Malachi 2 – “Dishonorable Priests; National Infidelity”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
God denounces the priests for their behavior and criticizes the people for national infidelity.

II. Photo
A priest has a lofty role: “For the lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek rulings from his mouth.” (v. 7a)

III. Select Verses
1-2a: And now, O priests, this charge is for you: Unless you obey and unless you lay it to heart, and do honor to My name — said the LORD of Hosts — I will send a curse and turn your blessings into curses.
4-7:  Know, then, that I have sent this charge to you that My covenant with Levi may endure — said the LORD of Hosts. I had with him a covenant of life and well-being, which I gave to him, and of reverence, which he showed Me. For he stood in awe of My name. Proper rulings were in his mouth, And nothing perverse was on his lips; He served Me with complete loyalty And held the many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest guard knowledge, And men seek rulings from his mouth; For he is a messenger of the LORD of Hosts.
11-12: Judah has broken faith; abhorrent things have been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned what is holy to the LORD — what He desires — and espoused daughters of alien gods.  May the LORD leave to him who does this no descendants dwelling in the tents of Jacob and presenting offerings to the LORD of Hosts.
13: And this you do as well: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, weeping, and moaning, so that He refuses to regard the oblation any more and to accept what you offer.

IV. Outline
1-3. God demands respect from the priests
4-5. The covenant with Levi
6-7. The righteousness of the priests
8-9. The priests have changed their ways
10-12. The people have betrayed each other and the temple
13-17. The people have betrayed and angered God

V. Comment
Chapter 2 can be broken into two sections: vv. 1-9 describe the covenant of the priests, and vv. 10-17 describe the people’s betrayal. Verse 4 mentions the “covenant of Levi” – what exactly was this covenant? Collins writes: “There is no account of such a covenant in the Hebrew Bible. Its existence may have been inferred from the blessing of Levi in Deut 33:9-11, which says that the Levites ‘observed your word, and kept your covenant.’ That passage goes on to speak of the teaching role of the Levites, as does Mal 2:6. There is a perpetual covenant with Phinehas in Numbers 25. Jeremiah 33:21 speaks of ‘my covenant with my ministers the Levites,’ which cannot be broken, just like the covenant with David. Nehemiah 13:29 refers to the ‘covenant of the priests and the Levites.’ From the last two passages it seems that by the Persian period there was believed to be a covenant with Levi, or the Levites, even if it was not explicitly narrated in the Hebrew Bible. Malachi is insistent that this is a conditional covenant that requires reverence and fidelity on the part of the priests. Here again he is not questioning the importance of the priesthood or the sacrificial cult, but he is holding them to a highere standard than was observed in Jersualem in his time.” (416-417)

In regards to the second section of this chapter, Collins writes: “[Verses] 2:10-16 is the most difficult passage in Malachi, and one of the most difficult in all the Hebrew Bible… Judah, we are told, has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, and ‘married the daughter of a foreign god.’ Some scholars take ‘the daughter of a foreign god’ to be a goddess. The mention of foreign god implies some involvement in pagan worship. The usual view of commentators is that the passage refers to marriage with foreign women, a problem that figures prominently in the book of Ezra. Those who married foreign women were likely to gives some recognition to the religious practices of their wives (cf. the story of Solomon in 1 Kgs 11:1-8). IT is clear from the passage that the offenders had not abandoned the worship of [the Lord] but were engaging in syncretistic, or mixed, worship.” (417)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Smith, Ralph L. “Micah – Malachi” World Biblical Commentary v. 32 (Word Books: 1984).
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