Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (... continued from file 7) Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-sixth. 13. And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 13. Et hoc secundo fecistis, operiendo lachrymis altare Iehovae fletu et ploratu, eo quod amplius non respicitur ad oblationem, et non suscipitur beneplacitum e manu vestra. The Prophet amplifies again the fault of the priests, because the people, when they perceived that God was adverse to them, found no means of pacifying him. And when men have an idea that God is inexorable to them, every zeal for religion must necessarily decay; and hence it is said in Psalm1 130:4 - "With thee is propitiation, that thou mayest be feared." As the people then gained nothing by sacrificing, they had now nearly fallen off from divine worship. This evil, a most grievous one, the Prophet says, was to be justly ascribed to the priests; for as they were become polluted, how could their persons have been accepted by God, that they might be mediators to expiate sins and to pacify God? This is the real meaning of the Prophet, which none of the interpreters have perceived. The Rabbins think that the priests are here reproved, because their wives filled the altar in the sanctuary with weeping, because they saw that their husbands did not faithfully treat them, according to the law of marriage; and almost all have agreed with them. Thus then they explain the verse - Ye have in the second place done this; that is, "That sin was of itself sufficiently grievous, when ye suffered lean victims to be sacrificed to me, as it were in mockery; but in addition to this comes your sin against your wives, who continually complain and deplore their condition before the altar of God, even because they are not loved by you, as the right of marriage requires." They thus refer the tears, the weeping, and lamentation, to the wives of the priests, which were so cruelly treated by their husbands: they were not able to do anything else than to fill God's sanctuary with their constant complaints. Hence they render , main oud penut, "I will not therefore regard," or, "no one regards;" but both versions are not only obscure, but wholly pervert the sense of the Prophet. But what I have already stated is the most suitable - that it was to be ascribed to the priests that no one could from the heart worship God, at least with a cheerful and willing mind; for God was implacable to the people, because the only way of obtaining favour under the law was when the priests, who represented the Mediator, humbly entreated pardon in the name of the whole people. But how could God attend to the prayers of the priests when they had polluted his altar by the filth of wickedness? We then see the object of this amplification - Ye cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping and wailing. The praises of God ought to have resounded in the temple, according to what is said - "Praise, O God, waits for thee in Zion." (Psalm 65:1.) And the principal sacrifice was, that the people exercised themselves in contemplating the blessings of God, and in thanksgiving. But he says that none went forth before the altar with a cheerful mind, but all were sad and sorrowful, because they found that God was severe and rigid. And the reason is added - , main oud penut, literally, "Is it not any more by regarding," &c.? It is easy to see how far they depart from the meaning of the Prophet who read - "They shall therefore offer no more;" for is this to be applied to God? Others also, who give this rendering - "I shall not therefore accept," pervert also the very letter of the text. But the most appropriate meaning is this - that all wept and groaned before the altar, because they saw that they came there without any advantage, that their sacrifices did not please God, and that the whole worship was in vain, inasmuch as God did not answer their prayers. The Prophet ascribes the fault to the priests, that God did not turn to mercy, so as to forgive the people when they sacrificed. With weeping, then, he says, was the altar filled or covered, because God received not what pleased him from their hand; that is, because no victims pleased him which were offered by polluted and impure hands. He afterwards joins 14. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 14. Et dixistis, In quo (vel, super quo)? Quoniam Iehova testificatus est inter te et inter uxorem adolescentiae tuae, quam tu fraudasti, (vel, erga quam tu praevaricatus es,) cum tamen ipsa esset consors tua, et uxor foederis tui. The Prophet tells us here as before how prone the priests were to make a clamour, and it is a very common thing with hypocrites immediately to set up a shield to cover their vices whenever they are reproved; and hence it appears, that men are in a manner fascinated by Satan, when they attain such hardness as to dare to answer God, and with obstreperous words to repel all warnings. Malachi has several times already used this mode of speaking; we may hence conclude, that the people had become