For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

1:1.  “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.”


Its being described as a “burden” declares that the prophet’s message is largely an announcement of judgment, as applicable to Christendom as to the Israel of Malachi’s day.


1:2.  “I have loved you, saith the Lord.  Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?  Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob.” 


Esau was the firstborn, and therefore the holder of the birthright which gave to him a double portion of the inheritance, and dominion over his brethren, Dt 21:17; but he despised his birthright, his estimate of its worth being revealed in that he sold it for a bowl of lentil soup, Ge 25:30-34.


God began by declaring His love for the unworthy people, but their insolent retort was to ask Him when He had loved them, the clear implication being that they didn’t believe Him!  In surpassing grace He patiently reasoned with them by referring to their beginning as descendants of Jacob, the  younger twin brother of Esau, as it is written, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you,” Dt 7:7-8. 


He had loved Jacob so much that by comparison His affection for Esau was like hatred.  It has to be understood, however, that the terms are relative, not actual.  God loved Esau, but not in the same way that He loved Jacob, as will be clear if we consider His attitude relative towards the sinner whom Esau represents.  He loves those sinners, as it is written, “God so loved the world,” of unconverted men “that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:16.  The same assurance given Israel by Malachi is given us by John, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be the propiation for our sins,” 1 John 4:10, we in turn responding, “We love him, because he first loved us,” 1 John 4:19.


At this point it is necessary to emphasize that this distinction between Esau and Jacob does not imply God’s predestination of some to salvation, and of others to damnation.  He has predestinated that every unbeliever will ultimately enter the lake of fire to endure eternal torment; and that every believer will enter heaven to enjoy eternal bliss; but He has not predestinated the choice which governs any man’s eternal state.  Whether a man will be in heaven or the lake of fire is determined by his own free-will choice to accept or reject Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.  That it is a free-will choice is made clear throughout Scripture, as for example, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Mt 11:28, and the Lord’s lament, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,” Jn 5:40.


What has led to confusion relative to predestination is failure to take account of God’s omniscience by which He foreknows the choice each man will make; but His foreknowledge should never be confused with His predestination.  To say that He foreknows everything only because he has predestinated everything is blasphemy, for it makes Divine foreknowledge a farce.  The order relative to Divine foreknowledge and predestination is demonstrated in Ro 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son....”  Note that foreknowledge precedes predestination, and that predestination is not to salvation, but to conformity to Christ’s image or likeness, and only those who have first made a free-will choice of Christ as Savior are the objects of that Divine predestination.


By His foreknowledge God knew that Esau would reject salvation, that rejection being typologically portrayed in his sale of the birthright recorded in Ge 25:29-34, just as Jacob’s having the faith to buy the birthright (he didn’t steal it as is so often declared) is the typological figure of his having the faith to save his soul by looking forward to the vicarious death of the seed of the woman, Christ.  Incidentally, the faith of the OT believer that looked forward to Christ’s vicarious death is no different from that of the NT believer who looks back to that sin-atoning death.


Another truth typologically demonstrated in Esau’s being the firstborn, and Jacob the second, is that in Scripture every firstborn is rejected in favor of the secondborn, because the firstborn represents what we are by natural birth, while the secondborn represents what we become by the new birth.


God therefore loved Jacob because He foreknew that in spite of all his waywardness he would eventually become Israel, obedient, and therefore blessed.  He loved Esau also, but that love was tempered by the foreknowledge that this firstborn son of Isaac would never repent of his sin, but would instead increase in malignant hatred of the secondborn Jacob, and would ultimately seek to kill him, see Ge 27:41.


That murderous hatred of Esau against Jacob is a type of the natural man’s implacable hatred of Christ and of God, vented without mercy at Calvary.


Israel has fulfilled the type, for Israel is God’s firstborn, see Ex 4:22, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.”  The man Christ Jesus, prior to His death, was God’s secondborn, becoming His firstborn in resurrection, and as Head of a new spiritual race, born-again believers, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence,” Col 1:18.”


Adverse circumstances may sometimes cause us to question God’s love for us, but the remedy is to remember Calvary.


1:3.  “And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”


God’s “hatred” of Esau has already been discussed in the preceding verse, and need not be enlarged on here, except to note that when Babylon captured Israel it also captured Edom and Moab, but only Israel was restored.  Edom and Moab still lie desolate.


Because God is holy He must punish sin, and His desolating the territory of Esau is the tangible evidence that Esau, by his disobedience, had chosen to make himself an heir of cursing rather than blessing. 


