Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 30: Zechariah, Malachai, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
1. Quia ecce dies venit ardens tanquam clibanus; et erunt omnes superbi et omnes facientes iniquitatem stipula; et inflammabit eos dies qui venturus est, dicit Iehova exercituum, qui non relinquet illis radicem et ramum.
He confirms the previous verse, for he denounces ruin on all the reprobate and the despisers of God; and he also confirms what I have mentioned, — that he sets this threatening in opposition to the slanders which they commonly uttered against God, as though he had ceased to discharge his office as a Judge. Though indeed he speaks in the third person, yet he is not deficient in force when he says,
Behold, come shall the day, which shed consume all the ungodly, as a hernia oven the stubble. The comparison is very common which the Prophet uses, when he says, that the ungodly shall be like stubble: I trill not therefore quote passages which must be well known, and they are so many that there is no need to adduce here either two or three of them. The vengeance of God is also often compared to fire and to a flame; and we know how fierce and how dreadful an element is fire, when it lays hold on wood or some other dry material. Hence according to the common usage of Scripture, the Prophet says, that the day of the Lord would be like an oven, and that the ungodly would be like stubble. The demonstrative particle, Behold, shows certainty, Behold, I come. The present time is put here for the future, a common thing in Hebrew. But the Prophet called the attention of the Jews as it were to what was present, that his prophecy might not appear doubtful, and that they might understand that God’s vengeance was not far distant, but already suspended over their heads.
There is however a question as to the day which he points out. The greater part think that the Prophet speaks of the last coming of Christ, which seems not to me probably. It is indeed true that these and similar expressions, which everywhere occur in Scripture, have not their full accomplishment in this world; but God so suspends his judgements, as yet never to withhold from giving evidences of them that the godly may have some props to their faith: for if God gave no specimen or proof of his providence, it would immediately occur to our minds, that there is to be no judgement; but he sets before us some examples, that we may learn that he will some time be the judge of the world. It seems then to me more probable, that the Prophet speaks here of the renovation of the Church: for the wrath of God was then at length more kindled against the Jews, when they had alienated themselves from Christ; for their last hope and their last remedy in their evils was the aid of the Redeemer, and it was for the rejection of his favor that the Jews had to feel the dreadful punishment of their ingratitude. No sin could have been more atrocious than to have rejected the offered favor, in which their happiness and that of the whole world consisted. When the Prophet then says, that the day would come, be refers I think to the first coming of Christ; for the Jews made a confident boast of the coming of a Redeemer, and he gives them this answer — that the day of the Lord would come, such as they did not imagine, but a day which would wholly consume them, according to a quotation we have made from another Prophet,
“What will be the day of the Lord to you? that day will not be light, but darkness, a thick darkness and not brightness.” (Am 5:18.)
The day of the Lord will be an unhappy event to you, as though one escaped from the jaws of a lion, and fell at home on a serpent. So in this place he says that the day would come, which would consume them like an oven.
He says that all the proud and the workers of iniquity would be like stubble. He repeats their words, but somewhat ironically; for when they had said before that the proud were happy, they regarded themselves as being far from being such characters. Isaiah also in like manner condemned hypocrites, because they exposed to contempt their own brethren; for the worshippers of God were at that time in great reproach among the Jews; yea, hypocrites disdainfully treated the godly and the upright, as though they were the dregs and filth of the people. So also they said, “Behold, we are constrained, not without great sorrow, to look on the happiness of the ungodly; for the proud and the despisers of God enjoy prosperity, they live in pleasures.” The Prophet now answers them ironically and says, “Ye shall see the difference which ye so much wish; for God will consume the proud and the ungodly.” He says this of them; but it is, as I have stated, as though he had said, “When your mask is taken away, Ye shall see where impiety is, that it is even in you; and therefore ye shall suffer the punishment which you have deserved.” This is the return which he had before mentioned: for though the ungodly do not seriously and sincerely return to God, yet they are forced, willing or unwilling, to acknowledge their impiety when God constrains them. Hence after they had been constrained to examine their own life, God visited them with the punishment they most justly deserved, though judgement had been invoked by themselves.
