1. The burden of the Word of YHWH to Israel by the hand of Mal’akhi:
Burden: oracle or utterance.
2. “‘I have loved you,’ said YHWH. ‘But you said, “In what [way] have you loved us?” [Okay.] Wasn’t Esau a brother to Yaaqov? Yet I loved Yaaqov
You: plural in Hebrew. Loved: better, favored or preferred, when a choice between the two was necessary.
3. “‘while I hated Esau, and have transformed his mountains into a desolation and given his inherited property to the great lizards of the uninhabited land.
Great lizards: possibly something like the Komodo dragon or iguana; an alternate translation is “jackals”. Either way, it is overrun by wild desert-dwellers. The female form is used here.
4. “‘If Edom should say, “We are intensely beaten down, but we will make a comeback and rebuild the ruins!” [then] this is what YHWH [the Master] of Armies says: “They may rebuild, but I will tear down, and they will be called the territory of wickedness, the ethnic group [with] whom YHWH is indignant until the Age.
Master of Armies: i.e., “General”! Edom was later a code name for Rome, partly due to some actual physical intermixing, and as such represents the Church, which, like Esau, is a brother to Israel, but is not YHWH’s chosen. It says it will be the one to rebuild the ruins, but YHWH says Israel will have that honor, if obedient. (Yeshayahu 58:12-14) They may rebuild: This is why YHWH allowed the Church to prosper, but this does not mean it has His blessing. (Psalm 92:7) Will be called: He has names for Israel as well: “repairer of the breach, restorer of streets to dwell in.” Edom is stepping outside her authorization by trying to get its forfeited birthright back.
5. “‘Then your eyes will see, and you will say, “May YHWH be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”
6. “‘A son honors his father and a servant his master. So if I am a Father, where is My respect? And if I am a Master, where is the fear of Me?’ [is what] YHWH [the Master] of Armies says to you, the priests who consider My Name to be of no value. Yet you have said, ‘In what [way] have we considered Your Name to be of no value?’
Honors: literally, treats as important—the opposite of “of no value” (or “lightweight”). If one lightens the weight of the covering that is over him, it will more easily blow away, and he will no longer receive benefit from it. But if one pushes through and bears the weight, he will carry more weight in the eyes of the one he is working for. They are not taking him seriously enough, but do not have a clue what He is talking about. How much harder is it for modern people to understand this analogy? Fear: the whole gamut from awe to respect to terror, as resides in any slave who knows he could easily earn a beating if he displeases his master. Priests: Held to an even higher standard than the rest of the Levites.
7. “‘[By] bringing desecrated bread onto My altar! Yet you say, “In what [way] have we desecrated You?” When you say, “The table of YHWH—it’s contemptible!”
Table of YHWH: another way of describing the altar (Y’hezq’el 41:22), with the connection being that the priests eat of the offerings that are brought there. Contemptible: cheap, not worth the time or effort; the same word is used for what Esau thought of his birthright (Gen. 25:34)
8. “‘And whenever you bring near the blind to be slaughtered—isn’t there something wrong [with that]? And whenever you bring the limping or the diseased-- isn’t there something wrong [with that]? Try presenting that to your governor! Will he be pleased with you, or will he lift your faces?’, says YHWH, [Master of] Armies.
Bring near: A clue as to what was going on, for it is not the priests who bring the animal to be slaughtered, but rather deal with it after the offered kills it, and take the appropriate parts up to the altar. (v. 7) It is their responsibility to uphold the standard of what Israel is to bring to YHWH’s altar, and by accepting deformed animals instead of only allowing healthy ones (Ex. 12:5; Lev. 1:3 et al), they are counted as complicit with the “worshippers” who are proving not to consider YHWH very important and may even doubt that He exists, since they are bringing something they know they would not get away with giving to a human ruler. Thus they themselves set the stage for their own complaint that there is no pleasure in eating from this table. (v. 7) By putting up with second best or leftovers, they guarantee that their own food will be tainted. Now the Levites themselves are acting no better than Esau (v. 2), the man of the world (compare Gen. 25:27 with Mat. 13:38) who lived for his belly and settled for less than what YHWH intended for the firstborn—for whom the Levites are also substitutes. (Ex. 13:13; 22:29; Num. 3:12ff). Lift your faces: an idiom whose meaning becomes appallingly clearer in verse 9:
9. “‘And now, please beg Elohim [to the point of making yourself sick] that he may show us favor.’ While this comes from your hands? Won’t He lift your faces off you?
