The Word Made Fresh
1The Word of the LORD that came to Israel through Malachi:
2“I have loved you, says the LORD, but you ask, ‘How?’” And the LORD replies, “Isn’t Esau Jacob’s brother? Yes, and I have loved Jacob, 3but I have hated Esau. I have made his hill country desolate; his inheritance has become a desert inhabited by jackals. 4If Edom says, ‘Even though we are devastated we will rebuild,’ the LORD Almighty says, they may rebuild, but I will tear it down again and again until they are known as the godless country – the people the LORD is angry with forever. 5Your own eyes will see this and you will proclaim that the LORD is great even beyond the borders of Israel.
6“A son honors his father. Servants honor their master. But if I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says to the priests who have cursed the LORD’s name: 7“You have placed polluted food on my altar. And you ask, ‘How have we polluted it?’ With your attitude that the LORD’s table may be despised. 8Isn’t it a sin when you bring blind animals to the altar as an offering? Isn’t it wrong when you offer animals that are lame or ill? Present them to your governor and see if he is pleased with you. Will he show you favor?”
9So now beg God’s favor so that God will be gracious to us. The fault is yours. Will God show favor to any of you? 10“If only someone among you would close the doors so that you couldn’t proudly kindle a fire on my altar! I take no pleasure in you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will not accept any offerings your hands bring. My name is great among all the nations from sunrise to sunset. In every place pure incense is offered to me because I am well known among the nations. 12But you corrupt my name whenever you claim the LORD’s table is unclean and the sacrifices made on it are hated. 13You claim that it is a weary task, and raise your noses at me. You bring sacrifices that have been stolen, or that are lame or sick, and bring them as an offering! Should I accept such ‘sacrifices’ from you? 14Cursed be the one who promises to bring a male animal from his flock, but then sacrifices instead an animal that is blemished. I am a great king,” says the LORD, “and my name is hallowed among the nations.”
1: Scholars tend to date Malachi somewhere around 450 B.C., after the exiles have returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. It is a time when Jerusalem and Judah are part of a relatively minor Persian administrative district; the reference to “governor” rather than “king” means Judah is under foreign rule, and lends credence to placing Malachi at around this time in history.
“Malachi” simply means “my messenger,” and there is no way of knowing if this is the prophet’s actual name. Unfortunately, this is all the information we have about the author. We note that, although Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament in Christian Bibles, in the Jewish scriptures that is not the case; Malachi is nearer the center and is followed by Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and so forth.
2-5: The prophecy begins with a declaration of God’s love for Jacob (Israel and Judah). The people question God’s love, however. I suppose that is only natural, considering what they’ve gone through for the last 150 years! God’s response is to compare their situation with that of Edom. Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob as the progenitor of the people who would someday be established as Israel — indeed, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28). Esau was said to have settled in what came to be known as Edom (Genesis 36:1). God’s point here is twofold: first, Edom no longer exists, and God will see to it that it will never again recover as a nation, proving that God favors Israel over Edom. Second, the fate of Edom proves that God is more than just a local deity, and that lends even greater significance to Israel having been chosen as God’s people.
6-14: Next, the priests are accused of not honoring God as they should. The priests ask for details, and God provides details. They offer inferior animals as sacrifices, says God, and they wouldn’t think of treating their governor like that – they may as well just lock the doors of the temple. God is respected in other nations, but not by the priests in Jerusalem. The incense offered to God in other nations is probably a reference to faithful Jews now scattered throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond. In Jerusalem, however, the priests are bored with religion and are doing no more than going through the motions of their sacred duties.
May we always guard against just going through the motions of worshiping God.