The mention of “his mountains” relates to the mountain fastnesses of the land of Edom in which Esau and his people imagined themselves impervious to attack.  There is, however, no place where man is beyond the reach of God.


“Dragons” is more correctly translated “jackals.”


The destruction of Esau’s kingdom points symbolically to the ultimate end of every unbeliever in the lake of fire.


1:4.  “Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.”


In Heb 12:11 it is written, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”  Had Esau had even a glimmering of spiritual intelligence he would have recognized that God’s having laid his territory waste was Divine chastisement designed to turn him from the path of folly to faith and blessing; but as with every unconverted man, he took no account of God, for with the unconverted every circumstance of life is viewed simply as a chance happening of fate, the response of some being to accept it stoically; and that of many others being similar to Esau’s, “we will return and build the desolate places.”  Sadly the same attitudes mark the lives of the majority of professed believers; there being a relative few with the wisdom to examine every circumstance of life, and ask whether it is the rebuke of sin, or part of the process by which God refines His gold.


The defiant attitude of Esau’s unconverted heart is expressed in the words, “We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places.”  And so is it with all the unconverted of every age.  They will continue in their self-willed busy occupation with the things of this perishing world, while remaining blind to the things that pertain to eternity.  As quickly as God threw down in Edom, the people hurried to rebuild; and so is it still.  Men scurry frantically to rebuild after every natural disaster, which they, in their eagerness to dismiss God from His Own creation, attribute to Mother Nature.  And in their frenzied busyness to rebuild what God has thrown down, they fail to discern that the destruction is the expression of His anger against their rebellion, and is but a foretaste of that, which in the now imminent Tribulation, will leave the whole world in ruins.


The reference to Esau’s land being called “the border (the land) of wickedness,” and his people those “against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever,” directs attention to how spiritual eyes see today’s world.  It too is a place of wickedness, and the vast majority of its people, are those against whom God’s righteous anger will burn for ever in the lake of fire, because they will die unrepentant in spite of all His attempts to turn them out of the path of folly and destruction.


It may be interesting at this point to glance briefly at Esau’s history.  The territory of Esau (Edom or Seir, as it is sometimes called), is a narrow strip of land about one hundred miles long, and twenty to twenty-five miles wide, the river Zered, which flows into the south eastern end of the Dead Sea, being its northern border.  The lower half of the rift valley which runs from the Sea of Tiberias to the Gulf of Aquabah, was its western border; the Arabian Desert, its eastern frontier; and the waste land towards Midian, its southern limit.


Esau (Edom) appears to have seized the territory from a people known as the Horites.


Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and his carrying away captive into Babylon many of the people of Judah,  set in motion a series of events having far reaching consequences.  It was around that same time that the Nabataens, Arabs from the eastern desert, began to encroach into Edom, with the result that many of the Edomites simply abandoned the land and moved into the territory once possessed by Judah.  As more Nabataens spread into Edom, more Edomites  moved into Judah, those who remained being eventually absorbed by the Nabataens, their identity as Edomites thus being brought to an end.


Greek influence was also spreading, and because the Greek word for Edom was Idumea, the territory of Judah and of those living there, came to be known as Idumea and Idumeans respectively, so that in time the Edomites who had settled in Judah were simply known as Idumeans, the name Edomite gradually ceasing to be used. 

About 126 BC, a Jewish leader, John Hyrcanus, subdued these former Edomites, compelled them to be circumcised, and to adopt Judaism; and so much had they become a part of Judaism, that when the Jews began their fatal rebellion against Rome, which culminated in the Diaspora of AD 70, the former Edomites joined them, and were virtually exterminated by the Romans, so that since AD 70 there is no historical record of them.  Thus God, in His own time, and in His own way, executed His threatened judgment against Esau.


1:5.  “And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel.”


The believers amongst those addressed by the prophet would see God’s judgment executed against Esau and his people, and would worship, for whereas Esau’s land would be called “The border of wickedness,” the land of Israel will yet be known as the border of righteousness and blessing.


1:6.  “A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor?  and if I be a master, where is my fear?  saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name.  And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?


God had called Israel His son, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn,” Ex 4:22, and a son honors his father, but Israel had dishonored God by their sinful living, as Paul declared to a later generation of Jews, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you,” Ro 2:24.  It is instructive to note that a rebellious son was to be stoned to death, see Dt 21:18-21.


