Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 30: Zechariah, Malachai, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
1. Onus sermonis Iehovae ad Israel in manu Maleachi.
They who explain משא, mesha, burden, as signifying prophecy, without exception, are mistaken, as I have elsewhere reminded you; for prophecy is not everywhere called a burden; and whenever this word is expressed, there is ever to be understood some judgment of God; and it appears evident from Jer 23:38, that this word was regarded as ominous, so that the ungodly, when they wished to brand the Prophets with some mark of reproach, used this as a common proverb, “It is a burden,” intimating thereby that nothing else was brought by the Prophets but threatenings and terrors, in order that they might have some excuse for closing their ears, and for evading all prophecies by giving them an unhappy and ominous name.
As we proceed it will become evident that the doctrine of Malachi is not without reason called a Burden; for as I have stated in part, and as it will be more fully seen hereafter, it was necessary that the people should be summoned before God’s tribunal, inasmuch as many sins had again begun to prevail among them, and such as could not be endured: and for this reason he says that God’s judgment was at hand.
But under the name of Israel he refers only to those who had returned to their own country, whether they were of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, or of the tribe of Levi. It is nevertheless probable that there were also some mixed with them from the other tribes: but the Jews and their neighbors, the half tribe of Benjamin, had almost alone returned to their country, with the exception of the Levites, who had been their guides in their journey, and encouraged the rest of the people. They were yet called Israel indiscriminately, since among them only pure religion continued: but they who remained dispersed among foreign and heathen nations, had as it were lost their name, though they had not wholly departed from the pure worship of God and true religion. Hence, by way of excellency, they were called Israel, who had again assembled in the holy land, that they might there enjoy the inheritance promised them from above.
The word hand, as we have observed elsewhere, means ministration. The meaning then is, that this doctrine proceeded from God, but that a minister, even Malachi, was employed as an instrument; so that he brought nothing as his own, but only related faithfully what had been committed to him by God from whom it came. It then follows —
2. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
2. Dilexi vos, dicit Jehovah; et dixistis, In quo dilexisti nos? Annon frater Esau erat ipsi Jacob? dicit Jehova; et dilexi Jacob,
3. And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
3. Et Esau odio habui; et posui montes ejus solitudinem, et haereditatem ejus serpentibus desertum (alii vertunt, deserti.)
4. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD has indignation for ever.
4. Si dixerit Edom, Attenuati sumus, sed revertemur, et aedificabimus deserta: sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Ipsi aedificabunt, et ego diruam; et dicetur illis, Terminus impietatis et populus cui infensus est Iehova in perpetuum.
5. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
5. Et oculi vestri videbunt, et vos dicetis, Magnificabitur Iehova super terminum Israel. (Addendus etiam sextus versus, saltem initium:)
6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
6. Filius honorat patrem, et servus dominum suum; et si pater ego, ubi honor meus? et si dominus ego, ubi timor mei? dicit Iehova exercituum ad vos, O sacerdotes, qui contemnitis nomen meum: et dixistis, In quo contempsimus nomen tuum?
I am constrained by the context to read all these verses; for the sense cannot be otherwise completed. God expostulates here with a perverse and an ungrateful people, because they doubly deprived him of his right; for he was neither loved nor feared, though he had a just claim to the name and honor of a master as well as that of a father. As then the Jews paid him no reverence, he complains that he was defrauded of his right as a father; and as they entertained no fear for him, he condemns them for not acknowledging, him as their Lord and Master, by submitting to his authority. But before he comes to this, he shows that he was both their Lord and Father; and he declares that he was especially their Father, because he loved them.
We now then understand the Prophet’s intention; for God designed to show here how debased the Jews were, as they acknowledged him neither as their Father nor as their Lord; they neither reverenced him as their Lord, nor regarded him as their Father. But he brings forward, as I have already said, his benefits, by which he proves that he deserved the honor due to a father and to a master.
Hence he says, I loved you. God might indeed have made an appeal to the Jews on another ground; for had he not manifested his love to them, they were yet bound to submit to his authority. He does not indeed speak here of God’s love generally, such as he shows to the whole human race; but he condemns the Jews, inasmuch as having been freely adopted by God as his holy and peculiar people, they yet forgot this honor, and despised the Giver, and regarded what he taught them as nothing. When therefore God says that he loved the Jews, we see that his object was to convict them of ingratitude for having despised the singular favor bestowed on them alone, rather than to press that authority which he possesses over all mankind in common. God then might have thus addressed them, “I have created you, and have been to you a kind Father; by my favor does the sun shine on you daily, and the earth produces its fruit; in a word, I hold you bound to me by innumerable benefits.” God might have thus spoken to them; but as I have said, his object was to bring forward the gratuitous adoption with which he had favored the seed of Abraham; for it was a less endurable impiety, that they had despised so incomparable a favor; inasmuch as God had preferred them to all other nations, not on the ground of merit or of any worthiness, but because it had so pleased him. This then is the reason why the Prophet begins by saying, that the Jews had been loved by God: for they had made the worst return for this gratuitous favor, when they despised his doctrine. This is the first thing.
There is further no doubt but that he indirectly condemns their ingratitude when he says, In what hast thou loved us? The words indeed may be thus explained — “If ye say, or if ye ask, In what have I loved you? Even in this — I preferred your father Jacob to Esau, when yet they were twin brothers.” But we shall see in other places that the Jews by evasions malignantly obscured God’s favor, and that this wickedness is in similar words condemned. Hence the Prophet, seeing that he had to do with debased men, who would not easily yield to God nor acknowledge his kindness by a free and ingenuous confession, introduces them here as speaking thus clamorously, “He! when hast thou loved us! in what! the tokens of thy love do not appear.” He answers in God’s name, Esau was Jacob’s brother; and yet I loved Jacob, and Esau I hated.”
We now see what I have just referred to, — that the Jews are reminded of God’s gratuitous covenant, that they might cease to excuse their wickedness in having misused this singular favor. He does not then upbraid them here, because they had been as other men created by God, because God caused his sun to shine on them, because they were supplied with food from the earth; but he says, that they had been preferred to other people, not on account of their own merit, but because it had pleased God to choose their father Jacob. He might have here adduced Abraham as an example; but as Jacob and Esau proceeded from Abraham, with whom God had made the covenant, his favor was the more remarkable, inasmuch as though Abraham had been alone chosen by God, and other nations were passed by, yet from the very family which the Lord had adopted, one had been chosen while the other was rejected. When a comparison is made between Esau and Jacob, we must bear in mind that they were brothers; but there are other circumstances to be noticed, which though not expressed here by the Prophet, are yet well known: for all the Jews knew that Esau was the first-born; and that hence Jacob had obtained the right of primogeniture contrary to the order of nature. As then this was commonly known, the Prophet was content to use only this one sentence, Esau was Jacob’s brother
But he says that Jacob was chosen by God, and that his brother, the first-born, was rejected. If the reason be asked, it is not to be found in their descent, for they were twin brothers; and they had not come forth from the womb when the Lord by an oracle testified that Jacob would be the greater. We hence see that the origin of all the excellency which belonged to the posterity of Abraham, is here ascribed to the gratuitous love of God, according to what Moses often said, “Not because ye excelled other nations, or were more in number, has God honored you with so many benefits; but because he loved your fathers.” The Jews then had always been reminded, that they were not to seek for the cause of their adoption but in the gratuitous favor of God; he had been pleased to choose them — this was the source of their salvation. We now understand the Prophet’s design when he says, that Esau was Jacob’s brother, 202 and yet was not loved by God.
We must at the same time bear in mind what I have already said — that this singular favor of God towards the children of Jacob is referred to, in order to make them ashamed of their ingratitude, inasmuch as God had set his love on objects so unworthy. For had they been deserving, they might have boasted that a reward was rendered to them; but as the Lord had gratuitously and of his own good pleasure conferred this benefit on them, their impiety was the less excusable. This baseness then is what our Prophet now reprobates.
Then follows a proof of hatred as to Esau, the Lord made his mountain a desolation, and his inheritance a desert where serpents dwelt. Esau, we know, when driven away by his own shame, or by his father’s displeasure, came to Mount Seir; and the whole region where his posterity dwelt was rough and enclosed by many mountains. But were any to object and say, that this was no remarkable token of hatred, as it might on the other hand be said, that the love of God towards Jacob was not much shown, because he dwelt in the land of Canaan, since the Chaldeans inhabited a country more pleasant and more fruitful, and the Egyptians also were very wealthy; to this the answer is — that the land of Canaan was a symbol of God’s love, not only on account of its fruitfulness, but because the Lord had consecrated it to himself and to his chosen people. So Jerusalem was not superior to other cities of the land, either to Samaria or Bethlehem, or other towns, on account of its situation, for it stood, as it is well known, in a hilly country, and it had only the spring of Siloam, fiom which flowed a small stream; and the view was not so beautiful, nor its fertility great; at the same time it excelled in other things. for God had chosen it as his sanctuary; and the same must be said of the whole land. As then the land of Canaan was, as it were, a pledge of an eternal inheritance to the children of Abraham, the scripture on this account greatly extols it, and speaks of it in magnificent terms. If Mount Seir was very wealthy and replenished with everything delightful, it must have been still a sad exile to the Idumeans, because it was a token of their reprobation; for Esau, when he left his father’s house, went there; and he became as it were an alien, having deprived himself of the celestial inheritance, as he had sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. This is the reason why God declares here that Esau was dismissed as it were to the mountains, and deprived of the Holy Land which God had destined to his chosen people.
But the Prophet also adds another thing, — that God’s hatred as manifested when the posterity of Esau became extinct. For though the Assyrians and Chaldeans had no less cruelly raged against the Jews than against the Edomites, yet the issue was very different; for after seventy years the Jews returned to their own country, as Jeremiah had promised: yet Idumea was not to be restored, but the tokens of God’s dreadful wrath had ever appeared there in its sad desolations. Since then there had been no restoration as to Idumea, the Prophet shows that by this fact the love of God towards Jacob and his hatred towards Esau had been proved; for it had not been through the contrivance of men that the Jews had liberty given them, and that they were allowed to build the temple; but because God had chosen them in the person of Jacob, and designed them to be a peculiar and holy people to himself.
But as to the Edomites, it became then only more evident that they had been rejected in the person of Esau, since being once laid waste they saw that they were doomed to perpetual destruction. This is then the import of the Prophet’s words when he says, that the possession of Esau had been given to serpents. For, as I have already said, though for a time the condition of Judea and of Idumea had not been unlike, yet when Jerusalem began to rise and to be repaired, then God clearly showed that that land had not been in vain given to his chosen people. But when the neighboring country was not restored, while yet the posterity of Esau might with less suspicion have repaired their houses, it became hence sufficiently evident that the curse of God was upon them.
