John Calvin, Commentary on Malachi 

    Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets 
    by John Calvin. 
    Now first translated from the original Latin, by the 
    Rev. John Owen, vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire. 

    Volume Fifth. Zechariah and Malachi 
    WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 
    Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan. 

    Printed in the United States of America. 
                             ON THE 
                        PROPHET MALACHI 
                  CALVIN'S PREFACE TO MALACHI 
    Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-ninth 
          The Book of Malachi follows, whom many have
    imagined to have been an angel, on account of his name.
    We indeed know that Melac, in Hebrew is an Angel; but how
    absurd is such a supposition, it is easy to see; for the
    Lord at that time did not send angels to reveal his
    oracles, but adopted the ordinary ministry of men; and as
    iod, is added at the end of the word, as it was usual in
    proper names, we may indeed hence conclude that it was
    the name of a man; at the same time I freely allow that
    it may have been added for some particular reason not
    known to us now. I am more disposed to grant what some
    have said, that he was Ezra, and that Malachi was his
    surname, for God had called him to do great and
    remarkable things. 
         However this may be, he was no doubt one of the
    Prophets, and , as it appears, the last; for at the end
    of his Book he exhorts the people to continue in their
    adherence to the pure doctrine of the Law: and this he
    did, because God was not afterwards to send Prophets in
    succession as before; for it was his purpose that the
    Jews should have a stronger desire for Christ, they
    having been for a time without any Prophets. It was
    indeed either a token of God's wrath, or a presage of
    Christ's coming, when they were deprived of that benefit
    which Moses mentions in Deut. xviii.; for God had then
    promised to send Prophets, that the Jews might know that
    he cared for their safety. When therefore God left his
    people without Prophets, it was either to show his great
    displeasure, as during the Babylonian exile, or to hold
    them in suspense, that they might with stronger desire
    look forward to the coming of Christ. 
         However we may regard this, I have no doubt but he
    was the last of the Prophets; for he bids the people to
    adhere to the doctrine of the Law until Christ should be
         The sum and substance of the Book is, - that though
    the Jews had but lately returned to their own country,
    they yet soon returned to their own nature, became
    unmindful of God's favor, and so gave themselves up to
    many corruptions; that their state was nothing better
    than that of their fathers before them, so that God had
    as it were lost all his labour in chastising them. As
    then the Jews had again relapsed into many vices, our
    Prophet severely reproves them, and upbraids them with
    ingratitude, because they rendered to God their deliverer
    so shameful a recompense. He also mentions some of their
    sins, that he might prove the people to be guilty, for he
    saw that they were full of evasions. And he addresses the
    priests, who had by bad examples corrupted the morals of
    the people, when yet their office required a very
    different course of life; for the Lord had set them over
    the people to be teachers of religion and of uprightness;
    but from them did emanate a great portion of the vices of
    the age; and hence our Prophet the more severely condemns
         He shows at the same time that God would remember
    his gratuitous covenant, which he had made with their
    fathers, so that the Redeemer would at length come. -This
    is the substance of the whole: I come now to the words.- 
                           THE PROPHET MALACHI 
     CHAPTER 1: 
     1. The burden of the word of the Jehovah on Israel, by
         They who explain mesha, burden, as signifying
    prophecy, without exception, are mistaken, as I have
    elsewhere reminded you; for prophecy is not everywhere
    called a burden; and whenever this word is expressed,
    there is ever to be understood some judgment of God; and
    it appears evident from Jer. 23:38, that this word was
    regarded as ominous, so that the ungodly, when they
    wished to brand the Prophets with some mark of reproach,
    used this as a common proverb, "It is a burden,"
    intimating thereby that nothing else was brought by the
    Prophets but threatenings and terrors, in order that they
    might have some excuse for closing their ears, and for
    evading all prophecies by giving them an unhappy and
    ominous name. 
         As we proceed it will become evident that the
    doctrine of Malachi is not without reason called a
    Burden; for as I have stated in part, and as it will be
    more fullv seen hereafter, it was necessary that the
    people should be summoned before God's tribunal, inasmuch
    as many sins had again begun to prevail among them, and
    such as could not be endured: and for this reason he says
    that God's judgment was at hand. 
         But under the name of Israel he refers only to those
    who had returned to their own country, whether they were
    of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, or of the tribe of
    Levi. It is nevertheless probable that there were also
    some mixed with them from the other tribes: but the Jews
    and their neighbors, the half tribe of Benjamin, had
    almost alone returned to their country, with the
    exception of the Levites, who had been their guides in
    their journey, and encouraged the rest of the people.
