Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (... continued from file 1)
    Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-eighth.  
         In our last lecture the Prophet delineated the 
    office of Christ, that hypocrites might know that they in 
    vain complained of the tardiness of God, as though he had 
    deserted them at the very time of their extremity. He 
    further said, that there was need of purifying, not only 
    as to the people, but as to the priests also; and hence 
    it appears how corrupt the state of things had become 
    among all classes. At the same time he seems indirectly 
    to reprove hypocrisy, not only in the common people, but 
    also in the Levites, for there is a contrast to be 
    understood between the sacrifices they then offered, and 
    those offered by their fathers.  
         By saying then that they would offer to Jehovah an 
    oblation in righteousness, "minchah bitsdakah", he 
    intimates that their sacrifices had not been legitimate, 
    for they had become polluted, and hence could not rightly 
    minister to God. We hence see that the Levites are here 
    reproved because they had polluted God's service in not 
    offering the right sacrifices such as he had prescribed 
    in his law. This is not to be applied to the outward acts 
    only, but also to the feelings and motives, because they 
    did come to God's altars with minds well prepared.  
         To offer in righteousness is a mode of speaking 
    common in Hebrew, and means to offer in a right way, so 
    that there should be nothing wrong or worthy of blame. By 
    the verb "yashav", to sit, is intimated continuance; as 
    though the Prophet had said, that corruption was so 
    deeply fixed in the Levites that it could not in one day 
    or by light means be purged away: in short, he meant by 
    this one word to exaggerate the corrupt state of the 
    people, for had only a slight washing been sufficient, he 
    would have simply said, "he will purify, he will cleanse, 
    he will cast," or melt, for he uses these three words: 
    but he says, as I have stated, that he will sit to do 
    these things, in order to show that he would continue in 
    his work and carry it on for a long time, because the 
    diseases being so inveterate they could not be easily 
    healed. We now understand what the Prophet means. He 
    afterwards adds -  

    Malachi 3:4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem 
    be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as 
    in former years.  
         This verse shows, that though he had just spoken of 
    the sons of Levi, he yet had regard to the whole people. 
    But he meant to confine to the elect what ought not to 
    have been extended to all, for there were among the 
    people, as we have seen and shall again presently see, 
    many who were reprobates, nay, the greater part had 
    fallen away; and this is the reason why the Prophet 
    especially addresses the few remaining who had not fallen 
         But he names Judah and Jerusalem, for that tribe had 
    returned to their own country, and sacrifices were 
    offered at Jerusalem, though not with the splendour of 
    ancient times, the state of things having become much 
    deteriorated among those miserable exiles. Hence the 
    Prophet, that he might encourage the faithful, says, that 
    though the temple was then mean, and the worship of God 
    as then performed was unadorned and abject, yet there was 
    no reason for the Levites or for others to despond, 
    because the Lord would again restore the glory of his 
    temple, and really show that what men viewed with scorn 
    was approved by him. It follows -  

    Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and 
    I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and 
    against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and 
    against those that oppress the hireling in [his] wages, 
    the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the 
    stranger [from his right], and fear not me, saith the 
    LORD of hosts.  
         Here the Prophet retorts the complaints which the 
    Jews had previously made. There is here then a 
    counter-movement when he says, I will draw nigh to you; 
    for they provoked God by this slander - that he hid 
    himself from them and looked at a distance on what was 
    taking place in the world, as though the people he had 
    chosen were not the objects of his care. They expected 
    God to be to them like a hired soldier, ready at hand to 
    help them in any adversity, and to come armed at their 
    nod or pleasure to fight with their enemies: this they 
    expected; but God declares what is of a contrary 
    character, - that he would come for judgement; and he 
    alludes to that impious slander, when they denied that he 
    was the God of judgement, because he did not immediately, 
    or soon enough, resist their enemies: "Oh! God has now 
    divested himself of his own nature! for his judgement 
    does not appear." His answer is, "I will not forget nay 
    judgement when I come to you, but I shall come in a way 
    contrary to what you expect". They indeed wished God to 
    put on arms for their advantage, but God declares, that 
    he would be an enemy to them, according to what he also 
    says by the mouth of Isaiah.  
