Malachi 3:1
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
III.

(1) I will send.—Or, I send. It is the participle used as the prophetic present. (Comp. Note on Malachi 1:11.)

My messenger.—Heb., Malachi, my angel, or my messenger, with a play on the name of the prophet. In Malachi 2:7, he calls the priest the angel or messenger of the LORD. There can be little doubt that he is influenced in his choice of the term by his own personal name (see Introd.). This “messenger,” by the distinct reference to Isaiah 40:3, contained in the words, “and he shall prepare,” &c., is evidently the same as he whom [the deutero-] Isaiah prophetically heard crying, “In the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Moreover, from the nature of his mission, he is proved to be identical with the “Elijah” of Malachi 4:3. These words had their first, if not their perfect fulfilment in John the Baptist (Matthew 17:12).

The Lord.—This word “Lord” occurs eight times with the definite article, but always, except here, with the name of God following it: viz., Exodus 23:17, followed by “Jehovah;” Exodus 34:23, by “Jehovah, the God of Israel;” in Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 19:4, by “Jehovah Zebaoth;” and in Isaiah 10:16, by “the Lord of Zebaoth.” And here, as elsewhere, it must mean God Himself, because He is said to come “to his temple,” and because He is said to be He “whom ye seek:” i.e., “the God of judgment” (Malachi 2:17).

Eveni.e., “namely,” for so the Hebrew conjunction “and” is frequently used: e.g., Exodus 25:12; 1Samuel 28:3.

The messenger (or angel) of the covenant.—This expression occurs only in this passage. Identified as He is here with “the Lord,” He can be no other than the Son of God, who was manifested in the flesh as the Messiah. In the word “covenant” there is, perhaps, some reference to the “new covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31), but the meaning of the word must not be limited to this.

Delight in.—Rather, desire.

Malachi

THE LAST WORD OF PROPHECY

Malachi 3:1 - Malachi 3:12
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Deep obscurity surrounds the person of this last of the prophets. It is questioned whether Malachi is a proper name at all. It is the Hebrew word rendered in Malachi 3:1 of our passage ‘My messenger,’ and this has led many authorities to contend that the prophecy is in fact anonymous, the name being only a designation of office. Whether this is so or not, the name, if it is a name, is all that we know about him. The tenor of his prophecy shows that he lived after the restoration of the Temple and its worship, and the sins which he castigates are substantially those with which Ezra and Nehemiah had to fight. One ancient Jewish authority asserts that he was Ezra; but the statement has no confirmation, and if it had been correct, we should not have expected that such an author would have been anonymous. This dim figure, then, is the last of the mighty line of prophets, and gives strong utterance to the ‘hope of Israel’! One clear voice, coming from we scarcely know whose lips, proclaims for the last time, ‘He comes! He comes!’ and then all is silence for four hundred years. Modern critics, indeed, hold that the bulk of the Psalter is of later date; but that contention has much to do before it can be regarded as established.

The first point worthy of notice in this passage, then, is the concentration, in this last prophetic utterance, of that element of forward-looking expectancy which marked all the earlier revelation. From the beginning, the selectest spirits in Israel had set their faces and pointed their fingers to a great future, which gathered distinctness as the ages rolled, and culminated in the King from David’s line, of whom many psalms sung, and in the suffering Servant of the Lord, who shines out from the pages of the second part of Isaiah’s prophecy. This Messianic hope runs through all the Old Testament, like a broadening river. ‘They that went before cried, Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh.’

That hope gives unity to the Old Testament, whatever criticism may have to teach about the process of its production. The most important thing about the book is that one purpose informs it all; and the student who misses the truth that ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ has a less accurate conception of the meaning and inter-relations of the Old Testament than the unlearned who has accepted that great truth. We should be willing to learn all that modern scholarship has to teach about the course of revelation. But we should take care that the new knowledge does not darken the old certainty that the prophets ‘testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and of the glory that should follow,’ Here, at the very end, stands Malachi, reiterating the assurance which had come down through the centuries. The prophets, as it were, had lit a beacon which flamed through the darkness. Hand after hand had flung new fuel on it when it burned low. It had lighted up many a stormy night of exile and distress. Now we can dimly see one more, the last of his order, casting his brand on the fire, which leaps up again; and then he too passes into the darkness, but the beacon burns on.

The next point to note is the clear prophecy of a forerunner. ‘My messenger’ is to come, and to ‘prepare the way before Me.’ Isaiah had heard a voice calling, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,’ and Malachi quotes his words, and ascribes the same office to the ‘messenger.’ In the last verses of his prophecy he calls this messenger ‘Elijah the prophet.’ Here, then, we have a remarkable instance of a historical detail set forth in prophecy. The coming of the Lord is to be immediately preceded by the appearance of a prophet, whose function is to effect a moral and religious reformation, which shall prepare a path for Him. This is no vague ideal, but definite announcement of a definite fact, to be realised in a historical personality. How came this half-anonymous Jew, four hundred years beforehand, to hit upon the fact that the next prophet in Israel would herald the immediate coming of the Lord? There ought to be but one answer possible.

