Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (... continued from file 13)
    Lecture One Hundred and Eighty-second.   
         Malachi, after having said that the Sun of 
    righteousness would arise on the Jews, now adds that it 
    would be for their joy, for as sorrow lays hold on the 
    faithful when they are without Christ, or when they think 
    him far removed from them, so his favour is their chief 
    happiness and real joy. Hence the angel when he made 
    known to the shepherds that Christ was born, thus 
    introduces his message, "Behold, I declare to you great 
    joy." (Luke 2: 10.)  
         Now though the comparison might seem rather 
    unnatural, yet it was not without reason that the Prophet 
    said that the Jews would be like fattened calves, for the 
    change of which he speaks was incredible; hence it was 
    necessary that the subject should be stated in a very 
    homely manner, that they might entertain hope.  
         There is in the words "going forth", an implied 
    contrast, for anxiety had long held them as it were 
    captives, but now they were to go forth and be at 
    liberty, according to what takes place when things change 
    for the better; we then openly declare our joy to one 
    another, and we seek as it were a wide place for giving 
    vent to our feelings. We now see why the Prophet says 
    that the Jews would go forth: they had been before 
    confined as it were within narrow limits, but God would 
    now give them occasion for rejoicing, according to what 
    Paul says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is 
    liberty." (2 Cor. 3: 17). It follows -  

    Malachi 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for 
    they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the
    day that I shall do [this], saith the LORD of hosts.   
         When God promises redemption to his Church, he 
    usually mentions what is of an opposite character, even 
    the destruction and ruin of his enemies, and he does this 
    on purpose lest envy should annoy or harass the faithful, 
    while seeing the ungodly prosperous and happy. So also in 
    this place Malachi says, that the ungodly would be 
    trodden under foot by the faithful like the dust; and he 
    says this lest the elect, while lying prostrate under the 
    feet of their enemies and proudly trampled upon by them, 
    should succumb under their troubles; but they were to 
    look for what the Prophet declares here, for they were 
    not only to be raised up by the hand of God, but were 
    also to be superior to their enemies, and be enabled in 
    their turn to suppress their pride: in short, he means 
    that they were to be raised above all the height of the 
         At the same time, God does not allow his children 
    cruelly to seek vengeance, for he would have them to be 
    endued with meekness, so as not to cease to do good to 
    the wicked and to pray for them, though they may have 
    been unjustly treated by them. But, as I have already 
    said, he meant here to obviate an evil which is natural 
    to us all, for we are apt to despond when our enemies 
    exult over us, and rage against us. Lest then their 
    temporary success and prosperity should deject our minds, 
    God brings a remedy, and strengthens our patience by this 
    consideration, - that the state of things will shortly be 
    changed, so that we shall triumph over the ungodly, who 
    thought us to have been undone a hundred times; God will 
    indeed visit them with extreme shame, because they not 
    only fatuitously boast of their unjust deeds, but also 
    raise up their horns against him.  
         Let us proceed; he says, In the day in which I make. 
    He again restrains their desires, that they might not 
    with too much haste look forward, but wait for the day 
    prefixed by the Lord. We indeed know how great is the 
    importunity of men as to their wishes, and how ardently 
    they seek their accomplishment unless God checks them. 
    Whenever then we speak of the destruction of our enemies, 
    let us remember that we ought to regard the day of the 
    Lord, in which he purposes to execute his judgement. 
    Some, as I have said, give a different version, but the 
    one I have given is the most probable, and is also more 
    generally approved. It now follows -  Malachi 4:4 
    Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I 
    commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, [with] the 
    statutes and judgments.   
         This passage has not been clearly and fully 
    explained, because interpreters did not understand the 
    design of Malachi nor consider the time. We know that 
    before the coming of Christ there was a kind of silence 
    on the part of God, for by not sending Prophets for a 
    time, he designed to stimulate as it were the Jews, so 
    that they might with greater ardour seek Christ. Our 
    Prophet was amongst the very last. As then the Jews were 
    without Prophets, they ought more diligently to have 
    attended to the law, and to have taken a more careful 
    heed to the doctrine of religion contained in it. This is 
    the reason why he now bids them to remember the law of 
    Moses; as though he had said, "Hereafter shall come the 
    time when ye shall be without Prophets, but your remedy 
    shall be the law; attend then carefully to it, and beware 
    lest you should forget it." For men, as soon as God 
    ceases to speak to them even for the shortest time, are 
    carried away after their own inventions, and are ever 
    inclined to vanity, as we abundantly find by experience. 
    Hence Malachi, in order to keep the Jews from wandering, 
    and from thus departing from the pure doctrine of the 
    law, reminds them that they were faithfully and 
    constantly to remember it until the Redeemer came.  