And to the same purpose he adds, If Edom shall say, We have been diminished, but we shall return and build houses; but if they build, I will pull down, saith God. He confirms what I have stated, that the posterity of Edom had no hope of restoration, for however they might gather courage and diligently labor in rebuilding their cities, they were not yet to succeed, for God would pull down all their buildings. This difference then was like a living representation, by which the Jews might see the love of God towards Jacob, and his hatred towards Esau. For since both people were overthrown by the same enemy, how was it that liberty was given to the Jews and no permission was given to the Idumeans to return to their own country? There was, as it has been said, a greater ill-will to the Jews, and yet the Chaldeans dealt with them more kindly. It then follows, that all this was owing to the wonderful purpose of God, and that hence it also appeared, that the adoption, which seemed to have been abolished when the Jews were driven into exile, was not in vain.
Thus then saith Jehovah of hosts, They shall build, that is, though they may build, I will overthrow; and it shall be said to them, Border of ungodliness, and a people with whom Jehovah is angry for ever. By the border of ungodliness he means an accursed border; as though he had said, “It will openly appear that you are reprobate, so that the whole world can form a judgment by the event itself.” By adding, A people with whom Jehovah is angry or displeased, he again confirms what I have said of love and hatred. God might indeed have been equally angry with the Jews as with the Edomites, but when God became pacified towards the Jews, while he continued inexorable to the posterity of Esau, the difference between the two people was hence quite manifest.
Noticed also must be the words, עד-עולם, od-oulam, for ever: for God seemed for a time to have rejected the Jews, and the Prophets adopt the same word זעם, som, angry, when they deplore the condition of the people, who found in various ways that God was angry with them. But the wrath of God towards the Jews was only for a time, for he did not wholly forget his covenant; but he became angry with the Edomites for ever, because their father had been rejected: and we know that this difference between the elect and the reprobate is ever pointed out, that when God visits sins in common, he ever moderates his wrath towards his elect, and sets limits to his severity, according to what he says, “If his posterity keep not my covenant, but profane my law, I will chastise them with the rod of man; but my mercy will I not take away from him.” (Ps 89:31-33 2Sa 7:14.) But with regard to the reprobate, God’s vengeance ever pursues them, is ever suspended over their heads, and ever fixed as it were in their bones and marrow. For this reason it is that our Prophet says, that God would be angry with the posterity of Esau.
He adds, Your eyes shall see. The Jews had already begun in part to witness this spectacle, but the Prophet speaks here of what was to continue. See then shall your eyes; that is, “As it has already appeared of what avail gratuitous election has been to you, by which I have chosen you as my people, and as ye have also seen on the other hand how it has been with your relations the Edomites, because they had been rejected in the person of their father Esau; so also this same difference shall ever be evident to you in their posterity: see then shall your eyes
And ye shall say, Magnified let Jehovah be over the border of Israel; that is, “The event itself will extort this confession, — that I greatly enhance my goodness towards you.” For though tokens of God’s grace shone forth everywhere, and the earth, as the Psalmist says, is full of his goodness, (Ps 104:24;) yet there was in Judea something special, so that.our Prophet does not in vain say, that there would be always reasons for the Jews to celebrate God’s praises on account of his bounty to them more than to the rest of the world. And the Prophet no doubt reproves here indirectly the wickedness of the people, as though he had said, — “Ye indeed, as far as you can, bury God’s benefits, or at least extenuate them; but facts themselves must draw from you this confession — that God deals bountifully with the border of Israel, that he exercises there his favor more remarkably than among any of the nations.”
After having briefly referred to those benefits which ought to have filled the Jews with shame, he comes at length to the subject he had in view; for his main object, as I have already stated, was to show, that it was God’s complaint that he was deprived of his own right and in a double sense, for the Jews did not reverence him as their Father, nor fear him as their Lord. He might indeed have called himself Lord and Father by the right of creation; but he preferred, as I have already explained, to appeal to their adoption; for it was a remarkable favor, when the Lord chose some out of all the human race; and we cannot say that the cause of this was to be found in men. Whom then he designs to choose, he binds to himself by a holier bond. But if they disappoint him, wholly inexcusable is their perfidy.
As we now understand the Prophet’s meaning, and the object of this expostulation, it remains for us to learn how to accommodate what is taught to ourselves. We are not indeed descended fronm Abraham or from Jacob according to the flesh; but as God has engraved on us certain marks of his adoption, by which he has distinguished us from other nations, while we were yet nothing better, we hence see that we are justly exposed to the same reproof with the Jews, if we do not respond to the calling of God. I wished thus briefly to touch on this point, in order that we may know that this doctrine is no less useful to us at this day than it was to the Jews; for though the adoption is not exactly the same, as it then belonged to one seed and to one family, yet we are not superior to others through our own worthiness, but because God has gratuitously chosen us as a people to himself. Since this has been the case, we are his; for he has redeemed us by the blood of his own Son, and by rendering us partakers, by the gospel, of a favor so ineffably great, he has made us his sons and his servants. Except then we love and reverence him as our Father, and except we fear him as our Lord, there is found in us at this day an ingratitude no less base than in that ancient people. But as I wished now only to refer to the chief point, I shall speak tomorrow, as the passage requires, on the subject of election: but it was necessary first briefly to show the Prophet’s design, as I have done; and then to treat particular points more at large, as the case may require.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only designed to give us a life in common in this world but hast also separated us from other heathen nations, and illuminated us by the Sun of Righteousness, thine only begotten Son, in order to lead us into the inheritance of eternal salvation, — O grant, that having been rescued from the darkness of death, we may ever attend to that celestial light, by which thou guidest and invitest us to thyself; and may we so walk as the children of light, as never to wander from the course of our holy calling, but to advance in it continually, until we shall at length reach the goal which thou hast set before us, so that having put off all the filth of the flesh, we may be transformed into that ineffable glory, of which we have now the image in thine only-begotten, Son. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Seventieth
We saw yesterday what the object of Malachi was in reminding the Jews that they were loved and chosen by God; it was, that he might the more amplify their ingratitude for having rendered such an unworthy reward for so great a favor of God: as he had preferred them to all other nations, he had justly bound them to perpetual obedience; but they had shaken off the yoke, and having despised God had given themselves up again to many corruptions, as we have yesterday stated. But I reminded you at the same time, that the Prophet refers not here to those benefits with which God favors indiscriminately all mankind, but brings forward the adoption by which he had set apart the seed of Abraham as his peculiar people.
But that it may appear more fully how just this expostulation was, let us first observe, that it is one kind of obligation that God has created us men in his image and after his likeness; for he might have created us dogs and asses, and not men. Adam, we know, was taken from the earth, as other animals were: then as to the body there is no difference between men and other creatures. When it is said that God breathed into man the breath of life, we ought not to dream as the Manicheans do, that man’s soul is by traduction; for so they say, affirming that man’s soul is from the substance of the Deity; but Moses on the contrary understands that man’s soul was created from nothing. We are born by generation, and yet our origin is clay; and the chief thing in us, the soul, is created from nothing. We hence see that we differ from animals because God was pleased to create us men. He therefore will justly charge us with ingratitude, if we do not serve him; for it was for this end he created us in his own image.
But there is here mentioned a special favor — that the Lord took to himself the seed of Abraham, as it is said in the song of Moses, that all nations are God’s, but that he had cast his line to set apart Israel for himself. (De 32:9.) Though then the whole world was under God’s government, it was yet his will to choose one family. If the cause be enquired, it is not to be found in men; for all were created from the earth, and souls were implanted in their bodies created from nothing. Since it was so, we see that the difference arose from the fountain of gratuitous favor — that God preferred one race to the rest; and as we stated yesterday, Moses often repeats this — that the Jews were not chosen because they were more excellent than other nations, but because God gratuitously loved their fathers. (De 7:7.) By love he means gratuitous favor.
Malachi then does not consider here that the Jews had been chosen before other nations on the ground of their own merit; for if he granted this, they might have objected and said — “Why dost thou remind us that God has favored us more than other nations, since he deemed us worthy, and rewarded our merit?” But the Prophet takes it as admitted, according to what I have already said, that the Jews were by nature like other nations, so that their different condition did not proceed from themselves, or from their own worthiness, but from the gratuitous love of God.
A third step is also to be noticed here; for God selected a part only from the very race of Abraham, as Esau and Jacob were brothers, and Esau was first according to the order of nature, for he was the first-born; and yet God rejected him, and appointed the favor of election to be in the posterity of Jacob. This third step then was election.
These things ought to be carefully considered. Men are peculiarly bound to God, because he might have created them asses and dogs, and not men; but it has pleased him to form them in his own image. The second step is, that he chose the race of Abraham, when his empire extended over all nations without exception: for how was it that God chose to be the father and savior of one people only, when the whole world was under his authority? Here shines forth, as I have already said, his gratuitous favor; and in addition to the testimonies of Moses, it is often said in the Psalms that God loved the fathers, that he did to them what he had not done to other nations, that he made known his judgments to them. (Ps 147:19.) There are many passages in which God commemorates his favor to the Jews, because it pleased him to distinguish them from other nations, while yet the condition of all by nature was wholly the same. Now the third step which Malachi mentions ought to be carefully noticed — that God not only promised to be a God to Abraham and to his seed, but also made a difference between the very sons of Abraham, so as to reject some and to choose others; and it is on this point that Paul dwells in the ninth chapter to the Romans; Ro 9:1-33 for he says, that not all who are of Israel-that is, who derive their origin from him — are true and legitimate Israelites, but those who are called. For it was Paul’s object to refute the Jews, for they boasted that they were a holy people, though they wilfully rejected Christ and his gospel. For when the apostles proved that the Redeemer promised had been sent, the proud answer in the mouth of the Jews was this — “Are not we the Church of God? but we do not acknowledge this Christ whom ye would thrust upon us.” As then the Jews, through this false pretense, despised the favor of God, and sought to trample Christ as it were under foot, Paul repels this arrogance, and shows that they excelled not the nations, except by virtue of a gratuitous adoption, and that this adoption was to be so extended to the whole race of Abraham as yet to be confined to a certain number.
In the same manner do the Papists act in the present day. As they estimate faith by external tokens, they haughtily object to us, and say that they are the Church; as though a general promise were sufficient without the Spirit, who is justly called the Spirit of adoption, by whom God seals it within, even in our hearts.
