Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (... continued from file 4)
    Lecture One Hundred and Seventy Third. 
         I repeated yesterday the last verse of the first
    chapter, but I did not explain it. The Prophet declares
    here, that all who dealt deceitfully and unfaithfully
    with God were under a curse; and at the same time he
    specifies the kind of fraud practiced; they chose from
    the flock such as were diseased or defective to offer as
    sacrifices to God. It was indeed a proof of extreme
    dishonesty thus perversely to mock God: for as we have
    seen no man would bear such an insult. Then the Prophet,
    in order at once to complete what he had begun,
    distinctly says, that they were all accursed. 
         The verb , necal, means in Hebrew, to think; but it
    is taken almost at all times in a bad sense: hence
    interpreters have not improperly rendered it here,
    deceitful; but the deceit the Prophet meant to express is
    of this kind - when men craftily contrive for themselves
    vain pretences; for when they can cover their baseness
    before the world, they think that they are at the same
    time absolved in heaven. The Prophet then says, that they
    who think that they can escape God's judgment by such
    artifices are under a curse. 
         I come now to the kind of fraud they practised, If
    there be, he says, in his flock a male, that is, a lamb
    or a ram, when he vows, then what is corrupt he offers to
    Jehovah. He then means, that though they pretended some
    religion, yet nothing was done by them with a sincere and
    honest heart; for they immediately repented of the vow
    made to God; they thought that they might be reduced to
    poverty, if they were too bountiful in their sacrifices.
    Hence then the Prophet proves that they offered to God
    with a double mind, and that whatever they thus offered
    was polluted, because it did not proceed from a right
         We said yesterday, that the Prophet did not require
    fat or lean beasts, because God valued either the blood
    or flesh of animals on its own account, but for the end
    in view; for these were the performances of religion by
    which God designed to train up the Jews for the end
    contemplated, and in the duty of repentance. As then they
    were so sordid as to these sacrifices, it was easy to
    conclude, that they were gross and profane despisers of
    God, and had no concern for religion. 
         The reason follows, For a great king am I, saith
    Jehovah, and my name is terrible' among the nations. God
    declares here that his majesty was of no account among
    the Jews, as though he had said, "With whom do you think
    that you have to do?" And this is what we ought carefully
    to consider when engaged in God's service. We indeed know
    that it is a vice which has prevailed in all ages, that
    all nations and individuals thought that they worshipped
    God, when they devised foolish and frivolous rites
    according to their own fancies. If then we have a desire
    to worship God aright, we must remember how great he is;
    for his majesty will raise us up above the whole world,
    and cease will that audacity which possesses almost all
    mankind; for they think that their own will is a law,
    when they presumptuously obtrude anything on God. The
    greatness of God then ought to humble us, that we may not
    worship him according to the perceptions of our flesh,
    but offer him only what is worthy of his celestial glory.
         He again repeats what we have before observed,
    though it was disregarded by the Jews, - that he was a
    great king through the whole world. As then the Jews
    thought that sacrifices could not be offered to God, such
    as he would accept, in any other place but at Jerusalem,
    and in the temple on Mount Sion, he testifies that he is
    a great king even in the farthest parts of the world. It
    hence follows, that God's worship would not be confined
    to Judea, or to any other particular part of the world;
    for by the gospel the Lord would receive to himself all
    nations, and come into the possession of his kingdom. Now
     CHAPTER 2. 
    1. And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. 2.
    If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart,
    to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I
    will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse Your
    blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do
    not lay it to heart. 
    1. Et nunc ad vos praeceptum hoc, O sacerdotes,_ 2. Si
    non audieritis et non posueritis super cor, ut delis
    gloriam nomini meo, dicit Iehova exercituum, mittam
    (copula hic abundat) in vos maledictionem, et maledicam
    benedictionibus vestries, atque etiam maledixi eam (est
    mutatio numeri, pro eas,) quia non ponitis super cor. 
    Though the priests did not sin alone, yet it is not
    without reason, as we have said, that they were regarded
    as the first in wickedness; for it was their office to
    correct what the people did amiss. Their dissimulation
    had the effect of encouraging the common people to sin:
    hence the Prophet accuses them especially as the authors
    of impiety; and this is what the words intimate, if they
    are rightly considered. 