The reverence of a son for his father is impelled by love; and that of a servant for his master, by fear of punishment; but Israel had lost all fear of God.  As his sons they refused him the reverence that His love ought to have inspired; and as His servants they refused him even the reverence that fear might have been expected to prompt.  The proper fear of God, incidentally, is not the slavish fear that dreads punishment, but rather that reverential awe which prompts worship, obedience being the most convincing from of worship, as it is written, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” 1 Sa 15:22.


A servant honors his master, and surely God, as Creator, is the Master, not only of the Jews, but of all men; yet Israel had dishonored Him by refusing to obey Him. 


Those addressed were the priests, those who ought to have been examples to the people, but it was they who not only didn’t love Him or fear Him, but who actually despised Him: they held Him in contempt.


Their insolent response to the charge was, “Wherein have we despised thy name?”  Their consciences had long since become so hardened as to blind them to their sin: they weren’t even aware that they did despise God, and it is the same today with Christendom: they too have no consciousness of offending Him even with the most blatant sin


1:7.  “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee?  In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.”


The polluted (defiled) bread was the offerings they presented as part of their loveless ritualistic “worship,” defiled, not only by the touch of their defiled hands, but by the fact that the animals they offered were blemished, in spite of His having commanded that every animal offered was to be unblemished. But again, their arrogant response to the charge was, In what way have we defiled you? God’s answer being His assertion that they despised His table.  “Table” as used here is not the Table of Shewbread, but rather the Brazen altar upon which the sacrifices were burnt.  As that which was offered to Him in sacrifice it was figuratively His “bread,” see Le 21:6, and so called because as  bread satisfies man’s hunger, so does worship (represented here by the sacrifices) satisfy God’s heart.


1:8.  “And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?  and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person?  saith the Lord of hosts.”


Beginning with the Passover lamb, Ex 12:5, every animal offered was to be without blemish, the physical perfection of the offering being a typological portrait of the moral perfection of God’s true Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, see John 2:36.  The offering of a blemished animal therefore was a double offense: (1) it was wilful disobedience, and (2) it spoiled one of God’s types, for it was declaring typologically that Christ was blemished, i.e., that He wasn’t sinless.


The seriousness of this latter sin, the spoiling of one of God’s types, is demonstrated in that it was for this very offense (albeit committed in ignorance) that Moses was denied entry to Canaan, see Nu 20:11-12.  In Ex 17:6 he had been commanded to smite the rock, that smiting being a type of what the Lord Jesus Christ would endure under the rod of God at Calvary.  In Nu 20:8 he had been commanded to speak to the rock, but instead he smote it as he had done in Ex 17:6, that second smiting implying typologically that Christ would be smitten twice.


Apart from the typological evil portrayed in their offering blemished animals, was the literal offense offered God.  It was tantamount to saying that He Himself was of little worth in their estimation, and that a blemished animal was good enough for Him.

They were thus offering Him an insult that they wouldn’t have dared offer one of their own governmental officials.


Christendom repeats the offense daily, for what passes with them for worship is a humanly-devised, self-willed travesty that has replaced the Divine order with man’s.


1:9.  “And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us; this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of hosts.”


There are two widely accepted interpretations of this verse.  One understands the first part of the verse to be Malachi’s appeal to the priests to turn to God asking Him to be gracious “unto us,” i.e., to the whole nation, his own humility being declared in that he includes himself as part of the sinful nation.


The second interpretation takes it to mean that the priests were hypocritically, and as a mere formality, asking God to be gracious “unto us,” i.e.,to the nation, the “means” by which they sought to ensure a favorable response being to continue offering Him unacceptable sacrifices, they in their blindness being unaware of what an insult they thus offered Him.  The prophet’s question, Will he regard your persons? must obviously be answered, No!


In context, this latter interpretation seems the more likely. And again, Christendom daily duplicates their hypocrisy.


1:10.  “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought?  neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought.  I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.”


The New Berkley Version translates this “Oh, that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire upon My altar in vain! ....”; and Taylor translates it, “Oh, to find one priest among you who would shut the doors and refuse this kind of sacrifice ....”; and The Amplified Bible renders it, “Oh, that there were one among even you [whose duty it is to minister to Me] who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on My altar to no purpose [an empty, futile, fruitless pretense! ....”


Others, Knox, for example, renders it, “Never man of you but must be paid to shut the door, light altar-fire; no friends of mine, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.”