10. “‘Who is there among you who would even shut the doors, so you wouldn’t light up My altar for nothing? I have no delight in you,’ says YHWH [the Master of] Armies, ‘and I will not accept a tribute from your hands!
Doors: where the offerings are to be brought. (Lev. 1:3) YHWH says that if they are going to do things the wrong way (see note on v. 8), they might as well just quit bringing any at all. If the people are bringing the wrong kinds of animals, the Levites should not even let them in the door.
11. “‘Because from the sunrise as far as [where] it sets, My Name is important among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is brought near for My name along with a pure tribute, because My Name is great among the nations,’ says YHWH [the Master of] Armies.
12. “‘But you are profaning it when you say, “The table of YHWH is desecrated along with what comes from it; His food is contemptible!”
Profaning: treating it as nothing special. Desecrated: from the same word as “avenged”, so they may be saying, “We see nothing wrong with what we are doing. Serves them right for lowering the standards.”
13. “‘You have also said, “Look how wearying!” and you have sighed [over] it,’ says YHWH [the Master of] Armies. ‘And you bring what was seized by force and the lame and the diseased, when you bring the tribute! Can I accept this from your hand?’ says YHWH.
Wearying: or even, “This causes us hardship!” Sighed over: sneered at, sniffed at, i.e., made to exhale as if to clear the smell out of one’s nose.
14. “‘But cursed be the [knavish] deceiver when there is a male in his flock and he vows [it], but [then] slaughters for YHWH something that is decaying, because I am an important King!’ says YHWH [the Master of] Armies, ‘and My Name is held in awe among the nations.
The Gentiles are treating Him with more respect than Israel is! This is one of the worst insults they could hear, but it is to jar them awake, because they are taking Him for granted. Males are fewer in most flocks, being used mainly for breeding, so people would be more hesitant to part with the healthiest ones.
1. “‘And now, this command is to you, the priests:
2. “‘If you will not listen and will not take it to heart, to give weight to My name,’ says YHWH [Master of] Armies, ‘then I will send a curse on you and will curse your blessings, and indeed I have [already] cursed her, because you did not take it to heart.
Curse your blessings: possibly by having them use lesser names substituted for His which stem from pagan sources and give glory to other elohim without the one who blesses knowing it—as has indeed been the case for so long. LXX, scatter your blessing.
3. “‘Here I am—making the seed decay, and I will spread feces on your faces—the offal of your feasts—and [someone] will lift you up toward them.
Lift you up: or, carry you away. Offal of your feasts: either the excrement of the animals sacrificed then, or the idea that the feasts they had created in lieu of His were such a stench in His nostrils.
4. “‘Then you will know that I have sent this command to you [in order] to be My covenant with Levi,’ says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
The covenant with Levi was confirmed and made permanent with Pin’has. (Num. 25:11-13)
5. “‘My covenant with them was life and peace, and I gave them to him as fear and he was fearing Me, and the presence of My Name caused him to go to pieces.
The covenant with Pin’has is called a covenant of peace. (Num. 25:12)
6. “‘True instruction was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. In completeness and uprightness he walked, and he turned many back from crookedness,
7. “‘because the lips of a priest should protect knowledge, and they should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
This emphasizes that the priests are intended to be the experts on the Torah, to whom people come for clarification and rulings on matters too difficult for lower courts. (Deut. 17:8-12)
8. “‘But you have turned aside from the path; you have caused many to stumble on the Torah! You have spoiled the covenant of Levi,’ says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
9. “‘So I, too, have made you to be regarded with contempt and lowered in station for the whole people, according to the word that none of you is guarding My paths, but are lifting up faces in the Torah.’”
