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Malachi 1



God's Love for Jacob   Superscription    
1:1 1:1 1:1 1:1 1:1
  Israel Beloved of God God Loves Israel The Lord's Love for Israel The Love of Yahweh for Israel
1:2-5 1:2-5
1:2-5 1:2a 1:2-5
  (4a)   1:4  
Sin of the Priests Polluted Offerings The Priests Have Despised Their God and Their Solemn Vocation
The Lord Reprimands the Priests
An Indictment of the Priests
1:6-14 1:6-14
1:6-2:3 1:6-8 1:6-11
  (9-11)   1:9-14  
  (12-14)     1:12-14

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
 In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

1:1 "The oracle" The word means "utterance" or "oracle" (BDB III, cf. II Kgs. 9:25; II Chr. 24:27; Isa. 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1,11; 22:1; 23:1; 30:6; Nah. 1:1; Hab. 1:1; Mal. 1:1). It can also mean "burden" or "donkey's load" (BDB 672 II). The basic concept is "that which is lifted" (BDB 672 I). Therefore, it cold represent

1. the voice lifted to speak

2. the emotional release of giving God's message

3. the difficult message to give to God's people


▣ "the Lord" There are several titles for God listed in this chapter: (1) the "Lord" equals YHWH, which is the covenant name for God, v. 1; (2) "Father," v. 6; (3) Adonai, which means "master" or "lord," v. 6; (4) "the Lord of Hosts," which means "commander of the army of heaven," vv. 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, etc. This term is used 24 times in 55 verses. It is the characteristic title for God in the post-Exilic period. It is possibly related to the Persian title for Ahura Mazda. (5) "the King," v. 14 (cf. I Sam. 8:7). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Obadiah v. 1.

▣ "to Israel" This refers to the children of Jacob who was renamed Israel (cf. Gen. 32:28; 35:10). The meaning of the name is uncertain. See Special Topic at Joel 3:1. This title was previously used for the northern ten tribes, but after the Babylonian Exile it again became the title for the united nation.

▣ "Malachi" See Introduction.

 2"I have loved you," says the Lord. But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the Lord. "Yet I have loved Jacob; 3but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness." 4Though Edom says, "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins"; thus says the Lord of hosts, "They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever." 5Your eyes will see this and you will say, "The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel!"

1:2 "I have loved you" What a powerful way to start a prophetic book. This verb (BDB 12, KB 17, Qal perfect) is used three times in this one verse:

1. two Qal perfects

2. one Qal imperfect

This word speaks to the intimate personal relationship involved in covenant faith! This is what allows God to be seen as

1. a Father (Mal. 1:6)

2. a lover (Hosea 1-3)

3. a near kin (Ruth, cf. 4:1,3,6,8,14)

It is His longsuffering love for the covenant people that causes Him to enter into the diatribe of Malachi. He starts the conversation with His own character (cf. 3:6). See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD at Joel 2:13.

"But you say" This formula (most are Qal perfects) is repeated several times throughout the book (vv. 2,6 [twice],12,13; 2:14 [twice],17; 3:7,8,13,14) and forms the structure of the literary technique used by this author to communicate truth (i.e. diatribe). The rabbis used this very same question and answer form in the Talmud. Malachi is often called "the Hebrew Socrates" because of this particular form of teaching. This is very similar to Paul, James, and John's use of diatribe in the books of Romans, James, and I John.

"How has Thou loved us" This question highlights the underlying resentment that most of the returnees felt toward God for the difficult times they faced after they, in faith, left Babylon and returned to Judah. They were only a remnant of the exiled Jewish community. They were the ones who left everything to return.

1:3 "Yet I have hated Esau" Paul quotes this in Rom. 9:13. Easu (i.e. Edom) stands for all non-covenant people, especially the enemies of God's people! The verb (BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal perfect) is apparently a Hebrew idiom of comparison (cf. Gen. 29:30-32; Deut. 21:15-18; Prov, 13:24; Matt. 6:24; 10:37; Luke 14:26, see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 347-348). This is not a rejection of individuals (same as Romans 9), but a way of showing the removal of a traditional, national enemy of the covenant people.