Another point to note is the peculiar relation between Jehovah and Him who comes. Emphatically and broadly it is declared that Jehovah Himself ‘shall suddenly come to His temple’; and then the prophecy immediately passes on to speak of the coming of ‘the Messenger of the covenant,’ and dwells for a time exclusively on his work of purifying; and then again it glides, without conscious breach of continuity or mark of transition, into, ‘And I will come near to you in judgment.’ A mysterious relationship of oneness and yet distinctness is here shadowed, of which the solution is only found in the Christian truth that the Word, which was Grod, and was in the beginning with God, became flesh, and that in Him Jehovah in very deed tabernacled among men. The expression ‘the Messenger {or Angel} of the covenant’ is connected with the remarkable representations in other parts of the Old Testament, of ‘the Angel of Jehovah,’ in whom many commentators recognise a pre-incarnate manifestation of the eternal Word. That ‘Angel’ had redeemed Israel from Egypt, had led them through the desert, had been the ‘Captain of the Lord’s host.’ The name of Jehovah was ‘in Him.’ He it is whose coming is here prophesied, and in His coming Jehovah comes to His temple.

We next note the aspect of the coming which is prominent here. Not the kingly, nor the redemptive, but the judicial, is uppermost. With keen irony the Prophet contrasts the professed eagerness of the people for the appearance of Jehovah and their shrinking terror when He does come. He is ‘the Lord whom ye seek’; the Messenger of the covenant is He ‘whom ye delight in.’ But all that superficial and partially insincere longing will turn into dread and unwillingness to abide His scrutiny. The images of the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ soap imply painful processes, of which the intention is to burn out the dross and beat out the filth. It sounds like a prolongation of Malachi’s voice when John the Baptist peals out his herald cry of one whose ‘fan was in His hand,’ and who should plunge men into a fiery baptism, and consume with fire that destroyed what would not submit to be cast into the fire that cleansed. Nor should we forget that our Lord has said, ‘For judgment am I come into the world.’ He came to ‘purify’; but if men would not let Him do what He came for, He could not but be their bane instead of their blessing.

The stone is laid. If we build on it, it is a sure foundation; if we stumble over it, we are broken. The double aspect and effect of the gospel, which was meant only to have the single operation of blessing, are clearly set forth in this prophecy, which first promises purging from sin, so that not only the ‘sons of Levi’ shall offer in righteousness, but that the ‘offerings of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasant,’ and then passes immediately to foretell that God will come in judgment and witness against evil-doers. Judgment is the shadow of salvation, and constantly attends on it. Neither Malachi nor the Baptist gives a complete view of Messiah’s work, but still less do they give an erroneous one; for the central portion of both prophecies is His purifying energy which both liken to cleansing fire.

That real and inward cleansing is the great work of Christ. It was wrought on as many of His contemporaries as believed on Him, and for such as did not He was a swift Witness against them. Nor are we to forget that the prophecy is not exhausted yet; for there remains another ‘day of His coming’ for judgment. The prophets did not see the perspective of the future, and often bring together events widely separated in time, just as, to a spectator on a mountain, distances between points far away towards the horizon are not measurable. We have to allow for foreshortening.

This blending of events historically widely apart is to be kept in view in interpreting Malachi’s prediction that the coming would result in Judah’s and Israel’s offerings being ‘pleasant unto the Lord as in former years.’ That prediction is not yet fulfilled, whether we regard the name of Israel and the relation expressed in it as having passed over to the Christian Church, or whether we look forward to that bringing in of all Israel which Paul says will be as ‘life from the dead.’ But by slow degrees it is being fulfilled, and by Christ men are being led to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God.

The more directly Messianic part of this prophecy is closed in Malachi 3:6 by a great saying, which at once gives the reason for the coming and for its severe aspect of witness against sin. The unchangeableness of God, which is declared in His very name, guarantees the continued existence of Israel. As Paul says in regard to the same subject, ‘The calling of God is without change of purpose’ {on His part}. But it is as impossible that God should leave them to their sins, which would destroy them, as that He should Himself consume them. Therefore He will surely come; and coming, will deliver from evil. But they who refuse to be so delivered will forfeit that title and the pledge of preservation which it implies.

A new paragraph begins with Malachi 3:7, which is not closely connected with the promises preceding. It recurs to the prevailing tone of Malachi, the rebuke of negligence in attending to the legal obligations of worship. That negligence is declared to be a reason for God’s withdrawal from them. But the ‘return,’ which is promised on condition of their renewed obedience, can scarcely be identified with the coming just foretold. That coming was to bring about offerings of righteousness which should be pleasant to the Lord. This section {Malachi 3:7 - Malachi 3:12} promises blessings as results of such offerings, and a ‘return’ of Jehovah to His people contingent upon their return to Him. If the two sections of this passage are taken as closely connected, this one must describe the consequences of the coming. But, more probably, this accusation of negligence and promise of blessing on a change of conduct are independent of the previous verses. We, however, may fairly take them as exhibiting the obligations of those who have received that great gift of purifying from Jesus Christ, and are thereby consecrated as His priests.

The key-word of the Christian life is ‘sacrifice’-surrender, and that to God. That is to be stamped on the inmost selves, and by the act of the will, on the body as well. ‘Yield yourselves to God, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Him.’ It is to be written on possessions. Malachi necessarily keeps within the limits of the sacrificial system, but his impetuous eloquence hits us no less. It is still possible to ‘rob God.’ We do so when we keep anything as our own, and use it at our own will, for our own purposes. Only when we recognise His ownership of ourselves, and consequently of all that we call ‘ours,’ do we give Him His due. All the slave’s chattels belong to the owner to whom he belongs. Such thorough-going surrender is the secret of thorough possession. The true way to enjoy worldly goods is to give them to God.

The lattices of heaven are opened, not to pour down, as of old, fiery destruction, but to make way for the gentle descent of God’s blessing, which will more than fill every vessel set to receive it. This is the universal law, not always fulfilled in increase of outward goods, but in the better riches of communion and of larger possession in God Himself. He suffers no man to be His creditor, but more than returns our gifts, as legends tell of some peasant who brought his king a poor tribute of fruits of his fields, and went away from the presence-chamber with a jewel in his hand.

