Malachi 1

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  • Malachi 1:1.
  • Masoretic Text: A pronouncement, the word of YHWH to Israel by the hand of Malachi.

    Septuagint: A pronouncement, the word of the Lord to Israel by the hand of his messenger; do set [it] upon your hearts.


    The first Hebrew word is massa’, which has been defined as “utterance,” “pronouncement,” “oracle,” or “burden.”

    In the Septuagint, the corresponding term is lémma, which basically means “something that is received.” Linked with the expression “word of YHWH,” lémma could mean “contents of the word of YHWH,” “a received message, the word of YHWH,” or “a pronouncement, the word of YHWH.” The Vulgate reads onus, “load” or “burden.”

    The Septuagint translator did not render Malachi as a proper name, and the Hebrew can be understood as designating Malachi or a messenger. In the Vulgate, however, the name is Malachi.

    Although the words of Malachi are quoted in Mark 1:2, the oldest extant manuscripts attribute them to Isaiah (whose words are quoted in verse 3). This may be an indication that Malachi was not regarded as a proper name.

    Although the Septuagint contains the idiom (as does the book of Haggai), “set upon your hearts” (give serious thought to), the words are missing in the Masoretic Text. No part of the first chapter has been preserved in any discovered Dead Sea Scroll, and the Vulgate agrees with the reading of the Masoretic Text.


    The word of YHWH was a sobering, weighty message, a pronouncement of reproof. The expression “by the hand” indicates that YHWH conveyed his message through a human agency, his messenger.

    If Malachi is a proper name, this would be the limit of any personal details about the prophet. As a name, Malachi means either “my messenger” or “messenger of YHWH” (if the final yod [Y] is an abbreviation for Yah). He served as YHWH’s messenger after the exile, at a time when affairs were administered by governors, and may have been a contemporary of Nehemiah. The kind of abuses mentioned in the book, however, reveal that Nehemiah could not have been in Jerusalem at the time.

  • Malachi 1:2.
  • Masoretic Text: I have loved you, said YHWH, and you have said, “How have you loved us?” Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? [is the] announcement of YHWH. And I loved Jacob.

    Septuagint: I have loved you, says the Lord, and you have said, “How have you loved us?” Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. And I loved Jacob.


    YHWH’s assurance of his love for Israel is followed by the people’s question, “How have you loved us?” The question pattern found in this book is likely a matter of style. This first question, though, implies disbelief on the people’s part.

    In response, they were asked to recall their relationship to Esau and the historical evidence verifying God’s love for Jacob. The Israelites knew from their sacred writings that, before the twins were born, YHWH chose Jacob for his purpose. (Genesis 25:22, 23) Esau did not value his birthright and thus revealed that he did not appreciate the sacred privileges associated with it. (Genesis 25:27-34) His descendants pursued a life of violence and manifested ever greater hatred for Israel. (Obadiah 10-14)

  • Malachi 1:3.
  • Masoretic Text: And Esau I have hated and made his mountains a desolation and his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.

    Septuagint: But Esau I have hated and made his borders into a desolation and his inheritance into gifts of the wilderness.


    Septuagint manuscripts vary in reading either “borders” or “mountains.”

    The Hebrew word for “jackals” and the term meaning a “consecrated gift” are similar, and this may explain the Septuagint reading.


    YHWH’s hatred for Esau was not an arbitrary choice. Jacob’s brother was unsuitable for YHWH’s purpose that ultimately related to the coming of the Messiah. The evidence of YHWH’s hatred for Esau proved to be the desolation of their land through the ravages of war. The desolated land had become a haunt for scavenging jackals.

  • Malachi 1:4.
  • Masoretic Text: For Edom will say, “We have been shattered, but we will return and rebuild the desolated places.” Thus says YHWH of hosts: They will build, and I will tear down. And they will be called border of wickedness and the people whom YHWH has denounced for eternity.

    Septuagint: For Idumea will say, “It has been overthrown, and we will return and rebuild the desolate places.” Thus says the Lord Almighty: They will build, and I will tear down. And they will be called borders of lawlessness and the people against whom the Lord arrayed himself for eternity.