         He further says, I will be a swift witness. He sets 
    swiftness here in opposition to their calumny, for they 
    said that God was slow and tardy, because he had not 
    immediately, as they had wished, come forth to exercise 
    vengeance on foreign nations: he, on the other hand, 
    says, that he would be sufficiently swift when the time 
         And as there are the like blasphemies prevailing in 
    the world at this day, this passage may be accommodated 
    to our circumstances. Let us then know, that though God 
    may delay and connive at things for a time, he yet knows 
    his own opportunities, so as to appear as the avenger of 
    wickedness as soon as it will be necessary. But let us 
    ever fear lest our haste should prove our ruin, for he 
    has no respect of persons, so as to favour our 
    unfaithfulness and to be rigid towards those who are 
    hostile to us. Let us take heed that while we look for 
    the presence of God, we present ourselves before his 
    tribunal with a pure and upright conscience.  
         He then mentions several kinds of evils, in which he 
    includes the sins in which the Jews implicated 
    themselves. He first names diviners or sorcerers. It is 
    indeed true, that among various kinds of superstitions 
    this was one; but as the word is found here by itself, 
    the Prophet no doubt meant to include all kinds of 
    diviners, soothsayers, false prophets, and all such 
    deceivers: and so there is here again another instance of 
    stating a part for the whole; for he includes all those 
    corruptions which are contrary to the true worship of 
    God. We indeed know that God formerly had by his word put 
    a restraint on the Jews, that they were not to turn aside 
    to incantations and magical arts, or to anything of this 
    kind; but he intimates here, that they were then so given 
    up to gross abominations, that they abandoned themselves 
    to magic arts, and to incantations, and the juggleries of 
    the devil. He mentions, in the second place, adulterers, 
    and under this term he includes all kinds of lewdness; 
    and, in the third place, he names frauds and raping; and 
    if we rightly consider the subject, we shall find that 
    these three things contain whatever violates the whole 
         The design of the Prophet is by no means ambiguous; 
    for he intended to show how perversely they expostulated 
    with God; for they ought to have been destroyed a hundred 
    times, inasmuch as they were apostates, were given to 
    obscene lusts, were cruel, avaricious, and perfidious.  
         And this reproof ought to be a warning to us in the 
    present day, that we may not call forth God's judgement 
    on others, while we flatter ourselves as being innocent. 
    Whenever then we flee to God for help, and ask him to 
    succour us, let us remember that he is a just judge who 
    has no respect of persons. Let then every one, who 
    implores God's judgement, be his own judge, and 
    anticipate the correction which he has reason to fear. 
    That God therefore may not be armed for our destruction, 
    let us carefully examine our own life, and follow the 
    rule prescribed here by the Prophet; let us begin with 
    the worship of God, then let us come to fornications and 
    adulteries, and whatever is contrary to a chaste conduct, 
    and afterwards let us pass to frauds and plunder; for if 
    we are free from all superstition, if we keep ourselves 
    chaste and pure, and if we also abstain from all plunders 
    and all cruelty, our life is doubtless approved by God. 
    And hence it is that the Prophet adds at the end of the 
    verse, They feared not me; for when lusts, and plunder, 
    and frauds and the corruptions which vitiate God's 
    worship, prevail, it is evident that there is no fear of 
    God, but that men, having shaken off the yoke, as it were 
    run mad, though they may a thousand times profess the 
    name of God.  
         By mentioning the orphan, the widow, and the 
    stranger, he amplifies the atrocity of their crimes; for 
    the orphans, widows, and strangers, we know, are under 
    the guardianship and protection of God, inasmuch as they 
    are exposed to the wrongs of men. Hence every one who 
    plunders orphans, or harasses widows, or oppresses 
    strangers, seems to carry on open war, as it were, with 
    God himself, who has promised that these should be safe 
    under the shadow of his hand. With regard to the 
    expressions, it seems not suitable to say that the hire 
    of the widow and of the orphan is suppressed; there may 
    therefore be an inversion of the words - they oppressed 
    the widows, the orphans, strangers. It follows -  

    Malachi 3:6 For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore 
    ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.  
         Here the Prophet more clearly reproves and checks 
    the impious waywardness of the people; for God, after 
    having said that he would come and send a Redeemer, 
    though not such as would satisfy the Jews, now claims to 
    himself what justly belongs to him, and says that he 
    changes not, because he is God. Under the name Jehovah, 
    God reasons from his own nature; for he sets himself, as 
    we have observed in our last lecture, in opposition to 
    mortals; nor is it a wonder that God here disclaims all 
    inconsistency, since the impostor Balaam was constrained 
    to celebrate God's immutable constancy - "For he is not 
    God," he says, "who changes," or varies, "like man." 
