1 “I am about to send my messenger,#tn In Hebrew the phrase “my messenger” is מַלְאָכִי (mal’akhi), the same form as the prophet’s name (see note on the name “Malachi” in 1:1). However, here the messenger appears to be an eschatological figure who is about to appear, as the following context suggests. According to 4:5, this messenger is “Elijah the prophet,” whom the NT identifies as John the Baptist (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2) because he came in the “spirit and power” of Elijah (Matt 11:14; 17:11-12; Lk 1:17). who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord#tn Here the Hebrew term הָאָדוֹן (ha’adon) is used, not יְהוָה (yÿhvah, typically rendered Lord). Thus the focus is not on the Lord as the covenant God, but on his role as master. you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger#sn This messenger of the covenant may be equated with my messenger (that is, Elijah) mentioned earlier in the verse, or with the Lord himself. In either case the messenger functions as an enforcer of the covenant. Note the following verses, which depict purifying judgment on a people that has violated the Lord’s covenant. of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord who rules over all.
2 Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can keep standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire,#sn The refiner’s fire was used to purify metal and refine it by melting it and allowing the dross, which floated to the top, to be scooped off. like a launderer’s soap. 3 He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering. 4 The offerings#tn Or “gift.” of Judah and Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. will be pleasing to the Lord as in former times and years past.
5 “I#tn The first person pronoun (a reference to the Lord) indicates that the Lord himself now speaks (see also v. 1). The prophet speaks in vv. 2-4 (see also 2:17). will come to you in judgment. I will be quick to testify against those who practice divination, those who commit adultery, those who break promises,#tn Heb “those who swear [oaths] falsely.” Cf. NIV “perjurers”; TEV “those who give false testimony”; NLT “liars.” and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans,#tn Heb “and against the oppressors of the worker for a wage, [the] widow and orphan.” who refuse to help#tn Heb “those who turn aside.” the immigrant#tn Or “resident foreigner”; NIV “aliens”; NRSV “the alien.” and in this way show they do not fear me,” says the Lord who rules over all.
Resistance to the Lord through Selfishness
6 “Since, I, the Lord, do not go back on my promises,#tn Heb “do not change.” This refers to God’s ongoing commitment to his covenant promises to Israel. you, sons of Jacob, have not perished. 7 From the days of your ancestors you have ignored#tn Heb “turned aside from.” my commandments#tn Or “statutes” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV); NIV “decrees”; NLT “laws.” and have not kept them! Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord who rules over all. “But you say, ‘How should we return?’ 8 Can a person rob#tc The LXX presupposes an underlying Hebrew text of עָקַב (’aqav, “deceive”), a metathesis of קָבַע (qava’, “rob”), in all four uses of the verb here (vv. 8-9). The intent probably is to soften the impact of “robbing” God, but the language of the passage is intentionally bold and there is no reason to go against the reading of the MT (which is followed here by most English versions). God? You indeed are robbing me, but you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and contributions!#sn The tithes and contributions mentioned here are probably those used to sustain the Levites (see Num 18:8, 11, 19, 21-24). 9 You are bound for judgment#tn Heb “cursed with a curse” that is, “under a curse” (so NIV, NLT, CEV). because you are robbing me – this whole nation is guilty.#tn The phrase “is guilty” is not present in the Hebrew text but is implied, and has been supplied in the translation for clarification and stylistic reasons.
10 “Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse#tn The Hebrew phrase בֵּית הָאוֹצָר (bet ha’otsar, here translated “storehouse”) refers to a kind of temple warehouse described more fully in Nehemiah (where the term לִשְׁכָּה גְדוֹלָה [lishkah gÿdolah, “great chamber”] is used) as a place for storing grain, frankincense, temple vessels, wine, and oil (Neh 13:5). Cf. TEV “to the Temple.” so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the Lord who rules over all, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no room for it all. 11 Then I will stop the plague#tn Heb “the eater” (אֹכֵל, ’okhel), a general term for any kind of threat to crops and livelihood. This is understood as a reference to a locust plague by a number of English versions: NAB, NRSV “the locust”; NIV “pests”; NCV, TEV “insects.” from ruining your crops,#tn Heb “and I will rebuke for you the eater and it will not ruin for you the fruit of the ground.” and the vine will not lose its fruit before harvest,” says the Lord who rules over all. 12 “All nations will call you happy, for you indeed will live in#tn Heb “will be” (so NAB, NRSV); TEV “your land will be a good place to live in.” a delightful land,” says the Lord who rules over all.
Resistance to the Lord through Self-sufficiency
13 “You have criticized me sharply,”#tn Heb “your words are hard [or “strong”] against me”; cf. NIV “said harsh things against me”; TEV, NLT “said terrible things about me.” says the Lord, “but you ask, ‘How have we criticized you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God. How have we been helped#tn Heb “What [is the] profit”; NIV “What did we gain.” by keeping his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord who rules over all?#sn The people’s public display of self-effacing piety has gone unrewarded by the Lord. The reason, of course, is that it was blatantly hypocritical. 15 So now we consider the arrogant to be happy; indeed, those who practice evil are successful.#tn Heb “built up” (so NASB); NIV, NRSV “prosper”; NLT “get rich.” In fact, those who challenge#tn Or “test”; NRSV, CEV “put God to the test.” God escape!’”
16 Then those who respected#tn Or “fear” (so NAB); NRSV “revered”; NCV “honored.” the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord took notice.#tn Heb “heard and listened”; NAB “listened attentively.” A scroll#sn The scroll mentioned here is a “memory book” (סֵפֶר זִכָּרוֹן, sefer zikkaron) in which the Lord keeps an ongoing record of the names of all the redeemed (see Exod 32:32; Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Rev 20:12-15). was prepared before him in which were recorded the names of those who respected the Lord and honored his name. 17 “They will belong to me,” says the Lord who rules over all, “in the day when I prepare my own special property.#sn The Hebrew word סְגֻלָּה (sÿgullah, “special property”) is a technical term referring to all the recipients of God’s redemptive grace, especially Israel (Exod 19:5; Deut 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). The Lord says here that he will not forget even one individual in the day of judgment and reward. I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you will see that I make a distinction between#tn Heb “you will see between.” Cf. NRSV, TEV, NLT “see the difference.” the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not.