    The Hebrew and Greek words for “border” can also mean “territory” or “region.”

    In Hebrew, the thought of “eternity” (‘oláhm) basically denotes time of indefinite duration. The corresponding Greek term aión means “age,” with “for eternity” literally being “into [the] age.”


    Edom lay in ruins. The Edomites, however, felt that they would be able to rebuild, but YHWH decreed that he would frustrate their rebuilding efforts. Never would they succeed in regaining their former position as a nation. By reason of the abiding desolation, Edom would become known as the “border” or “region of wickedness.” Evidently other peoples would conclude that the extreme lawlessness of the Edomites was the reason for the continuing desolation of their land. The Edomites would, therefore, be regarded as people with whom YHWH was perpetually angry.

  • Malachi 1:5.
  • Masoretic Text: And your eyes will see, and you will say, “YHWH is great above the border of Israel.”

    Septuagint: And your eyes will see, and you will say, “The Lord has been magnified beyond the borders of Israel.”

    Note: The Greek word hyperáno can mean “above,” “beyond,” and “over,” and the corresponding Hebrew term (má‘al) is defined as “above,” “over,” “higher” and “upwards.” Numerous modern translations (NAB, NIV, NRSV, Tanakh) have adopted the meaning that is conveyed by the paraphrase of the Contemporary English Version: “The LORD’s great reputation reaches beyond our borders.”


    Settled in their land and observing that the Edomites could not lift themselves up as a nation, the Israelites would acknowledge that YHWH had proved himself great above the land of Israel. His power and mercy would be in evidence in their land. Peoples of other nations would also be able to see the sharp contrast between Israel and Edom, causing YHWH’s fame to be spread beyond the boundaries of the land of Israel.

  • Malachi 1:6.
  • Masoretic Text: A son honors [his] father, and a slave his lord. And if I [am] a father, where [is] my honor? And if I [am] Lord, where [is] my fear? said YHWH of hosts to you, the priests, [the ones] despising my name. And you say, “How have we despised your name?”

    Septuagint: A son honors [his] father, and a slave his lord. And if I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am Lord, where is my fear? says the Lord Almighty to you, the priests, the ones despising my name. And you have said, “How have we despised your name?”


    As in the book of Haggai, “YHWH of hosts” appears frequently. In this context, the expression may call attention to YHWH’s great dignity in having at his command a great host of spirit persons, angels.

    In a footnote (with reference to “slave”), the Tanakh says, “Septuagint and Targum add ‘should reverence’; cf. next part of verse.” (The text would then read, a slave should reverence [or, fear] his lord.) The major extant manuscripts of the Septuagint, however, do not add the verb for fear or reverence. According to Rahlfs’ printed edition, this word is a corrector’s addition to Codex Sinaiticus and is contained in the recension of Lucian. In view of the limited manuscript support, printed editions of the Septuagint do not incorporate this addition in the main text.


    A dutiful son has high regard for his father, according him due honor. Similarly, a servant “fears” or “respects” his master. As the Father of Israel, should YHWH not have been receiving the honor that was rightfully his? YHWH was also the Lord, Master, or Owner of Israel. Should he not have been shown the proper fear or respect?

    The priests should have been exemplary in showing due honor and respect, but they failed seriously. By failing to uphold the law, they despised YHWH’s name, that is, they despised the person represented by the name, YHWH himself.

    In response to this expression of judgment, the priests asked: “How have we despised your name?” Although likely stylistic, this question suggests a denial on the priests’ part.

  • Malachi 1:7.
  • Masoretic Text: [By] bringing polluted bread to my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted you?” In your saying, “The table of YHWH is despised.”

    Septuagint: [By] bringing polluted bread [loaves] to my altar. And you have said, “How have we polluted them?” In your saying, “The table of the Lord is despised, and the food placed thereon is despised.”

    Note: The extant text of the Septuagint is expanded, including basically what appears at the end of verse 12. Additionally, the Septuagint refers to polluting or defiling the “bread [loaves]” or sacrifices, not YHWH.