    (Num. 23: 19.) We now then understand the force of the 
    words, I am Jehovah. But he adds as an explanation, I 
    change not, or, I am not changed; for if we do not take 
    the verb actively, the meaning is the same, - that God 
    continues in his purpose, and is not turned here and 
    there like men who repent of a purpose they have formed, 
    because what they had not thought of comes to their mind, 
    or because they wish undone what they have performed, and 
    seek new ways by which they may retrace their steps. God 
    denies that anything of this kind can take place in him, 
    for he is Jehovah, and changes not, or is not changed.  
         The latter clause is variously explained. The verb 
    "kalah" means, in the first conjugation, to be consumed; 
    but in Piel, to complete, or to make an end; and this 
    sense would be very suitable; but a grammatical reason 
    interferes, for it is in the first conjugation. Did 
    grammar allow, this meaning would be appropriate, "Ye 
    children of Israel have not made an end:" Why? "From the 
    days of your fathers," &c.: then the verse which follows 
    would be connected with this. But we must be content with 
    the present reading; and a twofold view may be taken of 
    it: the copulative "waw" may be taken as an adversative, 
    "Though ye are not consumed, I yet am not changed:" as 
    though it was said, "Think not that you have escaped, 
    though I have long spared you and your sins: though then 
    ye are not yet consumed, as I have borne with you in your 
    great wickedness, I yet continue to be Jehovah, nor do I 
    change my nature, and ye shall at length find that I am a 
    just Judge; though I shall not soon execute my vengeance, 
    punishment being held suspended, or as it were buried, 
    yet the end will show that I am not changed."  
         But the Prophet seems rather to accuse the Jews of 
    ingratitude in charging God with cruelty or with 
    negligence, because he did not immediately assist them; 
    and at the same time they did not consider within 
    themselves that they remained alive because God had a 
    reason derived from his own nature for sparing them, and 
    for not rendering to them what they had deserved. The 
    meaning then is this, "I am God, and I change not; and 
    ought ye not to have acknowledged that wonderful 
    forbearance through which I have spared you? for how has 
    it been that you have not perished, and that innumerable 
    deaths have not swallowed you up? How is it that you are 
    yet alive? Is it because you have dealt faithfully faith 
    me, so that it behaved me to exercise care over you? Nay, 
    it is indeed a wonder that I had not fulminated against 
    you so as to destroy you long ago." We hence see that he 
    upbraids them with ingratitude for accusing him, because 
    he did not immediately come forth in their defence: For 
    he answers them and says, that had he been rigid and 
    vehement in his displeasure, they could not have 
    continued, for they had not ceased for many successive 
    ages to seek their own ruin, as we find in what follows, 
    for he says -  

    Malachi 3:8,9 
    8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, 
    Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 
    9 Ye [are] cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, 
    [even] this whole nation.  
        The Prophet expands more fully what he had referred 
    to - that it was a wonder that the Jews had not perished, 
    because they had never ceased to provoke God against 
    themselves. He then sets this fact before them more 
    clearly, From the days of your fathers, he says, ye have 
    turned aside from my statutes. He increases their 
    condemnation by this circumstance - that they had not 
    lately begun to depart from the right way, but had 
    continued their contumacy for many ages, according to 
    what the apostles, as well as the Prophets in various 
    places, have testified: "Ye uncircumcised in heart, ye 
    have ceased not to resist the Holy Spirit like your 
    fathers." (Acts 7: 61.) "Harden not your hearts as your 
    fathers did; in the righteousness of your fathers walk 
    not." (Ps. 95: 8.) But I will not multiply proofs, which 
    very often are to be met with, and must be well known.  
         We now understand the Prophet's intention - that the 
    Jews for many ages had been notorious for their impiety 
    and wickedness, and that they had not been dealt with by 
    God as they had deserved, because he had according to his 
    ineffable goodness and forbearance suspended his rigour, 
    so as not to visit them according to their demerits. It 
    hence appears how unreasonable they were, not only in 
    being morose and proud, but especially in being furious 
    against God, when they accused him of tardiness, while 
    yet he had proved himself to be really a God towards them 
    by his continued forbearance.  
         The words, And ye have not kept them, are added for 
    amplification; for he expresses more fully their contempt 
    of his law, as though he had said, that they were not 
    only transgressors, but had also with gross wilfulness so 
    departed from the law as to regard it as nothing to tread 
    God's precepts under their feet.  