NASB"and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness"
NKJV"his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness"
NRSV"his heritage a desert for jackals"
TEV"abandoned the land to jackals"
NJB"his heritage into dwellings in the wastelands"

The NKJV follows the MT. The NJB follows the Septuagint. The JPSOA says the Hebrew is uncertain and translates it as "his territory a home for beasts of the desert." The theological concept behind this statement is twofold:

1. total destruction, no human population

2. the presence of the demonic (i.e., cursed)

See Introduction to Obadiah for a complete list of prophecies against Edom.


1:4 "Though Edom says" Edom was a descendant of Esau (cf. Gen. 36:1).

▣ "They may build, but I will tear down" Edom was a proud nation (cf. Jer. 49:14-22; Obad. vv. 1-4). Most biblical historians see this as a prediction of the Nabatean invasion of Edom (500-450 b.c., cf. I Maccabees, chap. 4 and 5).


The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 1129, says of this verb (BDB 276, KB 277, Qal perfect) that God is usually the subject and the object is usually personal. Faith is personal, rebellion is personal because God is personal.

"forever" YHWH was angry at Israel for a period (cf. Romans 9-11), but He was angry with Edom "forever." See Special Topic below.


1:5 This expresses the historical evidence of God's sovereignty over all nations. In the ancient Near East gods were worshiped within national contexts and national boundaries (i.e., II Kgs. 5:17). If one nation defeated another, then the victor's god was considered to be more powerful. Israel's defeat by her neighbors was seen as their gods being more significant. The plagues on Egypt were intended to demonstrate the opposite!

This text's theological significance lies in

1. YHWH's power over other nations (cf. Job 12:23)

2. YHWH's power over all nations (i.e., Deut. 32:8; Amos 9:7; Acts 17:26)

This is true because He is the only God, the only Creator, the only Savior.

NASB"be magnified"
NKJV"is magnified"
NRSV"great is"
TEV, NJB"is mighty"

This verb (BDB 152, KB 178) is a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense. It is often used to describe YHWH (cf. II Sam. 7:22; Ps. 35:27; 40:16; 70:4; 104:1; Micah 5:4); it is used as an adjective in Deut. 3:24; Ps. 48:1; 86:10. YHWH wants "the nations" to know Him, but He protects Israel in a special way until she brings forth the Messiah.

 6"'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?' 7You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, 'How have we defiled You?' In that you say, 'The table of the Lord is to be despised.' 8But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the Lord of hosts. 9"But now will you not entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?" says the Lord of hosts. 10"Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you," says the Lord of hosts, "nor will I accept an offering from you. 11For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations," says the Lord of hosts. 12But you are profaning it, in that you say, 'The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.' 13You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it," says the Lord of hosts, "and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?" says the Lord. 14"But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King," says the Lord of hosts, "and My name is feared among the nations."

1:6 Malachi l:6 through 2:9 is Malachi's address to the priests (i.e., 6d) who were the spiritual representatives of the people. They may have been going through the motions, but there was no heartfelt faith. Sacrifice and ritual without faith are an abomination (cf. Isa. 1:12-13; Jer. 7-10; Amos 4:4-5).

▣ "a son" The term "son" (BDB 119) in the Old Testament can refer to.

1. the nation of Israel - Exod. 4:22-23; Deut. 14:1; Hosea 11:1; Mal. 2:10

2. the king of Israel - II Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; 89:26-27

3. the Messiah - Ps. 2:7, quoted in Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5

4. angels - always PLURAL; cf. Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1

5. judges of Israel - very rare, cf. Ps. 82:6

In this context it refers to the nation of Israel (cf. Exod. 4:22; Hos. 11:1; Isa, 1:2).

