Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The rebuke administered to the priests for their wicked doings is followed by an announcement of the punishment which they will bring upon themselves in case they should not observe the admonition, or render to the Lord the reverence due to His name when discharging the duties of their office. Mal 2:1. "And now, ye priests, this commandment comes to you. Mal 2:2. If ye do not hear and lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, saith Jehovah of hosts, I send against you the curse and curse your blessings, yea I have cursed them, because ye will not lay it to heart. Mal 2:3. Behold I rebuke your arm, and scatter dung upon your face, the dung of your feasts, and they will carry you away to it. Mal 2:4. And ye will perceive that I have sent this commandment to you, that it may be my covenant with Levi, saith Jehovah of hosts." Mal 2:1. introduces the threat; this is called mitsvâh, a command, not as a commission which the prophet received, for the speaker is not the prophet, but Jehovah Himself; nor as "instruction, admonition, or warning," for mitsvâh has no such meaning. Mitsvâh is rather to be explained from tsivvâh in Nah 1:14. The term command is applied to that which the Lord has resolved to bring upon a person, inasmuch as the execution or accomplishment is effected by earthly instruments by virtue of a divine command.
The reference is to the threat of punishment which follows in Mal 2:2 and Mal 2:3, but which is only to be carried out in case the priests do not hear and lay to heart, namely, the warning which the Lord has addressed to them through Malachi (Mal 1:6-13), and sanctify His name by their service. If they shall not do this, God will send the curse against them, and that in two ways. In the first place He will curse their blessings; in fact, He has already done so. Berâkhōth, blessings, are obviously not the revenues of the priests, tithes, atonement-money, and portions of the sacrifices (L. de Dieu, Ros., Hitzig), but the blessings pronounced by the priests upon the people by virtue of their office. These God will curse, i.e., He will make them ineffective, or turn them into the very opposite. וגם ארותיה is not a simple, emphatic repetition, but ארותי is a perfect, which affirms that the curse has already taken effect. The emphatic vegam, and also, and indeed, also requires this. The suffix ה attached to ארותי is to be taken distributively: "each particular blessing." In the second place God will rebuke את־הזּרע, i.e., the seed. But since the priests did not practise agriculture, it is impossible to see how rebuking the seed, i.e., causing a failure of the corps, could be a punishment peculiar to the priests. We must therefore follow the lxx, Aquila, Vulg., Ewald, and others, and adopt the pointing הזּרע, i.e., the arm. Rebuking the arm does not mean exactly "laming the arm," nor manifesting His displeasure in any way against the arm, which the priests raised to bless (Koehler). For it was not the arm but the hand that was raised to bless (Lev 9:22; Luk 24:50), and rebuking signifies something more than the manifestation of displeasure. It is with the arm that a man performs his business or the duties of his calling; and rebuking the arm, therefore, signifies the neutralizing of the official duties performed at the altar and in the sanctuary. Moreover, God will also deliver them up to the most contemptuous treatment, by scattering dung in their faces, namely, the dung of their feasts. Chaggı̄m, feasts, is used metonymically for festal sacrifices, or the sacrificial animals slain at the festivals (cf. Psa 118:27). The dung of the sacrificial animals was to be carried away to an unclean place outside the camp and burned there, in the case of the sin-offerings, upon an ash-heap (Lev 4:12; Lev 16:27; Exo 29:14). Scattering dung in the face was a sign and figurative description of the most ignominious treatment. Through the expression "dung of your festal sacrifices," the festal sacrifices offered by these priests are described as being themselves dung; and the thought is this: the contempt of the Lord, which they show by offering blind or lame animals, or such as are blemished in other ways, He will repay to them by giving them up to the greatest ignominy. The threat is strengthened by the clause ונשׂא אתכם אליו, which has been interpreted, however, in different ways. The Vulgate, Luther ("and shall remain sticking to you"), Calvin, and others take peresh as the subject to נשׂא: "the dung will draw the priests to itself, so that they will also become dung." But נשׂא has no such meaning; we must therefore leave the subject indefinite: they (man) will carry you away, or sweep you away to it, i.e., treat you as dung. When they should be treated in this ignominious manner, then would they perceive that the threatening had come from the Lord. "This commandment (mitsvâh) is