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Bible Study, The Minor Prophets: Malachi 1 and 2

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Posted on CCPC's website 2023

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

      This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
      For this last book in the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets (more on that later) we're going with the longest quote yet in this study. The beginning of chapter three of "The Prophecy of Malachias":

      "'I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,' says the Lord Almighty.
      "But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refinerís fire or a laundererís soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years."
      With Malaki (Malachi) once again we do not know the prophet's name, the Hebrew word simply means "my messenger", a similar root to the word translated as angel elsewhere and the term used to describe what Haggai is doing in his book, chapter 1 : 13.
      Also, no king is named, but a governor is mentioned as being in office (verse 8), meaning we have no time period to put the book in. Malachi is not mentioned by name, or title, or job description or anything else we can put are finger on anywhere else in the OT.
      There is a very old tradition that maintains that the book was something of a post script written by either Ezra or Nehemiah, both known working prophets of the period, or perhaps Zerubbabel and / or Joshua, the ones who figure heavily in both Haggai's and Zechariah's works.
      Textual evidence, the local conditions and abuses outlined by Malachi give some credibility to what was outlined by Nehemiah that it is reasonable to conclude that Malachi was there not long after the other somewhere around 400 BC. It is also clear that the conditions of the priesthood that Malachi observed were not corrected and continued to slide into the up front corruption seen in Maccabees some time later, and were then highlighted by Christ.
      While there is no date in the book, and nothing in it to reliably base an estimate on, the tradition that goes back to before the time of Christ as the book is seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as the last installment in the Book of the Twelve, even if Nehemiah was the last OT book written. See link below.
      It is also worth noting that Malachi ends rather abruptly, almost in the middle of a thought, with the last word being "doom" or "curse", depending on how you read it, as if part of the original scroll was missing.

Chapter 1

      The "mas sa" (burden) of YHWH to Israel by "malaki" (messenger).

2 and 3
      "'a hab ti" ('I' love / affection) you says YHWH. "wa 'a mar tem" ('and you' say), "bam mah" (in what) "'a hab ta nu" (have you loved 'us'), "ha lo w" (was not) "'ah" (brother) Esau of Jacob? Says YHWH. "wa 'o hab" ('and I' loved) Jacob. But Esau "sa ne ti" (I hated) "wa 'a sim" (put / set) "ha raw" ('his' mountains / hills) "se ma hah" (desolation) and "na ha la tow" ('his' inheritance / heritage) "le tan no wt" (jackals / (1611 - dragons)) "mid bar" (open fields / wilderness).

      Even though said Edom (kingdom due south of Judah and the Dead Sea) "rus sas nu" ('we are' demolished / beaten down) "we na sub" ('but' restore / return) "we nib nah" (and build / rebuild (also means 'to have children')) "ho ra bo wt" ('the' ruins / waste places) - thus says YHWH of Hosts, 'they will build', but I "'e he ro ws" (overthrow / tear down (root is similar to Jonah's word)) - and they'll be called "ge bul" (border / territory) "ris 'ah" (wickedness) and "ha am" (the people) "'a ser" (whom) "za 'am" (indignation) YHWH 'forever and ever'.
      The verse actually says that the Lord will 'be upset with' Esau and his descendants forever.

      paraphrase: You will see, and say, YHWH is "yig dal" (magnified) beyond Israel.

      discussion. The word used is "ye kab bed" (honor / honored).
      ... if I am the father, where is the honor? And if the master, where is the "mo w ra 'i" (respect / reverence (includes 'fear')) says YHWH of Hosts to "hak ko ha nim" (you priests (kohen)), "bo w ze" (who despise) my name. And yet you say 'how...'

      "mag gi sim" ('you' present) on "miz be hi" (altar) - "li hem" (bread / food) "me go 'al" (defiled / unclean). 'yet you say how...' by saying "sul han" (table) YHWH "nib zeh" (despised)

      Discussion: the sacrificial animal was supposed to be as perfect and unblemished as it is possible to be. This verse says they were offering "'iw wer" (blind) and "pis se ah" (lame) and "we ho leh" (diseased / afflicted (includes 'sorry')), and then asks 'is it not' "ra'" (evil)....
      ... "haq ri be hu" (offer 'it') to your "le pe ha te ka" (governor) ...
      This level of sarcasm is something we've seen before, such as in Nahum or Haggai when he argued with the priests or perhaps when Amos called the women of the aristocracy cows (chapter 4), and of course, we might want to nominate Jonah for first place in the satirical category with Habakkuk running hard but finishing second.

