The Sacrilege of the Priestly Message
1 “Now, you priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you do not listen and take seriously#tn Heb “and if you do not place upon [the] heart”; KJV, NAB, NRSV “lay it to heart.” the need to honor my name,” says the Lord who rules over all, “I will send judgment#tn Heb “the curse” (so NASB, NRSV); NLT “a terrible curse.” on you and turn your blessings into curses – indeed, I have already done so because you are not taking it to heart. 3 I am about to discipline your children#tc The phrase “discipline your children” is disputed. The LXX and Vulgate suppose זְרוֹעַ (zÿroa’, “arm”) for the MT זֶרַע (zera’, “seed”; hence, “children”). Then, for the MT גֹעֵר (go’er, “rebuking”) the same versions suggest גָּרַע (gara’, “take away”). The resulting translation is “I am about to take away your arm” (cf. NAB “deprive you of the shoulder”). However, this reading is unlikely. It is common for a curse (v. 2) to fall on offspring (see, e.g., Deut 28:18, 32, 41, 53, 55, 57), but a curse never takes the form of a broken or amputated arm. It is preferable to retain the reading of the MT here. and will spread offal#tn The Hebrew term פֶרֶשׁ (feresh, “offal”) refers to the entrails as ripped out in preparing a sacrificial victim (BDB 831 s.v. פֶּרֶשׁ). This graphic term has been variously translated: “dung” (KJV, RSV, NRSV, NLT); “refuse” (NKJV, NASB); “offal” (NEB, NIV). on your faces,#sn See Zech 3:3-4 for similar coarse imagery which reflects cultic disqualification. the very offal produced at your festivals, and you will be carried away along with it. 4 Then you will know that I sent this commandment to you so that my covenant#sn My covenant refers to the priestly covenant through Aaron and his grandson Phinehas (see Exod 6:16-20; Num 25:10-13; Jer 33:21-22). The point here is to contrast the priestly ideal with the disgraceful manner in which it was being carried out in postexilic times. may continue to be with Levi,” says the Lord who rules over all. 5 “My covenant with him was designed to bring life and peace. I gave its statutes to him to fill him with awe, and he indeed revered me and stood in awe before me. 6 He taught what was true;#tn Heb “True teaching was in his mouth”; cf. NASB, NRSV “True instruction (doctrine NAB) was in his mouth.” sinful words were not found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and integrity, and he turned many people away from sin. 7 For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge of sacred things, and people should seek instruction from him#tn Heb “from his mouth” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV). because he is the messenger of the Lord who rules over all. 8 You, however, have turned from the way. You have caused many to violate the law;#tn The definite article embedded within בַּתּוֹרָה (battorah) may suggest that the Torah is in mind and not just “ordinary” priestly instruction, though it might refer to the instruction previously mentioned (v. 7). you have corrupted the covenant with Levi,”#tn Or “the Levitical covenant.” says the Lord who rules over all. 9 “Therefore, I have caused you to be ignored and belittled before all people to the extent to which you are not following after me and are showing partiality in your#tn Heb “in the instruction” (so NASB). The Hebrew article is used here as a possessive pronoun (cf. NRSV, NLT). instruction.”