Malachi 3:1. Behold, &c. — To silence the cavils of unbelievers, spoken of in the last verse of the preceding chapter, the prophet here foretels the coming of the Messiah, who should set things in order; and of his harbinger, who should prepare men for his reception. I will send my messenger — It is God who speaks here, for John the Baptist, who is here intended, was God’s messenger, and had his commission from heaven and not of men, Matthew 21:25-26; being sent by the same divine authority by which the prophets were sent, and for the same purposes, namely, to call men to repentance and reformation; and he shall prepare the way before me — Before Jehovah, the fulness of whose Godhead dwelt in Christ bodily. Whoever compares this verse with Isaiah 40:3, &c., will easily see that both passages speak of the same person. The messenger here spoken of as sent to prepare the way before the Lord, who is described as coming immediately after this his forerunner, is represented in Isaiah as preparing the way of the Lord, who is spoken of as coming, and his glory as just ready to be revealed, Malachi 3:5-9. Both passages, according to the evangelists, were intended of John the Baptist, and indeed are applicable to no other person whatever. He is promised under the name of Elias in the following chapter, whom all the Jews, both ancient and modern, expected should come as the forerunner of the Messiah. This messenger, or prophet, (see the note on chap. Malachi 2:7,) here represented as the Lord’s harbinger, was to be as much inferior to the Lord himself, as servants are to a great person, of whose arrival they give notice. This John himself often confessed, Matthew 3:11; John 1:26; John 3:28; and so much appears by the following words. Instead of the reading here, which is the literal translation of the Hebrew, we read in three places of the New Testament, (see the margin,) I send my messenger before thy face to prepare thy way before thee, namely, before the Messiah, to prepare his way before him; the Messiah acting in the name of his Father, the Father being in him and he in the Father, John 14:10-11. John prepared the way of Christ by calling men to the practice of those duties which would qualify them for the reception of the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom; and by taking them off from all confidence in their relation to Abraham as their father, which they thought would ensure the favour of God to them without a Saviour; and by giving them notice that the Messiah was now at hand, and so raising their expectation of him that they might readily enter into his measures for the setting up of his kingdom in the world.

And the Lord, whom ye seek — That promised Lord or Shiloh, of whom you have such great expectations, and whose coming you so much desire; and who, if you obey him, will bring the greatest good to your state, and will also make foreign nations partakers of your blessings; shall suddenly come — That is, soon after the messenger, or unawares, as Christ’s first coming was, and second will be; to his temple — The second temple at Jerusalem, lately built by Zerubbabel and Joshua. All the Jews, before the birth of Christ, firmly believed that the Messiah was to come into that very temple, according to what the Prophet Haggai had expressly declared, Haggai 2:8. The word here rendered Lord, אדון, is the same that is used by David, Psalm 110:1, where he calls the Messiah his Lord, and properly means a basis, or foundation, and also a proprietor, and governor. It is a term peculiarly proper to Christ, who is at once the foundation and governor of his church, and was the Lord of that temple in which he was to make his appearance. Even the messenger [or angel] of the covenant — A phrase, says Secker, found nowhere else in Scripture. “It may mean the person by whose intervention the covenant is made, or by whom a covenant proposed by one party is sent to the other.” The same person is meant who is termed the angel of God’s presence, Isaiah 63:9; who delivered the law upon mount Sinai, as St. Stephen speaks, Acts 7:38, and as the apostle’s words imply, Hebrews 12:25-26. He is both the revealer and mediator of the new covenant, which the prophets foretold would take place under the Messiah, Jeremiah 31:31; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 55:3; even that blessed one that was sent from heaven to negotiate a peace and settle a correspondence between God and man; commissioned from his Father to bring man home to God by a covenant of grace, who had revolted from him by the violation of the covenant of innocence. By his mediation this covenant is procured and established; and though he is the prince of the covenant, as some read the clause here, yet he condescended to be the messenger of it, that we might, upon his word, have the fullest assurance of God’s goodwill to man. Whom ye delight in — Whose coming ye so much desire, the time of it being the subject of your earnest inquiry and diligent search, and the expectation of it your comfort and delight. Behold, he shall come — The promise is repeated, and that in the name of the Lord of hosts, to give the fullest assurance of its accomplishment. There were few among the Jews who did not please themselves to think of the Messiah’s coming, though from various motives; the pious among them doubtless expecting spiritual blessings, such as a further revelation of God’s will, and larger communications of his grace and Spirit; but the great bulk of the nation looking for mere worldly advantages under a temporal kingdom, which they expected he would set up.

3:1-6 The first words of this chapter seem an answer to the scoffers of those days. Here is a prophecy of the appearing of John the Baptist. He is Christ's harbinger. He shall prepare the way before him, by calling men to repentance. The Messiah had been long called, He that should come, and now shortly he will come. He is the Messenger of the covenant. Those who seek Jesus, shall find pleasure in him, often when not looked for. The Lord Jesus, prepares the sinner's heart to be his temple, by the ministry of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, and he enters it as the Messenger of peace and consolation. No hypocrite or formalist can endure his doctrine, or stand before his tribunal. Christ came to distinguish men, to separate between the precious and the vile. He shall sit as a Refiner. Christ, by his gospel, shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it, shall regenerate and cleanse souls. He will take away the dross found in them. He will separate their corruptions, which render their faculties worthless and useless. The believer needs not fear the fiery trial of afflictions and temptations, by which the Saviour refines his gold. He will take care it is not more intense or longer than is needful for his good; and this trial will end far otherwise than that of the wicked. Christ will, by interceding for them, make them accepted. Where no fear of God is, no good is to be expected. Evil pursues sinners. God is unchangeable. And though the sentence against evil works be not executed speedily, yet it will be executed; the Lord is as much an enemy to sin as ever. We may all apply this to ourselves. Because we have to do with a God that changes not, therefore it is that we are not consumed; because his compassions fail not.God answers their complaints of the absence of His judgments, that they would come, but would include those also who clamored for them. For no one who knew his own sinfulness would call for the judgment of God, as being himself, chief of sinners. Augustine pictures one saying to God, "Take away the ungodly man," and that God answers, "Which?"

