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 name. 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. PRAYER. 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 .