    They were yet called Israel indiscriminately, since among
    them only pure religion continued: but they who remained
    dispersed among foreign and heathen nations, had as it
    were lost their name, though they had not wholly departed
    from the pure worship of God and true religion. Hence, by
    way of excellency, they were called Israel, who had again
    assembled in the holy land, that they might there enjoy
    the inheritance promised them from above. 
         The word hand, as we have observed elsewhere, means
    ministration. The meaning then is, that this doctrine
    proceeded from God, but that a minister, even Malachi,
    was employed as an instrument; so that he brought nothing
    as his own, but only related faithfully what had been
    committed to him by God from whom it came. It then
    2. I have loved you, saith the Lord: yet ye say, Wherein
    best thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith
    the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, 3. And I hated Esau, and
    laid his molmtains and his heritage waste for the dragons
    of the wilderness. 
    4. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will
    return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord
    of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and
    they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The
    people against whom the Lord has indignation for ever. 5.
    And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will
    be magnified from the border of Israel. 
    6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master:
    if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be
    a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto
    you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein
    have we despised thy name? 
    2. Dilexi vos, dicit Jehovah; et dixistis, In quo
    dilexisti nos? Annon frater Esau erat ipsi Jacob? dicit
    Jehovah; et dilexi Jacob, 
    3. Et Esau odio habui; et posui montes ejus solitudinem,
    et haereditatem ejus serpentibus desertum (alit vertunt,
    deserti.) 4. Si dixerit Edom, Attenuati sumus, sed
    revertemur, et aedificabimus deserta: sic dicit Iehova
    exercituum Ipsi aedificabmlt, et ego diruam, et dicetur
    illis, Terminus impietatis et populous cui infensus est
    Iehova in perpetuum. 
    5. Et oculi vestri videbunt, et vos dicetis,
    Magnificabitur Iehova super terminum Israel. (Addendus
    etiam sextus versus, saltem initium:) 
    6. Filius honorat patrem, et servus dominum suum; et si
    pater ego, ubi honor meus? et si dominus dgo, ubi timor
    mei? dicit Iehova exercituum. 
         I am constrained by the context to read all these
    verses; for the sense cannot be otherwise completed. God
    expostulates here with a perverse and an ungrateful
    people, because they doubly deprived him of his right;
    for he was neither loved nor feared, though he had a just
    claim to the name and honor of a master as well as that
    of a father. As then the Jews paid him no reverence, he
    complains that he was defrauded of his right as a father;
    and as they entertained no fear for him, he condemns them
    for not acknowledging, him as their Lord and Master, by
    submitting to his authority. But before he comes to this,
    he shows that he was both their Lord and Father; and he
    declares that he was especially their Father, because he
    loved them. 
         We now then understand the Prophet's intention; for
    God designed to show here how debased the Jews were, as
    they acknowledged him neither as their Father nor as
    their Lord; they neither reverenced him as their Lord,
    nor regarded him as their Father. But he brings forward,
    as I have already said, his benefits, by which he proves
    that he deserved the honor due to a father and to a
         Hence he says, I loved you. God might indeed have
    made an appeal to the Jews on another ground; for had he
    not manifested his love to them, they were yet bound to
    submit to his authority. He does not indeed speak here of
    God's love generally, such as he shows to the whole human
    race; but he condemns the Jews, inasmuch as having been
    freely adopted by God as his holy and peculiar people,
    they yet forgot this honor, and despised the Giver, and
    regarded what he taught them as nothing. When therefore
    God says that he loved the Jews, we see that his object
    was to convict them of ingratitude for having despised
    the singular favor bestowed on them alone, rather than to
    press that authority which he possesses over all mankind
    in common. God then might have thus addressed them, "I
    have created you, and have been to you a kind Father; by
    my favor does the sun shine on you daily, and the earth
    produces its fruit; in a word, I hold you bound to me by
    innumerable benefits." God might have thus spoken to
    them; but as I have said, his object was to bring forward
    the gratuitous adoption with which he had favored the
    seed of Abraham; for it was a less endurable impiety,
    that they had despised so incomparable a favor; inasmuch
    as God had preferred them to all other nations, not on
    the ground of merit or of any worthiness, but because it
    had so pleased him. This then is the reason why the
    Prophet begins by saying, that the Jews had been loved by
    God: for they had made the worst return for this
    gratuitous favor, when they despised his doctrine. This
    is the first thing. 