the mitsvâh mentioned in Mal 2:1. The infinitive clause which follows announces the purpose of God, in causing this threat to come to pass. But the explanation of these words is a disputed point, since we may either take berı̄thı̄ (my covenant) as the subject, or supply hammitsvâh (the commandment) from the previous clause. In the first case ("that my covenant may be with Levi") the meaning could only be, that the covenant with Levi may continue. But although hâyâh does indeed mean to exist, it does not mean to continue, or be maintained. We must therefore take hammitsvâh as the subject, as Luther, Calvin, and others have done ("that it, viz., my purpose, may be my covenant with Levi"). Koehler adopts this, and has explained it correctly thus: "They will perceive that just as Jehovah has hitherto regulated His conduct towards Levi by the terms of His covenant, which was made with it at the time of its departure from Egypt, so will He henceforth let it be regulated by the terms of the decree of punishment which He has resolved upon now, so that this decree of punishment takes the place, as it were, of the earlier covenant." Lēvı̄ is the tribe of Levi, which culminated in the priesthood. The attitude of God towards the priests is called a covenant, inasmuch as God placed them in a special relation to Himself by choosing them for the service of the sanctuary, which not only secured to them rights and promises, but imposed duties upon them, on the fulfilment of which the reception of the gifts of divine grace depended (vid., Deu 10:8-9; Deu 33:8-10; Num 18:1., Num 25:10.).
To explain and show the reason for this thought, the real nature of the covenant made with Levi is described in Mal 2:5-7; and Mal 2:8 and Mal 2:9 then show how the priests have neutralized this covenant by forsaking the way of their fathers, so that God is obliged to act differently towards them now, and deliver them up to shame and ignominy. Mal 2:5. "My covenant was with him life and salvation, and I lent them to him for fear, and he feared me and trembled before my name. Mal 2:6. Law of truth was in his mouth and there was no perversity on his lips, he walked with me in salvation and integrity, and brought back many from guilt. Mal 2:7. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and men seek law from his mouth, because he is a messenger of Jehovah." In Mal 2:5 החיּים והשּׁלום are the nominative of the predicate. "My covenant was with him life," etc., means, my covenant consisted in this, that life and salvation were guaranteed and granted to him. The elliptical mode of explaining it, viz., "my covenant was a covenant of life and salvation," gives the same sense, only there is no analogous example by which this ellipsis can be vindicated, since such passages as Num 25:12; Gen 24:24, and Hos 14:3, which Hitzig adduces in support of it, are either of a different character, or different in their meaning. Shâlōm, salvation (peace), is the sum of all the blessings requisite for wellbeing. Jehovah granted life and salvation to Levi, i.e., to the priesthood, for fear, viz., as the lever of the fear of God; and Levi, i.e., the priesthood of the olden time, responded to this divine intention. "He feared me." Nichath is the niphal not of nâchath, he descended, i.e., humbled himself (Ewald, Reincke), but of châthath, to terrify, to shake, which is frequently met with in connection with (e.g., Deu 31:8; Jos 1:9; Jer 1:17). Hos 14:5 and Hos 14:6 state how Levi preserved this fear both officially and in life. Tōrath 'ĕmeth (analogous to mishpat 'ĕmeth in Zac 7:9) is instruction in the law consisting in truth. Truth, which had its roots in the law of Jehovah, was the rule not only of his own conduct, but also and more especially of the instruction which he had to give to the people (cf. Mal 2:7). The opposite of 'ĕmeth is ‛avlâh, perversity, conduct which is not regulated by the law of God, but by selfishness or sinful self-interest. Grammatically considered, the feminine ‛avlâh is not the subject to נמצא, but is construed as the object: "they found not perversity" (cf. Ges. 143, 1, b; Ewald, 295, b). Thus he walked in peace (salvation) and integrity before God. Beshâlōm is not merely in a state of peace, or in peaceableness, nor even equivalent to בּלבב שׁלם (Kg2 20:3), but according to Mal 2:5, "equipped with the salvation bestowed upon him by God." The integritas vitae is affirmed in בּמישׁור. הלך את־יי, to walk with Jehovah, denotes the most confidential intercourse with God, or walking as it were by the side of God (see at Gen 5:22). Through this faithful discharge of the duties of his calling, Levi (i.e., the priesthood) brought many back from guilt or iniquity, that is to say, led many back from the way of sin to the right way, viz., to the fear of God (cf. Dan 12:3). But Levi did nothing more than what the standing and vocation of the priest required. For the lips of the