Now Paul adds evidences of the fact, and brings forward the instance of Jacob and Esau. Of the twin brothers, one, he says, was chosen, and the other passed by; and yet both were the sons of Abraham. It then follows that there is a third step in election, as I have already stated. Now from this third proceeds a fourth — that God takes some of the sons of Jacob, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world, and others he rejects; and of this fact Paul adduces a sure proof, or assigns an evident reason: God preferred Jacob to his brother, the first-born, but not on account of any merit: if then the free mercy of God availed so much in the election of Jacob, it follows that the same still prevails with regard to his posterity. If it be again asked, whence comes it that some are faithful and others are reprobate, the answer is, because it so pleases God. Hence Paul ascends higher and says, that before they were born, and had done neither good nor evil, it was said, the elder shall serve the younger; and then he brings forward this prophecy-Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
If then we wisely consider the whole passage, we shall find what I have stated — that from the third step we may proceed to a fourth, and that is, that from the sons of Jacob God chose whom he pleased and rejected others; for when he chose Jacob, God was not bound to him any more than he was before. The same promise was indeed repeated to Jacob, which had been given to Abraham; but from Abraham proceeded Ishmael, who was rejected, we know, from God’s Church; and the same was the case with the other sons of Abraham. Isaac was alone chosen. But Isaac, the father of Esau and Jacob, was not able at his own pleasure to retain them both; but here the free and hidden election of God appeared, so that Esau was rejected, and Jacob remained as the legitimate heir to the divine favor.
We now then more fully understand what the Prophet means: he does not charge the Jews with having shaken off every fear of that God, in whose image they had been created; but he enhances their ingratitude, because they gave no response to the free adoption of God, for they had been chosen from all other nations, and not only this, but they had been separated again from the very race of Abraham, and this was their second election. Another thing must also be added respecting their gratuitous election; for the reproof of the Prophet would not have been received, except God in his adoption had regard only to his own favor; for if we grant that either Jacob or Abraham had merited anything, what the Prophet says, Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? would not have availed. An answer might have been readily given, “He was indeed his brother, but his virtue being meritorious set him before his brother.” But the Prophet here presses this point on the Jews — that having been bound by so many benefits, they yet were become as it were spurious; for they had degenerated from the favor which God had conferred on them. We hence see that by these words of the Prophet it is sufficiently proved — that Abraham had been chosen by God in preference to all other nations, Isaac in preference to his brother Ishmael, and Jacob in preference to Esau.
And Scripture is full of proofs on the subject, and experience also sufficiently demonstrates the truth. Moses says, that it was not by their own virtue that they excelled other nations, for they were a rebellious and a stiff-necked people. Though God then knew the perverse character of that nation, it yet pleased him to make them an example of his wonderful goodness. There is therefore no reason for us to seek any other cause for adoption except the will of God. And since the election of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was gratuitous, it follows that each one is freely chosen whom God separates from the whole body; and thus we come to the fourth step; for what is said here, that Jacob was chosen, ought not to be confined to his person, but what he had in common with his posterity. Jacob then was chosen — for what purpose? that his children might be God’s holy and peculiar people. Now if we consider his whole offspring, we shall find that all who descended from Jacob were not legitimate Israelites, for the greatest part of them were rejected. As then many who derived their origin from Jacob, were not less reprobate than Esau, it follows that God’s free favor and gratuitous mercy prevails as to individuals: and this is the subject which Paul discusses in the ninth chapter to the Romans.
It seems hard to many, that God should choose some and not all, and that he should regard no worthiness, but of his own free will choose whom he pleases, and reject others. But whence comes this objection, except that they wish to restrain God and subject him to their own judgment? But we must come to the principle to which I have referred. If it seems unreasonable to them that one of two should be chosen and the other rejected, how can they defend the justice of God (if need there be of their apology) with regard to an ass and man? for as I have said, they both proceeded, both asses and men, from the same lump as to their bodies. Every vigor and strength in the ass has been created by the hidden power of God: and as to the soul of man, though its essence is immortal, it has yet been created from nothing. Now, then, let these wise censors answer for God in this case, whom they think to be exposed to many calumnies, when we say that men’s salvation depends on his will, so that he rejects some and chooses others.
But as to general election, there is the same difficulty to satisfy the judgment of men: for as we have already said, there is no difference between men but what arises from hidden election. They indeed imagine in this case a foreknowledge as the mother of election: but the notion is extremely foolish and puerile. They then say, that some are elected by God and some are rejected, because God, to whom nothing is hid, foresees what every one will be. But I now ask, Whence is it that one is virtuous, while another is vicious? If they say, from free-will, doubtless creation is anterior to free-will: this is one thing. Then we know that in Adam all men were created alike; for how is it that we are all exposed to eternal death, and that the vengeance of God extends over us all, and at this day prevails through the whole world? How is this, except that the condition of us all originally is one and the same? It follows then, that if Adam stood upright, all men would be alike in their integrity. I do not now speak of special gifts: for there would have been, I allow, a difference of endowments had nature remained perfect; but as to eternal life the condition of all would have been the same. Now after the fall of Adam we are all lost. What can then be more foolish and absurd than to imagine that there is some virtue in man by which he excels others, since we are all equally accursed in the person of Adam? For who hath made thee to excel, saith Paul? He proves that there is no excellency in man, except what proceeds from the bounty of God only, and as I have stated, the reason is quite manifest.
For either original sin does not belong to all men, or God cannot foresee that this man will be just and that man unjust. Why? All are naturally reprobate in Adam and liable to eternal death, and the reason is evident, for nothing is found in men but sin. The foreknowledge of God then cannot be the cause of our election, for by looking on the whole race of man, he finds them all under a curse from the least to the greatest.
We see then how foolishly do they talk and prattle who ascribe to mere and naked prescience what ought to be ascribed to the good pleasure of God. That God made himself known to the race of Abraham, that he designed to deposit his law with the Israelites — all this was his peculiar favor, and no other reason can be assigned for it except gratuitous adoption. God then favored the children of Abraham with this privilege, because it so pleased him: for if we say that they were worthy, and by their virtue rendered themselves deserving, the Holy Spirit does in the first place everywhere speak against us, and in the second place experience and facts, for the obstinacy of that people was extraordinary. But we ought to be satisfied with the authority of Scripture, since God makes known and illustrates his favor by this instance — that he loved Abraham and his children, that is, that he was favorable to the Jews through his own goodness only, and this is what we shall hereafter see still more clearly. Let this then remain as a fixed principle — that the cause of our election is nothing else but the mere favor of God. If we seek a cause apart from God, when we enquire about our election, we shall wander in a labyrinth.
That the same principle holds as to individuals, I have already proved. It ought indeed to be sufficient for us, that Paul passes from the person of Jacob to individuals among his posterity. For he adduces as it wet e an instance in the two brothers, in order to convince us that no one is chosen on account of his own virtue, but according to the good pleasure of God: nor was it necessary to state these circumstances — that one was chosen when the brothers were not yet born, and when they had not done either good or evils that it was not through works but through him who called, except he meant to prove this, that it is in God’s power to choose whom he wills and to reject whom he wills. But as Augustine reminds us, nothing can be imagined more absurd than that notion, with which many are pleased, that God has foreknown what men will be, for Paul excludes such foreknowledge as the cause which he infers, that it was not owing to works but to him who called, that God preferred the one to the other, for neither of them, while in their mother’s womb, had done either good or evil.
Paul brings also a confirmation from another declaration of Moses, “I will pity whom I will pity, and mercy will I show to whom I will be merciful. “By these words God clearly declares that it was in his power to reject whom he pleased of the seed of Jacob, and to choose whom he pleased. What then he had before said respecting one man, God now applies to the whole seed, for he speaks not there of foreign nations, but of that holy and chosen people. When God threatened with ruin all the children of Abraham, Moses humbly deprecated this, lest he should annul his own covenant: God answered him, “I will pity whom I will pity,” — what does this mean? that there is no other cause why God retains some for himself and rejects others, than his own will. The repetition may seem superfluous and frigid, “I will pity whom I will pity,” but it is very emphatical; as though he had said, “I might have chosen for myself another from the world and not Abraham, but I have according to my own good pleasure adopted him; and Ishmael might have been as dear to me as Isaac, but it has been my will that the blessing should rest on Isaac; when he also had begotten two children, I repudiated the first born and choose Jacob, and now from the posterity of Jacob I will choose for myself whom I please, for there is to be found no other cause but my will, ‘I will then pity whom I will pity, and mercy will I show to whom I will be merciful.’” If then in this case men will contend with God, and would know why he chooses this rather than that man, the answer he gives is, that the cause is to be found in his mercy alone, for he is bound to no one.
We now see how the folly of those vanishes away who would have foreknowledge to be the cause of election; and also that they who murmur against God, are sufficiently refuted by this reason, that it is in his power either to choose or to reject, inasmuch as he is under obligations to none.
As to reprobation, the cause of it is sufficiently manifest in the fall of Adam, for, as we have said, we all fell with him. It must still be observed, that the election of God is anterior to Adam’s fall; and that hence all we who are rescued from the common ruin have been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world, but that others justly perish though they had not been lost in Adam; because God appointed Christ the head of his Church, in order that we might be saved in him, not all, but those who have been chosen.
And with regard to the proof, it is not necessary here to bring together the mass of passages found in scripture, for this would be endless. But there are, however, some remarkable passages, by which it is sufficiently evident that some are chosen from the whole world as well as from the race of Abraham, according to God’s good pleasure only, and that others are rejected, and that there is no other cause to be found but his will; for our election is hid in the eternal and secret counsel of God, and founded on Christ, and reprobation is also hid in the judgment of God. Now if we wish to penetrate into this mystery, we must know that it is a great and unfathomable abyss: here all our ideas vanish away. In the meantime, however, God does not lose his liberty to choose and reject whom he pleases.
With regard to election, the ninth chapter to the Romans (Ro 9:1) ought to be sufficient, or rather the three chapters, for Paul pursues the same argument to the end of the eleventh chapter, and then exclaims that the riches of God’s wisdom and goodness are incomprehensible, and that his judgments are untraceable. He speaks also of the elect in the first chapter to the Ephesians; Eph 1:1 and the sum of what he says is, that all the faithful had been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world, and through the good pleasure of God only, in order that he might show in them the glory of his goodness.
By no refinements can they escape who attempt to darken this truth; for Paul very clearly and briefly declares that the whole world has not been chosen, but the faithful, who are afterwards favored with the Spirit of adoption: and thus sufficiently is that fancy refuted, that the election of God ought to be connected with his promises. I wonder that men of learning, endued with judgment and versed in scripture, so frigidly pass over the subject, and that they are not at least moved when they see that they give to many the occasion of foolishly going astray, and that some take hence the opportunity to calumniate. We must, however, declare what this passage requires — that those are very unwise who seek to subvert or overthrow the eternal election of God by this contrivance — that God addresses all men generally, “Come unto me” — “I am your Father.” Since God then offers his grace to all by the external preaching of his word, they will have it that all are elected: but Paul says, that we are believers, because we have been elected. If then it be asked, why some obstinately reject the grace of God, and others embrace it in the spirit of meekness, Paul assigns the reason, and it is this — because God illuminates those who believe, inasmuch as he has chosen them before the creation of the world. It then follows that God so speaks generally, as that the efficacy of the doctrine still depends on his secret good pleasure; for whence is faith, but from his peculiar favor? and why does he not communicate his grace to all? even because he has not chosen all. We see that Paul thus proceeds step b,y step, that he might teach us that faith emanates from the fountain of free election; and he raises up election into the highest eminence to show that it is not right to inquire into its cause. Thus much about election.
