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Malachi 3:14-4:6

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Purifier
(3:1-15)
The People Complain Harshly When the Day of Judgment Comes, the True Worshipers Will be Spared
(3:13-4:3)
God's Promise of Mercy The Triumph of the Upright on the Day of Yahweh
3:13-15 3:13-15 3:13-15 3:13-15 3:13-15
The Book of Remembrance A Book of Remembrance      
3:16-18 3:16-18
(16)
3:16-4:3 3:16-18 3:16-18
  (17-18)      
The Final Admonition The Great Day of God   The Day of the Lord's Coming 3:19-21 [follows MT]
4:1-3 4:1-6
(1-3)
Two Appendices 4:1-3  
4:4 (4-6) 4:4 4:4 Appendices [follows MT]
3:22
4:5-6   4:5-6 4:5-6 3:23-24

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

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:13-15
 3:13"Your words have been arrogant against Me," says the Lord. "Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against You?' 14You have said, 'It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? 15So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.'"

3:13

NASB"Your words have been arrogant against Me"
NKJV"Your words have been harsh against Me"
NRSV, NJB"you have spoken harsh words against me"
TEV"you have said terrible things about Me"
JPSOA"you have spoken hard words against Me"

This is a common term with a large semantic range. Its basic meaning is "to be strong" (BDB 304, KB 302, Qal perfect). It can have negative connotations of God hardening the hearts of

1. Pharaoh, Exod. 7:13,22; 8:15; 9:35

2. Canaanite kings, Josh. 11:20

but also a positive connotation:

a. encouraging Joshua (cf. Deut. 1:38; 3:28; 31:6,7,23; Josh. 1:6,7,9,18; 10:25)

b. encouraging Israel to keep the covenant, Josh. 23:6

c. encouraging Israel to fight, II Sam. 10:12 (twice)

In context the usage here fits #1. These post-exilic Jews had hardened their hearts and words against YHWH (cf. Ps. 119:21,51,69,78,85,122).

▣ "What have we spoken against Thee" Although they spoke to each other, God took it as to Himself (cf. v. 16). This is another use of diatribe.

3:14 "'It is vain to serve God'" The word "vain" (BDB 996) means "emptiness" and "vanity" (see Ps. 127:1). They were claiming that there were no visible benefits of worshiping and obeying YHWH.

1. "to serve," BDB 712, KB 773, Qal infinitive construct

2. "we have kept," BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal perfect

3. "we have walked," BDB 229, KB 246, Qal perfect

All three verbals denote lifestyle faith. They viewed faith as "what is in it for me?" This is the spiritual plague of the modern western church. See Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels. Luke 12:15 screams at us!

SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH

▣ "what profit" This term (BDB 130) usually has the connotation of "gain made by violence." Here it denotes physical benefits from being a believer (cf. Job 22:3).

3:15 "So now we call the arrogant blessed" We are now at the heart of the question of 2:17. We live in an unfair world which has been affected by our own rebellion (cf. Genesis 3). Often the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (cf. Job; Ps. 73; Jer. 12:1-4; Hab. 1:2-4). The key to understanding life is our trusting attitude toward the faithfulness of God and His promises, and being patient for His justice in His time (cf. Gal. 6:7).

▣ "they also test God and escape" This same term, "test," (BDB 103, KB 119) is used in a positive sense in 3:10; therefore, the only difference is the attitude by which we trust the trustworthiness of God.

No one "tests" God and escapes (BDB 572, KB 589, Niphal imperfect, cf. Pro. 19:5; Amos 9:1).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:3:16-18
 16Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. 17"They will be Mine," says the Lord of hosts, "on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him." 18So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

3:16 "Then those who fear the Lord spoke to one another" We must remember that in this context of doubt and uncertainty, it is the righteous (i.e., "those who feared the Lord," BDB 431, KB 432, Qal active participle, cf. 2:5; 3:5) who are complaining, not the wicked (however, note vv. 13-14). Israel has become greatly discouraged because of

1. the small size of the rebuilt Temple

2. the lack of supernatural manifestations in their day

3. the ambivalence of the Persian empire

4. the social and religious conditions of Judah

5. the aggression of their neighbors

As in vv. 13-14, YHWH overheard (BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperfect, "give attention") His people speaking and acted on their words! Be careful what you say (cf. Matt. 12:36-37).