priest should preserve knowledge. דעת is the knowledge of God and of His will as revealed in the law. These the lips of the priest should keep, to instruct the people therein; for out of the mouth of the priest men seek tōrâh, law, i.e., instruction in the will of God, because he is a messenger of Jehovah to the people. מלאך, the standing epithet for the angels as the heavenly messengers of God, is here applied to the priests, as it is in Hag 1:13 to the prophet. Whilst the prophets were extraordinary messengers of God, who proclaimed to the people the will and counsel of the Lord, the priests, by virtue of their office, were so to speak the standing or ordinary messengers of God. But the priests of that time had become utterly untrue to this vocation.
Mal 2:8. "But ye have departed from the way, have made many to stumble at the law, have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith Jehovah of hosts. Mal 2:9. Thus I also make you despised and base with all the people, inasmuch as ye do not keep my ways, and respect person in the law." הדּרך is the way depicted in Mal 2:6 and Mal 2:7, in which the priests ought to have walked. הכשׁלתּם בּתּורה does not mean "ye have caused to fall by instruction" (Koehler); for, in the first place, hattōrâh (with the article) is not the instruction or teaching of the priests, but the law of God; and secondly, ב with כּשׁל denotes the object against which a man stumbles and which causes him to fall. Hitzig has given the correct explanation: ye have made the law to many a מכשׁול, instead of the light of their way, through your example and through false teaching, as though the law allowed or commanded things which in reality are sin. In this way they have corrupted or overthrown the covenant with Levi. הלּוי, with the article, is not the patriarch Levi, but his posterity, really the priesthood, as the kernel of the Levites. Hence Jehovah also is no longer bound by the covenant, but withdraws from the priests what He granted to the Levi who was faithful to the covenant, viz., life and salvation (Mal 2:5), and makes them contemptible and base with all the people. This is simply a just retribution for the fact, that the priests depart from His ways and have respect to men. Battōrâh, in the law, i.e., in the administration of the law, they act with partiality. For the fact itself compare Mic 3:11.
Mal 2:10. "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? wherefore are we treacherous one towards another, to desecrate the covenant of our fathers? Mal 2:11. Judah acts treacherously, and abomination has taken place in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has desecrated the sanctuary of Jehovah, which He loves, and marries the daughter of a strange god. Mal 2:12. Jehovah will cut off, to the man that doeth this, wakers and answerers out of the tents of Jacob, and him that offereth sacrifices to Jehovah of hosts." Malachi adopts the same course here as in the previous rebuke, and commences with a general clause, from which the wrongfulness of marriages with heathen women and of frivolous divorces necessarily followed. The one father, whom all have, is neither Adam, the progenitor of all men, nor Abraham, the father of the Israelitish nation, but Jehovah, who calls Himself the Father of the nation in Mal 1:6. God is the Father of Israel as its Creator; not, however, in the general sense, according to which He made Israel the people of His possession. By the two clauses placed at the head, Malachi intends not so much to lay emphasis upon the common descent of all the Israelites, by virtue of which they form one united family in contrast with the heathen, as to say that all the Israelites are children of God, and as such spiritual brethren and sisters. Consequently every violation of the fraternal relation, such as that of which the Israelite was guilty who married a heathen woman, or put away an Israelitish wife, was also an offence against God, a desecration of His covenant. The idea that the expression "one father" refers to Abraham as the ancestor of the nation (Jerome, Calvin, and others), is precluded by the fact, that not only the Israelites, but also the Ishmaelites and Edomites were descended from Abraham; and there is no ground whatever for thinking of Jacob, because, although he had indeed given his name to Israel, he is never singled out as its ancestor. Nibhgad is the first pers. plur. imperf. kal, notwithstanding the fact that in other cases bâgad has cholem in the imperfect; for the niphal of this verb is never met with. The Israelite acted faithlessly towards his brother, both when he contracted a marriage with a heathen woman, and when he put away his Israelitish wife, and thereby desecrated the covenant of the fathers, i.e., the covenant which Jehovah made with the fathers, when He chose them from among the heathen, and adopted them as His covenant nation (Exo 19:5-6; Exo 24:8).