As to reprobation, I know that many greatly dislike this doctrine — that some are rejected, and that yet no cause can be found in themselves why they thus remain disapproved by God. But there is here need of docility and of a meek spirit, to which Paul also exhorts us, when he says,
“O man, who art thou who answerest against God?”
For were it lawful to investigate the cause, surely Paul, who had been taken up to the third heaven, might have showed us the way; but he is here silent and drives us away from the indulgence of a bold and an over curious spirit. Since the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Paul restrains the presumption of men, that they may not dare to go beyond this step — that God hardens whom he wills and rejects whom he wills, why do men leap beyond this, except they wilfully seek to carry on war with God? and yet they pretend modesty, and under this pretext they seek to bury the doctrine of election; we ought, they say, to speak soberly of mysteries. This last sentence I allow fully; but what is our sobriety but our docility? that is, when we embrace what God declares in his word, and never allow ourselves to investigate more than what he teaches us. But they would extinguish God’s word; nay, they dare openly to pronounce blasphemies against God, and to find fault with the Spirit, who has spoken by the prophets and the apostles.
We indeed see that there are many devils who preach modesty, when their object is to suppress the light and this chief doctrine, the main basis of our salvation; and they extort wicked edicts from the ignorant and the slumbering, as though it were in the power of men, by babbling about things unknown, and by barbarously mixing all things together, to thrust God as it were from his celestial throne. This is horribly monstrous, and ought to be detested by all; for it would be better that all the empires of the world should be swallowed up in the lowest depths, than that mortal creatures should raise themselves up as it were into heaven, and attempt to penetrate into the secret things of God. But, however, when the whole world either assail this doctrine by barking, or seek to subvert it by threats and terrors, or when all in various ways manifest their rage, and when they roll thunders who seem to themselves to be very powerful, it behoves us to hold fast this doctrine, that God alone is the author of our salvation, because he has been pleased freely to elect us, and also that he possesses power over all the human race, so that some, according to his will, are elected and some are rejected, and that he ever acts justly, and holds secret the cause both of election and of reprobation. But it is no wonder that we are so blind, for we are stupid by nature, nay, blind altogether; and were we angels, it would be still our duty reverently to regard the manifold wisdom of God, which no human minds, no, not even angelic minds, can fully comprehend. Other things we must defer.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou best been pleased to adopt us as thy people for this end, that we may be ingrafted as it were into the body of thy Son, and be made conformable to our head, — O grant, that through our whole life we may strive to seal in our hearts the faith of our election, that we may be the more stimulated to render thee true obedience, and that thy glory may also be made known through us; and those whom thou hast chosen together with us may we labor to bring together, that we may unanimously celebrate thee as the Author of our salvation, and so ascribe to thee the glory of thy goodness, that having cast away and renounced all confidence in our own virtue, we may be led to Christ only as the fountain of thy election, in whom also is set before us the certainty of our salvation through thy gospel, until we shall at length be gathered into that eternal glory which He has proctored for us by his own blood. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-first
6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
6. Filius honorat patrem, et servus dominum suum; et si pater ego, ubi honor meus? et si dominus ego, ubi timor mei? dicit Iehova exercituum ad vos, O sacerdotes, qui contemnitis nomen meum: et dixistis, In quo contempsimus nomen tuum?
7. Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
7. Qui offertis super altare meum panem pollutum; et dixistis, In quo polluimus te? Quum dicitis, Mensa Iehovae ipsa est contemptibilis (vel, despecta.)
8. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
8. Si obtuleritis caecum ad immolandum, non malum est? et si claudum vel mutilum obtuleritis, non malum est? Offer hoc nunc (vel, adedum, vel, quaeso; [נא] dubiae est significationis, offer ergo, obsecro, hoc) praefecto tuo, an complacebit ei in te, vel suscipiet faciem tuam, dicit Iehova exercituum?
God as already proved that he had by many favors been a Father to the Jews. They must have felt that he had indeed bound them to himself, provided they possessed any religion or gratitude. He now then concludes his address to them, as though he had said, that he had very ill bestowed all the blessings he had given them; and he adopts two similitudes; he first compares himself to a father, and then to a master. He says, that in these two respects he had a just cause to complain of the Jews; for he had been a father to them, but they did not in their turn conduct themselves as children, in a submissive and obedient manner, as they ought to have done. And farther, he became their master, but they shook off the yoke, and allowed not themselves to be ruled by his authority.
As to the word, Father, we have already shown that the Jews were not only in common with others the children of God, but had been also chosen as his peculiar people. Their adoption then made them God’s children above all other nations; for when they differed nothing from the rest of the world, God adopted them. With regard to the right and power of a master, God, in the first place, held them bound to him as the Creator and former of the whole world; but he also, as it is well known, attained the right by redemption. That he might then enhance their crime, he not only expostulates with them for having abused his favors, but he charges them also with obstinacy, because they disobeyed his authority, while yet he was their Lord.
He says, that a son who honors his father, and a servant his master. He applies the same verb to both clauses; but he afterwards makes a difference, ascribing honor to a father and fear to a master. As to the first clause, we know that whenever there is authority, there ought to be honor; and when masters are over servants, they ought to be honored. But in a subsequent clause he speaks more distinctly, and says, that a master ought to be feared by a servant, while honor is due to a father from a son. For servants do not love their masters; not being able to escape from their power, they fear them: but the reverence which sons have for their fathers, is more generous and more voluntary. But God shows here, that the Jews could by no means be kept to their duty, though so many favors ought to have made it their sweet delight. God had indeed conciliated them as much as possible to himself, but all was without any benefit. The majesty also of God ought to have struck them with fear. It was then the same, as though he had said, that they were of so perverse a nature, that they could not be led to obedience either by a kind and gracious invitation, or by an authoritative command.
The Lord then complains that he ass deprived by the Jews of the honor which sons owe to their fathers, as well as of the fear which servants ought to have for their masters; and thus he shows that they were like untameable wild beasts, which cannot be tamed by any kind treatment, nor subdued by scourges, or by any kind of castigation.
He then adds, To you, O priests. It is certain that this complaint ought not to be confined to the priests alone, since God, as we have seen, speaks generally of the whole race of Abraham: for he had said that Levi was advanced to the sacerdotal honor, while the other brethren were passed by; but he had said also, that Jacob was chosen when Esau was rejected; and this belonged in common to the twelve tribes. Now it ought not, and it could not, be confined to the tribe of Levi, that God was their father or their master. Why then does he now expressly address the priests? They ought indeed to have been leaders and teachers to the rest of the people, but he does not on this account exempt the whole people from blame or guilt, though he directs his discourse to the priests; for his object was to show that all things had become so corrupt among the people, that the priests were become as it were the chief in contempt of religion and in sacrileges, and in every kind of pollution. It hence follows that there was nothing sound and right in the community; for when the eyes themselves are without light, they cannot discharge their duty to the body, and what at length will follow?
God then no doubt shows that great corruptions prevailed and had spread so much among the people, that they who ought to have been examples to others, had especially shaken off the yoke and given way to unbridled licentiousness. This then is the reason why the Prophet condemns the priests, though at the beginning he included the whole people, as it is evident from the context.
We must at the same time bear in mind what we have elsewhere said -that the fault of the people was not lessened because the sin of the priest was the most grievous; but that all were involved in the same ruin; for God in this case did not absolve the common people, inasmuch as they were guilty of the same sins; but he shows that the most grievous fault belonged to the teachers, who had not reproved the people, but on the contrary increased licentiousness by their dissimulation, as we shall presently find again.
He says that they despised his name; not that the fear of God prevailed in others, but that it was the duty of the priests to reprove the impiety of the whole people. As then they allowed to others so much liberty, it appeared quite evident that the name of God was but little esteemed by them; for had they possessed true zeal, they would not have suffered the worship of God to be trodden under foot or profaned, as we shall presently find to have been the case.
It then follows, Ye have said, In what have we despised thy name? As the Prophet at the beginning indirectly touched on the hypocrisy and perverseness of the people, so he now no doubt repeats the same thing by using a similar language: for how was it that the priests as well as the people asked a question on a plain matter, as though it were obscure, except that they were blind to their own vices? Now the cause of blindness is hypocrisy, and then, as it is wont to do, it brings with it perverseness; for all who deceive themselves, dare even to raise their horns against God, and petulantly to clamor that he too severely treats them; for the Prophet doubtless does not here relate their words, except for the purpose of showing that they had such a brazen front and so hard a neck, that they boldly repelled all reproofs. We see at this day in the world the same sottishness; for though the crimes reproved are sufficiently known, yet they, even the most wicked, immediately object and say that wrong is done to them; and they will not acknowledge a fault except they be a hundred times convicted, and even then they will make some pretense. And truly were there not daily proofs to teach us how refractory men are towards God, the thing would be incredible. The Prophet then did no doubt by this cutting expression goad and also wound the people as well as the priests, intimating that so gross was their hypocrisy, that they dared to make shifts, when their crimes were openly known to all.
Ye have said then, by what have we despised thy name? They inquired as though they had rubbed their forehead, and then gained boldness, “What does this mean? for thou accuses us here of being wicked and sacrilegious, but we are not conscious of any wrong.” Then the answer is given in God’s name, Ye offer on mine altar polluted bread. A question may be here asked, “Ought this to have been imputed to the priests as a crime; for had victims been offered, such as God in his law commanded, it would have been to the advantage and benefit of the priests; and had fine corn been brought, it would have been advantageous to the priests?” But it seems to me probable, that the priests are condemned because like hungry and famished men they seized indiscriminately on all things around them. Some think that the priests grossly and fraudulently violated the law by changing the victims — that when a fat ram was offered, the priests, as they suppose, took it away, and put in its place a ram that was lean, or lame, or mutilated. But this view appears not to me suitable to the passage. Let us then regard the meaning to be what I have stated — that God here contends with the whole people, but that he directs his reproofs to the priests, because they were in two ways guilty, for they formed a part of the people, and they also suffered God to be dishonored; for what could have been more disgraceful than to offer polluted victims and polluted bread?