         If it be asked why he mentions the law only, the 
    answer is obvious, because that saying of Christ is true, 
    that the law and the Prophets were until John. (Matt. 3: 
    13.) It must yet be observed, that the prophetic office 
    was not separated from the law, for all the prophecies 
    which followed the law were as it were its appendages; so 
    that they included nothing new, but were given that the 
    people might be more fully retained in their obedience to 
    the law. Hence as the Prophets were the interpreters of 
    Moses, it is no wonder that their doctrine was subjected, 
    or as they commonly say, subordinated to the law. The 
    object of the Prophet was to make the Jews attentive to 
    that doctrine which had been delivered to them from above 
    by Moses and the Prophets, so as not to depart from it 
    even in the least degree; as though he had said, "God 
    will not now send to you different teachers in 
    succession; there is enough for your instruction in the 
    law: there is no reason on this account that you should 
    change anything in the discipline of the Church. Though 
    God by ceasing to speak to you, may seem to let loose the 
    reins, so as to allow every one to stray and wander in 
    uncertainty after his own imaginations, it is yet not so; 
    for the law is sufficient to guide us, provided we shake 
    not off its yoke, nor through our ingratitude bury the 
    light by which it directs us."  
         He calls it the law of Moses, not because he was its 
    author, but its minister, as also Paul calls the gospel 
    "my gospel," because he was its minister and preacher. At 
    the same time God claims to himself the whole authority, 
    by adding that Moses was his savant: we hence conclude 
    that he brought nothing of himself; for the word servant 
    is not to be confined to his vocation only, but also to 
    his fidelity in executing his office. God then honoured 
    Moses with this title, not so much for his own sake, as 
    in order to give sanction to his law, that no one might 
    think that it was a doctrine invented by man. He 
    expresses the same thing still more clearly by saying, 
    that he had committed the law to him on Horeb; for this 
    clause clearly asserts that Moses had faithfully 
    discharged his office of a servant; for he brought 
    nothing but what had been committed to him from above, 
    and he delivered it, as they say, from hand to hand. Many 
    give this version, "To whom I committed, in the valley of 
    Horeb, statutes and judgements;" but I approve of the 
    other rendering - that God makes himself here the author 
    of the law, that all the godly might reverently receive 
    it as coming from him. Horeb is Sinai; but they who 
    describe these places say, that a part of the mountain 
    towards the east is called Horeb, and that the other 
    towards the west is called Sinai; but it is still the 
    same mountain.  
         By saying To all Israel, or to the whole of Israel, 
    he confirms what I have already said - that he had 
    committed to them the law: that the Jews might be the 
    more touched, he expressly says, that the law was given 
    to them, and that this was a singular privilege with 
    which God had favoured them, according to what is said in 
    Ps 147:20, "He has not done so to other nations, nor has 
    he manifested to them his judgements." For the nations 
    had not been laid under such obligations as the Jews, to 
    whom God had given his law as a peculiar treasure to his 
    own children. And that no one might claim an exemption, 
    he says, to the whole of Israel; as though he had said, 
    "Neither the learned nor the unlearned, neither the 
    rulers nor the common people, can have any excuse, except 
    they all with the greatest care attend to the law, yea, 
    all from the least to the greatest."  
         What follows may admit of two explanations: for 
    "chukim" and "mishpatim" may be referred to the verb 
    "zichru", remember; but as he says Which I have 
    committed, we may take statutes and judgements as 
    explanatory. As to the subject itself, it signifies but 
    little which view we may adopt. There is no doubt but 
    that God by these terms commends his law for its 
    benefits; as though he had said, "The law includes what 
    the Jews ought rightly to observe, even statutes and 
    judgements." We know that other terms are used in 
    Scripture, such as "pekudim", precepts; "mitswot", 
    commandments; and "edutim", testimonies; but here the 
    Prophet is content brief to remind the Jews that their 
    ingratitude would be less excusable if they departed from 
    the law of God, for this would be openly to reject 
    statutes and judgements; and this is what I have stated, 
    that they were here taught by the Prophet that the 
    doctrine of the law is profitable, in order that they 
    might attend to it more willingly. It follows -  Malachi 
    4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the 
    coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:   
         The Prophet continues the same subject; for having 
    testified to the Jews, that though God would for a time 
    suspend the course of prophetic teaching, they yet had in 
    the law what was sufficient for salvation, he now 
    promises the renovation of the Church; as though he had 
    said, "The Lord will again unexpectedly utter his voice 
    after a long silence." Isaiah speaks on the same subject, 
    prophesying of the return of the people, when he says, 
    "Comfort ye, comfort my people, will our God say." (Is. 