         He then exhorts then to repentance, and kindly 
    addresses them, and declares that he would be propitious 
    and reconcilable to them, if they repented. He has 
    hitherto sharply reproved them, because their necks being 
    hard they had need of such correction; for had the 
    Prophet gently and kindly exhorted them, they would 
    either have kicked or have set on him with their horns; 
    be now mitigates his sharpness, not indeed with respect 
    to all, but if there were any healable among the people 
    he meant to try them; and hence he offers them 
    reconciliation with God, as though he had said, "Though 
    God has been in various ways wantonly offended by you, 
    and though you have repudiated his favour, and have 
    become wholly unworthy of being regarded by him, yet 
    return, and he will meet you."  
         We have said elsewhere that all exhortations would 
    be in vain without a hope of pardon; for when God 
    commands us to return to the right way, our hearts would 
    never be touched, nay, they would on the contrary turn 
    away, had we no hope that he would be reconciled to us. 
    This course the Prophet now pursues, when in the person 
    of God himself he promises pardon, provided the Jews 
         God is said to return to us, when he ceases to 
    demand the punishment of our sins, and when he lays aside 
    the character of a judge, and makes himself known to us 
    as a Father. We indeed know that God neither returns nor 
    departs; for he who fills all places never moves here and 
    there; and we also know that we exist and live in him, 
    but he shows by outward evidences that he is alienated 
    from us, and by the same he shows that he is propitious 
    to us; for when he favours us with fruitful seasons, with 
    peace and with other blessings, he is said to be near us; 
    but when he lets loose the reins of his wrath, or exposes 
    us to the assaults of Satan and to the wanton power of 
    men, he is said to be far removed from us. But this is so 
    well known that I need not dwell longer on the point.  
         The promise which the Prophet states serves to show, 
    that God would manifest tokens of his paternal favour to 
    the Jews, provided only they were submissive; but that it 
    would be their own fault, if they did not find through 
    his blessings that he was their Father. It would be on 
    account of their sins, which, as Isaiah says, hinder the 
    course of that beneficence to which he is of his own self 
    inclined, (Is. 59: 2.) And he bids them to return. Hence 
    the Papists very foolishly conclude, that repentance is 
    in the power of man's free-will. But God requires what is 
    above our strength; and yet there is no reason why we 
    should complain that there is a too heavy burden laid on 
    us; for he regards not what we can, or what our ability 
    admits, but what we owe to him and what our duty 
    requires. Though then no one can of his own self turn to 
    God, he is not on this account excusable, because we must 
    consider whence comes the defect; and how much soever, as 
    I have already said, a man may pretend his own impotency, 
    he cannot yet escape from being bound to God, though more 
    is required of him than he of himself can perform. But 
    this subject has often been discussed elsewhere. The 
    import of what is said here is, - that men are not 
    miserable through the unjust rigour of God, but always 
    through their own sins.  
         It follows, Ye have said, In what shall we return? 
    It is an evidence of perverseness, when men answer that 
    they see not that they have erred, and that hence 
    conversion is to no purpose required of them; for this is 
    the meaning of these words, Whereby shall we return? that 
    is, "What dost thou require from us? for we are not 
    conscious of any defection; we worship God as we ought: 
    now if our duties are repudiated by him, we see not why 
    he should so expressly blame us; let him show in what we 
    have offended; for conversion to him is superfluous, 
    until we be proved guilty of apostasy, or of those sins 
    which God determines to punish in us." To this the 
    Prophet answers -  
         Will a man defraud the gods? Some give this version, 
    "Will a man defraud God?" But it is strained and remote 
    from the Prophet's design; and they pervert the meaning. 
    For I do not see what can be elicited from this 
    rendering, "Will a man defraud God?" But there are other 
    two meanings which may be taken. The first is, "Will a 
    man defraud his gods?" The word "'elohim", though it be 
    in the plural number, is applied, as it is well known, to 
    the true God; but it is applied also to idols; and in 
    this place the Prophet seems to me to compare the Jews to 
    the Gentiles, that their impiety might be made more 
    evident. The same is the object of Jeremiah, when he 
    says, "Go, and survey the islands, is there a nation 
    which has changed its gods, while yet they are no gods." 