The reason for this rebuke is given in Mal 2:11, in a statement of what has taken place. In order the more emphatically to describe this as reprehensible, bâgedâh (hath dealt treacherously) is repeated and applied to the whole nation. Yehūdâh (Judah), construed as a feminine, is the land acting in its inhabitants. Then what has taken place is described as תּועבה, abomination, like idolatry, witchcraft, and other grievous sins (cf. Deu 13:15; Deu 18:9.), in which the name Israel is intentionally chosen as the holy name of the nation, to indicate the contrast between the holy vocation of Israel and its unholy conduct. In addition to Israel as the national name (= Judah) Jerusalem is also mentioned, as is frequently the case, as the capital and centre of the nation. What has occurred is an abomination, because Judah desecrates קדשׁ יי, i.e., neither the holiness of Jehovah as a divine attribute, nor the temple as the sanctuary, still less the holy state of marriage, which is never so designated in the Old Testament, but Israel as the nation which Jehovah loved. Israel is called qōdesh, a sanctuary or holy thing, as עם קדושׁ, which Jehovah has chosen out of all nations to be His peculiar possession (Deu 7:6; Deu 14:2; Jer 2:3; Psa 114:2; Ezr 9:2 : see Targ., Rashi, Ab. Ezra, etc.). Through the sin which it had committed, Judah, i.e., the community which had returned from exile, had profaned itself as the sanctuary of God, or neutralized itself as a holy community chosen and beloved of Jehovah (Koehler). To this there is appended, though not till the last clause, the statement of the abomination: Judah, in its individual members, has married the daughter of a strange god (cf. Ezr 9:2.; Neh 13:23.). By the expression בּת אל נכר the person married is described as an idolatress (bath, daughter = dependent). This involved the desecration of the holy calling of the nation. It is true that in the law it is only marriages with Canaanites that are expressly forbidden (Exo 34:16; Deu 7:3), but the reason assigned for this prohibition shows, that all marriages with heathen women, who did not give up their idolatry, were thereby denounced as irreconcilable with the calling of Israel (see at Kg1 11:1-2). This sin may God punish by cutting off every one who commits it. This threat of punishment (Mal 2:12) is indeed only expressed in the form of a wish, but the wish has been created by the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Very different and by no means satisfactory explanations have been given of the expression ער וענה, the waking one (ער the participle of עוּר) and the answering one, a proverbial description of the wicked man formed by the combination of opposites (on the custom of expressing totality by opposites, see Dietrich, Abhandlung zur hebr. Gramm. p. 201ff.), in which, however, the meaning of the word ער still continues a matter of dispute. The rabbinical explanation, which is followed by Luther, viz., teacher and scholar, is founded upon the meaning excitare given to the verb עוּר, and the excitans is supposed to be the teacher who stimulates by questioning and admonishing. But apart from all other reasons which tell against this explanation, it does not suit the context; for there is not a single word to indicate that the prophet is speaking only of priests who have taken foreign wives; on the contrary, the prophet accuses Judah and Jerusalem, and therefore the people generally, of being guilty of this sin. Moreover, it was no punishment to an Israelite to have no rabbi or teacher of the law among his sons. The words are at any rate to be taken more generally than this. The best established meaning is vigil et respondens, in which ער is taken transitively, as in Job 41:2 in the chethib, and in the Chaldee ער, watcher (Dan 4:10-13 and Dan 4:14-17), in the sense of vivus quisque. In this case the proverbial phrase would be taken from the night-watchman (J. D. Mich., Ros., Ges. Thes. p. 1004). It is no conclusive objection to this, that the words which follow, וּמגּישׁ מנחה, evidently stand upon the same line as ער וענה and must form part of the same whole, and therefore that ער וענה cannot of itself embrace the whole. For this conclusion is by no means a necessary one. If the two expressions referred to portions of the same whole, they could not well be separated from one another by מאהלי יעקב. Moreover, the limitation of ער וענה to the age of childhood founders upon the artificial interpretation which it is necessary to give to the two words. According to Koehler