    The priests had despised YHWH by presenting unsuitable sacrifices on the altar. Being a general designation for food, “bread” refers to the sacrifices. (Leviticus 21:6, 8, 17) The Mosaic law required that animals presented for sacrifice be without blemish. (Leviticus 22:20-25) Animals having a defect were to be regarded as unclean or defiled, making them unacceptable for sacrifice.

    According to the Hebrew text, the response of the priests was, “How have we polluted you?” The extant Septuagint, however, is “How have we polluted them?” The defiled sacrifices would be YHWH’s “food” or “bread.” His “partaking” thereof would, therefore, be defiling. Similarly, placing something unclean on the altar or “table of YHWH” would pollute it. When the priests did so, they disregarded the sanctity of the altar, despising it. According to the reading of the Septuagint, they also despised the sacrifices. The priests manifested no concern that unacceptable offerings were being placed on the altar and thus engaged in a meaningless ritual that dishonored the sacrificial arrangement.

  • Malachi 1:8.
  • Masoretic Text: And when you bring a blind [animal] for sacrifice, [is that] not evil? And when you bring a lame or sick [animal], [is that] not evil? Present it, then, to your governor. Will he be pleased with you or lift up your face? said YHWH of hosts.

    Septuagint: For if you bring a blind [animal] for sacrifice, [is that] not evil? And if you bring a lame or sick [animal], [is that] not evil? Bring it, then, to your governor, if he will accept it, if he will receive your face, says the Lord Almighty.


    The aspect about its not being evil or wrong may be understood either as a statement or a question. Translations vary. “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice—it doesn’t matter! When you present a lame or sick one—it doesn’t matter!” (Tanakh) “And when you offer a blind animal for sacrifice, it is no evil! And when ye offer the lame and sick, it is not evil!” (Margolis) “When you offer a blind animal for sacrifice, is this not evil? When you offer the lame or the sick, is it not evil?” (NAB) “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame and sick, is that not wrong?” (NRSV)

    In Hebrew, the idiom “lift up your face” denotes “receive you favorably” and the corresponding expression “receive your face” (found in the Septuagint) has the same significance.

    Instead of “will accept it,” certain Septuagint manuscripts read “will accept you.”


    By accepting unsuitable animals for sacrifice, the priests were not treating YHWH’s table or altar as holy. They were showing contempt for it. They saw nothing bad in their disregarding the requirements of the law and accepting blind, lame, and sickly animals as offerings.

    A challenge was directed to the priests. Let them present such blemished animals to the governor, the appointee of the Persian monarch. Would the governor be pleased? Would this lead to a favorable reception from him? The implied answer to both questions is, No. In view of this, the people would have been able to conclude that they could not expect YHWH’s favor and blessing while continuing to offer blemished sacrifices.

  • Malachi 1:9.
  • Masoretic Text: And now, then, entreat the face of God, that he favor us. From your hand this was. Will he lift up the faces from you? said YHWH of hosts.

    Septuagint: And now, propitiate the face of your God and petition him. By your hands these [things] have happened. Will I accept your faces from you? says the Lord Almighty.

    Note: As in the previous verse, the expression about lifting up faces or accepting faces denotes a favorable reception.


    The priests are challenged to entreat the “face of God,” that is, YHWH himself, with the objective of having his favor extended. The implication is that such entreaty would not gain a favorable response. From their “hand,” or through the priests, disregard of YHWH’s requirements for proper sacrifices had taken place. Therefore, the implied answer to the question about YHWH’s lifting up their faces or granting a favorable reception was, No.

  • Malachi 1:10.
  • Masoretic Text: Who even among you also will shut the doors [so that] you may not light my altar for nothing? To me, [there is] no delight in you, said YHWH of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

    Septuagint: For even among you the doors will be shut, and you will not kindle my altar for nothing. My desire is not in you, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept an offering from your hands.


