Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (... continued from file 3)
    Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-second: 
         I could not yesterday finish the complaint which God
    made against the priests - that no one of them closed the
    doors of the temple, so that it might continue pure from
    all defilements; for as their avarice was insatiable,
    they indiscriminately admitted all sorts of profanations:
    hence he comes to this conclusion - "Offer not hereafter
    in vain;" for by saying, Kindle not my altar, he means
    that they spent their toil to no purpose in offering
    sacrifices, because God required his worship to be
    performed according to the prescription of his law. I
    omit now the two other expositions I mentioned yesterday;
    for it seems to me that the Prophet meant, that the
    priests wearied themselves in vain while daily offering
    victims, because the Lord repudiated their service as
    impure and vicious. 
         He now adds, I am not pleased with you,' and an
    offering I will not accept from your hand. In the first
    clause he says that they were not approved by God, or did
    not please him; and then he adds, that their offerings
    were rejected; for where there is no pure heart, there we
    know all works are impure. For we must remember what
    Moses says - that Abel pleased God together with his
    sacrifices, (Gen. 4: 4;) and we have seen in another
    Prophet, that is Haggai, that what is highly esteemed by
    men is an abomination to God, when he is not worshipped
    in sincerity and truth, (Hag. 2: 15). Our Prophet now
    means the same thing - I am not pleased with you, and I
    regard not as acceptable the victims from your hand. It
    now follows 
    11. For from the rising of the sun, even unto the going
    down of the same, my name shall be great among the
    Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered
    unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be
    great among the heathen saith the Lord of hosts. 
    11. Quia (vel, certe) ab ortu solis usque ad occasum
    magnum nomen meum inter gentes; et in omni loco suffitus
    offertur nomini meo, et oblatio munda; quia (vel, certe,
    est eadem particula) magnum nomen meum inter gentes,
    dicit Iehova exercituum 
         Here God shows that he no longer cared for the Jews,
    for he would bid altars to be reared for him everywhere
    and through all parts of the world, that he might be
    purely worshipped by all nations. It is indeed a
    remarkable prophecy as to the calling of the Gentiles;
    but we must especially remember this, - that whenever the
    Prophets speak of this calling, they promise the spread
    of God's worship as a favour to the Jews, or as a
    punishment and reproach. 
         The Prophets then promised to the Jews that the
    Gentiles would become allied to them; so does Zechariah,
    "In that day lay hold shall ten men on the skirt of the
    garment, and will say to a Jew, Be thou our leader; for
    the same God with thee will we worship." (Zech. 8:23.) It
    would have been then the highest honour to the Jews had
    they become teachers to all nations, so as to instruct
    them in true religion. So also Isaiah says, that is, that
    those who were before aliens would become the disciples
    of the chosen people, so that they would willingly submit
    to their teaching. But as the Jews have fallen from their
    place, the Gentiles have succeeded and occupied their
    position. Hence it is that the Prophets when speaking of
    the calling of the Gentiles, often denounce it as a
    punishment on the Jews; as though they had said, that
    when they were repudiated there would be other children
    of God, whom he would substitute in their place,
    according to what Christ threatened to the men of his
    age, "Taken away from you shall be the kingdom of God,
    and shall be given to another nation." (Matt. 21: 43.) 
         Such is this prophecy: for our Prophet does not
    simply open to the Gentiles the temple of God, to connect
    them with the Jews and to unite them in true religion;
    but he first excludes the Jews, and shows that the
    worship of God would be exercised in common by the
    Gentiles, for the doctrine of salvation would be
    propagated to the utmost extremities of the earth. 
         This difference ought to be noticed, which
    interpreters have not observed, and yet it is what is
    very necessary to be known; and for want of knowing this
    has it happened that passages wholly different have been
    indiscriminately blended together. The Prophet then does
    not here promise, as we have often stated in other
    places, that the whole world would be subject to God, so
    that true religion would everywhere prevail, but he
    brands the Jews with reproach, as though he had said,
    "God has repudiated you, but he will find other sons for
    himself, who will occupy your place." He had repudiated
    in the last verse their sacrifices, and we know how
    haughtily the Jews gloried in the holiness of their race.
    As then they were inflated with so much pride, they
    thought that God would be no God except he had them as
    his holy Church. The Prophet here answers them, and
    anticipates their objection by saying, that God's name
    would be celebrated through the whole world: "Ye are a
    few people, all the nations will unite in one body to
    worship God together; God then will not stand in need of
    you, and after he rejects you his kingdom will not decay.
    Ye indeed think that his kingdom cannot be safe, and that
    his glory will perish except he is worshipped by you; but
    I now declare to you, that the worship of God will
    flourish everywhere, even after he shall cast you out of
    his family." 