▣ "a book of remembrances was written before Him" The Bible speaks in metaphorical language of two books: (1) the book of life and (2) the book of remembrances (cf. Dan. 7:10 and Rev. 20:12). In this context it is the book of remembrances used in a positive way. The book of remembrances is mentioned in Ps. 56:8; 139:16; Isa. 65:6; Mal. 3:16. The book of life is mentioned in Exod. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; Dan, 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil, 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27.

3:17 "they will be Mine. . .on the day I prepared My own possessions" Judgment day will be a tremendous day of blessing for those who know God in (1) "fear" (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal participle) and (2) "esteem" (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal participle). The term "possession" (BDB 688) is used in Exod. 19:5 for a royal treasure (cf. Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). This promise is primarily national and corporate (i.e., "they" who fear and esteem Him), though with an individual element (cf. Ezek. 18:32; Jer. 31:31-34).

▣ "as a man spares his own son who serves him" Again, family terms are used to describe YHWH's love. See Special Topics: The Fatherhood of God and Anthropomorphic Language for God at Mal. 1:6.

The verb "serves" (BDB 712, KB 773, Qal active participle) was used in a mocking sense in v. 14, but it is used here in a positive sense.

3:18

NASB"again distinguish"
NKJV"again discern"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB"once more. . .see the difference"

There are two verbs in this phrase:

1. BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal perfect, literally, "turn," "turn back." It is used in several senses in Malachi:

a. return, 1:4 (cf. Zech. 1:4,16; 4:1; 8:3)

b. repent, 2:6; 3:7 [thrice] (cf. Zech. 1:3 [twice], 6)

c. again, 3:18 (cf. Zech. 5:1; 6:1; 8;15)

d. turn, 4:6 (cf. Zech. 1:4)

2. BDB 906, #7,f (only example), KB 1157, Qal perfect, literally, "see." Those who fear and esteem YHWH will have their spiritual eyes opened to recognize those in the religious community who are true and who are false!

This is a reversal of 2:17!

▣ "between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him" Service is not the basis of our righteousness or relationship, but it is the natural result (cf. Eph. 2:8-10). This verse asserts that one day God will set it all straight. There is an eschatological day of justice coming (cf. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 49-50)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:1-3
 1"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the Lord of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the Lord of hosts.

4:1 The Septuagint and the Vulgate begin a new chapter here, but the Masoretic Text continues chapter 3 through the end of chapter 4.

▣ "the day is coming" The term "the day" (BDB 398) becomes a technical term for the coming of YHWH. The Israelites thought it would be a day of blessing, but the prophets (esp. Amos and Joel) clearly prophesied a day of judgment beginning with the people of God. One can see from this verse how the Jews of Jesus' day expected the Messiah to come as one bringing judgment. Even John the Baptist misunderstood the nature of Jesus' first coming (cf. Matt. 11:2ff ).

▣ "burning like a furnace" Fire is often a symbol of God and His purifying activities (cf. Mal. 3:2-3; Ps. 21:9; 50:3; Isa. 10:17; 66:15-16; Dan. 7;9-10; Joel 2:30; Nahum 1:5-6; I Cor. 3:13; II Peter 3:7). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE at Obadiah 18.

▣ "will be chaff" This refers to (1) refuse from harvest time or (2) burning of the field in preparation for planting (cf. Matt. 3:14-12).

▣ "so that it will leave them neither root or branch" This is a metaphor of complete destruction (cf. Amos 2:9; Isa. 11:1; Matt. 3:14).

4:2 "the sun of righteousness" The KJV and NKJV capitalize the term "Sun," but this is exegetically impossible because it is a feminine noun in this context (it is usually masculine). It is, however, a unique reference to the Messiah (a similar metaphor is in Isa. 60:1-3,19-20. Also note Matt. 17:2; Rev. 22:5).

Although a Messianic understanding is traditional (even in the rabbis, cf. b.sanh. 118a; b. 'Eruv. 43b), in context it seems to be a metaphor inaugurating the new age of restoration (cf. Isa. 30:23-26; 60:103). This metaphor is striking and unique, which makes it difficult to interpret. What would Malachi have understood by this phrase? The symbol of the Zoroastrian high-good god was a winged sun disk. Possibly the prophet is borrowing the well known symbol of Persian religion to describe YHWH's new day of righteousness (i.e., Ps. 84:11).