    The Hebrew may be understood as meaning who among the priests would shut the doors. In numerous modern translations, this has been rendered, not as a question, but as a desire on YHWH’s part. “I wish someone would lock the doors of my temple, so you would stop wasting time building fires on my altar.” (CEV) “Oh, that one among you would shut the temple gates to keep you from kindling fire on my altar in vain!” (NAB) “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar!” (NIV) “If only you would lock My doors, and not kindle fire on My altar to no purpose.” (Tanakh)

    The Hebrew expression “for nothing” can mean either “without compensation” or “in vain.” The Vulgate uses the adverb gratuito (“gratuitously,” “without pay,” or “freely”). The noun form of the Latin word means “present” or “gift,” and the verb means “to give,” “to present,” or “to offer.” Based on the Vulgate, Ronald Knox rather freely rendered the verse: “Never a man of you but must be paid to shut door, light altar-fire; no friends of mine, says Lord of hosts, no gifts will I take from such as you.”


    The thought conveyed by the shutting of the doors and the lighting of the altar fire depends on the significance of the expression “for nothing.” If it means “in vain” or “to no purpose,” this would indicate YHWH’s wish that someone would shut the doors (probably the doors of the court where the altar of burnt offering was located) and discontinue the services. The offerings were unacceptable, and so there was no point in lighting the altar fire. If, however, the idea is “for nothing,” this would suggest that the priests expected to be paid for such simple services as shutting the doors and lighting the altar fire.

    In view of how the priests had conducted themselves in carrying out their duties, YHWH found no pleasure in them. From their “hand” (through them as officiating priests), he would not accept any offering.

  • Malachi 1:11.
  • Masoretic Text: For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, my name [is] great among the nations, and in every place incense [is] being offered to my name and a clean sacrifice, for my name [is] great among the nations, said YHWH of hosts.

    Septuagint: For from the rising of the sun to [its] setting, my name is glorified among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name and a clean sacrifice, for my name [is] great among the nations, says the Lord Almighty.


    The law authorized only one location for offering divinely approved incense and sacrifices. These prophetic words, however, indicate that there would be a change.

    With the exception of the participle (“being offered”), the Hebrew text has no verbs. The Septuagint does supply verbs, but none of them are in the future tense. Translators of the Hebrew text have varied in their use of verbs. “‘My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (NIV) “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.” (NRSV) Being the word of YHWH, its fulfillment was certain. Therefore, the tense of the verbs is immaterial.


    The failure of the Aaronic priests is set in contrast with positive developments among the nations. From the most distant eastern parts to the most distant western parts, non-Jewish peoples would exalt God’s name, that is, YHWH himself. No longer would divinely approved worship be centered in one geographical location. “In every place,” people could present incense and sacrifice and find acceptance with YHWH.

    As is common with the prophets, future realities are conveyed in the language of the then-present situation. At that time, worship was prominently associated with incense and sacrifices. The arrangement for worship to which the words of Malachi 1:11 appear to point is the one about which Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman. “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain [Gerizim] nor in Jerusalem....Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24, NIV) From the time of the outpouring of God’s spirit upon believers after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the true Israel (which came to include an ever-increasing number of believing non-Jews) has been offering up acceptable prayers that have ascended like incense and also sacrifices of praise, the fruit of the lips. (Hebrew 13:15, 16; Revelation 8:3, 4) This has occurred in “every place” where they may be living.

  • Malachi 1:12.
  • Masoretic Text: And you defile him in your saying, “The table of my Lord [is] polluted; it and its fruit [are] contemptible—his food.”

    Septuagint: But you defile it in your saying, “The table of the Lord is polluted, and the [offerings] laid thereon are despised—his food.”


    In Hebrew, “you” is a masculine plural, indicating that the Aaronic priests are being addressed.

    The object of the defilement is either “it” (LXX; the name of YHWH and, therefore, the person represented by the name, YHWH himself) or “him”/“me” (YHWH himself).

    Christian D. Ginsburg, in his Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible, says (pages 362, 363): “The oldest Massorah in the St. Petersburg Codex of A.D. 916, which registers these alterations of the Sopherim, adds two more examples which are not given in any of the ancient documents. And though the catchwords are simply given without mentioning what the original reading was which the Sopherim altered, there is no difficulty in ascertaining it by the light of the other Sopheric alterations and by bearing in mind the principle which underlies these changes.” His conclusion regarding Malachi 1:12 is that “me” had been changed to “him” to soften the sense, “obviating the direct reference to God.” Translations vary, using both “me” (NAB) and “it” (NIV, NRSV, Tanakh).