If it be now asked, whether this ought to have been ascribed as a fault to the priests, the answer is this — that the people then were not very wealthy; for they had but lately returned from exile, and they had not brought with them much wealth, and the land was desolate and uncultivated: as, then, there was so much want among the people, and they were intent, each on his advantage, according to what we have seen in the Prophet Haggai, (Hag 1:4,) and neglected the temple of God and their sacrifices, there is no doubt but that they wished anyhow to discharge their duty towards God, and therefore brought beasts which were either lame or blind; and hence the whole worship of God was vitiated, their sacrifices being polluted. The priests ought to have rejected all these, and to have closed up God’s temple, rather than to have received indiscriminately what God had prohibited. As then this indifference of the people was nothing but a profanation of divine worship, the priests ought to have firmly opposed it. But as they themselves were hungry, they thought it better to lay hold on everything around them — “What,” they said, “will become of us? for if we reject these sacrifices, however vicious they may be, they will offer nothing; and thus we shall starve, and there will be no advantage; and we shall be forced in this case to open and to close the temple, and to offer sacrifices at our own expense, and we are not equal to this burden.” Since then the priests spared the people for private gain, our Prophet justly reproves them, and says, ye offer polluted bread
It was indeed the office of the priests to place bread daily on the table; but whence could bread be obtained except some were offered? Now nothing was lost to the priests, when they daily set bread before God, for they presently received it; and thus they preferred, as it was more to their advantage, to offer bread well approved, made of fine flour: but as I have said, their own convenience interposed, for they thought that they could not prevail with the people — “If we irritate these men, they will deny that they have anything to offer; and thus the temple will be empty, and our own houses will be empty; it is then better to take coarse bread from them than nothing; we shall at least feed our families and servants with this bread, after having offered it to the Lord.” We hence see how the fault belonged to the priests, when the people offered polluted bread, and unapproved victims.
I have hitherto explained the Prophet’s words with reference chiefly to the shew-bread; not that they ought to be so strictly taken as many interpreters have considered them; for under the name of bread is included, we know, every kind of eatables; so it seems probable to me that the word ought to be extended to all the sacrifices; but one kind is here mentioned as an example; and it seems also that what immediately follows is added as an explanation — ye offer the lame and the blind and the mutilated. Since these things are connected together, I have no doubt but that God means by bread here every kind of offering, and we know that the shew-bread was not offered on the altar; but there was a table by itself appointed for this purpose near the altar. And why God designates by bread all the sacrifices may be easily explained; for God would have sacrifices offered to him as though he had his habitation and table among the Jews; it was not indeed his purpose to fill their minds with gross imaginations, as though he did eat or drink, as we know that heathens have been deluded with such notions; but his design was only to remind the Jews of that domestic habitation which he had chosen for himself among them. But more on this subject shall presently be said; I shall now proceed to consider the words.
Ye offer on my altar polluted bread; and ye have said, In what have we polluted thee? The priests again answer as though God unjustly accused them; for they allege their innocency, as the question is to be regarded here as a denial: In what then have we polluted thee? They deny that they were rightly condemned, inasmuch as they had duly served God. But we may hence conclude, according to what has been before stated, that the people were under the influence of gross hypocrisy, and had become hardened in their obstinacy. It is the same at this day; though there be such a mass of crimes, which everywhere prevails in the world, and even overflows the earth, yet no one will bear to be condemned; for every one looks on others, and thus when no less grievous sins appear in others, every one absolves himself. This is then the sottishness which the Prophet again goads — Ye have said, In what have we polluted thee? He and other Prophets no doubt charged the Jews with this sacrilege — that they polluted the name of God.
But it deserves to be known, that few think that they pollute God and his name when they worship him superstitiously or formally, as though they had to do with a child: but we see that God himself declares, that the whole of religion is profaned, and that his name is shamefully polluted when men thus trifle with him.
He answers, when ye said, literally, in your saying, The table of Jehovah, it is contemptible. Here the Prophet discovers the fountain of their sin; and he shows as it were by the finger, that they had despised those rites which belonged to the worship of God. The reason follows, If ye offer the blind, he says, for sacrifice, it is no evil. Some read the last clause as a question, “is it not evil?” but he, the mark of a question, is not here; and we may easily gather from the context that the Prophet as yet relates how presumptuously both the priests and the whole people thought they could be acquitted and obtain pardon for themselves, “It is no evil thing if the lame be offered, if the blind be offered, if the maimed be offered; there is nothing evil in all this.” 203 We now then understand what the Prophet means.
But the subject would have been obscure had not a fuller explanation been given in these words, The table of Jehovah, it is contemptible 204 God does here show, as I have before stated, why he was so much displeased with the Jews. Nothing is indeed so precious as his worship; and he had instituted under the law sacrifices and other rites, that the children of Abraham might exercise themselves in worshipping him spiritually. It was then the same as though he had said, that he cared nothing for sheep and calves, and for any thing of that kind, but that their impiety was sufficiently manifested, inasmuch as they did not think that the whole of religion was despised when they despised the external acts of worship according to the law. God then brings back the attention of the Jews from brute animals to himself, as though he had said, “Ye offer to me lame and blind animals, which I have forbidden to be offered; that you act unfaithfully towards me is sufficiently apparent; and if ye say that these are small things and of no moment, I answer, that you ought to have regarded the end for which I designed that sacrifices should be offered to me, and ordered bread to be laid on my table in the sanctuary; for by these tokens you ought to have known that I live in the midst of you, and that whatever ye eat or drink is sacred to me, and that all you possess comes to you through my bounty. As then this end for which sacrifices have been appointed has been neglected by you, it is quite evident that ye have no care nor concern for true religion.
We now then perceive why the Prophet objects to the priests, that they had called the table of Jehovah contemptible; not that they had spoken thus expressly, but because they had regarded it almost as nothing to pervert and adulterate the whole of divine worship according to the law, which was an evidence of religion when there was any.
Now it may seem strange, that God one while so strictly requires pure sacrifices and urges the observance of them, when yet at another time he says that he does not seek sacrifices, “Sacrifice I desire not, but mercy,” (Ho 6:6;) and again, “Have I commanded your fathers when I delivered them from Egypt, to offer victims to me? With this alone was I content, that they should obey my voice.” He says afterwards in Micah,
“Shall I be propitious to you if ye offer me all your flocks? but rather, O man, humble thyself before thy God.”
The same is said in the fiftieth Psalm, in the first and the last chapters of Isaiah, and in many other places. Since then God elsewhere depreciates sacrifices, and shows that they are not so highly esteemed by him, why does he now so rigidly expostulate with the Jews, because they offered lame and maimed animals? I answer, that there was a reason why God should by this reproof discover the impiety of the people. Had all their victims been fat or well fed, our Prophet would have spoken as we find that others have done; but since their faithlessness had gone so far that they showed even to children that they had no regard for the worship of God — since they had advanced so far in shamelessness, it was necessary that they should be thus convicted of impiety; and hence he says, ye offer to me polluted bread, as though he had said, “I supply you with food, it was your duty to offer to me the first-fruits, the tenths, and the shew-bread; and the design of these external performances is, that they may regard themselves as fed by me daily, and also that they may feed moderately and temperately on the bread and flesh and other things given them, as though they were sitting at my table: for when they see that bread made from the same corn is before the presence of God, this ought to come to their minds, ‘it is God’s will, as though he lived with us, that a portion of the same bread should ever be set on the holy table:’ and then when they offer victims, they are not only to be thus stirred up to repentance and faith, but they ought also to acknowledge that all these are sacred to God, for when they set before the altar either a calf, or an ox, or a lamb, and then see the animal sacrificed, (a part of which remains for the priests,) and the altar sprinkled with blood, they ought to think thus within themselves, ‘Behold, we have all these things in common with God, as though clothed in a human form he dwelt with us and took the same food and the same drink.’ They ought then to have performed in this manner their outward rites.”
God now justly complains, that his table was contemptible, as though he had said, that his favor was rejected, because the people, as it were in contempt, brought coarse bread, as though they wished to feed some swineherd, — a conduct similar to that mentioned in Zechariah, when God said, that a reward was offered for him as though he were some worthless hireling, (Zec 2:12) — “I have carefully fed you,” he says,” and I now demand my reward: ye give for me thirty silverings, a mean and disgraceful price.” So also in this place, Ye have said, the table of Jehovah, it is polluted. There is an emphasis in the pronoun; for God shows that he by no means deserved such a reproach: “Who am I, that ye should thus despise my table? I have consecrated it, that ye might have a near access to me, as though I dwelt in the visible sanctuary; but ye have despised my table as though I were nothing.”
He afterwards adds, Offer this now to thy governor; will he be pleased with thee? God here complains that less honor is given to him than to mortals; for he adduces this comparison, “When any one owes a tribute or tax to a governor, and brings any thing maimed or defective, he will not receive it.” Hence he draws this inference, that he was extremely insulted, for the Jews dared to offer him what every mortal would reject. He thus reasons from the less to the greater, that this was not a sacrilege that could be borne, as the Jews had so presumptuously abused his kindness; and hence he subjoins
9. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.
9. Et nunc deprecamini quaeso faciem Dei, et miserabitur nostri; (e manu vestra factum est hoc;) an suscipiet ex vobis faciem, dicit Iehova exercituum.
He wounds here the priests more grievously, — because they had so degenerated as to be wholly unworthy of their honorable office and title; “Go,” he says, “and entreat the face of God.” All this is ironical; for interpreters are much mistaken who think that the Prophet here exhorts the priests humbly to ask pardon from God, both for themselves and for the people. On the contrary, he addresses them, as I have said, ironically, while telling them to be intercessors and mediators between God and the people; and yet they were profane men, who on their part polluted the whole worship of God, and thus subverted the whole of religion: go thou and entreat, he says, the face of God. This duty, we know, was enjoined on the priests; they were to draw nigh to the sanctuary and present themselves before God as though they were advocates pleading the cause of the people, or at least intercessors to pacify God. Since then they were in this respect the types of Christ, it behoved them to strive themselves to be holy; and though the people abandoned themselves to all kinds of wickedness, it yet became the priests to devote themselves with all reverence to the duties of their calling; and as God had preferred them to their brethren, they ought especially to have consecrated themselves to him with all fear; for the more excellent their condition was, the more eminent ought to have been their piety and holiness. Justly then does the Prophet here inveigh so severely against them, because they did not consider that they were honored with the priesthood, that they might entreat God, and thus pacify his wrath, and reconcile to him miserable men: Go, he says, and entreat the face of God; forsooth! he will accept your face. We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.
And now, he says, he will have mercy on us. Here also the Prophet derides them, because they boasted that they could prevail through their own high dignity to render God propitious; forsooth! he says, he will have mercy on us. But this is done by your hand, i.e., by you. “Do ye raise up your hands to God? and will he on seeing you be pacified towards you? As then ye are polluted, ye are unworthy of the honor and office, in which ye so proudly glory.”
He does not however, as we have already said, extenuate the fault of the people, and much less does he exempt them from guilt who were implicated in the same crimes; but he shows that the state of things was wholly desperate; for the common people disregarded God, and the priests, neglecting to make any distinctions, received every sort of victims, only that they might not be in want: he shows them that the state of the people was extremely bad, as there was no one who could, according to what his office required, pacify God. Will he then receive your face? The Prophet seems to allude to the person of the Mediator; for as Christ had not as yet appeared, when the priest presented himself before the altar, it was the same as though God looked on the face of one, and became thus propitious to all. On this account he says, that the priests were not worthy that God should look on them, since they had polluted his sanctuary and corrupted his whole service. 205 For the same purpose he subjoins —
10. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
10. Quis etiam in vobis qui claudat ostia, et non incenditis altare meum gratis? non mihi placet in vobis, dicit Iehova exercituum; et oblationem non habebo gratam e manu vestra.