▣ "if I am a father" See Special Topics below on this powerful anthropomorphic title for deity.



▣ "honor. . .despise" These two terms are antonyms. The word "honor" (cf. Ps. 15:4) is the term "glory" (BDB 458, see Special Topic at Haggai 1:8). Despise (BDB 102, KB 117) is a Qal participle and Qal perfect verb, cf. 1:7,12; 2:9; Gen. 25:34. It is not surprising that those who do not know YHWH despise Him, but usually it is those who do know Him that do so.

1. Israel in the wilderness, Num. 15:31

2. Eli's son, I Sam. 2:30

3. David, II Sam. 12:9-10

4. Zedekiah, II Chr. 36:16

5. wicked Israelites, Ps. 73:20; Ezek. 16:59; 22:8

6. the priests, Mal. 1:6 (twice),7,12; 2:9


NJB"stands in awe"

This is in a parallel relationship to "honor." This term (BDB 432) means "fear" (cf. Deut. 11:25; Ps. 76:12; Isa. 8:12) but in context the English translations show its connotation (cf. 2:5).

1:7 "You are presenting defiled food upon My altar" The rest of this chapter continues to define what this defilement involved. Apparently it is not only the physical condition of the sacrifices (cf. v. 8), but the offerers themselves.

▣ "the table of the Lord" This seems to refer to the sacrificial altar where the blood was poured (cf. Ps. 23:5).

1:8 "the blind for sacrifice" The priests were offering ("bring near," BDB 897, KB 1132, Hiphil imperative) unacceptable sacrifices (cf. vv. 13-14). This was completely against the Mosaic covenant (cf. Exod. 12:5; Lev. 1:3, 10; 22:18-25; Deut. 15:21).

▣ "your governor" This is a Persian term (BDB 808), which shows that we are in a post-Exilic period (cf. Hag. 1:1; Neh. 5:14).

1:9 The first two verbs are commands showing YHWH's intense desire.

1. "entreat," BDB 318, KB 316, Piel imperative

a. NASB - "will you not entreat"

b. NRSV - "implore"

c. TEV - "try asking"

d. NJB - "try pleading"

2. "show favor," BDB 335, KB 334, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

In the MT the object of "entreat" is "the face of God" (BDB 815 construct, BDB 42 II). This is an idiom of personal encounter. Theologically in the OT to see God's face meant death (i.e., Exod. 33:22-23). This is a metaphor of intimacy! Humans were created for fellowship with God (cf. v. 11)!

It is YHWH's will to be a blessing to Israel, but this blessing is conditional (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29). YHWH's covenant has benefits and requirements! He wants to reveal Himself to the nations through His blessing of an obedient, righteous people (cf. v. 11)! But these priests assume they were obedient, yet they were not (cf. vv. 8-10).

1:10 "shut the gates" This seems to refer to the gates of the rebuilt Temple. The Qumran community, from whom the authors and compilers of the Dead Sea Scrolls came, used this verse to condemn the sacrifices at the Temple of Jerusalem in Jesus' day.

In context YHWH is pleading for one priest to restrict (i.e., "shut," BDB 688, KB 742, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) access to His altar. The priests were knowingly violating Mosaic requirements for sacrifice (cf. Isa. 1:13). YHWH says:

1. I am not pleased with you (v. 9)

2. I will not accept an offering from you (v. 14)

These are not insignificant statements coming from the covenant God who is demanding their covenant requirements. Both their attitudes and sacrifices were unacceptable.

▣ "I am not pleased with you" This has a covenant connotation (cf. Num. 14:8; II Sam. 15:26; 22:20; I Kgs. 10:9; II Chr. 9:8; Ps. 18:19; Isa. 1:11). It is used of the marriage relationship in Deuteronomy (cf. 21:14; 25:7,8). The term is used most often in Psalms and Isaiah.