    (Jer. 2: 10.) Since their blindness and obstinacy held 
    fast the Gentiles in darkness, that they continued to 
    worship the gods to whom they had been accustomed, it was 
    an abominable wickedness in the Jews, that having been 
    taught to worship the true God, they were yet continually 
    influenced by ungodly levity, and sought new modes of 
    worship, as though they wished to devise another god for 
    themselves. So also in this place the Prophet seems to 
    bring forward the Gentiles as an example to the Jews; for 
    they discharged their duty towards their gods; but the 
    Jews despised the supreme and the only true God: 
    "Behold," he says, "go round the world, and ye shall not 
    find among the nations so unbridled a liberty as prevails 
    among you; for they render obedience to their gods, and 
    sacrilege is abominable to them; but ye defraud me. Am I 
    inferior to idols? or is my state worse than theirs?"  
         Some take the word "'elohim" for judges, as judges 
    are sometimes so named; but this meaning seems not 
    suitable on account of the word, Adam. As then this word 
    generally means man, the Prophet, I have no doubt, 
    intimates what I have stated, - that unbelievers, though 
    sunk in darkness, are yet restrained by reverence and 
    fear from changing their deity, and that they dare not to 
    show levity when the name only of their god is 
    pronounced. Since then such humility prevailed among 
    unbelievers, could the impiety of that people, who had 
    been trained up in the law, be excusable? a people too, 
    upon whom God had ever made the doctrine of the law to 
         He afterwards adds, Because ye have defrauded me; 
    and ye have said, Thereby have we defrauded thee? In 
    tenths and in oblations. Here the Prophet again proves 
    the people guilty of perverseness: it was indeed 
    hypocrisy, and though gross, it was yet surpassed by 
    impudence; for they asked, whereby they had defrauded 
    God? and yet this was evident even to children: for we 
    know, and we have seen elsewhere, that avarice so ruled 
    among them, that every one, bent on their own profit, 
    neglected the temple and the priests. Since then they 
    were openly sacrilegious, how shameless they must have 
    been to ask whereby they had defrauded God! The thing 
    itself was indeed manifest and commonly known, so that 
    children could see it. God however deemed it enough to 
    convict them by one sentence, - that they defrauded him 
    in the tenths and in the first-fruits; not that any 
    advantage accrued to him from oblations, as he had no 
    need of any such things; but he rightly calls and counts 
    that his own which he had appointed for his own service. 
    Since then he had instituted that order among the Jews, 
    that they might by the tenths support the priests, and a 
    part also was required for the poor, since God designed 
    the firstfruits and other things to be offered to him, 
    that men might thereby be continually reminded, that all 
    things were his, and that whatever they received from his 
    hand was sacred to him, he had previously called the 
    bread laid on the table his own, and had called the 
    sacrifices his own food, as though he did eat and drink. 
    But as I have already said, we ought to regard the object 
    in view, because his will was to be thus worshipped, and 
    at the same time to keep as his own whatever belonged to 
    his service. This then is the reason why he now complains 
    of being defrauded of the tenths.  
         But we know that other sacrifices are now prescribed 
    to us; and after prayer and praises, he bids us to 
    relieve the poor and needy. God then, no doubt, is 
    deprived by us of his right, when we are unkind to the 
    poor, and refuse them aid in their necessity. We indeed 
    thereby wrong men, and are cruel; but our crime is still 
    more heinous, inasmuch as we are unfaithful stewards; for 
    God deals more liberally with us than with others, for 
    this end - that some portion of our abundance may come to 
    the poor; and as he consecrates to their use what we 
    abound in, we become guilty of sacrilege whenever we give 
    not to our brethren what God commands us; for we know 
    that he engages to repay, according to what is said in 
    Prov. 19: 17, "He who gives to the poor lends to God."  
    Prayer.  Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been 
    pleased to choose us as priests to thyself, not that we 
    may offer beasts to thee, but consecrate to thee 
    ourselves, and all that we have, - O grant, that we may 
    with an readiness strive to depart from every kind of 
    uncleanness, and to purify ourselves from all 
    defilements, so that we may duly perform the sacred 
    office of priesthood, and thus conduct ourselves towards 
    thee with chasteness and purity; may we also abstain from 
    every evil work, from all fraud and all cruelty towards 
    our brethren, and so to deal with one another as to prove 
    through our whole life that thou art really our Father, 
    ruling us by thy Spirit, and that true and holy 
    brotherhood exists between us; and may we live justly 
    towards one another, so as to render to each his own 
    right, and thus show that we are members of thy 
    only-begotten Son, so as to be owned by him when he shall 
    appear for the redemption of his people, and shell gather 
    us into his celestial kingdom. - Amen. 

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (continued in file 11...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-10.txt