Lifting up faces: showing favoritism where it is not warranted; LXX, been partial. (Compare Yaaqov 2:1ff.)
10. Don’t we all have one father? Didn’t one Elohim create us [all]? Why should a man deal treacherously against his brother, [which serves] to profane the covenant of our ancestors?
It appears that this is Mal’akhi’s response to YHWH’s words as he continues speaking to the people.
11. Yehudah has acted treacherously and a disgusting thing has been done in Israel and in Yerushalayim, because Yehudah has profaned YHWH’s set-apart [place] which He loves, and married the daughter of an alien elohim!
Married: taken possession of; rather than being taken, this was the choice of Yehudah, not something forced on them. The Hebrew term is ba’al, the name of many Phoenician-Babylonian deities, so there is a play on words as well.
12. May YHWH cut off from the tents of Yaaqov the one who does it—the one who incites and the one who responds, and whoever brings near a tribute to YHWH [the Master] of Armies!
13. And this is a second thing you have begun to do: to cover YHWH’s altar with tears, with crying and groaning since [He] is still not countenancing the tribute nor taking it from your hand with delight.
14. Yet you say, “On account of what?” [It is] on account of [the fact that] YHWH has been the witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and the woman of your covenant.
The “wife” of the priests is the Torah, and while they individually may not have been divorcing their wives (though they could have been), they had forsaken His covenant.
15. And didn’t He make [you] one? And what breath remains belongs to Him. And what is the one to try to find? A seed of Elohim! So keep a guard on your breath, and do not deal treacherously with the wife of your youth,
Breath: or spirit.
16. because YHWH the Elohim of Israel says [that} He hates [your] casting [them] out, “and having spread violence over his garment,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies. So keep a guard on your breath, and do not act treacherously!
Literally, He hates to cast out/dismiss/divorce. LXX, “If you hate [your wife] and put her away, then impiety will cover your thoughts…so take heed to your spirit, and forsake them not!”
17. You have made YHWH weary by your words. Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” By your saying, “Every evildoer is right in YHWH’s eyes and He takes delight in them” or, “Where is the Elohim of Judgment?”
Your words: possibly referring to the “breath” we are to guard. (vv. 15-16) These are the very things that are said so often today that YHWH must again be wearied. The unrepentant are counted as just as well-favored by the “G-d who loves everyone the same” and who has mercy on everyone no matter whether they turn from their sin or not. The priests were “guaranteeing atonement” to people who brought the wrong things to YHWH. They are falsely representing Him, just like those today who say He will forgive anyone and judge no one.
1. “Here I am, sending My messenger, and he will clear the road before Me, and suddenly the Master for whom you are asking will come to His Temple with the messenger of the covenant whom you delight [to wish for]! Indeed, he is coming!”, says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
Clear the road: or, cause the road to turn. If the sons of Tzadoq would not rise to their calling, YHWH would send a tzadiq (righteous one) to carry out His will. In the first fulfillment of this prophecy, He did choose one who was a rightful priest yet denied his place because of corrupt usurpers to the position. Yochanan the Immerser came in the “spirit and power of Eliyahu” (Luke 1:17; see v. 23 below.) Are we to be the next ones to fulfill this role?
2. “But who can endure the day of his coming? And who is the one [who will be] standing when he appears? Because he is like a smelter’s fire, and like a fuller’s lye.
The return of the Messiah will not be what people expect. It will not be a painless transition, but unless we are willing to enter into this spirit of purging, we will not arrive at his Kingdom. Smelter: one who puts metal ore through very hot fire to test it and prove its strength. Fuller: one who makes a sheep’s wool “full” by shrinking it with water, stomping on it, pressing it out, and cleaning it with lye (a full-strength, caustic soap).
3. “And he has sat down like one who tests and purifies silver, and he will purge the sons of Levi and distil them like gold and like silver so that they may come to be ones who bring a tribute near to YHWH the right way.