         There is further no doubt but that he indirectly
    condemns their ingratitude when he says, In what hast
    thou loved us? The words indeed may be thus explained - "
    If ye say, or if ye ask, In what have I loved you? Even
    in this - I preferred your father Jacob to Esau, when yet
    they were twin brothers." But we shall see in other
    places that the Jews by evasions malignantly obscured
    God's favor, and that this wickedness is in similar words
    condemned. Hence the Prophet, seeing that he had to do
    with debased men, who would not easily yield to God nor
    acknowledge his kindness by a free and ingenuous
    confession, introduces them here as speaking thus
    clamorously, "Ho! when hast thou loved us! in what! the
    tokens of thy love do not appear." He answers in God's
    name, "Esau was Jacob's brother; and yet I loved Jacob,
    and Esau I hated." 
         We now see what I have just referred to, - that the
    Jews are reminded of God's gratuitous covenant, that they
    might cease to excuse their wickedness in having misused
    this singular favor. He does not then upbraid them here,
    because they had been as other men created by God,
    because God caused his sun to shine on them, because they
    were supplied with food from the earth; but he says, that
    they had been preferred to other people, not on account
    of their own merit, but because it had pleased God to
    choose their father Jacob. He might have here adduced
    Abraham as an example; but as Jacob and Esau proceeded
    from Abraham, with whom God had made the covenant, his
    favor was the more remarkable, inasmuch as though Abraham
    had been alone chosen by God, and other nations were
    passed by, yet from the very family which the Lord had
    adopted, one had been chosen while the other was
    rejected. When a comparison is made between Esau and
    Jacob, we must bear in mind that they were brothers; but
    there are other circumstances to be noticed, which though
    not expressed here by the Prophet, are yet well known:
    for all the Jews knew that Esau was the first-born; and
    that hence Jacob had obtained the right of primogeniture
    contrary to the order of nature. As then this was
    commonly known, the Prophet was content to use only this
    one sentence, Esau was Jacob's brother. 
         But he says that Jacob was chosen by God, and that
    his brother, the first-born, was rejected. If the reason
    be asked, it is not to be found in their descent, for
    they were twin brothers; and they had not come forth from
    the womb when the Lord by an oracle testified that Jacob
    would be the greater. We hence see that the origin of all
    the excellency which belonged to the posterity of
    Abraham, is here ascribed to the gratuitous love of God,
    according to what Moses often said, " Not because ye
    excelled other nations, or were more in number, has God
    honored you with so many benefits; but because he loved
    your fathers." The Jews then had always been reminded,
    that they were not to seek for the cause of their
    adoption but in the gratuitous favour of God; he had been
    pleased to choose them - this was the source of their
    salvation. We now understand the Prophet's design when he
    says, that Esau was Jacob's brother, and yet was not
    loved by God. 
    We must at the same time bear in mind what I have already
    said - that this singular favour of God towards the
    children of Jacob is referred to, in order to make them
    ashamed of their ingratitude, inasmuch as God had set his
    love on objects so unworthy. For had they been deserving,
    they might have boasted that a reward was rendered to
    them; but as the Lord had gratuitously and of his own
    good pleasure conferred this benefit on them, their
    impiety was the less excusable. This baseness then is
    what our Prophet now reprobates. 
         Then follows a proof of hatred as to Esau, the Lord
    made his mountain a desolation, and his inheritance a
    desert where serpents dwelt. Esau, we know, when driven
    away by his own shame, or by his father's displeasure,
    came to Mount Seir; and the whole region where his
    posterity dwelt was rough and enclosed by many mountains.
    But were any to object and say, that this was no
    remarkable token of hatred, as it might on the other hand
    be said, that the love of God towards Jacob was not much
    shown, because he dwelt in the land of Canaan, since the
    Chaldeans inhabited a country more pleasant and more
    fruitful, and the Egyptians also were very wealthy; to
    this the answer is - that the land of Canaan was a symbol
    of God's love, not only on account of its fruitfulness,
    but because the Lord had consecrated it to himself and to
    his chosen people. So Jerusalem was not superior to other
    cities of the land, either to Samaria or Bethlehem, or
    other towns, on account of its situation, for it stood,
    as it is well known, in a hilly country, and it had only
    the spring of Siloam, fiom which flowed a small stream;
    and the view was not so beautiful, nor its fertility
    great; at the same time it excelled in other things. for
    God had chosen it as his sanctuary; and the same must be
    said of the whole land. As then the land of Canaan was,
    as it were, a pledge of an eternal inheritance to the
    children of Abraham, the scripture on this account
    greatly extols it, and speaks of it in magnificent terms.