then so hardened that warnings were of no account with them. But he mentions one particular, by which it seems evident that they had lapsed into vices which were not to be borne. There is indeed no doubt but that he points out one of the many vices which prevailed. There is then in this verse an instance of stating one thing for the whole, as though he had said, "Your hypocrisy is extremely gross; but, to omit other things, by what pretext can you excuse this perfidy - that there is no conjugal fidelity among you? Were there any integrity and a sense of religion in men, they would surely appear in their conjugal connexion; but ye have cast away all shame, and have taken to yourselves many wives. There is then no ground for you to think that you can escape by evasions, because this one glaring vice sufficiently proves your guilt." This is the import of the Prophet's answer. We have indeed seen that the priests were implicated in other vices; the Prophet then does not now charge them with perfidy as though they were free from other sins, but he meant to show, as I have aready said, by one thing, how wickedly and shamelessly they sought to evade God's judgment, though they had violated the marriage pledge, which was wholly to destroy the very order of nature; for there can be, as it has been already said, no chastity in social life except the bond of marriage be preserved, for marriage, so to speak, is the fountain of mankind. But in order to press the matter more on the priests, he calls their attention to the fact that God is the founder of marriage. Testified has Jehovah, he says, between thee and thy wife. He intimates in these words, that when a marriage takes place between a man and a woman, God presides and requires a mutual pledge from both. Hence Solomon, in Prov. 2:17, calls marriage the covenant of God, for it is superior to all human contracts. So also Malachi declares, that God is as it were the stipulator, who by his authority joins the man to the woman, and sanctions the alliance: God then has testifed between thee and thy wife, as though he had said, "Thou hast violated not only all human laws, but also the compact which God himself has consecrated, and which ought justly to be deemed more sacred than all other compacts: as then God has testified between thee and thy wife, and thou now deceivest her, how darest thou to come to the altar? and how canst thou think that God will be pleased with thy sacrifices or regard thy oblations?" He calls her the wife of his youth, because the more filthy is the lust when husbands cast away conjugal love as to those wives whom they have married in their youth. The bond of marriage is indeed in all cases inviolable, even between the old, but it is a circumstance which increases the turpitude of the deed, when any one alienates himself from a wife whom he married when a girl and in the flower of her age: for youth conciliates love; and we also see that when a husband and his wife have lived together for many years, mutual love prevails between them to extreme old age, because their hearts were united together in their youth. It is not then without reason that this circumstance is mentioned, for the lust of the priests was the more filthy and as it were the more monstrous, because they forsook wives whom they ought to have regarded with the tenderest love, as they had married them when they were young: Thou hast dealt unfaithfully with her, he says, though she was thy consort and the wife of thy covenant. He calls her a consort, or companion, or associate, because marriage, we know, is contracted on this condition - that the wife is to become as it were the half part of the man. As then the bond of marriage is inseparable, the Prophet here goads the priests, yea, touches them to the quick, when he reproves them for being unmindful of what was natural, inasmuch as they had blotted out of their minds the memory of a most sacred covenant. The wife of thy covenant is to be taken for a covenanted wife, that is, "The wife who has been united to thee by God's authority, that there might be no separation; but all integrity is violated, and as it were abolished." He then adds 15. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 15. Et non unum fecit? et exuperantia spiritus illi? et quorsum unum? quaerens semen Dei: ergo custodiamini in spiritu vestro; et in uxorem adolescentiae tuae ne transgrediatur (vel, ne fraudes; est mutatio personoe, ponitur enim tertia persona loco secundoe.) There is in this verse some obscurity, and hence it has been that no interpreter has come to the meaning of the Prophet. The Rabbins almost all agree that Abraham is spoken of here. Were we to receive this view a two-fold meaning might be given. It may be an objection, - "Has not one done this?" that is, has not Abraham, who is the one father of the nations, given us an example? for he married many wives: and thus many explain the passage, as though the priests raised an objection and defended the corruption just condemned by the example of Abraham, - "Has not one done this