He goes on with the same subject, — that the priests conducted themselves very shamefully in their office, and that the people had become hardened through their example, so that the whole of religion was disregarded. Hence he says, that the doors were not closed by them. Some interpreters connect the two things together — that they closed not the doors of the temple, nor kindled the altar for nothing; and thus they apply the adverb, חנם, chenam, to both clauses; as though he had said, that they were hirelings, who did not freely devote themselves to serve God, but looked for profit and gain in everything: and this is the commonly received explanation. 206 But it seems better to me to take them separately and to say, Who does even shut the doors? not however for nothing, and the copulative, ו, vau, as in many other places, may be rendered even: and yet ye kindle not for nothing my altar; as though God had said, “I have fixed your works; ye are then to me as hired servants; and now since I have ordered a reward to be given to you whenever ye stand at my altar, why do ye not close my door?” Some render חנם, chenam, in vain, and give this explanation “Who closes the doors? then kindle not afterwards in vain my altar;” as though God rejected the whole service, which had been corrupted by the avarice or the sloth of the priests, and by the presumption of the people.
It is indeed certain that it is better to separate the two clauses so that the adverb, חנם, chenam, may be confined to the letter; but there may yet, as I have said, be a two-fold meaning. If we render, חנם, chenam, in vain the import is that the Prophet declares that they labored to no purpose while they thus sacrificed to God contrary to his law for they ought to have attended especially to the rule prescribed to them: as then they despised this, he justly says, “Offer not to me in vain;” and thus the future tense is to be taken for the imperative, as we know is the case sometimes in Hebrew.
But no interpreter seems to have sufficiently considered the reason why the Prophet speaks of not closing the doors of the temple. The priests, we know were set over the temple for this reason — that nothing polluted might be admitted; for there were of the Levites some doorkeepers, and others stood at the entrance; in short, all had their stations: and then when they had brought in the victim it was the office of the priests to examine it and to see that it was such as the law of God required. As then it was their special office to see that nothing polluted should be received into the temple of God, he justly complains here that they indiscriminately received what was faulty and profane: hence he rightly declares (for this seems to me to be the true exposition) “Offer not in vain.” He then draws the conclusion, that the priests lost all their labor in thus sacrificing, because God would not have his name profaned, and justly preferred obedience to all sacrifices. He therefore denies that they did any good in slaying victims, because they ought in the first place to have attended to this — not to change anything in God’s word and not to deviate from it in the least. But I cannot now proceed farther.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou best been pleased in thine infinite mercy not only to choose from among us some to be priests to thee, but also to consecrate us all to thyself in thine only begotten Son, — O grant, that we at this day may purely and sincerely serve thee, and so strive to devote ourselves wholly to thee, that we may be pure and chaste in mind, soul, and body, and that thy glory may so shine forth in all our performances, that thy worship among us may be holy, and pure, and approved by thee, until we shall at length enjoy that glory to which thou invites us by thy gospel, and which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-second
I could not yesterday finish the complaint which God made against the priests — that no one of them closed the doors of the temple, so that it might continue pure from all defilements; for as their avarice was insatiable, they indiscriminately admitted all sorts of profanations: hence he comes to this conclusion — “Offer not hereafter in vain;” for by saying, Kindle not my altar, he means that they spent their toil to no purpose in offering sacrifices, because God required his worship to be performed according to the prescription of his law. I omit now the two other expositions I mentioned yesterday; for it seems to me that the Prophet meant, that the priests wearied themselves in vain while daily offering victims, because the Lord repudiated their service as impure and vicious.
He now adds, I am not pleased with you, 207 and an offering I will not accept from your hand. In the first clause he says that they were not approved by God, or did not please him; and then he adds, that their offerings were rejected; for where there is no pure heart, there we know all works are impure. For we must remember what Moses says — that Abel pleased God together with his sacrifices, (Ge 4:4;) and we have seen in another Prophet, that is Haggai, that what is highly esteemed by men is an abomination to God, when he is not worshipped in sincerity and truth, (Hag 2:15). Our Prophet now means the same thing — I am not pleased with you, and I regard not as acceptable the victims from your hand. It now follows
11. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
11. Quia (vel, certe) ab ortu solis usque ad occasum magnum nomen meum inter gentes; et in omni loco suffitus offertur nomini meo, et oblatio munda; quia (vel, certe est eadem particula [כי] magnum nomen meum inter gentes, dicit Iehova exercituum.
Here God shows that he no longer cared for the Jews, for he would bid altars to be reared for him everywhere and through all parts of the world, that he might be purely worshipped by all nations. It is indeed a remarkable prophecy as to the calling of the Gentiles; but we must especially remember this, — that whenever the Prophets speak of this calling, they promise the spread of God’s worship as a favor to the Jews, or as a punishment and reproach.
The Prophets then promised to the Jews that the Gentiles would become allied to them; so does Zechariah,
“In that day lay hold shall ten men on the skirt of the garment, and will say to a Jew, Be thou our leader; for the same God with thee will we worship.” (Zec 8:23.)
It would have been then the highest honor to the Jews had they become teachers to all nations, so as to instruct them in true religion. So also Isaiah says, that is, that those who were before aliens would become the disciples of the chosen people, so that they would willingly submit to their teaching. But as the Jews have fallen from their place, the Gentiles have succeeded and occupied their position. Hence it is that the Prophets when speaking of the calling of the Gentiles, often denounce it as a punishment on the Jews; as though they had said, that when they were repudiated there would be other children of God, whom he would substitute in their place, according to what Christ threatened to the men of his age,
“Taken away from you shall be the kingdom of God, and shall be given to another nation.” (Mt 21:43.)
Such is this prophecy: for our Prophet does not simply open to the Gentiles the temple of God, to connect them with the Jews and to unite them in true religion; but he first excludes the Jews, and shows that the worship of God would be exercised in common by the Gentiles, for the doctrine of salvation would be propagated to the utmost extremities of the earth.
This difference ought to be noticed, which interpreters have not observed, and yet it is what is very necessary to be known; and for want of knowing this has it happened that passages wholly different have been indiscriminately blended together. The Prophet then does not here promise, as we have often stated in other places, that the whole world would be subject to God, so that true religion would everywhere prevail, but he brands the Jews with reproach, as though he had said, “God has repudiated you, but he will find other sons for himself, who will occupy your place.” He had repudiated in the last verse their sacrifices, and we know how haughtily the Jews gloried in the holiness of their race. As then they were inflated with so much pride, they thought that God would be no God except he had them as his holy Church. The Prophet here answers them, and anticipates their objection by saying, that God’s name would be celebrated through the whole world: “Ye are a few people, all the nations will unite in one body to worship God together; God then will not stand in need of you, and after he rejects you his kingdom will not decay. Ye indeed think that his kingdom cannot be safe, and that his glory will perish except he is worshipped by you; but I now declare to you, that the worship of God will flourish everywhere, even after he shall cast you out of his family.”
We now then see what the Prophet means when he says, that Great will be the name of God from the rising to the setting of the sun 208 It is simply said in Ps 113:3
“From the rising to the setting of the sun wonderful shall be the name of God.”
There indeed it is only a promise, but here the Prophet includes the punishment which the Jews had deserved, as though he had said, that after they were rejected by God on account of their ingratitude, the Gentiles would become holy to God, because he would adopt them instead of that wicked and ungodly people.
But I have said, that the calling of the Gentiles is here clearly proved, or may with certainty be elicited from this prophecy, for this reason, because the name of God cannot be great without the teaching of the truth. It is therefore the same thing as though the Prophet had said, that the law which had been given to the Jews would be proclaimed among all nations, so that true religion might spread everywhere: for the basis of true religion is to know how he is to be worshipped by us, inasmuch as obedience is better than all sacrifices. And it is necessary always to begin with this principle — to know the God whom we worship: and hence Christ himself, in the fourth chapter of John, condemns all the religions which then prevailed in the world, because men presumptuously worshipped gods devised by themselves. Since then it is necessary that the worship of God should be based on the truth, then God declares that his name would become renowned in every place, he doubtless shows that his law would be known to all nations, so that his will might be known everywhere, which is, as we have said, the only rule of true religion.
He afterwards adds — Everywhere shall be offered incense to my name, and a clean offering. Why? Because my name shall be great. The repetition is not useless; for it was a thing then incredible, inasmuch as God had not in vain separated the Jews from the rest of the world; nor was it an ordinary commendation, when Moses said in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy — “Show me a nation to whom God draws nigh as lie does to you: this then is your nobility and your excellency, to have a God nigh and friendly to you.” Hence also it is said in Ps 147:20 —
“He has not done thus to other nations; his judgments has he not made known to them.”
It was then the peculiar privilege of the race of Abraham that God was known and worshipped by them. The very novelty, then, of what is here said might have closed the door against this prophecy; and this is the reason why the Prophet repeatedly confirms what it was then difficult to believe — the name of God, he says, shall be great in every place
We must also bear in mind that God cannot be rightly worshipped except he is known, which Paul confirms when he says — “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” for except the truth shines forth, we shall grope like the blind, and wander through devious ways. There is therefore no religion approved by God except what is based on his word.
Moreover the Prophet, by מנחה, meneche, offering, and by incense, means the worship of God; and this mode of speaking is common in the Scriptures, for the Prophets who were under the law accommodated their expressions to the comprehension of the people. Whenever then they intend to show that the whole world would come to the faith and true religion — “An altar,” they say, “shall be built to God;” and by altar they no doubt meant spiritual worship, and not that after Christ’s coming sacrifices ought to be offered. For now there is no altar for us; and whosoever builds an altar for himself subverts the cross of Christ, on which he offered the only true and perpetual sacrifice.
It then follows that this mode of speaking ought to be so taken, that we may understand the analogy between the legal rites, and the spiritual manner of worshipping God now prescribed in the gospel. Though then the words of the Prophet are metaphorical, yet their meaning is plain enough — that God will be worshipped and adored everywhere. But what are the sacrifices of the New Testament? They are prayers and thanksgivings, according to what the Apostle says in the last chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. There was also under the law the spiritual worship of God, as it is especially stated in the fiftieth psalm; but there were then shadows connected with it, as it is intimated in these words of Christ —
“Now is come the hour when the Father shall be worshipped in spirit and in truth.”
He does not indeed deny that God was worshipped in spirit by the fathers; but as that worship was concealed under outward rites, he says that now under the gospel the simple, and, so to speak, the naked truth is taught. What then the Prophet says of offering and incense availed under the law; but we must now see what God commands in his gospel, and how he would have us to worship him. We do not find there any incense or sacrifices.
This passage contains nothing else than that the time would come when the pure and spiritual worship of God would prevail in all places.