These translations are not mutually exclusive, for without doubt God did wish that there might be found among them a man with the courage to declare the whole empty ritual an abomination, and to close the Temple doors thus ending the travesty; but the truth was that there wasn’t such a man: they were all spiritually blind, and infected with the same mercenary spirit.  There wasn’t one who would render even the slightest service without being paid. 


Few will have trouble seeing in this the foreshadowing of the same mercenary spirit that governs most of Christendom today.  With a few rare exceptions, today’s clerics view “the ministry” as a profession on a par with Law, Medicine, Engineering, etc., the attitude of the people being expressed in the often repeated expression of disgust, “All the church wants is money.”


1:11.  “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.”


Some have seen in this a reference to this present Church age, and such an application might be made, but clearly it is the Millennium that is being described, for only in that glorious day will this have its complete fulfillment, no such universal adoration of Jehovah having been known in any past or present time. 


Nor is there any reason to view the incense and offerings other than literally, for Scripture makes it clear that in the Millennium the Levitical ritual will be reinstated, the only difference being that whereas the sacrifices of the OT age pointed on to Christ’s great work at Calvary, those of the millennial age will point back to it.  And as those OT sacrifices expressed the genuine worship of the believing remnant, and the feigned worship of the apostate mass of the nation, so will it be in the Millennium.  They will express the genuine worship of the millennial true believers, and the ritualistic feigned worship of the mere professors.


1:12.  “But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.”


They had been profane, i.e., irreverent, both in regard to God’s name and His altar, for by bringing blemished animals to offer in sacrifice they were making it clear that they had no compunction about disobeying Him, their implication being that neither He nor His altar were of much importance in their estimation.  It is not that they considered His altar to have been desecrated by their blemished sacrifices: it is rather that they considered Him of so little importance that it didn’t matter what they placed upon His altar.  And since the offerings were typologically God’s food, and they provided Him with animals that they themselves wouldn’t eat, it was tantamount to saying that they held Him in contempt.


1:13.  “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.”


What ought to have been the willing happy expression of loving adoration, had degenerated into a wearisome loveless ritual, their irritation with all of it being expressed in snuffing, i.e., the irritated sigh with which one reluctantly begins a tiresome or boring task.


“... torn” is understood by some to be used here in the sense of having been torn away from its owner, as for example, seizure of the animal by a rich creditor from a poor defaulting debtor; and by others, as having been pulled alive but maimed from the grasp of a wild beast.  In either case the Lord might well ask incredulously, Do you actually expect Me to accept such offerings?


Yet apostate Christendom offers God the same affront in their so-called worship.  Instead of Spirit-indited worship expressed in prayer and song as the Holy Spirit leads, the men worshiping audibly and individually at the Holy Spirit’s impulse; and the women, silently, and with their hair covered, the “minister” delivers a homily, and the congregation’s only participation is to join in the communal singing.  And as for the “offering,” it rarely meets the minimum one-tenth required in the age of law; and is not infrequently derived from questionable sources, such as unscrupulous, shady business dealings, etc.


The judgment that overtook apostate Israel is simply a foreshadowing of that which is about to engulf apostate Christendom.


1:14.  “But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”


Clearly this is a hypothetical case used as an illustration of the prevailing evil, for what they were doing was the equivalent of what is described here.  The man had a healthy male animal which he had vowed to sacrifice unto the Lord, but when the time came to offer it, he substituted a blemished animal, and thereby incurred God’s curse instead of His blessing.  This was in essence what all of the people were doing, and had been doing so long that they had ceased to see anything wrong with it, and with the same result: they had incurred God’s curse rather than His blessing.


Dr Fink in Liberty Bible Commentary notes instructively that, “It is a mistake similar to that made many years later by Ananias and Sapphira (cf. Acts 5:1-11).


Jehovah, the Lord of hosts, is a great King, far above every earthly potentate, and even the heathen nations of that day feared and reverenced Him, being mindful of what He had done to Egypt when He had delivered Israel; and of His miraculous care of Israel for forty years in the wilderness; and of what He had done to the Canaanites when He had brought Israel into the land in the days of Joshua.  But the very people who had been the objects of all this miraculous loving care, had long since forgotten, and He Who ought to have been the object of their grateful worship, had become instead the butt of their contempt!


It might have been expected that He would have destroyed them with a stroke, but He still loved them, and in patient grace beyond comprehension, would chastise them as does a father the son whom he loves, in order to bring them to repentance, and consequent blessing.  Sadly, however, it won’t be until the impending terrible Tribulation judgments have done their work that those objectives will be accomplished.

[Malachi 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough