1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
The prophet was contemporary with Nehemiah, and thus ministered to the exiles who had returned from Babylon to establish the restored worship of God. It seems that Nehemiah had to return to report to the Monarch in "a far country," and was absent for a period of about twelve years. Meanwhile apostasy set in, the priesthood became corrupt, and the people lacked the spirit of the Truth.
The voice of Malachi was raised in protest, though but a small remnant responded.
2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith Yahweh Tz'vaoth, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
Yahweh Tz' vaoth repeated in this chapter - the title Tz'vaoth relates to belligerent judgement. In better times Yahweh was their Elohim (mighty ones) for blessing.
3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.
So corrupt were the leaders of the ecclesia and the practices of the priests, that Yahweh is represented as throwing back the refuse of their sacrifices into their faces. The priests stood in a privileged position in Israel, as we do in the world and had a responsibility to uphold the Truth.
4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith Yahweh Tz'vaoth.
They were "the priests, the Levites", as the Law repeatedly called them (e.g., Deut. 17: 9), and as such frequently acted as His representatives in Israel in the discharge of duties which, though they were properly the responsibility of the High Priest, were too numerous and too extensive for him to be able to attend to them all.
They were the custodians of the written Law (Deut. 17: 18; 19 : 17), and the spiritual instructors of the people (Lev. l0 : I I ; Deut. 24 : 8)
Law and Grace Ch 11
5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.
6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.
Spiritual qualifications of priesthood
7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of Yahweh Tz'vaoth.
The Levites were not to have any inheritance in the land assigned to Israel. They were to find their maintenance in another way. They were to be supported by a fixed contribution of a tenth from the produce of all the land. Nevertheless, they were to have cities of their own, though no fields or estates in the country (Joshua 21: 1-3).
"All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs" (verse 41).
These cities were scattered through the territories of all the other tribes. The enumeration of their several localities is minutely set forth in Joshua 21. The business of the Levites rendered this distribution necessary. Their business was to keep God before the mind of the people and to instruct them in the law.
They were intended to be a spiritualizing element in the population. The tribe of Levi was separated for this very purpose (Num. 8:14; 16:9). The character of the personal Levi and his immediate descendants appears to have been the basis of the selection.
How excellent a feature in the national life of Israel was this -- the wide scattering through all the land, of these Levitical cities as radiating centres of light and wisdom -- protecting the surrounding population from the mentally benumbing effects of a merely agricultural life while not interfering with the invigorating and broadening tendency of an out-of-door and opulent occupation...
...That it was a failure we know: but this was not the fault of the law, but of the people, and principally of the teachers.
...The reproduction of the system under Christ will be attended with very different results:
"I will settle you after your old estates, and do better unto you than at your beginnings." "I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever." "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
When we extend our view beyond the settlement of the people in families on the land, on the basis of inalienable inheritance (subject to unconditional and compulsory release every fifty years), to the further laws given to bring individual life under reverence, and purity and gratitude, and to rouse up public life into recurring seasons of joyous social activity, appreciation of the law of Moses swells and bursts into enthusiastic admiration.
Law of Moses Ch 8.
8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith Yahweh Tz'vaoth.
'...under the law of Moses, it was divinely appointed that "the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and Israel should seek the law at his mouth: for he was the messenger of the Lord of Hosts." The priests, however, became so corrupt and ignorant, that Israel sought in vain for knowledge at their lips, and therefore perished for lack of it. The Lord charged this home upon them by the hand of Malachi.
This was precisely the state of things when "THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT" made His appearance in Judea. He denounced them for their corruptions. "Ye have made" said He,
"the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Hypocrites that ye are, ye draw nigh to God with your mouth, and honour Him with your lips, but your heart is far from Him. But in vain do ye worship Him, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Among these hypocrites were the lawyers, who, feeling the keenness of His reproaches, remonstrated against it. But He turned upon them, and said,
"Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the KEY OF KNOWLEDGE: ye enter not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered" (Luke 11:52).
This was the unhappy condition of the Jewish nation at the appearing of Jesus; as it is of all the nations at the present time against whom the kingdom is shut by clerical traditions. The Lord Jesus came to restore to Israel the key of knowledge. "They erred not knowing the Scriptures;" but He was about to open them, so that in spite of the hypocrites, they might enter into the kingdom of God.
O that men could be induced now to devote themselves to the study of the Scriptures without regard to articles, creeds, confessions, and traditions! These things are more rubbish, monuments of presumption and folly of former generations indoctrinated with the wisdom from beneath.
If a Berean spirit could be infused into them; if they could be persuaded to "search the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11,12) for the truth as for hid treasure, they would soon leave their spiritual guides alone in all their glory of mysticism and patristic lore, and rejoice in that liberty of that truth which can alone make men "free indeed."
Elpis Israel 2.1.
9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
10 Have we not all one father? hath not one El created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?
11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of Yahweh which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.
12 Yahweh will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto Yahweh Tz'vaoth.
13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of Yahweh with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.
But, the Mosaic offerings were not always unpleasant to Yahweh. It was the abominations of the offerers that made them disgusting in his sight. The High Priests and their sacerdotal households, who ought to have been "Holiness to Yahweh," were very often men of reprobate character, setting an example to Israel which they were not slow to follow, thus verifying the sayings,
"Like priests, like people," and "the leaders of my people cause them to err."
...The saying, "insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand," implies that there was a time when he did regard the offering, and did receive it with good will, or pleasure, at their hand. Indeed the Spirit saith so in so many words when testifying of the purification of the sons of Levi; as it is written,
"Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to Yahweh (or regarded, and received with good will) as in days of old, and as in former years." (Mal 3:4)
In reading Yahweh's reasons for taking no pleasure in the sacrifice and offering; and burnt offerings, and offering for sin which were offered in Judah by the law, we are forcibly reminded of the sectarian practices and dogmas of our day.
When ecclesiastics want to "bring down the Holy Ghost," they assemble the people to what they call "the altar of the Lord," which, like Judah's priests of old, they "cover with tears, with weeping, and with crying out." This was the practice of Baal's worshippers, from whom the Jews learnt it; and it is the idolatrous custom in these times of those who profess to go to the Lord to "get religion!"
But the reader will perceive from the words of Yahweh himself that he despises such religion-getting, and turns his back upon it; so that the fruit of these ecclesiastical demonstrations are not of God, but of the carnal mind unenlightened by his truth.
The priests also who practiced this Baalism held a dogma essentially the same as Universalism. They taught that
"Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of Yahweh, and he delighteth in them."
This was in effect affirming that men would be saved however evil they might be; for it is only in the saints that Yahweh delights. Such doctrine and practices, then, as these caused Yahweh to take no pleasure in the sacrifice and offering he had ordained in the Mosaic law; and therefore Messiah came to do, or establish, the Second Will - to bring it into force through the offering of the body the I-shall-be had prepared for himself.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1854
14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because Yahweh hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For Yahweh, the Elohim of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith Yahweh Tz'vaoth: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
17 Ye have wearied Yahweh with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of Yahweh, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the Elohim of judgment?
They saw the prosperity of the wicked and contrasted it with their own adversity, concluding that Yahweh blessed the evil, the people not recognising or admitting their own sins (Psa. 73:3-17). Blinded to their own wickedness they accused Yahweh of injustice. He answered with the sending of the Great Messenger (ch. 3).