For me the most significant usage is where it describes YHWH as not pleased that any should perish (cf. Ezek. 18:23 [twice],32; 33:11). YHWH was willing to endure the Messiah's suffering that all may know His pleasure (cf. Isa. 53:10).

1:11 "from the rising of the sun, even unto its setting" The one and only God desires universal worship (cf. Isa. 61:8-9). He will be known beyond Israel in spite of Israel (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38, which reflects "the New Covenant," cf. Jer. 31:31-34).

"My name" It (BDB 1027) is used three times in this verse. It stands for YHWH Himself (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).

▣ "is going to be offered" This is a Hoph'al stem (BDB 620, KB 670), which is used in a future sense. This entire context seems to demand an eschatological setting. There have been three major theories concerning this verse:

1. it refers to the offerings of pagans (cf. Acts 10:35

2. it refers to the offerings of scattered Judaism

3. it refers to eschatological offerings of the end-time people of God (see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 348-349)


▣ "the Lord of Hosts" This term is used extensively in the post-Exilic books. It apparently means (l) the captain of the army of heaven or (2) the leader of the heavenly council. It is used twenty-four times in this book. See Special Topic at Obadiah v. 1.

1:12 The participles in this verse are surprisingly strong and condemnatory to the post-exilic community.

1. "profaning" (i.e., "defiling," "polluting"), BDB 320, 319, Piel participle, cf. 2:11; Ezek. 7:21,22; 23:39; 24:21; 44:7

2. "defiled," BDB 146 II, KB 169, Pual participle, cf. 1:7

3. "despised," BDB 102, KB 117, Niphal participle, 1:7; 2:9

They were offering to YHWH not their best, but their worst (cf. vv. 13-14). Even the governor would not accept it (cf. v. 8); even the priests would not eat it (cf. v. 13).

▣ "its fruit" This refers to the offerings placed on the altar. Part of it was

1. burned and symbolically rose to YHWH in smoke

2. given to the priests for food


1:13 "and you disdainly sniff at it" The "it" (masculine singular) should possibly be the term "me" (following vv. 6-7). This is one of the eighteen rabbinical emendations which, because of the text, seem to border on blasphemy. However, it seems to me that this phrase relates to the Lord's table of v. 12.

▣ "you bring what is taken in robbery" The term "robbery" (cf. NKJV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA) can mean "violence" (Peshitta, NIV, REB, BDB 159 I, II Sam. 23:21; Job 24:9; Micah 2:2; 3:2). This seems to be used in the sense of a wild animal attack (cf. Exod. 22:31). If that is the sense, instead of robbery, it is a sacrilege as well as a sin to offer previously killed animals on the altar.

▣ "what is lame or sick" Also refer to 1:8.

1:14 "but cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock" The swindler referred to (1) the Israelites who did not offer their best to God or (2) those who made vows but did not fulfill them. They were offering their worthless animals. The priests were accepting the blemished animals (cf. Lev. 22:18-20; Deut. 15:19-23).

The "curse" (BDB 76, KB 91, Qal passive participle, cf. 2:2[twice]; 3:9; the two contexts that use this term the most are Deuteronomy 27-29 and Jeremiah) represents the opposite of the Aaronic blessing of Num. 6:22-26. The priests of the post-exilic community were using the liturgical formula, but in reality, they were cursing the people with it!

▣ "I am a great King and My name is feared among the nations" This again shows the universal scope and heart of God (cf. v. 11). Israel was to be a witness to God's greatness, but her actions were counterproductive. This could mean that the pagans respected God more than His own priests! See SPECIAL TOPIC: BOB'S EVANGELICAL BIASES at Joel 2:32.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who is the author? Why?

2. Explain in your own words the Hebrew idiom of "I have loved" in v. 2 and "I have hated" in v. 3.

3. Describe the five titles for God used in this chapter and relate them to the person of God.

4. Is v. 11 referring to pagan worship or an end-time setting? Why?

5. List Malachi's four charges against the priests found in vv. 13-14.


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