Behold, I send My messenger before My face, and he shall prepare My way before Me - they, then, were not prepared for His Coming, for whom they clamored. The messenger is the same whom Isaiah had foretold, whose words Malachi uses Isaiah 40:3 : "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straiqht in the desert a highway for our God. Luke 1:76. Thou, child," was the prophecy on John the Immerser's birth, "shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way, to give knowledge of salvation unto His people, for the remission of their sins." Repentance was to be the preparation for the kingdom of Christ, the Messiah, for whom they looked so impatiently.

He who speaks, is He who should come, God the Son. For it was before Him Who came and dwelt among us, that the way was to be prepared. He speaks here in His divine nature, as the Lord Who should send, and Who should Himself come in our flesh. In the Gospel, when He was come in the flesh, He speaks not of His own Person but of the Father, since "indivisible are the operations of the Trinity, and what the One doth, the other Two do, since the Three are of one nature, power and operation." Whence Christ, in order to give no excuse to the Jews to speak against Him before the time, refers it, as He does His life John 6:57. His doctrine John 7:16 words John 3:11; John 5:43; John 8:38, John 8:40, John 8:47, John 8:55; John 12:49; John 14:10, John 14:24 and works John 4:34; John 5:19-20, John 5:26, John 5:30, John 5:36; John 6:38; John 8:28; John 9:4; John 10:25, John 10:32, John 10:37-38; John 14:10-11 to the Father.

"Those works, which do not relate to that which b uniquely belongs to each Person, being common, are ascribed now to One Person, now to Another, in order to set forth the One Substance in the Trinity of Persons." Thus, John says John 12:41. Isaiah spoke of the unbelief of the Jews, when he "saw" the "glory" of God the Son "and spake of Him," and Paul says Acts 28:25. that the "Holy Spirit spake" then "by" him.

And he shall prepare the way before Meo - "The same is God's way here, and Christ's there, an evident proof that Christ is one God with the Father, and that, in Christ, God came and was manifest in the flesh." The prophets and all who turned men to righteousness, or who retained the knowledge of the truth or of righteousness or of God in the world, did, in their degree, prepare the way for Christ. But John was His immediate forerunner "before His Face," the herald of His immediate approach; from where he is called "the end of the law, and the beginning of the Gospel," "the lamp before the Light, the voice before the Word, the mediator between the Old and the New Testament;" "the link of the law and of grace; a new morning star; a ray, before the true Sun should burst forth," the end of night, the beginning of day.

And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple - He, Whose Coming they sought for, was Almighty God, "the God of Judgment." He who should come, was "the Lord," again Almighty God, since, in usage too, none else is called "the Lord," as none else can be. The temple also, to which He was to come, the temple of God, is His own. "The messenger, or the Angel of the covenant," plainly, even from the parallelism, is the same as "the Lord." It was "one," for whom they looked; one, of whose absence they complained; Malachi 2:17, "where is the God of judgment?" one, who should come to His temple , one whose coming they sought and prepared "to have pleasure in;" one, of whom it is repeated, "lo, He cometh," one, in the day of whose coming, at whose appearing, it was asked, "who shall stand?" "All Christian interpreters are agreed that this Lord is Christ Acts 2:36, whom God hath made both Lord and Christ, and Acts 10:36. Who is Lord over all; by whom all things were made, are sustained and governed; Who is (as the root of the word implies) the basis and foundation, not of any private family, tribe or kingdom, but of all; 1 Corinthians 8:6. by whom are all things and we by Him: and whose we are also by right of redemption; and so He is Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16. Lord of lords and King of kings, deservedly called the Lord." As then the special presence of God was often indicated in connection with "the Angel of the Lord," so, here, He who was to come was entitled the Angel or messenger of the covenant, as God also calls Him the covenant itself.

Isaiah 42:6, "I will give Thee for a covenant of the people, a light of the Gentiles." He it was Isaiah 63:9, "the Angel of His presence," who saved His former people, in whom His "Name was," and who, by the prerogative of God, would Exodus 23:21, "not pardon their transgressions." He should be Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 8:6, "the Mediator of the new and better covenant" which is promised Jeremiah 31:32-33; Hebrews 8:9, "not according to the covenant, that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt," which "My covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord; but this shall be the covenant, that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God and they shall be My people."

Whom ye seek, are seeking, whom ye delight in - , i. e., profess so to do; "He will come," but will be very different from Him whom ye look for, an Avenger on your enemies. Judgment will come, but it will begin with yourselves.

Shall suddenly come - o "unawares, when men should not think of them; whence perhaps it is that the Jews reckon the Messiah among what shall come unawares." As, it is here said of His first Coming, so it is said of His second Coming (which may be comprehended under this here spoken of) that except they diligently watch for it Luke 21:35, "it shall come upon them unawares Mark 13:36. suddenly Matthew 24:44. in such an hour as they think not." "The Lord of glory always comes, like a thief in the night, to those who sleep in their sins."