while yet an excellency of spirit was in him?" We indeed know how prone men are to pretend the authority of fathers when they wish to cover their own vices. Others prefer regarding the words as spoken by the Prophet himself, and at the same time say that there is here an anticipation of an objection, and think that an occasion for an excuse is here cut off, as though the Prophet had said, "Did not Abraham, when he was one alone, do this?" For as the Jews might have adduced the example of Abraham, the interpreters, whose opinion I now refer to, think that a difference is here stated, as though he had said, "Ye reason badly, for every one of you is led to polygamy by the lust of your flesh; but it was far otherwise with Abraham, for he was one, that is, alone;" and in Isaiah Abraham is called one on account of his having no children. The meaning then they think is this, "Was not Abraham forced by necessity to take another wife? even because he had no child and no hope of the promised seed. Lust then did not stimulate your father Abraham, as it does you, but a desire of having an offspring." And they think, that this view is confirmed by what follows, "And why alone seeking the seed of God?" that is, the object of holy Abraham was far otherwise than to indulge his lust; for he sought that holy seed, the hope of which was taken away from him on account of the barrenness of his wife, and of her great age. When therefore Abraham saw that his wife was barren, and that she could no more conceive on account of her old age, he had recourse to the last remedy: hence the mistake of Abraham might have been excused, since his object was right; for he sought the seed of God, the seed in which all nations were to be blessed. Thus far have I told you what others think. I thought twelve years ago that this passage ought to have been otherwise rendered in the French Bibles, and that , ached, ought to be read in the objective case; "Has he not made one?" Jerome seems to me to have had a better notion of what the Prophet means than what others have taught; but he could not attain the real meaning, and therefore stopped as it were in the middle of his course. He read the word in the nominative case, "Has not one," that is, God, "made them? "and then he added, "And in him alone," that is, Abraham, "was an exuberant spirit." We see how he dared not to assert anything, nor did he explain what was necessary. The sense is indeed suspended, and is even frigid, if we say, "Has not one made them?" but if we read, "Has he not made one?" there is no ambiguity. It is a common thing in Hebrew, we know, that the name of God is often not expressed, when he is referred to; for so great is He, that his name may be easily underderstood, though not expressed. It ought not therefore to confuse us, that the Prophet withholds the name of God, and mentions a verb without its subject, for such is the usage, as I have said, of the Hebrew language. I proceed now to explain the meaning of the Prophet. Has he not made one? that is, Was not God content with one man, when he instituted marriage? and yet the residue of the Spirit was in him. The Rabbins take , shar, as meaning excellence; but I know not what reason have induced them, except that they ventured to change the sense of the word, because they could not otherwise extricate themselves; for the mistake, that Abraham is spoken of here, had wholly possessed their minds. What then is , shar ruch? Excellence of Spirit, say they; but , shar, we know, is residue or remnant: what then remains of anything is called , shar; for the verb means to remain and to lean. Here then the Prophet takes the residue of the Spirit, so to speak, for overflowing power; for God could have given to one man two or three wives; inasmuch as the Spirit failed him not in forming one woman: as he inspired Eve with life, so also he might have created other women and imparted to them his Spirit. He might then have given two or four or ten women to one man; for there was a spirit remaining in him. We now then understand what the Prophet means at the beginning of this verse. But before we proceed farther, we must bear in mind his object, which was, to break down all those frivolous pretences by which the Jews sought to cover their perfidy. He says, that in marriage we ought to recognize an ordinance divinely appointed, or, to speak more distinctly, that the institution of marriage is a perpetual law, which it is not right to violate: there is therefore no cause for men to devise for themselves various laws, for God's authority is here to be regarded alone; and this is more clearly explained in Matt. 19:8; where Christ, refuting the objection of the Jews as to divorce, says, "From the beginning it was not so." Though the law allowed a bill of divorce to be given to wives, yet Christ denies this to be right, - by what argument? even because the institution was not of that kind; for it was, as it has been said, an inviolable bond. So now our Prophet reasons, Has not God made one? that is, "consider within yourselves whether