      The prophet, whoever he is, is now speaking personally.
      But now "hal lu" (beseech / entreat / (urgently ask)) "pe ne" (before) "'el" (God), "wi ha ni nu" (be gracious / show favor) 'by your hand' "ha ye tah" (become / came) this "ha yis sa" ('acceptable' (the same word for what the governor might think of the sorry offering)) ... says YHWH of Hosts.

      And then the sarcasm returns, asking who'll close the door when they try to light the fire on the altar.
      YHWH goes on to say there is no pleasure in them, and will not accept their offering.

      The statement here is epic, and the translations do it justice.
      The term is "go w yim" (foreign nations / gentiles) in both places where some make it into 'heathen'.

      but you "me hal li lim" (profane / make common) 'the table of YHWH' is defiled and say its fruit is despised. (all similar words to what was used before)
      The term "table of YHWH" is more than just the one with the Showbread and other items in the temple, and is used in a wider sense to include all the meals ritual observed by the Jews including Sabbath and Passover.

      and you say "mat te 'ah la" (what a weariness (the only place in the OT it is used)) "we hip pah tem" ('you breathe' (as in 'say under your breath' / whisper)) at it, says YWHW of Hosts - "wa ha be tem" ('and you' come / bring) "ga zul" (robbed / 'taken by robbery' (would include money gotten by illicit means)) and the lame and sick (same words) "wa ha be tem" ('and you' come / bring) "ham min hah" (tribute / offering). "har 'er seh" ('should I' pleased / accept favorably) this from you? Says YHWH.

      "we 'a rur" (cursed) "no w kel" (deceiver / swindler) who has, "be 'ed row" (in flock / herd) "za kar" (male) "we no der" (makes a vow) "we zo be ah" ('slaughter for sacrifice') "ma se hat" (ruined / spoiled (blemished)) 'to the Lord, for the king', "ga do wl" (great) 'I am' says YHWH of Hosts, and my name "no w ra" (feared / 'held in reverence') in the nations.

Chapter 2

      Now... 'this' "ham mis wah" (commandment / command / obligation) "hak ko ha nim" ('you' kohen priests)

      paraphrase: if you do not listen and obey and glorify my name, says YHWH of Hosts, I will send a curse...
      "we 'a ro w ti" (and 'I will' curse / 'will be' cursed) "bir ko w te kem" (blessings) - "we gam" (furthermore) "'a ro w ti ha" (are cursed) because you don't take it to heart.

      behold, "go 'er" (rebuke) "haz zera" (descendants / offspring (implies multiple generations)) "we ze ri ti" (scatter / spread (as in winnowing grain)) "pe res" (literally 'fecal matter' / dung) on "pe ne kem" (face / presence / etc), the "pe res" of your "hag ge kem" (feast / festival) - "we na sa" (life / carry (as in 'to take away')) you "'e law" (in addition)

      Paraphrase: then you'll know that I sent the commandment, that
      "lih yo wt" (become / came / happen) "be ri ti" ('my' covenant) with Levi, says YHWH of hosts.
      In verse one the word for priest was 'kohen' (cohen) which is priest, but is a special priests who were not just Levites, but direct descendants of one particular Levite, Aaron, the brother of Moses, and it was through them that the office of High Priest was passed on. In short, if you were a Jew but not a Levite, you could not be a priest. If you were Levite but were not a Kohen, you Could Not be High Priest. And issue which comes to a head in Maccabees, and is then later highlighted by Christ. Now, in this verse the term is for the entire tribe, which would include the line of the High Priest. There's a link below to more.
      sidenote: Anybody (male or female) can be a 'rabbi' (even if you're not a Jew!). The term simply means 'teacher', more specifically, 'religious teacher'. The position is not named as such in the OT, but developed during the "inter-testament period" about 100 or so BC with the rise of the Pharisees and other sub-sects of Judaism.

      My covenant with him "ha hay yim" (alive / living), "we has sa lo wm" ('and' peace / completeness) "wa 'et te nem" (give / gave 'them') to him, "mo w ra" (reverence / fear 'me') "way yi ra 'e ni" (he feared 'me') "u mip pe ne" (before / front) "se mi" ('my' name) "ni hat" (in awe) "hu" (he)

      "to w rat" (law) "'e met" (truth) was "be pi hu" ('in his' mouth) and no "we 'aw law" (iniquity / injustice) not found "bis pa taw" (lips) - "be sa lo wm" ('in' peace (same word)) and "u be mi so wr" (upright / 'level') he walked with Me, and "we rab bim" (many / much) "he sib" (turned / turn back) "me 'a won" (iniquity).