Distil: to purify and refine by straining. After these processes are complete, these metals are more durable and malleable, withstand corrosion better, are more capable of high polish, can undergo change without breaking, and can be hammered out as thin as wire. As we purge our lives of leaven at the feast of Unleavened Bread, in our day YHWH wants to purge all Israel (and especially the priesthood, which according to Yeshayahu 66:21 may include some from other tribes than Levi) of everything not conducive to His sole reign on earth. Also, YHWH intends the priesthood, who again have intermarried with pagans as in Ezra 10, to get back to being a pure lineage.
4. “Then the tribute of Yehudah and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to YHWH as in days of long ago and in the most ancient years.
Tribute: Heb., minkhah, the same term used for the grain offering in Torah. This is the only form of sanctuary offering that has survived to our day since we do not have an altar. It is what we carry over to our table fellowship. This is what pleases YHWH most, when we do so in the ways He has prescribed. (v. 22) Long ago: Heb., olam, which at root means “hidden”—i.e., so long ago that it is out of sight. But though we have not seen such offerings for a long time, it is still possible, if we make the right distinctions and the right choices today (v. 18), and that begins, per v. 22, with remembering them. The most ancient offering that YHWH accepted was that of Hevel. (Gen. 4:4) As we make definite efforts to please Him, He works in us further to make us even more pleasing to Him. (Mat. 25:29)
5. “And I have approached you for [the purpose of] judging [you in court], and I have become a quick witness against those who practice witchcraft and who commit adultery and those who swear to the deception and who defraud the hired wage-earner, the widow, and the fatherless, who mislead the newcomer, and are not afraid of Me,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
Mislead: literally, turn or influence, even thrust away. They send the one who does not know the Hebrew language or customs in a direction that will put them unknowingly at a disadvantage. Newcomer: or guest, sojourner, foreign visitor who wants to stay among Israel to learn about YHWH. Not afraid of Me: i.e., they do not expect there to be consequences for their actions. All of the sins listed here are against our neighbors, not against YHWH as such. But how they are following the social laws of Israel is the litmus test for whether they truly respect Him.
6. “It is because I am YHWH and I do not change that you sons of Yaaqov have not come to an end!
7. “Ever since the days of your ancestors you have avoided the boundaries that I prescribed and not guarded them. Return to Me, and I will return to you!”, says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
He is not the one who has left; we are, and He will not return until we take the first step.
8. “Can a human being rob Elohim? Yet you are robbing Me. Since you have said, ‘In what [way] have we robbed You?’, [it’s in] the tithes and contributions [that you do so].
9. “You are cursed with a curse because you are robbing Me—the whole nation!
Compare Haggai 1:6, which is followed by a call to build YHWH’s House before we enhance our own houses. By not providing for His servants, we are counted as stealing from Him.
10. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so there will be food in My House, and please test Me in this,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies, “if I will not open up the sluices of the sky when I have emptied out for you a blessing to the point of [your] not having the capacity [to catch it all].
Whole tithe: not just 10%, but the additional 10% for the festival of Sukkoth and the 10% due every third year for the storehouses administered by the Levites to provide for widows, orphans, and sojourners. (Deut. 26:12) Contributions: These are not even required in specific amounts like the tithes are, but if they are lacking, it shows where our heart is. If we give above and beyond the requirement, it shows that we are “cheerful givers”. (2 Cor. 9:7) But there is much more to it than crops—or, in the modern remembrance, money. In verse 6, we are called the sons of Yaaqov. Yaaqov gave a tithe to YHWH of everything he had (Gen. 28:22), the most important of which were his descendants, so we ourselves are the tithe that counts most to Him. A tithe of a congregation is one person. Even if we gave 100% of all we had, we would still each only be a tenth. This is one of the chief ways we can repent for the sins of our ancestors while we still have no altar or priesthood. Your gifts are given to you to give back to Israel, as each was to gather what he thought would be enough manna, but then pool it and let it be measured back out by the true omer. (Ex. 16) Do not bury your talents. The Word of YHWH is a great treasure. (Psalm 119) His Word is alive; each of us sees a different aspect of it. Find it and bring that into the storehouse! If it is not a fitting interpretation, it will be screened out as the priests did to the wood, animals, oil, and other contributions to the Temple. Take that risk; do not withhold it. If you do, and what you have is needed, you have robbed the whole nation. Not have the capacity: But physical blessings can easily distract us from the more important ones. We need to redefine how we think of blessings. Learn how to put the proper value on each thing so that we will not be deceived; just because nickels are bigger than dimes does not mean they are worth more. That is a big part of what the Counting of the Omer (the seven weeks between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Shavuoth) is for. Through His teachers YHWH is pouring out more than we can digest all at once, so we need to come back and listen again and again so we can internalize more of it.