    40: 11) There is an emphatic import in the use of the 
    future tense. So also in this passage, the Prophet 
    declares that prophetic teaching would be again renewed, 
    that when God showed mercy to his people, he would open 
    his mouth, and show that he had been silent, not because 
    he intended to forsake his people, but as we have said, 
    for another end. At the same time he shows that the time 
    would come, when his purpose was to confirm and seal all 
    the prophecies by his only-begotten Son.  
         This passage has fascinated the Jews so as to think 
    that men rise again; and their resurrection is, - that 
    the souls of men pass into various bodies three or four 
    times. There is indeed such a delirious notion as this 
    held by that nation! We hence see how great is the 
    sottishness of men, when they become alienated from 
    Christ, who is the light of the world and the Sun of 
    Righteousness, as we have lately seen. There is no need 
    to disprove an error so palpable.  
         But Christ himself took away all doubt on this 
    point, when he said, that John the Baptist was the 
    Elijah, who had been promised; (Matt. 11: 10:) and the 
    thing itself proves this, had not Christ spoken on the 
    subject. And why John the Baptist is called Elijah, I 
    shall explain in a few words. What some say of zeal, I 
    shall say nothing of; and many have sought other 
    likenesses, whom I shall neither follow nor blame. But 
    this likeness seems to me the most suitable of all, - 
    that God intended to raise up John the Baptist for the 
    purpose of restoring his worship, as formerly he had 
    raised up Elijah: for at the time of Elijah, we know, 
    that not only the truth was corrupted and the worship of 
    God vitiated, but that also all religion was almost 
    extinct, so that nothing pure and sound remained. At the 
    coming of Christ, though the Jews did not worship idols, 
    but retained some outward form of religion, yet the whole 
    of their religion was spurious, so that that time may 
    truly be compared, on account of its multiplied 
    pollutions, to the age of Elijah. John then was a true 
    successor of Elijah, nor were any of the Prophets so much 
    like John as Elijah: hence justly might his name be 
    transferred to him.  
         But someone may object and say, that he is here 
    called a prophet, while he yet denied that he was a 
    prophet: to this the answer is obvious, - that John 
    renounced the title of a prophet, that he might not 
    hinder the progress of Christ's teaching: hence he means 
    not in those words that he ran presumptuously without a 
    call, but that he was content to be counted the herald of 
    Christ, so that his teaching might not prevent Christ 
    from being heard alone. Yet Christ declares that he was a 
    prophet, and more than a prophet, and that because his 
    ministry was more excellent than that of a prophet.  
         He says, Before shall come the day, great and 
    terrible. The Prophet seems not here to speak very 
    suitably of Christ's coming; but he now addresses the 
    whole people; and as there were many slothful and tardy, 
    who even despised the favour of God, and others insolent 
    and profane, he speaks not so kindly, but mixes these 
    threatenings. We hence perceive why the Prophet describes 
    the coming of Christ as terrible; he does this, not 
    because Christ was to come to terrify men, but on the 
    contrary, according to what Isaiah says, "The smoking 
    flax he will not extinguish, the shaken reed he will not 
    break; not heard will his voice be in the streets, nor 
    will he raise a clamour." (Is 42: 3.) Though then Christ 
    calmly presents himself, as we have before observed, and 
    as soon as he appears to us, he brings an abundant reason 
    for joy; yet the perverseness of that people was such as 
    to constrain the Prophet to use a severe language, 
    according to the manner in which God deals daily with us; 
    when he sees that we have a tasteless palate, he gives us 
    some bitter medicine, so that we may have some relish for 
    his favour. Whenever then we meet with any thing in 
    Scripture tending to fill us with terror, let us remember 
    that such thing is announced, because we are either deaf 
    or slothful, or even rebellious, when God kindly invites 
    us to himself. It follows -  Malachi 4:6 And he shall 
    turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the 
    heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and 
    smite the earth with a curse.   
         This verse may be viewed as containing a simple 
    promise; but I prefer to regard it as including what is 
    between an exhortation and a promise. The first thing is, 
    that God reminds the Jews for what purpose he would send 
    John, even to turn the hearts of men and to restore them 
    to a holy unity of faith. It must therefore be noticed, 
    that not only the Redeemer would come, but that after 
    some intermission, as it has been said, had taken place, 
    the doctrine of salvation would again have its own 
    course, and would be commenced by John.  
         Yet the Prophet seems here to concede to men more 
    than what is right, for the turning of the heart is God's 
    peculiar work, and still more, it is more peculiarly his 
    than his other works; and if no one can change a hair on 
    the head of his brother, how can he renew his heart, so 
    as to make him a new man? It is at the same time of more 
    consequence to be regenerated than to be created and to 
    be made only the inhabitants of this world. John then 
    seems to be here too highly extolled, when the turning of 
    the heart is ascribed to him. The solution of this 
    difficulty may be easily given: when God thus speaks 
    highly of his ministers, the power of his Spirit is not 
    excluded; and he shows how great is the power of truth 
    when he works through it by the secret influence of his 
    Spirit. God sometimes connects himself with his servants, 
    and sometimes separates himself from them: when he 
    connects himself with them, he transfers to them what 
    never ceases to dwell in him; for he never resigns to 
    them his own office, but makes them partakers of it only. 