God, when he created man and instituted marriage, gave many wives to one man? By no means. Ye see then that spurious and contrary to the character of a true and pure marriage is everything, that does not harmonize with its first institution." But some one may ask here, why the Prophet says that God made one? for this seems to refer to the man and not to the woman: to this I answer, that man with the woman is called one, according to what Moses says, "God created man; male and female created he them," (Gen. 1:17.) After having said that man was created, he adds by way of explanation, that man, both male and female, was created. Hence when he speaks of man, the male makes as it were one-half, and the female the other; for when we speak of the whole human race, one-half doubtless consists of men, and the other half of women. So also when we come to individuals, the husband is as it were the half of the man, and the woman is the other half. I speak of the ordinary state of things; for if any one objects and says, that bachelors are not then complete or perfect men, the objection is frivolous: but as men were created, that every one should have his own wife, I say, that husband and wife make but one whole man. This then is the reason why the Prophet says, that one man was made by God; for he united the man to the woman, and intended that they should be partners, so to speak, under one yoke. And in this explanation there is nothing strained; for it is evident that the Prophet here calls the attention of the Jews to the true character of marriage; and this could not have been otherwise known than from the very institution of God, which is, as we have said, a perpetual and inviolable law; for God created man, even male and female: and Christ also has repeated this sentence, and carefully explained it in the passage which we have quoted. And here the Prophet sharply goads the Jews, as though they wished to overcome God, or to be more wise than he; Had he not, he says, an exuberance of spirit? He takes spirit not for wisdom, but for that hidden influence by which God vivifies men. Could not God, he says, have put forth his spirit to create many wives for one man? but his purpose was to create one pair; to make man a husband and a wife: as God then was not without a remaining Spirit, and yet did not exceed this measure; it hence follows, that the law of marriage is violated, when man seeks for himself many wives. The meaning of the Prophet is now, I think, sufficiently clear. It follows, And wherefore one, , vame, eached? The interrogatory particle , me, refers to the cause, end, form, or manner; we may therefore properly render it, For what, or wherefore, has God made one? even to seek the seed of God. The seed of God is to be taken for what is legitimate; for what is excellent is often called God in Hebrew, and also what is free from all vice and blemish. He sought then the seed of God, that is, he instituted marriage, that legitimate and pure offspring might be brought forth. Hence then the Prophet indirectly shows, that all are spurious who proceed from polygamy, because they cannot be deemed legitimate children; nor ought any to be so counted but those who are born according to God's institution. When a husband violates his pledged faith to his wife, and takes another; as he subverts the ordinance of marriage, so he cannot be a legitimate father. We now perceive why the Prophet says, that it was God's purpose to unite only one wife to one man, in order that they might beget legitimate offspring, for he shows by the effect how frivolous were the evasions which the Jews had recourse to; for however they might contend, their very offspring would prove them liars, as it would be spurious. He then draws this conclusion, Therefore, watch ye over your spirit; that is, " Take heed lest any should deceive the wife of his covenant." After having shown how perversely they violated the marriage vow who rushed into polygamy, he here counsels and exhorts them; and this is the best mode of teaching, to show first what is right and lawful, and then to add exhortations. The Prophet then endeavoured first to convince the Jews that they were guilty of a nefarious crime: for otherwise his exhortation would not have been received, as they would have always a ready objection, "It is lawful for us to do so, for we follow the example of our father Abraham; and further, this has been permitted for a long time, and God would have never suffered it, were it wrong, to prevail for so many ages among the people: it hence follows, that thou condemnest what is lawful." It was necessary, in the first place, to remove all these false pretences: then follows the exhortation in its proper order, Watch over your spirit; for he speaks of what has been, as it were, sufficiently proved. It now follows 16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts; therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. 