         To you, he says, O priests. They might have indeed
    exonerated themselves, or at least transferred a part of
    their guilt to others: "Oh! what can we do? for we see
    that the people are growing cold in God's worship; it is
    better that imperfect sacrifices should be offered than
    none at all." As then they might by evasion have somewhat
    extenuated their guilt, the Prophet the more sharply
    reproves them and says, To you especially is addressed
    this command, as they ought to have shown to others the
    right way; for when they dissembled, their connivance was
    nothing else but a consent; and thus they divested the
    people of God's fear, and allowed them to corrupt the
    whole of religion by offering spurious sacrifices. To you
    then, he says, that is, "Though the whole people is
    guilty before God, think not that ye are on this account
    excused; for it behoves you to check this wickedness, for
    God has set you over the people as their teachers and
    guides: as then ye have neglected your duty, whatever
    others have done amiss, falls justly on your heads. For
    how has it happened that the people have dared to proceed
    so far in impiety? even because you have no concern for
    religion; for God has promoted you to the priesthood for
    this end - to preserve in integrity the worship of his
    name; but ye know of all the prevailing profanations, and
    ye hold your peace: To you then is this command." 
         He then adds, If ye will not hear nor lay it to
    heart to give glory to my name, &e. He seems here to
    threaten the priests alone; and yet if any one carefully
    considers the whole passage, he will easily perceive that
    this address extends to the whole people, in such a way
    however that it is in the first place directed to the
    priests; for as I have said the greater portion of the
    guilt belonged to them. God then denounces a heavy
    punishment on the whole people as well as on the priests,
    even that he would send a curse. But that they might not
    object and say that they were too severely dealt with,
    God shows how justly he was displeased with them, because
    they hearkened not nor attended to his warnings. What
    indeed is less tolerable than not to hear God speaking?
    But as many thought it enough to stretch the ear, and
    then immediately to forget what had been spoken, it is
    added, If ye lay it not to heart, that is, If ye attend
    not and seriously apply your hearts to what is said. We
    see then that the Prophet shows how that God had a just
    cause for severely punishing them; for it was an impiety
    not to be borne, when he could obtain no hearing from
    men. But the Prophet shows at the same time what it is to
    hear God; he therefore adds the latter clause as a
    definition or an explanation of the former: for God is
    not heard, if we receive with levity his words, so that
    they soon vanish away; but we hear them when we lay them
    on the heart, or, as the Latins say, when we apply the
    mind to them. There is then required a serious attention,
    otherwise it will be the same as though the ears were
    closed against God. 
         Let us further learn from this passage that
    obedience is of so much account with God, that he bears
    nothing less than a contempt of his word or a careless
    attention to it, as though we regarded not its authority.
    We must also notice that our guilt before God is
    increased and enhanced, when he recalls us to the right
    way, and seeks to promote our welfare by warning and
    exhorting us. When therefore God is thus kindly careful
    for our salvation, we are doubly inexcusable, if we
    perversely reject his teaching, warnings, counsels, and
    other remedies which he may apply. 
         He now adds, I will send on you a curse; and this
    curse he immediately explains, I will curse your
    blessings. The word blessing, we know, means everywhere
    in Scripture the beneficence or kindness of God. God then
    is said to bless us when he bountifully supports us and
    supplies whatever is necessary for us. And hence seems to
    have arisen the expression, that God by his nod alone can
    satisfy us with all abundance of good things. By
    blessings then he means a large and an abundant
    provision, and also rest from enemies, a healthy air, and
    everything of this kind. Some think that those prayers
    are intended, by which the priest blessed the people; but
    there is no reason for this. God then had manifested his
    favor to the Jews; he now declares that he will deprive
    them of all his benefits, that they might know that he is
    not propitious to them. Blessings then are evidences of
    God's bounty and paternal favor. 
         But he immediately adds, Yea, I have cursed. By
    which words he proves their senselessness: for they were
    not even taught by their evils, which yet produce some
    effect even on fools, who, according to the common
    proverb, begin to be wise when they are chastised. God
    then here reproves the stupidity of the Jews; for they
    had already been deprived of his benefits, and they might
    have known by experience that he was not propitious to
    them, but on the contrary an angry judge; and yet they
    were touched by no penitence, according to what we have
    seen in the other Prophets. 
         We now understand the import of the words, and at
    the same time the object of the Prophet: I will then
    curse your blessings, and what is more, (so I explain
    ,ugam,) I have already cursed them: but ye are like
    blocks of wood or stones; for the very scourges avail
    nothing with you. He again repeats, because ye lay it not
    on your heart, in order to show that he could not bear
    the contempt of his word, for it was, as we have said, a
    sign of extreme impiety. It follows 
    3. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon
    your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one
    shall take you away with it. 
