THE THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

When it comes to describing “the theology of the Old Testament,” not everyone is convinced that there is a single theology represented in these diverse books. Many scholars have, however, tried to find a point of unity for all the books, often by proposing a single unifying theme, such as covenant, or the kingdom of God, or the Messiah, or God himself. These proposals do provide genuine insights, but they are often too oversimplified to do justice to the variety of materials in the OT.

It will be more fruitful to understand the OT as a whole in terms of an unfolding story, with a number of basic components: monotheism, creation and fall, election and covenant, covenant membership, andeschatology. This article will first explain these components, so that we can summarize the overarching story. Then we will consider briefly how the various parts of the OT relate to this unfolding story, and consider how this provides a link to the NT authors’ stance toward the OT. The goal is to articulate some of the beliefs that will enable the careful reader to profit more fully from reading the OT books themselves.

THE COMPONENTS OF THE STORY

1. Monotheism. There is only one true God, who made heaven and earth and all mankind. He made a material world that he is happy with, and he made it a fit place for human beings to live, and love, and serve. Every human being needs to know and love this God, whose spotless moral purity, magnificent power and wisdom, steadfast faithfulness, and unceasing love are breathtakingly beautiful. This one God rules over all things, and he will vindicate his own goodness and justice (in his own time). In ruling, God has not limited himself to working within the natural properties of what he has made, for he can go (and has gone) beyond these properties to do mighty deeds both in creation and in caring for his people.

The OT invites Israel, not simply to acknowledge the existence of this one true God, but to commit themselves to him in exclusive loyalty and love, centering their lives on the inestimable privilege of knowing him (Deut. 6:4–9). The fundamental character of this God is explained in Exodus 34:6–7, which focuses on his steadfast love and mercy (a passage frequently echoed in the rest of the OT). The OT also affirms that God is “righteous,” i.e., morally pure and perfect. Although this righteousness certainly results in God’s work of punishing evildoers and vindicating his own moral character, the term commonly emphasizes God’s reliability in keeping his promises (e.g., Ps. 71:2; 116:5).

The OT does not explicitly describe God as a trinity. Rather, with its references to God’s Spirit (e.g., Gen. 1:2), its use of “us/our” for God (e.g., Gen. 1:26), and its indications or hints of a divine Messiah (e.g.,Ps. 110:5; Isa. 9:6; cf. Ezek. 34:15, 23), it lays the groundwork for the fuller declaration of divine triunity that is found in the NT (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4–6; 2 Cor. 13:14).

2. Creation and fall. The one Creator God made the first human beings, Adam and Eve, with dignity and purpose; their calling was to live faithfully to God and to spread the blessings of Eden throughout the earth. Because Adam and Eve betrayed God’s purpose, all people since the fall are beset with sins and weaknesses that only God’s grace can redeem and heal.

3. Election and covenant. The one true God chose a people for himself and bound himself to them by his covenant (Ex. 19:4–6; Deut. 7:6–11). This covenant expressed God’s intention to save the people, and through them to bring light to the rest of the world, in order to restore all things to their proper functioning in the world God made. The land of Israel was to be a kind of reconstituted Eden, which would flourish as the people’s faithfulness flourished (or languish if the people were unfaithful). God’s covenants generally involve one person who represents the whole people (e.g., Adam, Noah, Abraham, David): the rest of the people experience the covenant by virtue of their inclusion in the community represented. The representative is required to embody the ideal of covenant faithfulness as a model for those on whose behalf he has acted.

4. Covenant membership. In his covenant, God offers his grace to his people: the forgiveness of their sins, the shaping of their lives in this world to reflect his own glory, and a part to play in bringing light to the Gentiles. Each member of God’s people is responsible to lay hold of this grace from the heart: to believe the promises (see Paul’s use of Abraham and David as examples of faith in Rom. 4:1–25; cf. alsoHeb. 11:1–40), and then to grow in obeying the commands, and to keep on doing so all their lives long. Those who lay hold in this way are the faithful. These people, as distinct from the unfaithful among them, enjoy the full benefits of God’s love. Each Israelite is a member of a people, a corporate entity; the members have a mutual participation in the life of the people as a whole. Thus the spiritual and moral well-being of the whole affects the well-being of each of the members, and each member contributes to the others by his own spiritual and moral life. Thus each one shares the joys and sorrows of the others, and of the whole. Historical judgments upon the whole people often come because too many of the members are unfaithful; these judgments do not, however, bring the story of God’s people to an end but serve rather to purify and chasten that people (often by removing unbelieving members).

It is important for Christian readers to sharpen their grasp of how the OT uses words such as “salvation” and “judgment.” When the OT speaks of God “redeeming” his people (e.g., Ex. 15:13) or “saving” them (e.g., Ex. 14:30), it refers to God’s gracious dealings for the sake of this corporate entity, the people: he calls it, he protects it, he purifies it, in order to foster the conditions under which the life of its members may flourish. The OT can also speak of God giving “salvation” or “redemption” to particular persons (e.g., Ps. 3:2, 7; 19:14). Generally in the OT, however, such expressions refer to members of the people experiencing the benefits of covenant membership, whether that be forgiveness of sins, or deliverance from some trouble or persecution, or something else—tracing everything back to the grace of God that led him to make the covenant originally and now to keep it in effect. When Christians speak of personal salvation, they usually are thinking of individuals in isolation, and so have a much narrower meaning in mind; they should consider whether the NT usage is closer to the OT usage than they might have realized hitherto, including both every aspect of their lives and their connections to other believers, and thus extending to a wider range of experience than simply their souls.