Lo, He will come - : he insists again and calls their minds to that Coming, certain, swift, new, wonderful, on which all eyes should be set, but His coming would be a sifting-time.

CHAPTER 3

Mal 3:1-18. Messiah's Coming, Preceded by His Forerunner, to Punish the Guilty for Various Sins, and to Reward Those Who Fear God.

1. Behold—Calling especial attention to the momentous truths which follow. Ye unbelievingly ask, Where is the God of judgment (Mal 2:7)? "Behold," therefore, "I send," &c. Your unbelief will not prevent My keeping My covenant, and bringing to pass in due time that which ye say will never be fulfilled.

I will send … he shall come—The Father sends the Son: the Son comes. Proving the distinctness of personality between the Father and the Son.

my messenger—John the Baptist; as Mt 3:3; 11:10; Mr 1:2, 3; Lu 1:76; 3:4; 7:26, 27; Joh 1:23, prove. This passage of Malachi evidently rests on that of Isaiah his predecessor (Isa 40:3-5). Perhaps also, as Hengstenberg thinks, "messenger" includes the long line of prophets headed by Elijah (whence his name is put in Mal 4:5 as a representative name), and terminating in John, the last and greatest of the prophets (Mt 11:9-11). John as the representative prophet (the forerunner of Messiah the representative God-man) gathered in himself all the scattered lineaments of previous prophecy (hence Christ terms him "much more than a prophet," Lu 7:26), reproducing all its awful and yet inspiriting utterances: his coarse garb, like that of the old prophets, being a visible exhortation to repentance; the wilderness in which he preached symbolizing the lifeless, barren state of the Jews at that time, politically and spiritually; his topics sin, repentance, and salvation, presenting for the last time the condensed epitome of all previous teachings of God by His prophets; so that he is called pre-eminently God's "messenger." Hence the oldest and true reading of Mr 1:2 is, "as it is written in Isaiah the prophet"; the difficulty of which is, How can the prophecy of Malachi be referred to Isaiah? The explanation is: the passage in Malachi rests on that in Isa 40:3, and therefore the original source of the prophecy is referred to in order to mark this dependency and connection.

the Lord—Ha-Adon in Hebrew. The article marks that it is Jehovah (Ex 23:17; 34:23; compare Jos 3:11, 13). Compare Da 9:17, where the Divine Son is meant by "for THE Lord's sake." God the speaker makes "the Lord," the "messenger of the covenant," one with Himself. "I will send … before Me," adding, "THE Lord … shall … come"; so that "the Lord" must be one with the "Me," that is, He must be God, "before" whom John was sent. As the divinity of the Son and His oneness with the Father are thus proved, so the distinctness of personality is proved by "I send" and He "shall come," as distinguished from one another. He also comes to the temple as "His temple": marking His divine lordship over it, as contrasted with all creatures, who are but "servants in" it (Hag 2:7; Heb 3:2, 5, 6).

whom ye seek … whom ye delight in—(see on [1194]Mal 2:17). At His first coming they "sought" and "delighted in" the hope of a temporal Saviour: not in what He then was. In the case of those whom Malachi in his time addresses, "whom ye seek … delight in," is ironical. They unbelievingly asked, When will He come at last? Mal 2:17, "Where is the God of judgment" (Isa 5:19; Am 5:18; 2Pe 3:3, 4)? In the case of the godly, the desire for Messiah was sincere (Lu 2:25, 28). He is called "Angel of God's presence" (Isa 63:9), also Angel of Jehovah. Compare His appearances to Abraham (Ge 18:1, 2, 17, 33), to Jacob (Ge 31:11; 48:15, 16), to Moses in the bush (Ex 3:2-6); He went before Israel as the Shekinah (Ex 14:19), and delivered the law at Sinai (Ac 7:38).

suddenly—This epithet marks the second coming, rather than the first; the earnest of that unexpected coming (Lu 12:38-46; Re 16:15) to judgment was given in the judicial expulsion of the money-changing profaners from the temple by Messiah (Mt 21:12, 13), where also as here He calls the temple His temple. Also in the destruction of Jerusalem, most unexpected by the Jews, who to the last deceived themselves with the expectation that Messiah would suddenly appear as a temporal Saviour. Compare the use of "suddenly" in Nu 12:4-10, where He appeared in wrath.

messenger of the covenant—namely, of the ancient covenant with Israel (Isa 63:9) and Abraham, in which the promise to the Gentiles is ultimately included (Ga 4:16, 17). The gospel at the first advent began with Israel, then embraced the Gentile world: so also it shall be at the second advent. All the manifestations of God in the Old Testament, the Shekinah and human appearances, were made in the person of the Divine Son (Ex 23:20, 21; Heb 11:26; 12:26). He was the messenger of the old covenant, as well as of the new.The forerunner, and coming of the Messiah to cleanse his church, and to judge the wicked, Malachi 3:1-6. The people are warned to repent, and turn from their sins, Malachi 3:7; particularly their sacrilege, Malachi 3:8-12, and impious blasphemy, Malachi 3:13-15. God’s blessing promised to those that fear him, Malachi 3:16-18.

The former chapter, as we have it cast, ended with an inquiry made by vicious and ungodly priests and people, who either doubted or denied the present government. or future judgment of God over the world. This being reproved ill the last verse of the second chapter, now God condescends to give a very full and particular answer to this question, for the instruction and consolation of the good, whatever use the evil will make of it.