He now adds, And it will leave neither root nor branch. He means here that their ruin would be complete, as though he had said, that no residue of them would be found. As he had made them like stubble, so he mentions root and stalk; for branch is improper here, as he speaks of stubble, and branches belong to trees. The meaning, however, is not obscure, which is — that such would be the consumption that nothing would remain. This, indeed, properly belongs to the last judgement; but, as I have said, this is no reason why God should not set before our eyes some evidences of that vengeance which awaits the ungodly, by which our faith may be more and more confirmed daily. 271
With regard to God’s name, which is mentioned twice, he reminds us that God does not execute his judgements in an even or a continued course, but that he has a fixed time, now for forbearance, then for vengeance, as it seems good to him. Whenever then the day of the Lord is mentioned in Scripture, let us know that God is bound by no laws, that he should hasten his work according to our hasty wishes; but the specific time is in his own power, and at his own will. On this subject I lightly touch only, because I have explained it more fully elsewhere. It follows —
2. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
2. Et orietur vobis timentibus nomen meum Sol justitiae, et sanitas in alis ejus; et exibitis et salietis quasi vituli saginae (vel, vituli pinguefacti.)
The Prophet now turns his discourse to the godly; and hence it appears more clearly that he has been hitherto threatening those gross hypocrites who arrogated sanctity to themselves alone, while yet they were continuing to provoke God’s wrath; for he evidently addresses some different from those previously spoken of, when he says, Arise to you, etc.; he separates those who feared God, or the true servants of God, from that multitude with whom he has been hitherto contending. Arise, then, to you who fear my name, etc
There is to be noticed here a contrast; for the body of the people were infected as it were with a general contagion, but God had preserved a few uncontaminated. As then he had been hitherto contending with the greatest part of the people, so he now gathers as it were apart the chosen few, and promises to them Christ as the author of salvation. For the godly, we know, trembled at threatenings, and would have almost fainted, had not God mitigated them. Whenever he denounced vengeance on sinners, the greater part either mocked, or became angry, at least were not duly impressed. Thus it happens that while God is thundering, the ungodly go on securely in their sinful courses; but the godly tremble at a word, and would be altogether cast down, were not God to apply a remedy.
Hence our Prophet softens the severity of the threatening which we have observed; as though he had said, that he had not announced the coming of Christ as terrible for the purpose of filling pious souls with fear, (for it was not spoken to them,) but only of terrifying the ungodly. The sum of the whole is briefly this — “Hearken ye,” he says, “who fear God; for I have a different word for you, and that is, that the Sun of righteousness shall arise, which will bring healing in its wings. Let those despisers of God then perish, who, though they carry on war with him, yet seek to have him as it were bound to them; but raise ye up your heads, and patiently look for that day, and with the hope of it calmly bear your troubles.” We now understand the import of this verse.
There is indeed no doubt but that Malachi calls Christ the Sun of righteousness; and a most suitable term it is, when we consider how the condition of the fathers differed from ours. God has always given light to his Church, but Christ brought the full light, according to what Isaiah teaches us,
“On thee shall Jehovah arise,
and the glory of God shall be seen in thee.” (Isa 60:1.)
This can be applied to none but to Christ. Again he says, “Behold darkness shall cover the earth,” etc.; “shine on thee shall Jehovah;” and farther,
“There shall be now no sun by day nor moon by night; but God alone shall give thee light.” (Isa 60:19.)
All these words show that Sun is a name appropriate to Christ; for God the Father has given a much clearer light in the person of Christ than formerly by the law, and by all the appendages of the law. And for this reason also is Christ called the light of the world; not that the fathers wandered as the blind in darkness, but that they were content with the dawn only, or with the moon and stars. We indeed know how obscure was the doctrine of the law, so that it may truly be said to be shadowy. When therefore the heavens became at length opened and clear by means of the gospel, it was through the rising of the Sun, which brought the full day; and hence it is the peculiar office of Christ to illuminate. And on this account it is said in the first chapter of John, that he was from the beginning the true light, which illuminates every man that cometh into the world, and yet that it was a light shining in darkness; for some sparks of reason continue in men, however blinded they are become through the fall of Adam and the corruption of nature. But Christ is peculiarly called light with regard to the faithful, whom he delivers from the blindness in which all are involved by nature, and whom he undertakes to guide by his Spirit.
The meaning then of the word sun, when metaphorically applied to Christ, is this, — that he is called a sun, because without him we cannot but wander and go astray, but that by his guidance we shall keep in the right way; and hence he says,
“He who follows me walks not in darkness.” (Joh 8:12.)
But we must observe that this is not to be confined to the person of Christ, but extended to the gospel. Hence Paul says,
“Awake thou who sleepest, and rise from darkness,
and Christ shall illuminate thee.” (Eph 5:14)
Christ then daily illuminates us by his doctrine and his Spirit; and though we see him not with our eyes, yet we find by experience that he is a sun.