    3. Ecce ego corrumpo (vel perdo) vobis semen (vertunt
    Graeci, brachium; sed decepti sunt in una litera,) et
    spergam stercus super facies vestras, stercus
    solemnitatum vestrarum; et tollet vos ad se (alii
    vertunt, tollet vos ad ipsum; sed coacta est illa
    He confirms here again what he had said in the last
    verse, - that they would perceive God's curse in want and
    poverty. The curse of God is any kind of calamity; for as
    God declares especially his favour by a liberal support,
    so the sterility of the land and defective produce most
    clearly evidence the curse of God. The Prophet then
    shows, by mentioning one thing, what sort of curse was
    nigh the Jews, - that God would destroy their seed. Some
    read, but improperly, "I will destroy you and the seed."
    I wonder how learned men make such puerile mistakes, when
    there is nothing ambiguous in the Prophet's words. I will
    destroy then for you the seed; that is, "Sow as much as
    you please, I will yet destroy your seed, so that it
    shall produce no fruit." In short, he threatens the Jews
    with want and famine; for the land would produce nothing
    when cursed by God.' 
         But as the Jews flattered themselves on account of
    their descent, and ever boasted of their fathers, and as
    that preeminence with which God had favoured them proved
    to them an occasion of haughtiness and pride, the Prophet
    here ridicules this foolish confidence, I will scatter
    dung, he says, on your faces: "Ye are a holy nation, ye
    are the chosen seed of Abraham, ye are a royal
    priesthood; these are your boastings; but the Lord will
    render your faces filthy with dung; this will be your
    nobility and preeminence! there is then no reason for you
    to think yourselves exempt from punishments because God
    has adopted you; for as ye have abused his benefits and
    profaned his name, so ye shall also find in your turn,
    that he will cover you with everything disgraceful and
    ignominious, so as to make you wholly filthy: ye shall
    then be covered all over with dung, and shall not be the
    holy seed of Abraham." 
         But as they might have again raised a clamour and
    say, " Have we then in vain so diligently served God? why
    has he bidden a temple to be built for him by us and
    promised to dwell there? God then has deceived us, or at
    least his promises avail nothing, - "the Prophet gives
    this answer, " God will overwhelm you with disgrace and
    also your sacrifices." But he calls them the dung of
    solemnities, as though he had said, " I will cover you
    with reproach on account of your impiety, which is seen
    in your sacrifices." Had the Jews any holiness they
    derived it from their sacrifices, by which they expiated
    their sins and reconciled themselves to God: but the
    Prophet says that it was their special ill-savour which
    offended God, and which he abominated, because they
    vitiated their sacrifices. Nor is that to be disapproved
    which some of the rabbins have said, that the Prophet
    alludes to the oxen, calves, and rams; for when the Jews
    from various places brought their sacrifices, there must
    have been much dung from all that vast number. There is
    then here a striking allusion to the victims themselves,
    as though he had said, "Ye think that I can be pacified
    by your sacrifices, as though loads of dung were pleasing
    to me; for when ye bring such a vast number, even the
    place itself, the area before the temple, throws an
    ill-savour on account of the dung that is there. Ye are
    then, forsooth! holy, and all your filth is cleansed away
    by means of this dung. Begone then together with the dung
    of your solemnities; for I will cast this very dung on
    your heads." 
         We now perceive what the Prophct means: and
    emphatical are the words, Behold I; for God by these
    single words cuts off all those pretences by which the
    Jews deceived themselves, and thought that their vices
    were concealed from God: "I myself," he says, "am
    present, to whom ye think your sacrifices to be
    acceptable; I then will destroy your seed, and I will
    also cast dung on your faces; all the dignity which ye
    pretend shall be abolished, for ye think that ye are
    defended by a sort of privilege, when ye boast yourselves
    to be the seed of Abraham: it is dung, it is dung," he
    says. He afterwards shows what was especially the dung
    and the filth: for when they objected and said, " What!
    have our sacrifices availed nothing?" he answers, "Nay, I
    will cast that dung upon you, because the chief pollution
    is in your sacrifices, for ye vitiate and adulterate my
    service: and what else is your sacrifice but profanation
    only? ye are sacrilegious in all your empty pomps. Since
    then all your victims have an ill-savour and displease
    me, and as I nauseate them, (as it is also said in the
    first and last chapter of Isaiah,) I will heap the dung
    on your own heads, because ye think it to be your chief
         He adds at last, It shall take you to itself; that
    is, " Ye shall be dung altogether; and thus all your
    boastings, that ye are descended from the holy Patriarch
    Abraham, shall be wholly useless; though I made a
    covenant and promised that you should be to me a royal
    priesthood, yet the dung shall take you to itself, and
    thus whatever dignity I have hitherto conferred on you
    shall be taken away." Let us proceed 
    4. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment
    unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the
    Lord of hosts. 