    Instead of bringing honor to YHWH, the Aaronic priests profaned his name, the very person represented by the name. They did this by their gross disrespect for YHWH’s altar, failing to treat it as holy. While the priests did not actually voice their disrespect, they did so in action. They treated the altar like a common table upon which meat from blemished animals could be placed as part of a meal. Thus they also showed contempt for the “food” or offering placed on the altar.

  • Malachi 1:13.
  • Masoretic Text: And you say, “Look! What weariness!” and you have blown on it, said YHWH of hosts, and you bring seized [animals] and the lame and the sick, and you bring the offering. Should I accept it from your hand? said YHWH.

    Septuagint: And you said, “These are laborious,” and I blew at them, says the Lord Almighty. And you have brought seized [animals] and the lame and the sick. And if you bring the offering, am I to accept them from your hands? says the Lord Almighty.


    According to the ancient Jewish authorities, Malachi 1:13 is one of the passages where the Sopherim altered the text. They changed the object of the blowing from “me” (YHWH) to “it” (the offering). A number of translations do read “me” (JB, Luther 1984 revised edition, NRSV), but others have retained the “it” (NAB, NIV, Tanakh). The reference to the “blowing” has been variously understood. In the revised edition of Luther’s translation, the “blowing” is represented as an expression of anger (bringt mich in Zorn [incite me to anger]). Numerous English translations render the expression as meaning an act of contempt. “You sniff at me.” (NRSV) “And so you degrade it” (Tanakh), “you sniff at it contemptuously” (NIV), and “you scorn it” (NAB).

    With reference to the “blowing,” there is Septuagint manuscript evidence for “you blew.” Other Septuagint manuscripts, however, read “I blew.” YHWH’s doing so would indicate his rejection of the blemished sacrifices.


    The priests did not appreciate their sacred duties. They regarded the work involved as troublesome, wearisome, or an unpleasant chore. If the “blowing” relates to their priestly service, it could mean that they turned up their noses at it. In the event the original Hebrew reading is “me” (YHWH), the thought would be that they acted offensively toward YHWH.

    For sacrifice, the priests accepted animals that had been seized (possibly taken by robbery or, more likely, maimed by wolves or other beasts of prey). They did not hesitate to present lame or sickly sheep, goats, and cattle. The question directed to them, therefore, was: How could YHWH be pleased with such blemished sacrifices?

  • Malachi 1:14.
  • Masoretic Text: And cursed [is] the cheat when [there] is a male in his flock and he vows and sacrifices a ruined [animal] to the Lord, for I [am] a great King, said YHWH of hosts, and my name [is] feared among the nations.

    Septuagint: And cursed [is] the one who was able and had remaining a male in his flock, and his vow [is] upon him, and he sacrifices a ruined [animal] to the Lord, for I am a great King, says the Lord Almighty, and my name [is] distinguished among the nations.


    Through his messenger, YHWH pronounced a curse on the deceptive Israelite with an unblemished male animal in his flock but who substituted a defective one when making an offering in fulfillment of his vow. Earlier (in verse 13), the priests were censured because they accepted seized, lame, and sick animals for sacrifice. Therefore, the “ruined” animal could have been maimed, lame, or sick. It might even include one that had been wrongfully seized from someone else. (Compare 2 Samuel 12:2-4.) The deceptive action was an affront to YHWH. He is a great “King,” far superior to any human governor or other ruler who would not have tolerated being treated with such disrespect. By reason of the greatness associated with the name of YHWH, he himself would be held in awe among the nations. Again (as in verse 11), a contrast is drawn between a positive response among people of non-Jewish nations toward YHWH’s name and the disrespect being shown by the people who professed to be his worshipers. This served to emphasize the seriousness of the sin, revealing why the “cheat” merited a curse.