|The Book of Malachi|
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Go to Bible: Malachi 1
“burden.” The Hebrew is massa (#04853 מַשָּׂא), which means burden, load, and is then used of things that are a load or a burden. Many modern versions say something such as “oracle” or “word,” but that is not the proper meaning in the context of the prophecies of the prophets.
In their commentary on the Old Testament (note on Nahum 1:1), Keil and Delitzsch write:
In his commentary on Malachi 1:1, Ralph Smith (WBC) writes: “It is best to read it here as “burden” referring to something the prophet must accept, carry, and deliver to others.”
It is easy to see why some translators would want to use “word,” “oracle,” or “message” instead of “burden” (or “burdensome message”). The vast majority of Christians have never had a “burden” or burdensome message from the Lord to deliver to another, so they have a hard time identifying with it. However, most people have been faced with difficult decisions about whether or not to confront another person and how to go about it. Confrontation is difficult, and giving bad news to someone is difficult too, and God called upon His prophets to do both, and it was difficult for them. It was indeed a “burden.”
Anyone who has received a prophetic message to deliver has experienced some of the burden of prophecy. Even if the prophetic word is generally favorable, the burden the prophet feels to deliver it at the right time in the right way with the proper emphasis is palpable. However, if the message is unfavorable, then that message is indeed a burden to the prophet and the one who hears it. The fact that the prophecy is a word from Yahweh is a given. The fact that it is a “burden” to the prophet and usually to the people who hear it is the truth that needs to be understood. The message given to a prophet to deliver to others is referred to as a “burden” in 2 Kings 9:25; Isaiah 13:1; 14:28; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1; 21:11; 21:13; 22:1; 23:1; 30:6; Jeremiah 23:33, 34, 36, 38; Ezekiel 12:10; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; 12:1; Malachi 1:1.
“Malachi.” The Hebrew word means, “My messenger.”(top)
“loved Jacob.” God’s loving Jacob and hating Esau does not refer to how He treated the two men personally. In this context, “Jacob” and “Esau” are used figuratively for the nations built from their descendants. [For more information on the use of Jacob and Esau in this context, see commentary on Rom. 9:13].(top)
“Esau.” Here in Malachi, the name “Esau” is not being used for the man, but rather for the nation that came from his descendants. Note how the nation is called by name, Edom, in Malachi 1:4. [See commentaries on Malachi 1:2 and Romans 9:13].(top)
|Mal 1:4||- (top)|
|Mal 1:5||- (top)|
“O priests.” The very existence of priests shows the failure of humans to continue in a sinless relationship with God and demonstrates a need for there to be some specially appointed people who would teach the people about God and godliness and thus keep the way to God open to people. But when the priests who are entrusted with that sacred task act as bad or worse than the people they are supposed to be helping, the way of God becomes clouded and God holds them especially accountable.(top)
“bread.” “Bread” was a common idiom for food. “Bread” came to be used by metonymy for food in general because bread was the main food in the culture and staple of life. See commentary on Leviticus 26:26.
“table.” We can see from the question and answer that in this context God is using the word “table” for His altar, the altar of sacrifice in the Temple. It is appropriate in this context for God to refer to His altar as a “table” because God is speaking to the priests (Mal. 1:6). The priests ate portions of many of the sacrifices. For example, the priest ate some of the grain offerings (Lev. 6:4-16, 18; 7:9-10), the sin offerings (Lev. 6:26, 29), the guilt offerings (Lev. 7:6), and the fellowship offerings (Lev. 7:28-34). Thus, in a very real sense, the altar of Yahweh was the table of the priests. The altar is also called the “table of Yahweh” in Malachi 1:12.
Furthermore, it was customary in the biblical culture—customary, but not commanded by God—that the two parties who made a covenant would share a meal together. So for God to call His altar a table was also supposed to remind the priests that they had a covenant relationship with God that they were obligated to honor.
There are a few examples of covenant meals in the Bible. That there are not more examples is not surprising, because things that were customary and were “standard operating procedure” were often simply assumed and not specifically mentioned in the Bible. In Genesis 26:28-30 Abimelech made a covenant with Isaac and they shared a meal together. In Genesis 31 Jacob and Laban made a covenant together and shared a meal (Gen. 31:44, 46).
In Exodus 24, the people of Israel made a covenant with God, and that covenant formed the basis of what we now call “the Old Covenant” (or “Old Testament”). The people of Israel sacrificed animals and made the covenant with God (Exod. 24:4-8), then the elders of Israel, the representatives of the people, went up the mountain and saw God (Exod. 24:9-10), and then, upon seeing God, the elders ate a covenant meal (Exod. 24:11). Since the Old Covenant was inaugurated with a blood sacrifice and a shared meal, it is not at all surprising that the Lord Jesus would, at the Last Supper, tell the Apostles to eat of the bread and drink of the wine that represented his body and blood. In that rare case, they ate the covenant meal before the covenant was made because Jesus was the sacrifice, and his shed blood inaugurated the covenant.(top)
“accept you.” The Hebrew is an idiom and literally reads, will He “lift up your face?” When a person came before a superior such as a king or governor it was customary to bow or prostrate oneself with one’s face down. If the ruler accepted the person, he would lift up the person’s face, or say something that would cause the person to lift up his face. Thus, to “lift up the face” meant to accept someone.(top)
“plead for God’s favor.” The Hebrew text is an idiom: “appease the face of God.”
“accept...you.” The Hebrew is an idiom and literally reads, “lift up your face.” See commentary on Malachi 1:8 for the idiom.(top)
“in vain.” This is one of the many verses in the Bible that says that if a person’s heart is not right with God, all the “religious actions,” such as offering, prayers, fasting, etc., is of no purpose. God looks on the heart. As God says in this verse, He will not accept an offering from these evil people. [For more information about the sacrifices of wicked people being of no value, see commentary on Amos 5:22].(top)
“my name will be great among the nations.” In the Millennial Kingdom, people all over the earth will worship Yahweh (see commentary on Zeph. 2:11).(top)
“its product.” The Hebrew is literally, “its fruit,” but here “fruit” is used of what the table of Yahweh produces. Like the Hebrews, we use the word “fruit” to refer to product or what is produced, such as when we say, “the fruit of one’s labor,” meaning what they produce. In this case, the “fruit” or the altar, or what the altar produces for the priests is the part of the sacrifices that the priests got to eat, thus, the “fruit” (product) of the altar was the food of the priests, but they disdained it.(top)
|Mal 1:13||- (top)|
|Mal 1:14||- (top)|