    4. Et scietis quod miserim ad vos hoc mandatum ut sit
    (vel, ut esset; sed magis placet, ut sit; est, ad
    essendum, ad verbum; ergo ad essendum pactum meum, si
    posset dici Latine,) pactum meum cum Levi, dicit Iehova
         Here he addresses in particular the priests; for
    though the whole people with great haughtiness resisted
    God, yet the priests surpassed them. And we know how
    ready men are to turn to evil whatever benefits God may
    bestow on them. It has been then a common evil in men
    from the beginning of the world, to exalt themselves and
    to raise their crests against God, when they found
    themselves adorned with his benefits: but we know that
    the more any one is bound to God the more thankful he
    ought to be, for our gifts are not our own, but the
    benefits by which God binds us to himself. "What best
    thou as thine own?" says Paul, " thou best then no reason
    to glory." (1 Cor. 4:7) This evil however has ever
    prevailed among men - that they have defrauded God of his
    glory, and have turned to an occasion of pride the
    favours received from him. But it is an evil which is
    very commonly seen in all governors; for they who are
    raised to a high dignity, think no more that they are
    men, but take to themselves very great liberty when they
    find themselves so much exalted above others. Thus kings
    and those in authority seem to themselves to be above the
    common order of men, and presumptuously disregard all
    laws; they think that everything is lawful for them, as
    no one opposes their willfulness. The same thing is also
    to be seen in teachers. For when God favored the priests
    with the highest honour, they became blinded, as it will
    hereafter be seen, by that favour of God, that they
    thought themselves to be as it were semi-gods; and the
    same thing has taken place in the kingdom of Christ. 
         For how have arisen so great impieties under the
    Papacy, except that pastors have exercised tyranny and
    not just government? For they have not regarded the
    purpose for which they have been called into their
    office, but as the name of pastor is in itself
    honourable, they have dared to raise themselves above the
    clouds, and to assume to themselves the authority of God
    himself. Hence it has been, that they have dared to bind
    consciences by their own laws, to change the whole truth,
    and to corrupt the whole worship of God: and hence also
    followed the scandalous sale of justice. How have these
    things happened? Because priests were counted as angels
    come down from heaven; and this same danger is ever to be
    feared by us. 
         This then is the vice which the Prophet now refers
    to; and he shows that the priests had no reason to think
    that they could shake off the yoke, Ye shall know, he
    says, that to you belongs this command. We indeed see
    what they objected to Jeremiah, "The law shall not depart
    from the priests nor counsel and wisdom from the elders."
    (Jer. 18:18.) These are the weapons by which the Papists
    at this day defend themselves. When we allege against
    them plain proofs from Scripture, they find themselves
    clearly reproved and convicted by God's word; but here is
    their Ajax's shield, under which they hide all their
    wickedness, retailing as it were from the ungodly and
    wicked priests what is related by Jeremiah, "'The law
    shall not depart from the priests;' we are the Church,
    can it err? is not the Holy Spirit dwelling in the midst
    of us? 'I am with you alwavs to the end of the world,'
    (Matt. 28: 20;) did Christ intend to deceive his Church
    when he said this to his Apostles? and we are their
    successors." The Prophet now gives the answer, Ye shall
    know, he says, that to you, belongs this cornmand. 
         And he adds, not without severity, that my covenant
    may be with Levi; as though he had said, "On what account
    are ye thus elated? for God cannot get a hearing for
    himself, yet ye say that the covenant with Levi is not to
    be void, as though God had put Levi in his own place, and
    divested himself of all authority when he appointed that
    tribe, and made you ministers of the temple and teachers
    of the people; is he nothing? What was God's purpose when
    he honoured you with that dignity? He certainly did not
    mean to reduce himself to nothing, but, on the contrary,
    his will was, that his own right should remain entire and
    complete. When therefore I reprove your vices, and show
    that ye are become vile, and as it were dung, that ye are
    defiled by everything disgraceful, - when I make these
    things openly known, I do not violate the covenant made
    with Levi. God then justly summons you before his
    tribunal, and strips you of your honour, in order that
    the covenant he made with Levi may be confirmed and
    ratified." This is, as I have said, a severe derision. 