The Rebellion of the People
10 Do we not all have one father?#sn The rhetorical question Do we not all have one father? by no means teaches the “universal fatherhood of God,” that is, that all people equally are children of God. The reference to the covenant in v. 10 as well as to Israel and Judah (v. 11) makes it clear that the referent of “we” is God’s elect people. Did not one God create us? Why do we betray one another, in this way making light of the covenant of our ancestors? 11 Judah has become disloyal, and unspeakable sins have been committed in Israel and Jerusalem.#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. For Judah has profaned#tn Or perhaps “secularized”; cf. NIV “desecrated”; TEV, NLT “defiled”; CEV “disgraced.” the holy things that the Lord loves and has turned to a foreign god!#tn Heb “has married the daughter of a foreign god.” Marriage is used here as a metaphor to describe Judah’s idolatry, that is, her unfaithfulness to the Lord and “remarriage” to pagan gods. But spiritual intermarriage found expression in literal, physical marriage as well, as vv. 14-16 indicate. 12 May the Lord cut off from the community#tn Heb “tents,” used figuratively for the community here (cf. NCV, TEV); NLT “the nation of Israel.” of Jacob every last person who does this,#tc Heb “every man who does this, him who is awake and him who answers.” For “answers” the LXX suggests an underlying Hebrew text of עָנָה (’anah, “to be humbled”), and then the whole phrase is modified slightly: “until he is humbled.” This requires also that the MT עֵר (’er, “awake”) be read as עֵד (’ed, “until”; here the LXX reads ἕως, Jews). The reading of the LXX is most likely an alteration to correct what is arguably a difficult text.tn Heb “every man who does this, him who is awake and him who answers.” The idea seems to be a merism expressing totality, that is, everybody from the awakener to the awakened, thus “every last person who does this” (NLT similar); NIV “whoever he may be.” as well as the person who presents improper offerings to the Lord who rules over all!
13 You also do this: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears#sn You cover the altar of the Lord with tears. These tears are the false tears of hypocrisy, not genuine tears of repentance. The people weep because the Lord will not hear them, not because of their sin. as you weep and groan, because he no longer pays any attention to the offering nor accepts it favorably from you. 14 Yet you ask, “Why?” The Lord is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young,#tn Heb “the Lord is a witness between you and [between] the wife of your youth.” to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion and wife by law.#sn Though there is no explicit reference to marriage vows in the OT (but see Job 7:13; Prov 2:17; Ezek 16:8), the term law (Heb “covenant”) here asserts that such vows or agreements must have existed. References to divorce documents (e.g., Deut 24:1-3; Jer 3:8) also presuppose the existence of marriage documents. 15 No one who has even a small portion of the Spirit in him does this.#tn Heb “and not one has done, and a remnant of the spirit to him.” The very elliptical nature of the statement suggests it is proverbial. The present translation represents an attempt to clarify the meaning of the statement (cf. NASB). What did our ancestor#tn Heb “the one.” This is an oblique reference to Abraham who sought to obtain God’s blessing by circumventing God’s own plan for him by taking Hagar as wife (Gen 16:1-6). The result of this kind of intermarriage was, of course, disastrous (Gen 16:11-12). do when seeking a child from God? Be attentive, then, to your own spirit, for one should not be disloyal to the wife he took in his youth.#sn The wife he took in his youth probably refers to the first wife one married (cf. NCV “the wife you married when you were young”). 16 “I hate divorce,”#tc The verb שָׂנֵא (sane’) appears to be a third person form, “he hates,” which makes little sense in the context, unless one emends the following word to a third person verb as well. Then one might translate, “he [who] hates [his wife] [and] divorces her…is guilty of violence.” A similar translation is advocated by M. A. Shields, “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2,10-16,” ZAW 111 (1999): 81-85. However, it is possible that the first person pronoun אָנֹכִי (’anokhi, “I”) has accidentally dropped from the text after כִּי (ki). If one restores the pronoun, the form שָׂנֵא can be taken as a participle and the text translated, “for I hate” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV, NLT). sn Though the statement “I hate divorce” may (and should) be understood as a comprehensive biblical principle, the immediate context suggests that the divorce in view is that of one Jewish person by another in order to undertake subsequent marriages. The injunction here by no means contradicts Ezra’s commands to Jewish men to divorce their heathen wives (Ezra 9–10). says the Lord God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,”#tn Heb “him who covers his garment with violence” (similar ASV, NRSV). Here “garment” is a metaphor for appearance and “violence” a metonymy of effect for cause. God views divorce as an act of violence against the victim. says the Lord who rules over all. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.”
Resistance to the Lord through Self-deceit
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” Because you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the Lord’s opinion,#tn Heb “in the eyes of the Lord.” and he delights in them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”