         We now then see what the Prophet means when he says,
    that Great will be the name of God from the rising to the
    setting of the sun. It is simply said in Ps. 113:3 "From
    the rising to the setting of the sun wonderful shall be
    the name of God." There indeed it is only a promise, but
    here the Prophet includes the punishment which the Jews
    had deserved, as though he had said, that after they were
    rejected by God on account of their ingratitude, the
    Gentiles would become holy to God, because he would adopt
    them instead of that wicked and ungodly people. 
         But I have said, that the calling of the Gentiles is
    here clearly proved, or may with certainty be elicited
    from this prophecy, for this reason, because the name of
    God cannot be great without the teaching of the truth. It
    is therefore the same thing as though the Prophet had
    said, that the law which had been given to the Jews would
    be proclaimed among all nations, so that true religion
    might spread everywhere: for the basis of true religion
    is to know how he is to be worshipped by us, inasmuch as
    obedience is better than all sacrifices. And it is
    necessary always to begin with this principle - to know
    the God whom we worship: and hence Christ himself, in the
    fourth chapter of John, condemns all the religions which
    then prevailed in the world, because men presumptuously
    worshipped gods devised by themselves. Since then it is
    necessary that the worship of God should be based on the
    truth, then God declares that his name would become
    renowned in every place, he doubtless shows that his law
    would be known to all nations, so that his will might be
    known everywhere, which is, as we have said, the only
    rule of true religion. 
    He afterwards adds - Everywhere shall be offered incense
    to my name, and a clean offering. Why? Because my name
    shall be great. The repetition is not useless; for it was
    a thing then incredible, inasmuch as God had not in vain
    separated the Jews from the rest of the world; nor was it
    an ordinary commendation, when Moses said in the fourth
    chapter of Deuteronomy - "Show me a nation to whom God
    draws nigh as lie does to you: this then is your nobility
    and your excellency, to have a God nigh and friendly to
    you." Hence also it is said in Psalm 147: 20 - "He has
    not done thus to other nations; his judgments has he not
    made known to them." It was then the peculiar privilege
    of the race of Abraham that God was known and worshipped
    by them. The very novelty, then, of what is here said
    might have closed the door against this prophecy; and
    this is the reason why the Prophet repeatedly confirms
    what it was then difficult to believe - the name of God,
    he says, shall be great in every place. 
         We must also bear in mind that God cannot be rightly
    worshipped except he is known, which Paul confirms when
    he says - "How shall they call on him in whom they have
    not believed?" for except the truth shines forth, we
    shall grope like the blind, and wander through devious
    ways. There is therefore no religion approved by God
    except what is based on his word. 
         Moreover the Prophet, by, minchah, offering, and by
    incense, means the worship of God; and this mode of
    speaking is common in the Scriptures, for the Prophets
    who were under the law accon modeled their expressions to
    the comprehension of the people. Whenever then they
    intend to show that the whole world would come to the
    faith and true religion - "An altar," they say, "shall be
    built to God;" and by altar they no doubt meant spiritual
    worship, and not that after Christ's coming sacrifices
    ought to be offered. For now there is no altar for us;
    and whosoever builds an altar for himself subverts the
    cross of Christ, on which he offered the only true and
    perpetual sacrifice. 
         It then follows that this mode of speaking ought to
    be so taken, that we may understand the analogy between
    the legal rites, and the spiritual manner of worshipping
    God now prescribed in the gospel. Though then the words
    of the Prophet are metaphorical, yet their meaning is
    plain enough - that God will be worshipped and adored
    everywhere. But what are the sacrifices of the New
    Testament? They are prayers and thanksgivings, according
    to what the Apostle says in the last chapter of the
    epistle to the Hebrews. There was also under the law the
    spiritual worship of God, as it is especially stated in
    the fiftieth psalm; but there were then shadows connected
    with it, as it is intimated in these words of Christ -
    "Now is come the hour when the Father shall be worshipped
    in spirit and in truth." (John 4: 13.) He does not indeed
    deny that God was worshipped in spirit by the fathers;
    but as that worship was concealed under outward rites, he
    says that now under the gospel the simple, and, so to
    speak, the naked truth is taught. What then the Prophet
    says of offering and incense availed under the law; but
    we must now see what God commands in his gospel, and how
    he would have us to worship him. We do not find there any
    incense or sacrifices. 
         This passage contains nothing else than that the
    time would come when the pure and spiritual worship of
    God would prevail in all places. 
         And thus it appears how absurd are the Papists, when
    they hence infer that God cannot be worshipped without
    some kind of sacrifice; and on this ground they defend
    the impiety of their mass, as though it were the
    sacrifice of which the Prophet speaks. But nothing can be
    more foolish and puerile; for the Prophet, as we have
    said, adopts a mode of speaking common in Scripture. And
    were we to allow offering and incense to be taken here
    literally, how could , minchah, offering, be the body and
    blood of Christ? "Oh!" they say, "it is a sacrifice made
    of bread, and wine was added. Oh! Christ has thus
    commanded." But where has he said " sacrifice?" They
    again deny that it is bread? for they say that it is
    transubstantiated into the body of Christ: now then it is
    not a sacrifice of bread, nor of fine flour; for the form
    only, visible to the eyes, and without substance,
    remains, as they imagine. There is in the meantime no
    reason for us carefully to discuss a subject so clear;
    for as we have seen in Joel - "In the last days I will
    pour my Spirit on all flesh, and prophesy shall your sons
    and your daughters; your old men dreams shall dream, and
    your young men visions shall see." (Joel 2: 28.) So also
    we find what is similar in this place; for the Apostles,
    though not taught by visions, were yet we know
    illuminated; and then visions were not given commonly at
    the commencement of the gospel, nor dreams; they were
    indeed very rare things. What then does Paul mean? For he
    speaks of the whole body of the Church, as though he had
    said that all, from the least to the greatest, would be
    Prophets. Did they become Prophets by visions and dreams,
    whom God illuminated by the doctrine of the gospel? By no
    means. But Joel, as I have said, accommodated what he
    said to the time of the law. So also in this place the
    Prophet, by offering and incense, designates the
    spiritual worship of God. Let us now proceed- 
    12. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of
    the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his
    meat, is contemptible. 
    12. Et vow polluistis illud, quum dicitis, Mensa Iehovae
    polluta est; et proventus ejus (vel, fructus; alii
    vertunt, sermonem) contemptibilis cibus ejus. 
         This verse may be confined to the priests, or it may
    be extended to the whole people; for both views are
    appropriate. As to my own view, I doubt not but that the
    Prophet here reproves with additional severity the
    priests, and that at the same time he extends his reproof
    to the people in general. We saw in our yesterday's
    lecture how religion had been polluted by the priests,
    and how impiously they had profaned the worship of God:
    but this was the general sin of the whole people, as we
    shall presently see. Let us then know that the whole
    people, as well as the priests, are here reproved: but as
    a crime in the priests was more grievous, they being the
    occasion of sacrilege to others, the Prophet assails them
    in an especial manner, Ye, he says, have polluted my
         He gives a reason, and at the same time enhances
    their guilt: for they might have complained, that God not
    only put them on a level with the Gentiles, but also
    rejected them, and substituted aliens in their place. He
    shows that God had a just cause for disinheriting them,
    and for adopting the Gentiles as his children, for they
    had polluted God's name. He at the same time amplifies
    their sin, when he says, "The Gentiles, by whom I have
    been hitherto despised, and to whom my name was not made
    known, will soon come to the faith; thus my name shall be
    great, it shall be reverently worshipped by all nations;
    but ye have polluted it." It was certainly very strange,
    that the Jews, peculiarly chosen and illuminated by the
    doctrine of the Law, so presumptuously polluted God's
    worship, as though they despised him, and that the
    Gentiles, being novices, rendered obedience to God as
    soon as they tasted of the truth of religion, so that his
    glory became through them illustrious. 
         He afterwards shows how the name of Gog was
    polluted, Ye say, The table of Jehovah is polluted; that
    is, ye distinguish not between what is sacred and
    profane: for he repeats what we noticed yesterday, - that
    the Jews thought it a frivolous matter, when the Prophets
    taught them that God was to be worshipped with all
    reverence. It is not however probable, that they openly
    uttered such a blasphemy as that the table of God was
    polluted; but it is easy to conclude from what is said,
    that God's table was profaned by them, for they made no
    account of it. The holiness of the table ought to have
    been so regarded by the Jews, as not to approach the
    sanctuary without true repentance and faith; they ought
    to have known that they had to do with God, and that his
    majesty ought to have deeply touched them. When therefore
    they came to the temple, and brought with them their
    uncleanness like swine, it was quite evident that they
    had no reverence for the temple, or the altar, or the
    table. According to this sense then are the words of the
    Prophet to be understood, - not that the Jews openly
    mocked God, but that the holiness of the temple was with
    them of no account. 
          With regard to the Table, we stated yesterday, that
    when God ordered sacrifices to be offered to him, it was
    the same as though he familiarly dwelt among the Jews,
    and became as it were their companion. It was the highest
    honour and an instance of God's ineffable goodness, that
    he thus condescended, so that the people might know that
    he was not to be sought afar off. And for this reason the
    less excusable was their impiety, as they did not
    consider that sacrifices were celebrated on earth, that
    their minds might be raised up above the heavens: for it
    is to this purpose that God descends to us, even to raise
    us above, as we have elsewhere stated. It was then an
    extremely base and shameful senselessness and stupidity
    in the Jews, that they did not consider that God's table
    was set among them, that they might by faith penetrate
    into heaven, and know it to be even before their eyes. 
         As to the words, Its fruit is his contemptible food,
    we must observe, that some render , nib, word, and bring
    this passage from Isaiah, "I have created the fruit of
    the lips, peace, peace," (Isaiah 57: 19.) The verb , nub,
    means to fructify; hence , nib, is fruit or produce. Were
    we to grant that it is metaphorically taken for word, yet
    I see no reason why we should depart from its simple and
    real meaning. For first there will be a relative without
    an antecedent, , nibu, his word; and then there will be a
    change of number; for they apply it to the priests, his
    word, that is, the word of them - of whom? of the
    priests. It is common, I know, in Hebrew, to put a
    relative without an antecedent; but as I have said,
    nothing requires this here. The most suitable rendering
    then is, Its provision, that is, of the altar, is the
    contemptible food of God. I take then the words to mean
    this, that a speech of this kind was often in the mouth
    of the people as well as of the priests, - "Oh! the
    provision for the altar is any kind of meat; be not so
    anxious in your choice, so as to offer the best animals;
    for God is satisfied even with the lean and the maimed." 
         And here again God reproves the impiety and contempt
    of the people; and at the same time he condemns their
    avarice, because they took the worst of their animals to
    offer in the temple, as though they lost everything they
    consecrated to God. 
         Why he calls the sacrifices the meat or food of God,
    we now sufficiently understand. Only this ought to be
    observed, that the impiety of the people was evident, as
    they were so unconcerned in their duties; for God had not
    in vain instituted sacrifices and other rites. The
    contempt then of the signs openly showed not only the
    negligence of the people, but also their contempt of all
    religion. Were any one at this day to regard as nothing
    outward teaching and the sacraments, would he not prove
    himself to be an impious despiser of God? Yet religion, I
    allow, does not consist in these things; for though
    hypocrites pretend the most ardent zeal, they yet profane
    the name of God, whenever the truth sounds in their ears
    and the heart is not touched, and when they come to the
    Lord's table and are at the same time alienated from
    Christ. These things I allow; but as no true servant of
    God can despise these ordinances, which on account of our
    common infirmity are useful to us, and without which we
    cannot be as long as we sojourn in this world, whosoever
    derides our simplicity in frequenting God's house, or if
    silent abstains from doing so, and regards such a
    practice as nothing or as unimportant, he is thus, as I
    have said, proved guilty of impiety. This is the reason
    why the Prophet so sharply reproves the Jews, because
    they said that the provision for the altar was God's
    contemptible food. It follows 
    13. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye
    have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts: and ye
    brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick;
    thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your
    hand? saith the Lord. 
    13. Et dixistis, Ecce fatigatio (alii vertunt, Ecce ex
    fatigatione,) et sufflastis in illud, dicit Iehova
    exercituum; et obtulistis raptum et claudum et debile; et
    obtulistis Minchah (hoc est, oblationem;) an gratam hanc
    habebo e manu vestra, dicit Iehova. 
         He pursues the same subject - that the worship of
    God was despised by them and regarded as almost
    worthless. We must bear in mind what I have before stated
    - that the Jews are not reprehended here as though they
    had openly and avowedly spoken reproachfully of God's
    worship; but that this was sufficiently evident from
    their conduct; for they allowed themselves so much
    licentiousness, that it was quite manifest that they were
    trifling with God, inasmuch as they had cast off every
    fear of him and all reverence towards him. 
         Ye have said, Behold, labour. This may apply to the
    whole people, or to the priests alone. It is commonly
    explained of the priests - that they complained that they
    had a hard office, because they were continually in the
    temple and constantly watched there, and were much
    occupied in cleaning the vessels. 
         The monks at this day under the Papacy, and the
    priests, boasting of themselves, say, "While all others
    sleep, we are watching; for we are constant in prayers."
    Forsooth! they howl at midnight in their temples; and
    then by massing and by doing other strange things they
    imagine that they are seriously engaged in pacifying God.
    In this sense do some understand this passage, as though
    the priests, in order to commend their work, alleged that
    they laboured much in God's service, and as though God
    had enjoined on them many and difficult things. But I
    prefer applying this to the whole people, and yet I do
    not exclude the priests; for the Prophet here condemns
    both, and shows that it was wearisome to them to spend
    labour in worshipping God, that they considered it
    weariness, as we commonly say, Tu le fais par courvee. 
         And the import of what follows is the same, Ye have
    snuffed at it, that is, through disdain. Some give this
    rendering, "With sorrow have ye moved him;" and the verb
    is in Hiphil, and is often taken in this sense. The verb
    , nephech, is properly to snuff; and it is here in
    another conjugation; but even in Hiphil it has this
    meaning, and cannot be taken otherwise. Now they who
    render it, to move or touch with sorrow, are under the
    necessity of turning the words of the Prophet to a sense
    the most foreign and remote, even that the priests,
    extremely greedy of gain, compelled the common people to
    bring sacrifices, and thus extorted sacrifices, but not
    without sorrow and lamentation. We see how forced this
    is: I therefore wholly reject it. Some have hammered out
    a very refined sense, which is by no means suitable, "Ye
    have snuffed at it," that is, Ye have said indeed that
    the victims are good and sufficiently fat; and yet ye may
    by breath blow them into the air. Others render it, to
    cast down, because they threw the sacrifices on the
    ground. But what need there is of departing from the
    common meaning of the word, since it is easy to conclude
    that both the priests and the people are here condemned,
    because the worship of God was a weariness to them, as we
    snuff at a thing when it displeases us. The behaviour
    then of the fastidious is what the Prophet meant here to
    express. The passage will thus be very appropriate, Ye
    have said, Behold weariness! Ye have snuffed at it: then
    he adds, - 
         Ye have offered the torn, and the lame, and the
    weak. These words prove the same thing - that they
    performed their duty towards God in a trifling manner by
    offering improper victims: when they had anything
    defective or diseased, they said that it was sacred to
    God, as we find it stated in the next verse. Some
    improperly render , gazul, a prey, what had been unjustly
    procured, as though he had said, that they offered
    victims obtained by plunder: but I wonder how they could
    thus distort the words of the Prophet without any
    pretence. He mentions here three kinds - the torn, the
    lame, and the maimed or the feeble. Who then does not see
    that the torn was an animal which had been torn by wild
    beasts? When therefore they had an animal half dead,
    having been torn by wolves, they thought that they had a
    suitable victim: "I am constrained to offer a sacrifice
    to God, this lamb is very suitable, for the wolf has
    devoured a part of it, and it has hardly escaped: as then
    it is maimed, I will bring it." The Prophet then calls
    those torn victims which had been lacerated by the teeth
    of wild beasts. 
         We now understand the import of the words; but we
    must remember what I have said - that God required not
    the performance of external rites, because he had need of
    meat and drink, or because he set a great value on these
    sacrifices, but on account of their design. The
    sacrifices then which God demanded from his ancient
    people had in themselves nothing that promoted true
    religion; nor could the odour of sacrifices of itself
    delight God; but the end was to be regarded. As then God
    ordered and commanded sacrifices to be offered to him,
    that he might exercise his people in penitence and faith,
    it was for this reason that he valued them. But when the
    people had fallen into gross contempt of them, that they
    brought to God, as it were to insult him, the maimed and
    the lame, their extremely base and intolerable impiety,
    as I have already said, was made fully evident. This is
    the reason why the Prophet now so vehemently chides the
    priests and the whole people; they offered to God such
    sacrifices as man would have rejected, according to what
    we noticed yesterday. It then follows - 
    14. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a
    male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt
    thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts,
    and my name is dreadful among the heathen. 
    14. Maledictus autem dolosus, qui dum est in grege sua
    masculus, et vovet et sacrificat corruptum Iehovae; quia
    Rex magnus ego, dicit Iehova exercituum; et nomen meum
    terribile in gentibus. 
    I cannot finish to-day, for I should be too long. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that since thou dost not keep us at
    this day under the shadows of the law, by which thou
    didst train up the race of Abraham, but invitest us to a
    service far more excellent, even to consecrate ourselves,
    body and soul, as victims to thee, and to offer not only
    ourselves, but also sacrifices of praise and of prayer,
    as thou hast consecrated all the duties of religion which
    thou requirest from us, through Christ thy Son, - O
    grant, that we may seek true purity, and labour to
    render, by a real sincerity of heart, our services
    approved by thee, and so reverently profess and call upon
    thy name, that really fulfilled in us may that be which
    thou best declared by thy Prophet - that thy name shall
    be magnified and celebrated through the whole world, as
    it was truly made known to us in the person of thine only
    begotten Son. - Amen. 

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (continued in file 5...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-04.txt