▣ "with healing in its wings" This metaphor is possibly used of (1) the relationship between healing and light or (2) a Persian symbol for deity used in Zoroastrianism. Healing was a sign of the New Age (cf. Isa. 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:7,16,18; Matt. 11:5; 12:22-25; 15:30-31; 21:14).

The healing referred to here is more of a spiritual restoration. Israel is sick in covenant rebellion (cf. Isa. 1:5-6; Ps. 103:3). Forgiveness will result in health, peace, and joy. The new day was really what the old day should have been, was meant to be (cf. Deuteronomy 28).

▣ "skip about like calves from the stall" This seems to be a metaphor of joy, freedom, and health (cf. Isa. 35:6).

4:3 "And you will tread down the wicked" This is a metaphor from the wine press, which is used for the righteous finally overcoming. Some see it as a reference to Josh. 10:24 and, therefore, to military victory. Notice God's victory is not immediate, but eschatological.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:4
 4"Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.

4:4-6 The order of these verses is slightly altered in the Septuagint (i.e., vv. 5, 6, and 4). The order is also slightly altered in the Masoretic Text. This seems to be related to the rabbinical thought that the Bible should end with a Covenant name for God. They also did this to the books of Isaiah and Ecclesiastes.

4:4 "Remember" This is a command (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative, this verb is so common in Deuteronomy, 5:15; 7:18 [twice]; 8:2,18; 9:7,27; 15:15; 16:3,12; 24:9,18,22; 25:17; 32:7). Privilege brings responsibility! We need to hide God's word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him (cf. Deut. 4:9; 6:12; 8:11-20: Ps. 103:2).

▣ "the statutes and ordinances" See Special Topic at 3:7.

▣ "Horeb" This (BDB 325) is another name for Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19-23). Some have speculated that Horeb (Hebrew word) is the mountain range and Sinai (non-Hebrew word) is the individual peak.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE LOCATION OF MT. SINAI

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:5-6
 5"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. 6He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse."

4:5 "I am going to send Elijah the prophet" The rabbis (i.e., b. Sanh 118a), the Septuagint, and some early Church fathers were expecting Elijah, the prophet, to return literally (cf. Ecclesiasticus 48:10ff). Elijah and Moses met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:4). However, the words of Jesus seem to relate this passage to John the Baptist (cf. Mal. 3:1; Matt. 11:7-14; 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17). John denies this title in John 1:19-23, but apparently he was denying that he was Elijah reincarnated.

▣ "the great and terrible day of the Lord" This day is characterized in two ways:

1. "great," BDB 152, these two descriptions are often used together (i.e., YHWH's acts of redemption, cf. Deut. 10:21; Job 5:9; 9:10; 37:5; Ps. 71:19; 106:21)

2. "terrible," BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle. Its basic meaning if "fear" or "awe." Therefore, it can stand for

a. a day of judgment

b. a day of the awesome deeds of YHWH

1) used of YHWH Himself in Deut. 10:21; II Sam. 7:23; Ps. 47:3; 68:36; 76:8; Isa. 64:2. He is "great and awful" (cf. Deut. 7:21; 10:17; Neh. 1:5; 4:8; 9:32; Dan. 9:4)

2) used of YHWH's name in Deut. 28:58; Ps. 99:3; 111:9; Mal. 1:14

3) YHWH's coming day in Joel 2:11; 3:4; and here

 

4:6 "He will restore" This verb (BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil perfect) is used often in Malachi (cf. 1:4; 2:6; 3:7[thrice],18; 4:6, see notes at 3:7). This is the regular Hebrew word for repentance (lit. "turn" or "turn back"). In this context it has a double focus:

1. return the post-exilic community to the faith of their fathers

2. return stability to the family structure of the faith community

 

▣ "curse" The literal word is herem (BDB 356, cf. Lev. 27:28, 29; Deut. 25:16-17; Josh. 6:17 and I Sam. 3:15ff). This is the term which is used of something being dedicated to God, and it becoming so holy that it must be completely destroyed.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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. What is the cultural setting of Malachi 3:14?

2. Explain "the book of remembrances."

3. How is service related to our righteousness before God? (cf v. 18)

4. Explain the two unique terms found in Malachi 4:2 and how they relate to the Messiah.

5. Is John the Baptist the predicted prophet Elijah?