    And this is the import of such expressions as these, 
    "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted: whatsoever ye 
    shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven," (John 20: 
    23;) or when Paul says, that he had begotten the 
    Corinthians, (1 Cor. 2: 15,) he did not claim for himself 
    what he knew only belonged to God, but rather extolled 
    the favour of God as manifested in his ministry, 
    according to what he declares in another place, "Not I, 
    but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor. 15: 10.) 
    But when God separates himself from his ministers, 
    nothing remains in them: "He who plants is nothing," says 
    Paul in another place, "And he who waters is nothing, but 
    God who gives the increase." (1 Cor. 3: 7.) When then is 
    it that teachers are co-workers with God? Even when God, 
    ruling them by his Spirit, at the same time blesses their 
    labour, so that it brings forth its fruit.  
         We now then see that this mode of speaking derogates 
    nothing from God, that is, when the minister is said to 
    turn the hearts of men; for as he implants nothing by his 
    own influence, so God supplies what is necessary that he 
    may fulfil his office.  
         By saying that he would turn the hearts of fathers 
    to sons and of sons to fathers, he points out not a 
    simple union or consent, for men often unite together, 
    and yet God reprobates and hates their union; but the 
    Prophet here has in view the origin of the people, even 
    Abraham and other holy patriarchs. Had he spoken of the 
    Egyptians or the Assyrians, or some other nations, this 
    turning would not have been so wonderful; but when he 
    speaks of the holy and chosen race, it is no wonder that 
    he mentions it as an instance of the ineffable kindness 
    of God, that they were all to be gathered and restored 
    from discord to unity, so as to become united in one 
         Since their mutual consent is the subject, we must 
    come to the fountain; for Malachi takes it for granted, 
    that there was formerly true religion in that people, 
    that the true worship of God prevailed among them, and 
    that they were bound together by a sacred bond; but since 
    in course of time various notions rose among them, yea, 
    monstrous dotages, since sincerity had become wholly 
    corrupted, he now recalls them to their first condition, 
    so that sons might unite in sentiment with their fathers, 
    and fathers also with their sons, and become one in that 
    faith which had been delivered in the law.  
         Were any to object and say, that it was not 
    reasonable that fathers should join themselves to their 
    apostate sons, for this would be to approve of their 
    defection, I answer, that there have been some converted 
    young men who have shown the right way to their fathers, 
    and have carried light before them. We indeed know that 
    old men, as their are morose, not only reject what they 
    hear from the young, but are rendered more obstinate, 
    because they are ashamed to learn. Such a dispute the 
    Prophet bids to be dismissed, so that all might in their 
    heart think only the same thing in the Lord.  
         Lest I come and smite the land with a curse. Here 
    again the Prophet threatens the Jews, and indeed 
    vehemently. He was constrained, as we have said, by 
    necessity, for the torpor of that people was very great, 
    and many of them were hardened in their perverseness. 
    This is the reason why God now declares, that the Jews 
    would not escape unpunished for despising the coming of 
    Christ. And we are at the same time reminded how 
    abominable in the sight of God is the ingratitude of not 
    receiving his Son whom he sends to us. If we wish to 
    derive benefit from what the Prophet teaches us, we ought 
    especially to welcome Christ, while he so kindly calls 
    us, yea, allures us to himself. But if the sloth of our 
    flesh keeps us back, let even this threatening stimulate 
    us; and as we learn that the sin of not embracing Christ 
    when he offers himself to us, shall not go unpunished, 
    let us struggle against our tardiness. At all events, let 
    us take heed to kiss the Son, as in Psa 2: 12, we are 
    exhorted to do.  Prayer.  Grant, Almighty God, that as 
    nothing is omitted by thee to help us onward in the 
    course of our faith, and as our sloth is such that we 
    hardly advance one step though stimulated by thee, - O 
    grant, that we may strive to profit more by the various 
    helps which thou hast provided for us, so that the Law, 
    the Prophets, the voice of John the Baptist, and 
    especially the doctrine of thine only-begotten Son, may 
    more fully awaken us, that we may not only hasten to him, 
    but also proceed constantly in our course, and persevere 
    in it until we shall at length obtain the victory and the 
    crown of our calling, as thou hast promised an eternal 
    inherence in heaven to all who faint not but wait for the 
    coming of the great Redeemer. - Amen.   The End of all 
    the Lectures of John Calvin on the Minor Prophets.  To 
    God the Glory.  

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-14.txt