         But we may hence learn a useful truth. The Prophet
    briefly teaches us that the priestly office takes away
    nothing from God's authority, who requires a pure and
    holy worship, and that it lessens in nothing the
    authority of the law, for sound doctrine ought ever to
    prevail. So at this day, when we resist the Papal
    priests, we do not violate God's covenant, that is, it is
    no departure from the order of the Church, which ought
    ever to remain sacred and inviolable. We do not then on
    account of men's vices, subvert the pastoral office, and
    the preaching of the word; but we assail the men
    themselves, so that due order may be restored, that sound
    doctrine may obtain a hearing among men, that the worship
    of God may be pure, which these unprincipled men have
    violated. We therefore boldly attempt to subvert the
    whole of the Papacy, with this full confidence, that we
    lessen nothing from the authority of teaching, nor in any
    way defraud the pastoral office; nay, order in the
    Church, the preaching of the truth, and the very dignity
    of pastors, cannot exist, except the Church be purged
    from its defilements, and its filth removed. Thus must we
    say also of those unprincipled men, who are too nearly
    connected with us, or too near us, and I wish they were
    wholly extinct in the world: but how many pests conceal
    themselves under this covering, or under this mask -
    "What! are we not the ministers of the word?" So say you
    who are without any principle; I wish ye were in your
    dung, or in your cells, where formerly ye too much
    corrupted the world; but now the devil has brought you
    forth into the Church of God, that ye may corrupt
    whatever had hitherto remained sound. As then there are
    many at this day who boast of this honour - that they are
    ministers of the word, and pastors, and that they teach
    the gospel, they ought to be checked by this answer of
    the Prophet - that when all their corruptions are fully
    and really cleansed away, then confirmed and ratified
    will be the compact which God would have to be valid with
    his Church and with the ministers of his word. He then
    adds an explanation - 
    5. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave
    them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was
    afraid before my name. 
    5. Foedus meum fuit cum eo vitae et pacis; et dedi illi
    timorem; et timuit me, et a facie nominis mei contritus
    The Prophet now proves more clearly how God violates not
    his covenant, when he freely rebukes the priests, and
    exposes also their false attempts in absurdly applying to
    themselves the covenant of God, like the Papal priests at
    this day, who say that they are the Church. How? because
    they have in a regular order succeeded the apostles; but
    this is a foolish and ridiculous definition; for he who
    occupies the place of another ought not on that account
    only to be deemed a successor. Were a thief to kill the
    master of a family, and to occupy his place, and to take
    possession of all his goods, is he to be accounted his
    legitimate successor? So these dishonest men, to show
    that they are to be regarded as apostles, only allege a
    continued course of succession; but the likeness between
    them ought rather to be the subject of inquiry. We must
    see first whether they have been called, and then whether
    they answer to their calling; neither of which can they
    prove. Then their definition is altogether frivolous. 
         So also our Prophet here shows, that the priests
    made pretences and deceived the common people, while they
    sought to prove themselves heirs of the covenant which
    God had made with Levi their father, that is, with the
    tribe itself. "I shall be faithful," says God, "and my
    faithfulness will be evident from the compact itself; my
    compact with your father was that of life and peace:' but
    it was mutual: ye seem not to think that there are two
    parties in a compact, and that there is, according to
    what is commonly said, a reciprocal obligation: but I on
    my part promised to your father to be his father, and I
    also stipulated with him that he was to obey me, to obey
    my word, and whatever I might afterwards require. Now ye
    will have me to be bound to you, and yourselves to be
    free from every obligation. What equity is this - that I
    should owe everything to you and you nothing to me? My
    compact then with him was that of life and peace; but
    what is your compact? what is it that ye owe to me? Even
    what the mutual compact which I made with your father
    Levi and his tribe requires; perform this, and ye shall
    find that I am faithful and constant in all my promises."
    I cannot go farther now. 
    Grant, Almighty God that as thou hast been pleased to
    choose us at this day thy priests, and hast consecrated
    us to thyself by the blood of thine only-begotten Son and
    through the grace of thy Spirit, - O grant, that we may
    rightly and sincerely perform our duties to thee, and be
    so devoted to thee that thy name may be really glorified
    in us; and may we be thus more and more confirmed in the
    hope of those promises by which thou not only guides us
    through the course of this earthly life, but also invites
    us to thy celestial inheritance; and may Christ thy Son
    so rule in us, that we may ever cleave to our head, and
    be gathered as his members into a participation of that
    eternal glory into which he has gone before us. - Amen. 

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (continued in file 6...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-05.txt