11. “I will also stop the devourer so he will not cause the fruits of the ground to spoil for you, nor will your vine abort [the grapes] into the field for you,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
Stop: with His word; literally, rebuke or reprove.
12. “And all the nations will cause you to advance, because you will be called a land in which one delights,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
13. “Your words about Me have been severe,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies. “Yet you have said, ‘How have we spoken against You?’
14. “You have said, ‘Serving Elohim is worthless!’ and, ‘What benefit do we [receive] for having guarded what He wants guarded and for having walked mournfully from the presence of YHWH [the Master] of Armies?
Benefit: gain or profit, breaking something off and getting away with it. Mournfully: literally, darkly, having been blackened. To these people everything is measured by the “bottom line” and “what’s in it for them”. Both Christianity and Judaism have their own ordinances, and often serve tradition instead of YHWH’s actual instructions.
15. “‘--to the point that we now call the insolent “progressive”! Not only are those who deal wickedly built up; they have even put YHWH to the test and gotten away with it!’”
Built up: or, established, made permanent. They have tested the limits to see how far they could go. His long-lasting mercy makes them think they will get away with these things forever. (Rom. 2:4) We each have our own ways of doing this. Christians claim all is forgiven and the Torah is obsolete. Some rabbis think YHWH has abdicated His authority and left it in their hands (according to the Talmud).
16. At that point, those who feared YHWH spoke to one another—[each] man to his fellow—and YHWH took notice and began to listen, and a memorial document was recorded in His presence for those fearing YHWH and for those who took His Name into account.
They recognized their error and apparently confessed their sins to one another. Those who feared YHWH: who were not trying to get away with the things mentioned above. He paid attention to it, though they were not speaking directly to Him, but to one another. They were loving their neighbors as themselves, as He had commanded, and He counted that as success. His name: can also imply His reputation, but not to the exclusion of remembering His proper Name itself. For this their names are memorialized by Him in return. If we make Him our treasure, He will make us His:
17. And YHWH [the Master] of Armies says, “They will belong to Me for the day when I will prepare My specially-treasured possession, and I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who works for him [like a servant].
Have compassion: could mean to take pity or spare, but here the “passion” aspect of compassion (the strong feeling) is emphasized. Those who give their treasures to the storehouse of His people will themselves become the treasure!
18. “When you come back, you will see [a distinction] between what is right and what is wrong, and between those who serve YHWH and those who do not serve Him.
What is right and what is wrong: or, the righteous and the wicked. (Contrast verses 14-15.) As we stop spiritualizing everything and come back to the literal, physical commands as well as what they symbolize, the distinction is quite simply defined: serving YHWH vs. serving self.
19. [4:1 in most non-Hebrew Bibles] “Because look! Here comes the Day—burning like a furnace, and all the insolent—and everyone who perpetrates wickedness—[will be the] kindling-material, and the Day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies, “in a way that will leave them neither root nor [shady] branch.
Insolent: or arrogant, proud, presumptuous.