He is called the sun of righteousness, either because of his perfect rectitude, in whom there is nothing defective, or because the righteousness of God is conspicuous in him: and yet, that we may know the light, derived from him, which proceeds from him to us and irradiates us, we are not to regard the transient concerns of this life, but what belongs to the spiritual life. The first thing is, that Christ performs towards us the office of a sun, not to guide our feet and hands as to what is earthly, but that he brings light to us, to show the way to heaven, and that by its means we may come to the enjoyment of a blessed and eternal life. We must secondly observe, that this spiritual light cannot be separated from righteousness; for how does Christ become our sun? It is by regenerating us by his Spirit into righteousness, by delivering us from the pollutions of the world, by renewing us after the image of God. We now then see the import of the word righteousness. 272
He adds, And healing in its wings. He gives the name of wings to the rays of the sun; and this comparison has much beauty, for it is taken from nature, and most fitly applied to Christ. There is nothing, we know, more cheering and healing than the rays of the sun; for ill-savor would soon overwhelm us, even within a day, were not the sun to purge the earth from its dregs; and without the sun there would be no respiration. We also feel a sort of relief at the rising of the sun; for the night is a kind of burden. When the sun sets, we feel as it were a heaviness in all our members; and the sick are exhilarated in the morning and experience a change from the influence of the sun; for it brings to us healing in its wing. But the Prophet has expressed what is still more, — that a clear sun in a serene sky brings healing; for there is an implied opposition between a cloudy or stormy time and a clear and bright season. During time of serenity we are far more cheerful, whether we be in health or in sickness; and there is no one who does not derive some cheerfulness from the serenity of the heavens: but when it is cloudy, even the most healthy feels some inconvenience.
According to this view Malachi now says, that there would be healing in the wings of Christ, inasmuch as many evils were to be borne by the true servants of God; for if we consider the history of those times, it will appear that the condition of that people was most grievous. He now promises a change to them; for the restoration of the Church would bring them joy. See then in what way he meant there would be healing in the wings of Christ; for the darkness would be dissipated, and the heavens would be free from clouds, so as to exhilarate the minds of the godly.
By calling the godly those who fear God, he adopts the common language of Scripture; for we have said that the chief part of righteousness and holiness consists in the true worship of God: but something new is here expressed; for this fear is what peculiarly belongs to true religion, so that men submit to God, though he is invisible, though he does not address them face to face, though he does not openly show his hand armed with scourges. When therefore men of their own accord reverence the glory of God, and acknowledge that the world is governed by him, and that they are under his authority, this is a real evidence of true religion: and this is what the Prophet means by name. Hence they who fear the name of God, desire not to draw him down from heaven, nor seek manifest signs of his presence, but suffer their faith to be thus tried, so that they adore and worship God, though they see him not face to face, but only through a mirror and that darkly, and also through the displays of his power, justice, and other attributes, which are evident before our eyes.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast appointed thine only-begotten Son to be like a sun to us, we may not be blind, so as not to see his brightness; and that since he is pleased to guide us daily into the way of salvation, may we follow him and never be detained by any of the impediments of this world, so as not to pursue after that celestial life to which thou invitest us; and that as thou hast promised that he is to come and gather us into the eternal inheritance, may we not in the meantime grow wanton, but on the contrary watch with diligence and be ever attentively looking for him; and my we not reject the favor which thou hast been pleased to offer us in him, and thus grow torpid in our dregs, but on the contrary be stimulated to fear thy none and truly to worship thee, until we shall at length obtain the fruit of our faith and piety, when he shall appear again for our final redemption, even that sun which has already appeared to us, in order that we might not remain involved in darkness, but hold on our way in the midst of darkness, even the way which leads us to heaven. — Amen.
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 favor 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.” (Lu 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.”
(2Co 3:17). 273
It follows —
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.
3. Et pessundabitis impios, quia erunt pulvis sub plantis pedum vestrorum, in die qua ego facio, (alii vertunt, quam ego facio,) dicit Iehova exercituum.
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 world.
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 274 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 —
4. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
4. Memores estote legis Mosis servi mei, quam mandavi ei in Horeb ad totum Israelem, (nempe,) statuta et judicia, (vel, statutorum et judiciorum.)
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 ardor 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. (Mt 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 honored 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. 275 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 favored 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 חוקים, chukim, and משפטים, meshephethim, may be referred to the verb זכרו, zacaru, 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 פקודים, pekudim, precepts; מצותים, metsutim, commandments; and עדותים, odutim, 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. 276 It follows —
5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
5. Ecce ego mitto vobis Eliam prophetam antequam veniat dies Iehovae magnus et terribilis.
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.” (Isa 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; (Mt 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 favor 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 clamor.” (Isa 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 favor. 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 —
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.