      "sip te" (lips / speech) of a "kohen" (priest) "yis me ru" (guard / keep) "da 'at" (knowledge), and the "we to w rah" (law / instruction (root is 'Torah')) 'people should (implied)' "ye baq su" (seek / sought / search) "mip pi hu" ('from his' mouth (same root)) - for "mal 'ak" (messenger (same word for 'angel')) of YHWH of Hosts he is.
      NOTE: this is why the condemnation of 'false prophets' and 'lying priests' is so severe in both the OT and the NT.

      You "sar tem" (turn away / depart / etc) from "had de rek" ('the' way / direction) - you "hik sal tem" (stumble / fail) "bat to w rah" ('at / in the ) law ...) - "si hat tem" ('you' destroy) "be rit" (covenant (same word)) of Levi, says YHWH of Hosts.
      The implication here is that the priests have INTENTIONALLY gone off on a tangent, and not come back to what is directly called "The Way" in this verse. We see that term applied to keeping God's commandments beginning in Deuteronomy 5 : 33, Psalm 119, and elsewhere. Then again in the NT in Acts 9.

      'therefore I made you' "nib zim" (despised) "u se pa lim" ('and' low (includes 'humble')) to all "ha am" (nations / peoples), 'because you didn't keep My Way' but "we no se 'im" (((uncertain) includes 'partiality' (favoritism), see Deut 1: 17) carry / lift) in the Torah (law).

      "Have we not One Father?"....
      Discussion: the question is not referring to Jacob / Israel, although that is probably who the Jews would point to first, either him or Abraham. The prophet goes on to remind them that GOD was the Creator. And then:
      ... why "nib gab" (treachery / betray / deceit) every "be 'a hew" (brother / others), "le hal lel" (pollute / defile / profane / etc) the covenant (same word) of the fathers (same word, plural)

      "ba ge dah" (treacherously (same root)) Judah, and "we to w 'e bah" (abomination / detestable) "ne 'es tah" (made / observed) in Israel and Jerusalem - for "hil lel" (profane / defiled (same root)) Judah "qo des" (holy / holy place (includes 'sanctuary')) of YHWH which "'a heb" (love / loves), "'u ba 'al" (marry / married) "bat" (daughter) "'el' (god) "ne kar" (foreign).

      This verse references the problems just described, and is apparently a statement from either the prophet, or a comment from the scribe. In either case, it shows that at least some of the people didn't like the goings on.
      Paraphrase: May YHWH remove the man who knowingly and willingly does this from the nation and who brings an offering to the Lord.

      "we zot" (and this) "se nit" (as well / in addition)
      paraphrase, then discussion: you cover the altar with tears and crying and 'theatrical mourning' ....
      The verse is saying that their fake religious expressions are the reason YHWH isn't listening to them any more.

      you say why....
      discussion: part of their problems involve the marital relationship. Here the prophet is reminding them of who instituted marriage in general and theirs in particular, and now, back to the verse already in progress.
      the 'wife of your youth / early life', with whom "ba gad tah" ('acted' treacherously) "bah" (against) - 'yet she is' "ha ber te kah" (consort / companion), and your wife (same word) by "be re te ka" (covenant).
      At least one of the translations adds a bit of language that is NOT in the Hebrew, stating that his wife has 'remained faithful to him'. It's a nice thought, but, that isn't there.

      discussion. There's a key phrase here that is sometimes missed due to the 'marriage counseling' aspect of this series of verses. And every translation has something different for this verse. We're going to take a look at a bare handful of words and let the rest of it go and somebody else can sort it out...
      and "se 'ar" (remnant / remainder (includes 'residue') of the "ru ah" (spirit (implies 'Spirit') "low" ('to' him).
      The implication here is that the People, have part of the Spirit, which is how the 'two become one' in the eyes of God. As for what the 'treachery' of the people do to that, well.

      In short: God hates divorce. You're better off not going there.

      Paraphrase: You weary YHWH with your words. You say 'how have we?' 'you say everyone who does evil is good and he likes them'

((( NO, we did not lift that from today's commentary on modern 'woke' society.
This is Malachi, about 400 BC.
      "where is the God of justice?"

end chapter 2

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."
- Thomas Jefferson

Selected Sources for this chapter:

Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations

Encyclopedia article about the Cohen priests

Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages: We'll change this link as we change books.

the Geneva Bible downloadable

the 1611 KJV

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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