ער denotes the child in the first stage of its growth, in which it only manifests its life by occasionally waking up from its ordinary state of deep, death-like slumber, and ענה the more advanced child, which is able to speak and answer questions. But who would ever think of calling a child in the first weeks of its life, when it sleeps more than it wakes, a waker? Moreover, the sleep of an infant is not a "deep, death-like slumber." The words "out of the tents of Jacob," i.e., the houses of Israel, belong to יכרת. The last clause adds the further announcement, that whoever commits such abominations shall have no one to offer a sacrificial gift to the Lord. These words are not to be taken as referring to the priestly caste, as Hitzig supposes; but Jerome has given the correct meaning: "and whoever is willing to offer a gift upon the altar for men of this description." The meaning of the whole verse is the following: "May God not only cut off every descendant of such a sinner out of the houses of Israel, but any one who might offer a sacrifice for him in expiation of his sin."
Mal 2:13. "And this ye do a second time: cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping and signs, so that He does not turn any more to the sacrifice, and accept the well-pleasing thing at your hand. Mal 2:14. And ye say, Wherefore? Because Jehovah has been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, towards whom thou hast acted treacherously; whereas she is nevertheless thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. Mal 2:15. And not one did so who had still a remnant of spirit. And what (did) the one? He sought seed of God. Therefore shall ye take heed for your spirit, and deal not faithlessly to the wife of thy youth. Mal 2:16. For I hate divorce, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel; and he will cover wickedness over his garment, saith Jehovah of hosts. Thus shall ye take heed to your spirit, and not deal treacherously." In these verses the prophet condemns a second moral transgression on the part of the people, viz., the putting away of their wives. By shēnı̄th (as a second thing, i.e., for the second time) this sin is placed in the same category as the sin condemned in the previous verses. Here again the moral reprehensibility of the sin is described in Mal 2:11, before the sin itself is named. They cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, namely, by compelling the wives who have been put away to lay their trouble before God in the sanctuary. The inf. constr. introduces the more minute definition of זאת; and בּכי ואנקה is a supplementary apposition to דּמעה ot , added to give greater force to the meaning. מאין עוד, so that there is no more a turning (of Jehovah) to the sacrifice, i.e., so that God does not graciously accept your sacrifice any more (cf. Num 16:15). The following infinitive ולקחת is also dependent upon מאין, but on account of the words which intervene it is attached with ל . רצון , the good pleasure or satisfaction, used as abstractum pro concreto for the well-pleasing sacrifice. Mal 2:14. This sin also the persons addressed will not recognise. They inquire the reason why God will no more graciously accept their sacrifices, whereupon the prophet discloses their sin in the plainest terms. על־כּי = על־אשׁר, as in Deu 31:17; Jdg 3:12, etc. The words, "because Jehovah was a witness between thee and the wife of thy youth," cannot be understood as Ges., Umbreit, and Koehler assume, in accordance with Mal 3:5, as signifying that Jehovah had interposed between them as an avenging witness; for in that case העיד would necessarily be construed with ב, but they refer to the fact that the marriage took place before the face of God, or with looking up to God; and the objection that nothing is known of any religious benediction at the marriage, or any mutual vow of fidelity, is merely an argumentum a silentio, which proves nothing. If the marriage was a berı̄th 'Elōhı̄m (a covenant of God), as described in Pro 2:17, it was also concluded before the face of God, and God was a witness to the marriage. With the expression "wife of thy youth" the prophet appeals to the heart of the husband, pointing to the love of his youth with which the marriage had been entered into; and so also in the circumstantial clause, through which he brings to the light the faithless treatment of the wife in putting her away: "Yet she was thy companion, who shared thy joy and sorrow, and the wife of thy covenant, with whom thou didst made a covenant for life."