And thus it appears how absurd are the Papists, when they hence infer that God cannot be worshipped without some kind of sacrifice; and on this ground they defend the impiety of their mass, as though it were the sacrifice of which the Prophet speaks. But nothing can be more foolish and puerile; for the Prophet, as we have said, adopts a mode of speaking common in Scripture. And were we to allow offering and incense to be taken here literally, how could, מנחה, meneche, offering, be the body and blood of Christ? “Oh!” they say, “it is a sacrifice made of bread, and wine was added. Oh! Christ has thus commanded.” But where has he said “sacrifice?” 209 They again deny that it is bread? for they say that it is transubstantiated into the body of Christ: now then it is not a sacrifice of bread, nor of fine flour; for the form only, visible to the eyes, and without substance, remains, as they imagine. There is in the meantime no reason for us carefully to discuss a subject so clear; for as we have seen in Joel —
“In the last days I will pour my Spirit on all flesh, and prophesy shall your sons and your daughters; your old men dreams shall dream, and your young men visions shall see.”
So also we find what is similar in this place; for the Apostles, though not taught by visions, were yet we know illuminated; and then visions were not given commonly at the commencement of the gospel, nor dreams; they were indeed very rare things. What then does Paul mean? For he speaks of the whole body of the Church, as though he had said that all, from the least to the greatest, would be Prophets. Did they become Prophets by visions and dreams, whom God illuminated by the doctrine of the gospel? By no means. But Joel, as I have said, accommodated what he said to the time of the law. So also in this place the Prophet, by offering and incense, designates the spiritual worship of God. Let us now proceed-
12. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
12. Et vos polluistis illud, quum dicitis, Mensa Iehovae polluta est; et proventus ejus (vel, fructus; alii vertunt, sermonem) contemptibilis cibus ejus.
This verse may be confined to the priests, or it may be extended to the whole people; for both views are appropriate. As to my own view, I doubt not but that the Prophet here reproves with additional severity the priests, and that at the same time he extends his reproof to the people in general. We saw in our yesterday’s lecture how religion had been polluted by the priests, and how impiously they had profaned the worship of God: but this was the general sin of the whole people, as we shall presently see. Let us then know that the whole people, as well as the priests, are here reproved: but as a crime in the priests was more grievous, they being the occasion of sacrilege to others, the Prophet assails them in an especial manner, Ye, he says, have polluted my name
He gives a reason, and at the same time enhances their guilt: for they might have complained, that God not only put them on a level with the Gentiles, but also rejected them, and substituted aliens in their place. He shows that God had a just cause for disinheriting them, and for adopting the Gentiles as his children, for they had polluted God’s name. He at the same time amplifies their sin, when he says, “The Gentiles, by whom I have been hitherto despised, and to whom my name was not made known, will soon come to the faith; thus my name shall be great, it shall be reverently worshipped by all nations; but ye have polluted it.” It was certainly very strange, that the Jews, peculiarly chosen and illuminated by the doctrine of the Law, so presumptuously polluted God’s worship, as though they despised him, and that the Gentiles, being novices, rendered obedience to God as soon as they tasted of the truth of religion, so that his glory became through them illustrious.
He afterwards shows how the name of Gog was polluted, Ye say, The table of Jehovah is polluted; that is, ye distinguish not between what is sacred and profane: for he repeats what we noticed yesterday, — that the Jews thought it a frivolous matter, when the Prophets taught them that God was to be worshipped with all reverence. It is not however probable, that they openly uttered such a blasphemy as that the table of God was polluted; but it is easy to conclude from what is said, that God’s table was profaned by them, for they made no account of it. The holiness of the table ought to have been so regarded by the Jews, as not to approach the sanctuary without true repentance and faith; they ought to have known that they had to do with God, and that his majesty ought to have deeply touched them. When therefore they came to the temple, and brought with them their uncleanness like swine, it was quite evident that they had no reverence for the temple, or the altar, or the table. According to this sense then are the words of the Prophet to be understood, — not that the Jews openly mocked God, but that the holiness of the temple was with them of no account.
With regard to the Table, we stated yesterday, that when God ordered sacrifices to be offered to him, it was the same as though he familiarly dwelt among the Jews, and became as it were their companion. It was the highest honor and an instance of God’s ineffable goodness, that he thus condescended, so that the people might know that he was not to be sought afar off. And for this reason the less excusable was their impiety, as they did not consider that sacrifices were celebrated on earth, that their minds might be raised up above the heavens: for it is to this purpose that God descends to us, even to raise us above, as we have elsewhere stated. It was then an extremely base and shameful senselessness and stupidity in the Jews, that they did not consider that God’s table was set among them, that they might by faith penetrate into heaven, and know it to be even before their eyes.
As to the words, Its fruit is his contemptible food, we must observe, that some render, ניב, nib, word, and bring this passage from Isaiah, “I have created the fruit of the lips, peace, peace,” (Isa 57:19.) The verb, נוב, nub, means to fructify; hence, ניב, nib, is fruit or produce. Were we to grant that it is metaphorically taken for word, yet I see no reason why we should depart from its simple and real meaning. For first there will be a relative without an antecedent, ניבו, nibu, his word; and then there will be a change of number; for they apply it to the priests, his word, that is, the word of them — of whom? of the priests. It is common, I know, in Hebrew, to put a relative without an antecedent; but as I have said, nothing requires this here. The most suitable rendering then is, Its provision, that is, of the altar, is the contemptible food of God. 210 I take then the words to mean this, that a speech of this kind was often in the mouth of the people as well as of the priests, — “Oh! the provision for the altar is any kind of meat; be not so anxious in your choice, so as to offer the best animals; for God is satisfied even with the lean and the maimed.”
And here again God reproves the impiety and contempt of the people; and at the same time he condemns their avarice, because they took the worst of their animals to offer in the temple, as though they lost everything they consecrated to God.
Why he calls the sacrifices the meat or food of God, we now sufficiently understand. Only this ought to be observed, that the impiety of the people was evident, as they were so unconcerned in their duties; for God had not in vain instituted sacrifices and other rites. The contempt then of the signs openly showed not only the negligence of the people, but also their contempt of all religion. Were any one at this day to regard as nothing outward teaching and the sacraments, would he not prove himself to be an impious despiser of God? Yet religion, I allow, does not consist in these things; for though hypocrites pretend the most ardent zeal, they yet profane the name of God, whenever the truth sounds in their ears and the heart is not touched, and when they come to the Lord’s table and are at the same time alienated from Christ. These things I allow; but as no true servant of God can despise these ordinances, which on account of our common infirmity are useful to us, and without which we cannot be as long as we sojourn in this world, whosoever derides our simplicity in frequenting God’s house, or if silent abstains from doing so, and regards such a practice as nothing or as unimportant, he is thus, as I have said, proved guilty of impiety. This is the reason why the Prophet so sharply reproves the Jews, because they said that the provision for the altar was God’s contemptible food. It follows —
13. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts: and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.
13. Et dixistis, Ecce fatigatio (alii vertunt, Ecce ex fatigatione,) et sufflastis in illud, dicit Iehova exercituum; et obtulistis raptum et claudum et debile; et obtulistis Minchah (hoc est, oblationem;) an gratam hanc habebo e manu vestra, dicit Iehova.
He pursues the same subject — that the worship of God was despised by them and regarded as almost worthless. We must bear in mind what I have before stated — that the Jews are not reprehended here as though they had openly and avowedly spoken reproachfully of God’s worship; but that this was sufficiently evident from their conduct; for they allowed themselves so much licentiousness, that it was quite manifest that they were trifling with God, inasmuch as they had cast off every fear of him and all reverence towards him.
Ye have said, Behold, labor. This may apply to the whole people, or to the priests alone. It is commonly explained of the priests — that they complained that they had a hard office, because they were continually in the temple and constantly watched there, and were much occupied in cleaning the vessels.
The monks at this day under the Papacy, and the priests, boasting of themselves, say, “While all others sleep, we are watching; for we are constant in prayers.” Forsooth! they howl at midnight in their temples; and then by massing and by doing other strange things they imagine that they are seriously engaged in pacifying God. In this sense do some understand this passage, as though the priests, in order to commend their work, alleged that they labored much in God’s service, and as though God had enjoined on them many and difficult things. But I prefer applying this to the whole people, and yet I do not exclude the priests; for the Prophet here condemns both, and shows that it was wearisome to them to spend labor in worshipping God, that they considered it weariness, as we commonly say, Tu le fais par courvee. 211
And the import of what follows is the same, Ye have snuffed at it, that is, through disdain. Some give this rendering, “With sorrow have ye moved him;” and the verb is in Hiphil, and is often taken in this sense. The verb, נפח, nephech, is properly to snuff; and it is here in another conjugation; but even in Hiphil it has this meaning, and cannot be taken otherwise. Now they who render it, to move or touch with sorrow, are under the necessity of turning the words of the Prophet to a sense the most foreign and remote, even that the priests, extremely greedy of gain, compelled the common people to bring sacrifices, and thus extorted sacrifices, but not without sorrow and lamentation. We see how forced this is: I therefore wholly reject it. Some have hammered out a very refined sense, which is by no means suitable, “Ye have snuffed at it,” that is, Ye have said indeed that the victims are good and sufficiently fat; and yet ye may by breath blow them into the air. Others render it, to cast down, because they threw the sacrifices on the ground. But what need there is of departing from the common meaning of the word, since it is easy to conclude that both the priests and the people are here condemned, because the worship of God was a weariness to them, as we snuff at a thing when it displeases us. The behavior then of the fastidious is what the Prophet meant here to express. The passage will thus be very appropriate, Ye have said, Behold weariness! Ye have snuffed at it: then he adds, —
Ye have offered the torn, and the lame, and the weak. These words prove the same thing — that they performed their duty towards God in a trifling manner by offering improper victims: when they had anything defective or diseased, they said that it was sacred to God, as we find it stated in the next verse. Some improperly render, גזול, gazul, a prey, what had been unjustly procured, as though he had said, that they offered victims obtained by plunder: but I wonder how they could thus distort the words of the Prophet without any pretense. He mentions here three kinds — the torn, the lame, and the maimed or the feeble. Who then does not see that the torn was an animal which had been torn by wild beasts? When therefore they had an animal half dead, having been torn by wolves, they thought that they had a suitable victim: “I am constrained to offer a sacrifice to God, this lamb is very suitable, for the wolf has devoured a part of it, and it has hardly escaped: as then it is maimed, I will bring it.” The Prophet then calls those torn victims which had been lacerated by the teeth of wild beasts.