Behold: this note in this place, and on this occasion, requires our best attention; consider it well, therefore, all ye that inquire with doubt, and all ye that inquire who belief, that he will come, who is God of judgment.

I will send; or, I am sending, I will shortly send: it is Christ who here speaketh, and who sendeth.

My messenger; John Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, as evidently appears from Matthew 11:10 Mark 1:2 Luke 7:27,28. He is this messenger, whom some by mistake have taken to be an angel; but though the word so signifieth, it doth also signify a messenger, and so it is very fifty rendered in this place: see Malachi 1:1.

He shall prepare the way before me, by preaching repentance because the kingdom of heaven was at hand, by baptizing, by calling them to believe on the Messiah, who should now ere long be revealed, &c.: so John Baptist made ready the people to entertain Christ, and to believe in him. This was he who came in the spirit and power of Elias, and such a one the Jews expected.

The Lord; Messiah, who is Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36; Lord of lords, Revelation 17:14 19:16.

Whom ye seek; you ungodly disputers seek, but not aright, for you seek, i.e. inquire whether there be such a God of judgment. Beside these, there are others also, who did seek, i.e. humbly, longing and praying that he would come, and waiting, assured that he will come: it is these chiefly intended.

Shall suddenly come, after the coming of his forerunner: this suddenly in the text is not very fitly interpreted of a time so long as between this prophecy and the coming of Christ, but it very well suiteth to the time between John Baptist’s appearing to prepare the way, and Christ’s appearing now the way was prepared.

To his temple; that temple which was the second temple at Jerusalem, lately built by Zerubbabel and Joshua, into which the Messiah was to come; and so he did. There old Simeon met him, there he disputed with the doctors, thither he went to drive out buyers and sellers, and this according to what was foretold of him, Haggai 2:7; and all the religious Jews, who lived and died before the desolation of this second temple, did believe, and did confess, that the Messiah would come whilst that house did stand. He is then come, for that temple hath been ruined long since by the Romans.

The messenger of the covenant; the Angel of the covenant, not Elias, but Christ, the Messiah, in whose blood the covenant of grace was confirmed, for whose sake it is performed to us.

Whom ye delight in; you Jews, among whom few there are who do not please themselves to think of his coming, for the expectation of the best among the Jews was fixed on salvation, as that they hoped for by Christ. Others expected great but worldly advantage by his coming and setting up his kingdom among them.

Behold; behold again, saith the prophet, consider thoroughly what is foretold.

He shall come, at the time, to the place, in the manner foreshowed.

Saith the Lord of hosts; all confirmed by the word of the great God.

Behold, I will send my messenger,.... These are the words of Christ, in answer to the question put in the last verse of the preceding chapter Malachi 2:17, "Where is the God of judgment?" intimating that he would quickly appear, and previous to his coming send his messenger or angel; not the angel of death to destroy the wicked, as Jarchi thinks; nor an angel from heaven, as Kimchi; nor Messiah the son of Joseph; as Aben Ezra; nor the Prophet Malachi himself, as Abarbinel; but the same that is called Elijah the prophet, Malachi 4:5 and is no other than John the Baptist, as is clear from Matthew 11:10 called a "messenger" or "angel", not by nature, but by office; and Christ's messenger, because sent by him and on his errand; and which shows the power and authority of Christ in sending forth ministers; his superior excellency to John, and his existence before him, or he could not be sent by him, and so before his incarnation; for John was sent by him before he was in the flesh, and consequently this is a proof of the proper deity of Christ: and the word "behold" is prefixed to this, in order to raise the attention of those that put the above question, and all others; as well as to show that the message John was sent upon was of the greatest moment and importance; as that the Messiah was just ready to appear, his kingdom was at hand, and the Jews ought to believe in him; though it also respects the coming of the Messiah, spoken of in the latter part of the text:

and he shall prepare the way before me; by declaring to the Jews that he was born, and was in the midst of them; by pointing him out unto them; by preaching the doctrine of repentance, and exhorting them to believe in him; and by administering the ordinance of baptism in general to all proper subjects, and in particular to Christ, by which he was made manifest to Israel; See Gill on Mark 1:2 the allusion is to kings and great men sending persons before them when on a journey, to give notice of their coming, and provide for them:

and the Lord, whom ye seek; this is the person himself speaking, the Son of God, and promised Messiah, the Lord of all men, and particularly of his church and people, in right of marriage, by virtue of redemption, and by being their Head and King; so Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it of him, and even Abarbinel (q) himself; the Messiah that had been so long spoken of and so much expected, and whom the Jews sought after, either in a scoffing manner, expressed in the above question, or rather seriously; some as a temporal deliverer, to free them from the Roman yoke, and bring them into a state of liberty, prosperity, and grandeur; and others as a spiritual Saviour, to deliver from sin, law, hell, and death, and save them with an everlasting salvation:

shall suddenly come to his temple; meaning not his human nature, nor his church, sometimes so called; but the material temple at Jerusalem, the second temple, called "his", because devoted to his service and worship, which proves him to be God, and because of his frequency in it; here he was brought and presented by his parents at the proper time, for the purification of his mother; here he was at twelve years of age disputing with the doctors; and here Simeon, Anna, and others, were waiting for him, Luke 2:22 and we often read of his being here, and of his using his authority in it as the Lord and proprietor of it; and of the Hosannas given him here, Matthew 21:12 the manner in which he should come, "suddenly", may refer to the manifestation of it, quickly after John the Baptist had prepared his way by his doctrine and baptism:

even the messenger of the covenant; not of the covenant of works with Adam, of which there was no mediator and messenger; nor of the covenant of circumcision, at which, according to the Jews, Elias presides; nor of the covenant at Sinai, of which Moses was the mediator; but of the covenant of grace, of which Christ is not only the Surety and Mediator; but, as here, "the Messenger"; because it is revealed, made known, and exhibited in a more glorious manner by him under the Gospel dispensation, through the ministration of the word and ordinances. De Dieu observes, that the word in the Ethiopic language signifies a prince as well as a messenger, and so may be rendered, "the Prince of the covenant", which is a way of speaking used in Daniel 11:22,

whom ye delight in; either carnally, as they pleased themselves with the thoughts of a temporal prince, and of great honour and grandeur under him; and as they would have done, had he submitted to have been made a king by them in this sense; or rather spiritually, and so is to be understood of such who had a spiritual knowledge of him, and joy in him; who rejoiced and delighted in the contemplation of his person, offices, righteousness, and salvation:

he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts; this expresses the certainty of his coming, being said by himself, who is the Lord of hosts, the Lord of armies in heaven and in earth, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. This passage is, in some Jewish writers (r), interpreted of the world to come, or times of the Messiah.

(q) Mashmiah Jeshuah, fol. 76. 4. (r) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 16. fol. 219. 4.

Behold, I will send my {a} messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the {b} Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the {c} messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

(a) This is meant of John the Baptist, as Christ interprets it; Lu 7:27.

(b) Meaning, the Messiah, as in Ps 40:17 Da 9:17,25.

(c) That is, Christ, by whom the covenant was made and ratified, who is called the angel or messenger of the covenant, because he reconciles us to his Father, and is Lord or King, because he has the rule of his Church.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Malachi 3:1. God Himself takes up (Malachi 3:1-6) the challenge, “Where is the God?” &c.

my messenger] They had been provided, in the priests, with a standing order of “messengers” of Jehovah (Malachi 2:7). From time to time His special “messengers”, the prophets (Haggai 1:13), had been sent to them. The last of such prophets, bearing as his only name, “Jehovah’s messenger”, was now exercising his office among them. But a yet more special “messenger” is to inaugurate that coming of Jehovah which they profess to desire. See Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27.

Prepare the way] Comp. Isaiah 40:3; and for the nature of the preparation, “by preaching of repentance”, Matthew 3:1-12.

the Lord] “He who had before spoken of Himself in the first person (“I will send”), now speaks of Himself in the third person.” Maurer. For a similar change of person, which is not uncommon in Hebrew, see Malachi 2:16 above. “We are sure He which spake those words was (Jehovah) the Lord of hosts; and we are as sure that Christ is that Lord before whose face John the Baptist prepared the way.” Pearson on the Creed. Article, Our Lord.

ye seekye delight in] A reference, not without irony, to the demand of Malachi 3:17, “where is” &c.

his temple] He, then, who comes is the Lord of the Temple. Haggai 2:9.

even the messenger of the covenant] The R.V., by printing “and” in the text instead of “even” (which however it retains in the margin), and also by the punctuation which it adopts, leaves room for the view that “the messenger of the covenant” is to be identified, not with “the Lord”, but with “the messenger” spoken of at the beginning of the verse, who is to “prepare the way” before Him: “And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in, behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts”. The weight of argument, however, seems clearly to preponderate in favour of identifying the “Messenger of the Covenant” with “the Lord”, who shall “suddenly come to His temple”. For thus the idea of the messenger, which pervades this prophecy (see Introd. pp. 13, 14) culminates (as do the Old Testament ideas of the prophet, the priest and the king) in the Messiah, who is in the highest sense the Messenger of God to man. The Angel, or Messenger, whose presence in the Church was recognised from the beginning (Acts 7:38; Exodus 23:20-21; Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2; Exodus 33:14; Isaiah 63:9), follows up these “preludings of the Incarnation” by being “made flesh and dwelling amongst us”. The covenant, which was before the Law (Galatians 3:17) and yet by virtue of its later introduction “a new covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:7-13), He comes, in fulfilment of promise and prophecy (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 55:3), as its Messenger and Mediator (Hebrews 12:24), to inaugurate and ratify with His blood (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 13:20); while He vindicates His claim to be “the God of judgment” whom they desired, by the work of discriminating justice which He performs (Malachi 3:2-5).