16 Si odio habeas (quisque odio habet,) dimittat (i.e., uxorem) dicit Iehovah Deus Israel; et operit, (vel, texit) violentiam sub vestimento suo, dicit Iehovah exercituum: ergo custodiamini in spiritu vestro et ne fraudetis. Here again the Prophet exaggerates the crime which the priests regarded as nothing; for he says, that they sinned more grievously than if they had repudiated their wives. We indeed know that repudiation, properly speaking, had never been allowed by God; for though it was not punished under the law, yet it was not permitted. It was the same as with a magistrate, who is constrained to bear many things which he does not approve; for we cannot so deal with mankind as to restrain all vices. It is indeed desirable, that no vice should be tolerated; but we must have a regard to what is possible. Hence Moses has specified no punishment, according to the heinousness of the crime, if one repudiated his wife; and yet it was never permitted. But if a comparison be made, Malachi says, that it is a lighter crime to dismiss a wife than to marry many wives. We hence learn how abominable polygamy is in the sight of God. I do not consider polygamy to be what the foolish Papists have made it, who call not those polygamists who have many wives at the same time, but those who marry another when the former one is dead. This is gross ignorance. Polygamy, properly so called, is when a person takes many wives, as it was commonly done in the East: and those nations, we know, have always been libidinous, and never observe the marriage vow. As then their lasciviousness was so great that they were like brute beasts, every one married several wives; and this abuse continues at this day among the Turks and the Persian and other nations. Here, however, where God compares polygamy with divorce, he says that polygamy is the worse and more detestable crime; for the husband impurely connects himself with another woman, and then, not only deals unfaithfully with his wife to whom he is bound, but also forcibly detains her: thus his crime is doubled. For if he replies and says that he keeps the wife to whom he is bound, he is yet an adulterer as to the second wife: thus he blends, as they say, holy with profane things; and then to adultery and lasciviousness he adds cruelty, for he holds under his authority a miserable woman, who would prefer death to such a condition; for we know what power jealousy has over women. And when any one introduces a harlot, how can a lawful wife bear such an indignity without being miserably tormented? This then is the reason why the Prophet now says, If thou hatest, dismiss; not that he grants indulgence to divorce, as we have said, but that he might by this circumstance enhance the crime; and hence he adds, For he covers by a cloak his violence. Some interpreters take violence here for spoil or prey, and think that the wife is thus called who is tyrannically compelled to remain with an adulterer, when yet she sees a harlot in her house, by whom she is driven from her conjugal bed: but this is too strained and too remote from the letter of the text. The Prophet here, I doubt not, shakes off from the Jews their false mask, because they thought that they could cover over their vice by retaining their first wives. "What else is this," he says, "but to cover by a cloak your violence, or at least to excuse it? for ye do not openly manifest it: but God is not deceived, nor can his eye be dazzled by such a disguise: though then your iniquity is covered by a cloak, it is not yet hid from God; nay, it is thus doubled, because ye exercise your cruelty at home; for it would be better for robbers to remain in the wood and there to kill strangers, than to entice guests to their houses and to kill them there and to plunder them under the pretext of hospitality. This is the way in which you act; for ye destroy the bond of marriage, and ye afterwards deceive your miserable wives, and yet ye force them by your tyranny to continue at your houses, and thus ye torment your miserable wives, who might have enjoyed their freedom, if divorce had been granted them." He concludes again with these words, Watch over your spirit; that is, "Take heed; for this is an intolerable wickedness before God, however you may endeavour to extenuate its heinousness." PRAYER. Grant, Almighty God, that though we daily in various ways violate the covenant which thou hast been pleased to make with us in thine only-begotten Son, we may not yet be dealt with according to what our defection, yea, the many defections by which we daily provoke thy wrath against us, do fully deserve; but suffer and bear with us kindly, and at the same time strengthen us that we may persevere in the truth and perform to the end the pledge we have given to thee, and which thou midst require from us in our baptism, and that we may each of us so conduct ourselves towards our brethren, and husbands towards their wives, that we may cherish that unity of spirit which thou hast consecrated between us by the blood of thine own Son. - Amen. Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (continued in file 9...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-08.txt .