In Mal 2:15 the prophet shows still further the reprehensible character of the divorce, by rebutting the appeal to Abraham's conduct towards Hagar as inapplicable. The true interpretation of this hemistich, which has been explained in very different, and to some extent in very marvellous ways, is obvious enough if we only bear in mind that the subordinate clause וּשׁאר רוּח לו, from its very position and from the words themselves, can only contain a more precise definition of the subject of the principal clause. The affirmation "a remnant of spirit is (was) to him" does not apply to God, but only to man, as L. de Dieu has correctly observed. Rūăch denote here, as in Num 27:18; Jos 5:1; Kg1 10:5, not so much intelligence and consideration, as the higher power breathed into man by God, which determines that moral and religious life to which we are accustomed to give the name of virtue. By 'echâd (one), therefore, we cannot understand God, but only a man; and לא אחד (not any one = no one, not one man) is the subject of the sentence, whilst the object to עשׂה must be supplied from the previous sentence: "No man, who has even a remnant of reason, or of sense for right and wrong, has done," sc. what ye are doing, namely, faithlessly put away the wife of his youth. To this there is appended the objection: "And what did the one do?" which the prophet adduces as a possible exception that may be taken to his statement, for the purpose of refuting it. The words וּמה האחד are elliptical, the verb עשׂה, which may easily be supplied from the previous clause, being omitted (cf. Ecc 2:12). האחד, not unus aliquis, but the well-known one, whom it was most natural to think of when the question in hand was that of putting away a wife, viz., Abraham, who put away Hagar, by whom he had begotten Ishmael, and who was therefore also his wife (Genesis 21). The prophet therefore replies, that Abraham sought to obtain the seed promised him by God, i.e., he dismissed Hagar, because God promised to give him the desired posterity, not in Ishmael through the maid Hagar, but through Sarah in Isaac, so that in doing this he was simply acting in obedience to the word of God (Gen 21:12). After meeting this possible objection, Malachi warns his contemporaries to beware of faithlessly putting away their wives. The Vav before nishmartem is the Vav rel., through which the perfect acquires the force of a cohortative as a deduction from the facts before them, as in ועשׂית in Kg1 2:6 (see Ewald, 342, c). נשׁמר בּרוּחו is synonymous with נשׁמר בּנפשׁו in Jer 17:21, and this is equivalent to נשׁמר לנפשׁו in Deu 4:15 and Jos 23:11. The instrumental view of ב ("by means of the Spirit:" Koehler) is thus proved to be inadmissible. "Take heed to your spirit," i.e., beware of losing your spirit. We need not take rūăch in a different sense here from that in which it is used in the clause immediately preceding; for with the loss of the spiritual and moral vis vitae, which has been received from God, the life itself perishes. What it is that they are to beware of is stated in the last clause, which is attached by the simple copula (Vav), and in which the address passes from the second person into the third, to express what is affirmed as applying to every man. This interchange of thou (in wife of thy youth) and he (in יבגּד) in the same clause appears very strange to our mode of thought and speech; but it is not without analogy in Hebrew (e.g., in Isa 1:29; cf. Ewald, 319, a), so that we have no right to alter יבגּד into תּבגּד, since the ancient versions and the readings of certain codices do not furnish sufficient critical authority for such a change. The subject in יבגּד is naturally thought of as indefinite: any one, men. This warning is accounted for in Mal 2:16, first of all in the statement that God hates putting away. שׁלּח is the inf. constr. piel and the object to שׂנא: "the sending away (of a wife), divorce." שׂנא is a participle, the pronominal subject being omitted, as in maggı̄d in Zac 9:12, because it may easily be inferred from the following words: אמר יי (saith the Lord of hosts). The thought is not at variance with Deu 24:1., where the putting away of a wife is allowed; for this was allowed because of the hardness of their hearts, whereas God desires that a marriage should be kept sacred (cf. Mat 19:3. and the comm. on Deu 24:1-5). A second reason for condemning the divorce is given in the words וכסּה חמס על ל, which do not depend upon כּי שׂנא, but form a sentence co-ordinate to this. We may either render these words, "he (who puts away his wife) covers his garment with sin," or "sin covers his garment." The meaning is the same in either case, namely, that wickedness will adhere irremoveably to such a man. The figurative expression may be explained from the idea that the dress reflects the inward part of a man, and therefore a soiled garment is a symbol of uncleanness of heart (cf. Zac 3:4; Isa 64:5; Rev 3:4; Rev 7:14). With a repetition of the warning to beware of this faithlessness, the subject is brought to a close.