    If Mount Seir was very wealthy and replenished with
    everything delightful, it must have been still a sad
    exile to the Idumeans, because it was a token of their
    reprobation; for Esau, when he left his father's house,
    went there; and he became as it were an alien, having
    deprived himself of the celestial inheritance, as he had
    sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. This is the
    reason why God declares here that Esau was dismissed as
    it were to the mountains, and deprived of the Holy Land
    which God had destined to his chosen people. 
         But the Prophet also adds another thing, - that
    God's hatred as manifested when the posterity of Esau
    became extinct. For though the Assyrians and Chaldeans
    had no less cruelly raged against the Jews than against
    the Edomites, yet the issue was very different; for after
    seventy years the Jews returned to their own country, as
    Jeremiah had promised: yet Idumea was not to be restored,
    but the tokens of God's dreadful wrath had ever appeared
    there in its sad desolations. Since then there had been
    no restoration as to Idumea, the Prophet shows that by
    this fact the love of God towards Jacob and his hatred
    towards Esau had been proved; for it had not been through
    the contrivance of men that the Jews had liberty given
    them, and that they were allowed to build the temple; but
    because God had chosen them in the person of Jacob, and
    designed them to be a peculiar and holy people to
         But as to the Edomites, it became then only more
    evident that they had been rejected in the person of
    Esau, since being once laid waste they saw that they were
    doomed to perpetual destruction. This is then the import
    of the Prophet's words when he says, that the possession
    of Esau had been given to serpents. For, as I have
    already said, though for a time the condition of Judea
    and of Idumea had not been unlike, yet when Jerusalem
    began to rise and to be repaired, then God clearly showed
    that that land had not been in vain given to his chosen
    people. But when the neighbouring country was not
    restored, while yet the posterity of Esau might with less
    suspicion have repaired their houses, it became hence
    sufficiently evident that the curse of God was upon them.
         And to the same purpose he adds, If Edom shall say,
    We have been diminished, but we shall return and build
    houses; but if they build, I will pull down, saith God.
    He confirms what I have stated, that the posterity of
    Edom had no hope of restoration, for however they might
    gather courage and diligently labour in rebuilding their
    cities, they were not yet to succeed, for God would pull
    down all their buildings. This difference then was like a
    living representation, by which the Jews might see the
    love of God towards Jacob, and his hatred towards Esau.
    For since both people were overthrown by the same enemy,
    how was it that liberty was given to the Jews and no
    permission was given to the Idumeans to return to their
    own country? There was, as it has been said, a greater
    ill-will to the Jews, and yet the Chaldeans dealt with
    them more kindly. It then follows, that all this was
    owing to the wonderful purpose of God, and that hence it
    also appeared, that the adoption, which seemed to have
    been abolished when the Jews were driven into exile, was
    not in vain. 
         Thus then saith Jehovah of hosts, They shall build,
    that is, though they may build, I will overthrow; and it
    shall be said to them, Border of ungodliness, and a
    people with whom Jehovah is angry for ever. By the border
    of ungodliness he means an accursed border; as though he
    had said, "It will openly appear that you are reprobate,
    so that the whole world can form a judgment by the event
    itself." By adding, A people with whom Jehovah is angry
    or displeased, he again confirms what I have said of love
    and hatred. God might indeed have been equally angry with
    the Jews as with the Edomites, but when God became
    pacified towards the Jews, while he continued inexorable
    to the posterity of Esau, the difference between the two
    people was hence quite manifest. 
          Noticed also must be the words, ad-olam, for ever:
    for God seemed for a time to have rejected the Jews, and
    the Prophets adopt the same word som, angry, when they
    deplore the condition of the peep]e, who found in various
    ways that God was angry with them. But the wrath of God
    towards the Jews was only for a time, for he did not
    wholly forget his covenant; but he became angry with the
    Edomites for ever, because their father had been
    rejected: and we know that this difference between the
    elect and the reprobate is ever pointed out, that when
    God visits sins in common, he ever moderates his wrath
    towards his elect, and sets limits to his severity,
    according to what he says, "If his posterity keep not my
    covenant, but profane my law, I will chastise them with
    the rod of man; but my mercy will I not take away from
    him." (Ps. 89: 31-33; 2 Sam. 7:14.) But with regard to
    the reprobate, God's vengeance ever pursues them, is ever
    suspended over their heads, and ever fixed as it were in
    their bones and marrow. For this reason it is that our
    Prophet says, that God would be angry with the posterity
    of Esau. 