6. Et convertet cor patrum ad filios, et cor filiorum ad patres; ne forte veniam et percutiam terram anathemate.
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,” (Joh 20:23;)
or when Paul says, that he had begotten the Corinthians, (1Co 2:15,) he did not claim for himself what he knew only belonged to God, but rather extolled the favor 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.”
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.” (1Co 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 labor, 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 fulfill his office.
By saying that he would turn the hearts of fathers to sons and of sons to fathers, 277 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 faith.
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 Ps 2:12, we are exhorted to do.
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
Τῳ Θεῳ δοξα.
To God the Glory
Exceedingly forcible are the words of this verse —
For behold the day! It comes burning like a furnace; And all the proud, and every worker of iniquity, shall be stubble; And burn them up shall the day that is coming, Saith Jehovah of hosts, So that not left to them shall be a root or a branch.
Very many MS., have “workers” instead of “worker;” but it is of no consequence, as the singular is often used poetically for the plural. “Root” and “branch” is no doubt a proverbial phrase, including every thing. — Ed.
There is something incongruous in the expression, “the Sun of righteousness.” Hence some have considered that צדקה means here benignity or beneficence. “Righteousness,” says Leigh, “in a special sense, in the Hebrew and the Oriental tongues, signifieth beneficence or bounty;” and he refers to Mede on Ps 112:6. It is evidently added as descriptive of what the sun is, and used as the case often is in Hebrew, instead of an adjective. Now a righteous sun would not be proper, but a benignant or a beneficient sun would convey a suitable idea. The real meaning would then be conveyed by such a vision as the following, —
But arise for you, who fear my name, Shall a beneficient sun, With healing in its beams, And ye shall go forth and leap Like calves freed from the stall.
“Understand,” says Marckius, “by righteousness either benignity and beneficence, or truth, or complete constancy, or the manifold righteousness of God, which shone in him, or incontaminated uprightness and rectitude which appeared in him both as God and man, or as Mediator, which so shines, that he diffuses it to all the faithful in the gifts of justification and sanctification.”
Jerome’s exposition is, that Christ is called the Sun of righteousness, because he determines all things justly, and reveals, discovers what is good and what is evil, what is virtuous and what is vicious.
The pronoun affixed to “wings,” or beams, or rays, is feminine, which shows the gender of “sun,” שמש; but “its” is the most appropriate rendering. He or she is everything in Hebrew, and it is in so Welsh. — Ed.
Newcome’s version of the last line is as follows —
And ye shall go forth and thrive as bullocks of the stall.
Henderson’s is —
And ye shall go forth and leap as calves of the stall.
The latter part is rendered by the Septuagint “Ye shall leap (or frisk — σκιρτήσετε) like calves let loose from bonds.” This conveys the idea, for פשה, means first to spread, to be diffused, and then to range at large, to leap, to frisk. The context favors this view: they would go forth, that is, from confinement to the fields, and leap like calves of the stall, or from the stall, which are tied up during the night but are let loose when the sun arises, and allowed to range at large in the field.
To apply this as a prophecy to the escape of the Christians from Jerusalem when destroyed by the Romans, has nothing in the context to justify it, but everything to the contrary. The effect here produced is ascribed to the influence of the Sun of righteousness, and it is exhilarating and joyful, and followed, as it appears from the next verse, by the subjugation of the wicked. Calvin’s view is consistent with the whole tenor of the passage. — Ed.
See note on Malachi 3:17. — Ed.
“Observe here,” says Henry, “the honorable mention that is made of Moses, the first writer in the Old Testament, by Malachi the last writer.” — Ed.
The first word, “statutes,” חקים, means, according to Marckius, the moral and the ceremonial laws; and the second, “judgments,” משפטים, the civil or judicial laws. We may consider “law” at the beginning of the verse as a general term, comprehending the whole of what was delivered to Moses; and “statutes” and “judgments” as explanatory of what it was. The Septuagint render the first “precepts — προσταγματα.” — Ed.
Newcome’s version is different,
That he may convert the heart of the fathers together with the children, And the heart of the children together with their fathers.
This is inconsistent with the passage partially quoted in Lu 1:17, and also with the Septuagint version, which is as follows —
Who shall restore the heart of the father to the son, And the heart of a man to his neighbor.
Internal discord was a prevailing evil among the Jews. What is here promised is union and concord as the effect of the ministry of the second Elijah; but it is announced in terms suitable to a single family. — Ed.