"Ye weary Jehovah with your words, and say, Wherewith do we weary? In that ye say, Every evil-doer is good in the eyes of Jehovah, and He takes pleasure in them, or where is the God of judgment?" The persons who are introduced as speaking here are neither the pious Israelites, who were not only pressed down by the weight of their heavy afflictions, but indignant at the prosperity of their godless countrymen, and were thus impelled to give utterance to despairing complaints, and doubts as to the justice of God (Theodoret); nor a middle class between the truly pious and perfectly godless, consisting of those who were led by a certain instinctive need to adopt the faith inherited from the fathers, and sought to fulfil the commandments of the moral law of God, but the foundations of whose faith and piety were not deep enough for them humbly to submit themselves to the marvellous ways of God, so that whenever the dealings of God did not correspond to their expectations, they lost their faith in Him and turned their backs upon Him (Koehler). The whole of the contents of this section are opposed to the first assumption. Those who murmured against God were, according to Mal 3:7., such as had departed like the fathers from the law of God and defrauded God in the tithes and heave-offerings, and with whom those who feared God are contrasted in Mal 2:16. Moreover, the reproach brought against them in Mal 2:17, "Ye weary Jehovah with your words," and in Mal 3:13, "Your words put constraint upon me," show that they do not belong to the righteous, who, while bending under the burden of temptation, appear to have raised similar complaints; as we read for example in Psalm 37; 49, 73. The second view is precluded by the absence, not only of every trace of the nation being divided into three classes, but also of every indication that those who murmured thus had endeavoured to fulfil the commandments of the moral law of God. The answer of the Lord to this murmuring is addressed to the whole nation as one which had departed from His commandments, and defrauded God with the tithes and sacrifices (Mal 3:7-8). The judgment which they wanted to see would fall, according to Mal 3:5, upon the sorcerers, adulterers, and other gross sinners; and in Mal 3:16-18 the only persons distinguished from these are the truly righteous who remember the name of the Lord. It clearly follows from this, that the feelings expressed in Mal 2:17 and Mal 3:13 were not cherished by the whole nation without exception, but only by the great mass of the people, in contrast with whom the small handful of godly men formed a vanishing minority, which is passed over in the attack made upon the spirit prevailing in the nation. This disposition vents itself in the words: Every one who does evil is good in the eyes of God, and Jehovah takes pleasure in the wicked. By עשׂה רע the murmurers mean, not notorious sinners in their midst, but the heathen who enjoyed undisturbed prosperity. To give a reason for this fancy, they inquire, Where is the God of judgment? או, "or," i.e., if this be not the case, as in Job 16:3; Job 22:11, why does not God punish the ungodly heathen? why does He not interpose as judge, if He has no pleasure in the wicked? Such speeches as these the prophet calls הוגע, a wearying of God (cf. Isa 43:23-24).