Verse 1. - Behold, I will send (I send) my messenger. God answers that he is coming to show himself the God of judgment and justice. Are they ready to meet him and to bear his sentence? Who this "messenger" is is disputed. That no angel or heavenly visitant is meant is clear from historical considerations, as no such event took place immediately before the Lord came to his temple. Nor can Malachi himself be intended, as his message was delivered nearly four, hundred years before Messiah came. The announcement is doubtless founded upon Isaiah 40:3, and refers to the same person as the older prophet mentions, who is generally allowed to be John the Baptist, the herald of Christ's advent (Matthew 11:10; John 1:6). Prepare the way before me. The expression is borrowed from Isaiah, loc. cit. (comp. also Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10). He prepares the way by preaching repentance, and thus removing the obstacle of sin which stood between God and his people. Whom ye seek. When ye ask, "Where is the God of judgment?" Shall suddenly come to his temple. The Lord (ha-Adon) is Jehovah, as in Exodus 23:17; Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 3:1, etc. There is a change of persons here, as frequently. Jehovah shall unexpectedly come to his temple (τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ) as King and God of Israel (comp. Ezekiel 43:7). There was a literal fulfilment of this prophecy when Christ was presented in the temple as an infant (Luke 2:22, etc.). Even the messenger of the covenant. He is identified with the Lord; and he is the covenant angel who guided the Israelites to the promised land, and who is seen in the various theophanies of the Old Testament. The Divinity of Messiah is thus unequivocally asserted. In him are fulfilled all the promises made under the old covenant, and he is called (Hebrews 9:15) "the Mediator of the new covenant." Some render," and the Messenger," etc., thus distinguishing the Angel of the covenant from the forerunner who prepares the way. But this is already done by the expressions, "My Messenger," and "the Lord." Whom ye delight in. Whose advent ye expect with eager desire. Malachi 3:1Coming of the Lord to judgment. Malachi 3:1. "Behold, I send my messenger, that he may prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple, and the angel of the covenant, whom ye desire; behold he comes, saith Jehovah of hosts." To the question, Where is or remains the God of judgment? the Lord Himself replies that He will suddenly come to His temple, but that before His coming He will send a messenger to prepare the way for Him. The announcement of this messenger rests upon the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3., as the expression וּפנּה דרך, which is borrowed from that passage, clearly shows. The person whose voice Isaiah heard calling to make the way of Jehovah in the desert, that the glory of the Lord might be revealed to all flesh, is here described as מלאך, whom Jehovah will send before Him, i.e., before His coming. This maleâkh is not a heavenly messenger, or spiritual being (Rashi, Kimchi), nor the angel of Jehovah κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν, who is mentioned afterwards and called maleakh habberı̄th, but an earthly messenger of the Lord, and indeed the same who is called the prophet Elijah in Malachi 4:5, and therefore not "an ideal person, viz., the whole choir of divine messengers, who are to prepare the way for the coming of salvation, and open the door for the future grace" (Hengst.), but a concrete personality - a messenger who was really sent to the nation in John the Baptist immediately before the coming of the Lord. The idea view is precluded not only by the historical fact, that not a single prophet arose in Israel during the whole period between Malachi and John, but also by the context of the passage before us, according to which the sending of the messenger was to take place immediately before the coming of the Lord to His temple. It is true that in Malachi 2:7 the priest is also called a messenger of Jehovah; but the expression הנני שׁלח (behold I send) prevents our understanding the term maleâkh as referring to the priests, or even as including them, inasmuch as "sending" would not apply to the priests as the standing mediators between the Lord and His people. Moreover, it was because the priests did not fulfil their duty as the ordinary ambassadors of God that the Lord was about to send an extraordinary messenger. Preparing the way (פּנה דרך, an expression peculiar to Isaiah: compare Isaiah 40:3; also, Isaiah 57:14 and Isaiah 62:10), by clearing away the impediments lying in the road, denotes the removal of all that retards the coming of the Lord to His people, i.e., the taking away of enmity to God and of ungodliness by the preaching of repentance and the conversion of sinners. The announcement of this messenger therefore implied, that the nation in its existing moral condition was not yet prepared for the reception of the Lord, and therefore had no ground for murmuring at the delay of the manifestation of the divine glory, but ought rather to murmur at its own sin and estrangement from God. When the way shall have been prepared, the Lord will suddenly come. פּתאם, not statim, immediately (Jerome), but unexpectedly. "This suddenness is repeated in all the acts and judgments of the Lord. The Lord of glory always comes as a thief in the night to those who sleep in their sins" (Schmieder). "The Lord" (hâ'âdōn) is God; this is evident both from the fact that He comes to His temple, i.e., the temple of Jehovah, and also from the relative clause "whom ye seek," which points back to the question, "Where is the God of judgment?" (Malachi 2:17). The Lord comes to His temple (hēkhâl, lit., palace) as the God-king of Israel, to dwell therein for ever (cf. Ezekiel 43:7; Ezekiel 37:26-27). And He comes as the angel of the covenant, for whom the people are longing. The identity of the angel of the covenant with the "Lord" (hâ'âdōn) is placed beyond the reach of doubt by the parallelism of the clauses, and the notion is thereby refuted that the "covenant angel" is identical with the person previously mentioned as מלאכי (Hitzig, Maurer, etc.). This identity does not indeed exclude a distinction of person; but it does exclude a difference between the two, or the opinion that the angel of the covenant is that mediator whom Isaiah had promised (Isaiah 42:6) as the antitype of Moses, and the mediator of a new, perfect, and eternally-enduring covenant relation between God and Israel (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. p. 183). For it was not for a second Moses that the people were longing, or for a mediator of the new covenant, but for the coming of God to judgment. The coming of the Lord to His temple is represented as a coming of the covenant angel, with reference to the fact that Jehovah had in the olden time revealed His glory in His Maleakh in a manner perceptible to the senses, and that in this mode of revelation He had not only redeemed Israel out of the hand of Egypt (Exodus 3:6.), gone before the army of Israel (Exodus 14:19), and led Israel through the desert to Canaan (Exodus 23:20., Exodus 33:14.), but had also filled the temple with His glory. The covenant, in relation to which the Maleakh, who is of one essence with Jehovah, is here called the angel of the covenant, is not the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31., but the covenant of Jehovah with Israel, according to which Jehovah dwells in the midst of Israel, and manifests His gracious presence by blessing the righteous and punishing the ungodly (cf. Exodus 25:8; Leviticus 25:11-12; Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 33:14): (Koehler). The words "Behold he (the covenant angel) cometh" serve to confirm the assurance, and are still further strengthened by אמר יי צ (saith Jehovah of hosts). This promise was fulfilled in the coming of Christ, in whom the angel of the covenant, the Logos, became flesh, and in the sending of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Him. (See also at Malachi 4:6)
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