We now understand the import of the words; but we must remember what I have said — that God required not the performance of external rites, because he had need of meat and drink, or because he set a great value on these sacrifices, but on account of their design. The sacrifices then which God demanded from his ancient people had in themselves nothing that promoted true religion; nor could the odour of sacrifices of itself delight God; but the end was to be regarded. As then God ordered and commanded sacrifices to be offered to him, that he might exercise his people in penitence and faith, it was for this reason that he valued them. But when the people had fallen into gross contempt of them, that they brought to God, as it were to insult him, the maimed and the lame, their extremely base and intolerable impiety, as I have already said, was made fully evident. This is the reason why the Prophet now so vehemently chides the priests and the whole people; they offered to God such sacrifices as man would have rejected, according to what we noticed yesterday. It then follows —
14. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
14. Maledictus autem dolosus, qui dum est in grege sua masculus, et vovet et sacrificat corruptum Iehovae; quia Rex magnus ego, dicit Iehova exercituum; et nomen meum terribile in gentibus.
I cannot finish today, for I should be too long.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou dost not keep us at this day under the shadows of the law, by which thou didst train up the race of Abraham, but invitest us to a service far more excellent, even to consecrate ourselves, body and soul, as victims to thee, and to offer not only ourselves, but also sacrifices of praise and of prayer, as thou hast consecrated all the duties of religion which thou requirest from us, through Christ thy Son, — O grant, that we may seek true purity, and labor to render, by a real sincerity of heart, our services approved by thee, and so reverently profess and call upon thy name, that really fulfilled in us may that be which thou best declared by thy Prophet — that thy name shall be magnified and celebrated through the whole world, as it was truly made known to us in the person of thine only begotten Son. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Seventy Third
I repeated yesterday the last verse of the first chapter, but I did not explain it. The Prophet declares here, that all who dealt deceitfully and unfaithfully with God were under a curse; and at the same time he specifies the kind of fraud practiced; they chose from the flock such as were diseased or defective to offer as sacrifices to God. It was indeed a proof of extreme dishonesty thus perversely to mock God: for as we have seen no man would bear such an insult. Then the Prophet, in order at once to complete what he had begun, distinctly says, that they were all accursed
The verb, נכל, necal, means in Hebrew, to think; but it is taken almost at all times in a bad sense: hence interpreters have not improperly rendered it here, deceitful; but the deceit the Prophet meant to express is of this kind — when men craftily contrive for themselves vain pretences; for when they can cover their baseness before the world, they think that they are at the same time absolved in heaven. The Prophet then says, that they who think that they can escape God’s judgment by such artifices are under a curse.
I come now to the kind of fraud they practiced, If there be, he says, in his flock a male, that is, a lamb or a ram, when he vows, then what is corrupt he offers to Jehovah. He then means, that though they pretended some religion, yet nothing was done by them with a sincere and honest heart; for they immediately repented of the vow made to God; they thought that they might be reduced to poverty, if they were too bountiful in their sacrifices. Hence then the Prophet proves that they offered to God with a double mind, and that whatever they thus offered was polluted, because it did not proceed from a right motive.
We said yesterday, that the Prophet did not require fat or lean beasts, because God valued either the blood or flesh of animals on its own account, but for the end in view; for these were the performances of religion by which God designed to train up the Jews for the end contemplated, and in the duty of repentance. As then they were so sordid as to these sacrifices, it was easy to conclude, that they were gross and profane despisers of God, and had no concern for religion.
The reason follows, For a great king am I, saith Jehovah, and my name is terrible 212 among the nations. God declares here that his majesty was of no account among the Jews, as though he had said, “With whom do you think that you have to do?” And this is what we ought carefully to consider when engaged in God’s service. We indeed know that it is a vice which has prevailed in all ages, that all nations and individuals thought that they worshipped God, when they devised foolish and frivolous rites according to their own fancies. If then we have a desire to worship God aright, we must remember how great he is; for his majesty will raise us up above the whole world, and cease will that audacity which possesses almost all mankind; for they think that their own will is a law, when they presumptuously obtrude anything on God. The greatness of God then ought to humble us, that we may not worship him according to the perceptions of our flesh, but offer him only what is worthy of his celestial glory.
He again repeats what we have before observed, though it was disregarded by the Jews, — that he was a great king through the whole world. As then the Jews thought that sacrifices could not be offered to God, such as he would accept, in any other place but at Jerusalem, and in the temple on Mount Sion, he testifies that he is a great king even in the farthest parts of the world. It hence follows, that God’s worship would not be confined to Judea, or to any other particular part of the world; for by the gospel the Lord would receive to himself all nations, and come into the possession of his kingdom. Now follows
The order of the words in the original gives a peculiar emphasis to the sentence —
Was it not a brother that Esau was to Jacob?
The Welsh will express it word for word —
Onid brawd oedd Esau i Jacob?
These two verses may be thus rendered —
2. “I have loved you,” saith Jehovah; But ye say, “How hast thou loved us?”— “Was not Esau a brother to Jacob,” saith Jehovah?
3. “Yet I loved Jacob, and Esau I hated; And I have set his mountains a waste, And his heritage for the serpents of the desert.”
It is rather an ironical language, as it will appear from the following literal version —
8. And when ye bring the blind for a sacrifice, no evil! And when ye bring the lame and the sick, no evil! Offer, it, I pray, to thy governor; Will he be pleased with thee or accept thy person, Saith Jehovah of hosts?
The whole is in the strain of irony; and the first lines are much more striking than when the interrogative particle is introduced. So is the rendering of the Septuagint, οὐ κακὸν — no evil. It was the Targum that introduced the interrogative form. — Ed.
So ought this sentence to be rendered; and it is thus rendered by Newcome, only for “contemptible” he has “despicable,” while Henderson retains the former, as it is in our version. — Ed.
It is generally admitted that this verse is ironical. The second line has been differently interpreted: some regard the impure sacrifices before mentioned as being referred to, “from your hand have these come,” following the Septuagint, where זאת is rendered “ταυτα — these:” but the most obvious meaning is that given by Calvin, that the sentence is a concession as to what the priests are ironically exhorted to do. I give the following version, —
And now, intreat now God’s face that he may favor us; By you (literally by your hand) has this been done: Will he on your account lift up the face? Saith Jehovah of hosts.
To “lift up the face” is to show favor. The words seem to be spoken by the Prophet, and by saying, “saith Jehovah,” at the end, he identifies what he says with the mind of God, as though he said that what he addressed to them was communicated to him from above. Instead of מכם, “on your account,” some MS., have לכם, “for you,” or “for your sake.” — Ed.
Adopted by Jerome, Cyril, and in our version, and by Henry, Scott, Adam Clarke, and Henderson. But Marckius takes another view, previously taken by Drusius, Gataker, and Cocceius, according to the following version —
Who is there moreover among you? let him even close the doors, That ye may not kindle my altar in vain.
“What he seems to say is this,” observes Drusius, “I wish there were some one so inflamed by a pious zeal, as to close the doors, and thus to exclude all unlawful sacrifices.” To kindle or light the altar was to light the fire under it to consume the sacrifice. The Targum favors “in vain,” or to no purpose, “Offer ye not on my altar an execrable oblation.” The word הכם is used in both senses — “for nothing” or without gain, Ge 29:15; Ex 21:2,—and “in vain” or uselessly, Pr 1:27; Eze 6:10
It is difficult to know which of these views is the right one. What seems against our version is the negative לא in the second line. The sense given would be better brought out without it; and so Jerome leaves it out in his explanation. The form also of the sentence being changed renders it improbable that חנם belongs to the former clause. The version of Drusius comes nearest to the original, and is countenanced by the Septuagint and the Targum. — Ed.
Literally it is — “Not to me is delight in you,” i.e., I have no delight in you. — Ed.
The verse begins with כי, which Calvin suggests may be rendered “certe — surely,” or verily; and this would be most suitable here —
Verily, from the rising of the sun to it setting, Great shall be my name among the nations; And in every place incense shall be brought To my name, and a pure offering: Verily, great shall be my name Among the nations, saith Jehovah of hosts.
The Septuagint render the first part as past, “glorified has been my name;” and the second in the present, “is brought.” But the future is intended, as the last verb is in that tense, “I will not accept:” for when there is no verb in a sentence, and the auxiliary verb is understood, as is often the case in Hebrew, the tense is regulated by the context. “I will not accept your offering, but an offering shall be brought to me,” and has been or is, but shall be. — Ed.
As an instance of a gradual deviation from the truth, Justin Martyr, in the second century, rendered the word “incense,” θυσια, a sacrifice, while in the Septuagint it is θυμιαμα, incense.
And what is offered thereon, even its food, is despicable.—Newcome. This is nearly the version of the Septuagint.
And its fruit, even his food, is contemptible.—Henderson
The table of Jehovah, polluted it is and his (or, its) fruit; contemptible is his (or, its) food.—Marckius
The last comes nearest to the original, and is the most obvious construction. The verse may be thus rendered:
But ye profane it by saying,
“The table of Jehovah, Polluted is it and its fruit,
Contemptible is its food.”
Variety of meanings has been given to the word מתלאה Calvin takes it as one word with two letters added to לאה, to be weary or tired. But Drusius, Marckius, Parkhurst, Henderson, and others, regard it as a contraction for מה and תלאה, according to some other instances in Hebrew, and render it “What weariness!” and this corresponds with the context more than any other view. The Septuagint and the Targum considered the מ as a preposition, and this mistake has been followed by Jerome and the fathers, and also by Grotius and Newcome. “Behold, from weariness,” or from labor, or from affliction: and it has been regarded as an excuse made by the priests on account of their poor and depressed condition. But there is nothing to countenance this notion in the context.
Calvin adopted the past tense in this and the preceding verse, and so has Henderson; but Marckius and Newcome, with more correctness, render the verbs in the present tense, for they are all in this verse preceded by a conversive ו, vau; and the last line shows that the present time is intended, —
13. And ye say, “What weariness!” And ye snuff at it, saith Jehovah of hosts; And ye bring the torn, and the lame, and the sick, When ye bring an offering: Shall I accept it from your hand, saith Jehovah?
There are two evils ascribed to the priests—they were discontented with their office and performed it as a drudgery — and they allowed forbidden victims to be offered.
“Offering,” מנחה, signifies a gift or a present, whether a victim or meat-offering. See Ge 4:2-5. Here evidently it comprehends “the torn,” “the lame,” etc., as it is clear from the words, “Shall I accept it?” that is, the offering, including those specified; for if it meant a meat-offering, as some suppose, non-acceptance would be confined to it alone. — Ed.
Rendered “illustrious — επιφανὲς,” by the Septuagint, — “powerful,” by the Targum, — “dreadful — horrible,” by Jerome, — “terrible — terrible,” by Marckius, — “shall be feared,” by Henderson, — “shall be had in reverence,” by Newcome, and the same with Drusius, “reverendum.” The word is literally “to be feared,” נורא; it is often rendered “terrible,” what causes dread or terror. Some take the present tense, “my name is terrible,” i.e., is dreaded on account of my greatness, manifested by my judgments. But if we take the future, then we must render the words — “my name shall be feared” or reverenced. — Ed.