets as 'all mine' or 'His' lent to us to provide for our necessities. But when Jesus says 'give' it is not limited to money. Some who are rich can give huge sums and never feel it as Jesus pointed out in the story of the widow's mite. He wants not just our money, but us. He wants us to give of our time, He wants us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, and this means much more than just money. Let's try giving ourselves away in His service, thinking of things to do, for Him.

"Jesus said, 'He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.' [Mat 10:39] Let's try losing ourselves in service to Him, forgetting what we want and what we have and begin to give of ourselves and of our substance to Him. It has to be experienced to be believed. Some will never experience it because they are like the little hummingbird, spending all their time protecting what they think is theirs, but what wonderful blessing is in store for those willing to give, to really give, not just of our surplus but of ourselves. Truly Jesus was right when He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' [Acts 20:35]" (MM).

Mal 3:11

I WILL PREVENT PESTS FROM DEVOURING YOUR CROPS: KJV has "the devourer", ref locusts (cp Joel 1:4; Amos 4:9). Not only would God provide adequate harvests (v 10), but He would also preserve the harvested crops from pests and animals and diseases that might otherwise destroy them (cp Deu 28:18,38).

AND THE VINES IN YOUR FIELDS WILL NOT CAST THEIR FRUIT: Their grapes would also develop fully on their vines rather than dropping off prematurely (cp Deu 28:40).

Mal 3:12

THEN ALL THE NATIONS WILL CALL YOU BLESSED, FOR YOURS WILL BE A DELIGHTFUL LAND: All other nations would acknowledge divine blessing on the Israelites because their land would be such a delightful place (cp Deu 4:6,7; 28:9,10; 33:29; Jer 33:6; Zep 3:19; Zec 8:13,23).

Are we, the saints of today, living up to these standards? Consider Acts 4:31-35; 1Co 3:11-15; 2Co 5:10; 9:6-12; Gal 6:6; Phi 4:14-19). "Whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (2Co 9:6).

Mal 3:13

Mal 3:13 -- 4:3: Sixth oracle: the arrogant and the humble.

Vv 13-15: The people's arrogance.

Mal 3:14

GOING ABOUT LIKE MOURNERS: That is, making some kind of outward, hypocritical show of piety: cp Mat 6:16; 23:25-28.

Mal 3:15

It appeared to these men that those who practiced wickedness who got ahead and grew stronger materially (cp Mal 2:17). Moreover, they seemed to escape any punishment from God. So why not continue as they were?

Mal 3:16

V 16: The remnant's humility. Upon hearing the LORD's rebuke through His prophet (vv 13-15), some of Malachi's hearers who genuinely feared the LORD got together. Evidently they discussed Malachi's message and agreed among themselves that they needed to repent. Yahweh paid attention to their attitude and heard what they said.

"The word translated 'gave attention' ['listened' in NIV] means 'hearkened,' as when a dog picks up its ears when it hears its master's voice. What these people did caught the LORD's attention. He hearkened to them, and He 'heard' or listened attentively to what they said. God always listens carefully to the conversation of those who bind themselves together with other believers who genuinely fear Him and who reflect on His great name" (GCM).

A SCROLL OF REMEMBRANCE WAS WRITTEN IN HIS PRESENCE CONCERNING THOSE WHO FEARED THE LORD AND HONORED HIS NAME: In His heavenly throne room angelic assistants wrote a permanent record that these individuals feared and respected Yahweh (cp Exo 32:32; Psa 69:28; Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phi 4:3; Heb 12:23; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27). When God deals with those individuals, He will remember their submission to Him.

"Here we have one definition of those that fear the LORD. They were the people who talked with each other, and we can infer from this that their discussions were of the LORD. They discussed godly things together. They had to get together to talk. One of the most important things we can do in this life is to get together with other believers and talk with them. Let's not limit our discussions to the weather and work, but especially discuss the faith we hold -- and encourage each other to be prepared for the return of Christ (and may it be soon). And the reward for encouraging each other is that a book of remembrance has been written for us and that we will become part of God's treasured possession. It is a great reward to be called 'mine' by God and to be his treasured possession. So get together and get talking today!" (RP).

Mal 3:17

Mal 3:17 -- 4:3: The coming judgment of Israel.

MY TREASURED POSSESSION: The Hebrew word here, "segullah", we are told, referred to the private treasure of kings; in societies where kings were more or less absolute dictators, everything in their realm was considered to be legally their property -- but even a king could not control and spend and enjoy all properties in his kingdom, and so he would possess certain properties, properties which were set apart as his own "special treasure", his "peculiar" or unique property, and no one else's (cp sw Exo 19:5; Deu 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; 1Ch 29:3; Psa 135:4).

In the figure here, God Almighty is the great king, and all the universe belongs to Him, and all men, and all they have -- it is all His. The cattle on a thousand hills belong to Him! But... the Heavenly Father has condescended to choose a special few of all His subjects to be His own family, His own special possession, His own cherished riches. They stay close to His person; they recline in His bosom; they hear His whispers of endearment; they feel the tender touch of His special love. They are dearer to Him than the stars in the heavens, or the glorious snow-topped mountains. They are dearer to Him than the treasures of the richest mines, or the harvests of the richest fields. They are the ones He has redeemed with the precious blood of His Son.

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