20. “But for you who respect My Name, the sun of righteousness has broken forth with healing in her wings, and you will come out and frisk about like calves [from] the stall,
Frisk about: implies having plenty of space to move about freely. (Compare Iyov/Job 36:16; Psalm 18:19.) The sun with wings was a common motif in Egypt, symbolic of Akhen-Aten, the deity of healing, but mainly worshipped by the cult associated with the only monotheistic Pharaoh in Egypt’s history, which may be why it was allowed to carry over into Israelite culture. Its association with kings was probably what predisposed the woman who needed healing to reason that if Y’shua was indeed the rightful heir to David’s throne, there must be “healing in his wings”. But this does not mean he was someone who would fly like a bird, depicting a king in grandiose terms like the Egyptians did. As a Jew, she understood it in a much more down-to-earth manner—as the “hem” of Y’shua’s garment (also called the “wing” in Hebrew), where His tzitziyoth were attached (per the Hebrew version of Mat. 9:20, based on Num. 15:38-39) and she was indeed healed, apparently because she was counting on this very promise. But this was carried far beyond its intent, and used to prove that Y’shua must be deity. David compares the sun to a bridegroom in Psalm 19:4-6. So there is some merit to this, but the Hebrew term for “sun” can be either masculine or feminine, and here “wings” clearly has a feminine possessive ending, indicating that we must look beyond simply the Messiah for its fulfillment. It is a “bride” is who is being rewarded here for her faithfulness, so our emphasis should be more on doing our part to bring about these conditions than the part the Messiah has carried out. Bivin and Blizzard see Matithyahu 11:12 as an allusion to this verse.
21. “and you will trample down the wicked, and they will be ashes [strewn about] beneath the soles of your feet on the Day that I am preparing,” says YHWH [the Master] of Armies.
Ashes: or dust (i.e., pulverized).
22. “Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant, which I commanded him at Khorev in regard to all of Israel—the prescribed customs and legal procedures.
The first two things Moshe told the whole nation of Israel, recently released from slavery, to remember are the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 13:3), as we especially do at Passover, and the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8). Thus the Sabbath and YHWH's appointed times are keys to how we keep the memory alive. Zaqar (remember) also means "mention". We can only do a portion of what was commanded, but we do our best to reenact and recount YHWH's deeds and commands to our children, so we can remember the rest. The reason to remember is not for entertainment or because it is specifically our heritage as descendants of Israel (though it is both of these things), but so that we can bring YHWH what pleases Him (v. 4).
23. “Look here! I am sending you Eliyahu the prophet before the great and terrifying Day of YHWH comes,
Terrifying: or awe-inspiring. This prophecy has at least two fulfillments. One, Y’shua said, could have been fulfilled if Yehudah had accepted His message (Mat. 11:14), in accord with the “spirit and power of Eliyahu”—the “office” of Eliyahu, in which the messenger said Yochanan the Immerser would operate. (Luke 1:17) His task was to turn many back to YHWH the Father and (in place of the phrase "hearts of the sons onto their fathers” in v. 24, and thus explaining it) “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for YHWH”. And the spirit of “Eliyahu” (meaning “YHWH is my Elohim”), who will "restore all things", is what is returning even now, with the spirit of his successor Elisha (“My Elohim will deliver”) to follow.
24. “and he will turn the heart of the fathers back to sons, and the heart of sons to their fathers, lest I should come back and slap the Land under a ban.”
Sons: It does not specify “their sons”, as it does “their fathers”, suggesting that it applies to any who will take on the role of Israelite, as has always been permitted. (Ex. 12:49 et al) Today the norm is rebellion on the part of sons against their fathers’ ways, but we need to instead raise children thankful for discipline so they can be mature and take their place as those who will lead the world to the knowledge of YHWH. Walking in Torah is the way to do both, when our attitude is loving, kind, and full of honor and reverence for what is worth emulating. When we set the stage for our children to do even better than we, they will turn from the attractive foreign influences that appear “enlightened” but really are not. We are judged by our fruit, and our sons are the most literal instance of that. A ban: A special term for setting something cordoned off and devoted to complete destruction—the same word from which the Arabs derive “harem”. It was off limits to His people for many centuries, but once the dust clears, if His Land will not be made holy in a positive sense, it will still be off limits to anyone but Him. After we have taken several steps forward out of our “Egypt” and we have come to a clearer knowledge of Messiah that lines up better with the Torah, why do so many wish to go back into bondage to men’s traditions?