         He adds, Your eyes shall see. The Jews had already
    begun in part to witness this spectacle, but the Prophet
    speaks here of what was to continue. See then shall your
    eyes; that is, "As it has already appeared of what avail
    gratuitous election has been to you, by which I have
    chosen you as my people, and as ye have also seen on the
    other hand how it has been with your relations the
    Edomites, because they had been rejected in the person of
    their father Esau; so also this same difference shall
    ever be evident to you in their posterity: see then shall
    your eyes. 
         And ye shall say, Magnified let Jehovah be over the
    border of Israel; that is, "The event itself will extort
    this confession, - that I greatly enhance my goodness
    towards you." For though tokens of God's grace shone
    forth everywhere, and the earth, as the Psalmist says, is
    full of his goodness, (Ps. 104: 24;) yet there was in
    Judea something special, so that.our Prophet does not in
    vain say, that there would be always reasons for the Jews
    to celebrate God's praises on account of his bounty to
    them more than to the rest of the world. And the Prophet
    no doubt reproves here indirectly the wickedness of the
    people, as though he had said, - "Ye indeed, as far as
    you can, bury God's benefits, or at least extenuate them;
    but facts themselves must draw from you this confession -
    that God deals bountifully with the border of Israel,
    that he exercises there his favour more remarkably than
    among any of the nations." 
         After having briefly referred to those benefits
    which ought to have filled the Jews with shame, he comes
    at length to the subject he had in view; for his main
    object, as I have already stated, was to show, that it
    was God's complaint that he was deprived of his own right
    and in a double sense, for the Jews did not reverence him
    as their Father, nor fear him as their Lord. He might
    indeed have called himself Lord and Father by the right
    of creation; but he preferred, as I have already
    explained, to appeal to their adoption; for it was a
    remarkable favour, when the Lord chose some out of all
    the human race; and we cannot say that the cause of this
    was to be found in men. Whom then he designs to choose,
    he binds to himself by a holier bond. But if they
    disappoint him, wholly inexcusable is their perfidy.     
    As we now understand the Prophet's meaning, and the
    object of this expostulation, it remains for us to learn
    how to accommodate what is taught to ourselves. We are
    not indeed descended fronm Abraham or from Jacob
    according to the flesh; but as God has engraved on us
    certain marks of his adoption, by which he has
    distinguished us from other nations, while we were yet
    nothing better, we hence see that we are justly exposed
    to the same reproof with the Jews, if we do not respond
    to the calling of God. I wished thus briefly to touch on
    this point, in order that we may know that this doctrine
    is no less useful to us at this day than it was to the
    Jews; for though the adoption is not exactly the same, as
    it then belonged to one seed and to one family, yet we
    are not superior to others through our own worthiness,
    but because God has gratuitously chosen us as a people to
    himself. Since this has been the case, we are his; for he
    has redeemed us by the blood of his own Son, and by
    rendering us partakers, by the gospel, of a favour so
    ineffably great, he has made us his sons and his
    servants. Except then we love and reverence him as our
    Father, and except we fear him as our Lord, there is
    found in us at this day an ingratitude no less base than
    in that ancient people. But as I wished now only to refer
    to the chief point, I shall speak to-morrow, as the
    passage requires, on the subject of election: but it was
    necessary first briefly to show the Prophet's design, as
    I have done; and then to treat particular points more at
    large, as the case may require. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only designed
    to give us a life in common in this world but hast also
    separated us from other heathen nations, and illuminated
    us by the Sun of Righteousness, thine only begotten Son,
    in order to lead us into the inheritance of eternal
    salvation, - O grant, that having been rescued from the
    darkness of death, we may ever attend to that celestial
    light, by which thou guidest and invitest us to thyself;
    and may we so walk as the children of light, as never to
    wander from the course of our holy calling, but to
    advance in it continually, until we shall at length reach
    the goal which thou hast set before us, so that having
    put off all the filth of the flesh, we may be transformed
    into that ineffable glory, of which we have now the image
    in thine only-begotten, Son. - Amen. 

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (continued in file 2...)

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