The “law,” given through Moses, plays a vital role in the OT. It is uniformly presented as an object of delight and admiration (e.g., Psalm 119) because it is a gift from a loving and gracious God. The law is never presented in the OT as a list of rules that one must obey in order to be right with God; rather, it is God’s fatherly instruction, given to shape the people he has loved and saved into a community of faith, holiness, and love, bound together by mutual support and care. The various laws, with their penalties for infractions and provisions for repayment, were designed to protect that community from the failures of its members; and the moral guidelines gave specific form to what the restored image of God would look like in the agrarian culture of ancient Israel. Right at the heart of this system is worship at the sanctuary, with its provisions for atonement and forgiveness for those who have gone astray. Sadly, only in a very few instances in the OT do we see anything that even remotely matches this ideal, whether on a large scale (Josh. 22:1–34 is an excellent example, distinctive for its rarity) or on a small one (e.g., Boaz in the book of Ruth, who embodies the Lord’s own kindness to a foreign-born “proselyte”). The prophets anticipated an era, after Judah’s return from exile in Babylon, in which God’s people would really take the law into their own hearts (e.g., Ezek. 36:25–27); the covenant renewal that the postexilic community experienced was, however, only a brief foretaste of that expectation. (Interpreters debate the way in which this relates to the spread of Christianity among the Gentiles—is it focused primarily onIsrael laying hold of the covenant properly, or does it describe the new arrangement that Jesus’ resurrection brought in?—but that is outside the scope of this article.)

5. Eschatology. The story of God’s people is headed toward a glorious future in which all kinds of people will come to know the Lord and join his people. This was the purpose for which God called Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3), and for which he appointed Israel (Ex. 19:4–6). It is part of the dignity of God’s people that, in God’s mysterious wisdom, their personal faithfulness contributes to the story getting to its goal (cf. Deut. 4:6–8).

The OT develops its idea of a Messiah (eventually clarified as the ultimate heir of David) in the light of these components. The earliest strands of the messianic idea speak of an offspring who will undo the work of the Evil One and bless the Gentiles by bringing them into his kingdom (Gen. 3:15; 22:17–18; 24:60); the idea that kings will descend from Abraham (Gen. 17:6, 16) and Jacob (Gen. 35:11) becomes focused on the tribe of Judah, to which the obedience of the peoples will be brought (Gen. 49:10). The kings in David’s line carry this idea forward. They are to embody the people: just as the people as a whole is God’s son (Ex. 4:22–23), so also the Davidic king is God’s son (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 89:26–27). The promise of a lasting dynasty for David (2 Sam. 7:16) becomes the expectation that a final heir of his line will one day arise, take his Davidic throne (in “the last days”), and lead his people in the great task of bringing light to the Gentiles (e.g., Ps. 2:8; 72:8–11, 17 [using Gen. 22:18]; Isa. 9:6–7; 11:1–10; see note on Isa. 42:1–9 concerning the servant of the Lord).

THE PARTS OF THE OT IN RELATION TO THE STORY

The OT is thus the story of the one true Creator God, who called the family of Abraham to be his remedy for the defilement that came into the world through the sin of Adam and Eve. God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt in fulfillment of this plan, and established them as a theocracy for the sake of displaying his existence and character to the rest of the world. God sent his blessings and curses upon Israel in order to pursue that purpose. God never desisted from that purpose, even in the face of the most grievous unfaithfulness in Israel.

This overarching story serves as a grand narrative or worldview story for Israel: each member of the people was to see himself or herself as an heir of this story, with all its glory and shame; as a steward of the story, responsible to pass it on to the next generation; and as a participant, whose faithfulness could play a role, by God’s mysterious wisdom, in the story’s progress.

Some who have seen this category of Israel’s story as a key to OT theology have argued for reading the entire OT as a story. This does not help the reader, for the very obvious reason that not everything in the OT is narrative or “story.” For example, there are laws (in the Pentateuch), whose purpose was to protect equity and civility in the theocracy by guiding judges in what penalties to impose and by specifying the minimum standard of behavior necessary to preserve the theocracy (many of the specific laws do not intend to spell out the moral ideal for the members of Israel, which comes from likeness to God in the creation account and from the goal of community holiness; the “perfection” of the laws consisted in the way they serve the social fabric of God’s people); there is wisdom (in the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, as well as in the Psalms), which helps the members to live well daily; there are songs (esp. the Psalms) that the people of God should sing in corporate worship; there are poems(esp. the Song of Solomon; cf. Prov. 5:15–20) celebrating such wonders as romantic love; and lots more. Therefore it is better to speak of reading the parts of the OT in relation to its overarching story. That is, we can see the parts in relation to the Big Story that unifies the whole. The Proverbs help people to live their little stories in such a way as to contribute to the Big Story. The Psalms—many of which explicitly recount parts of the Big Story—help people live as faithful members of the worshiping corporate entity, the people of God. The Prophets keep recalling the Big Story, the direction in which Israel’s story is headed, calling their audiences to live faithfully in its light. The Big Story tells us that God’s purpose is to restore our humanity to its proper function, and thus it reminds each person of the human nature he shares with every other human being, and of the duty and benefit of seeking the good of others. For example, enjoying the love of a faithful spouse is a way of experiencing renewed humanity—a way that displays God’s goodness to the rest of the world (as in the Song of Solomon).

All of these factors explain why it is possible for the NT authors both to say that the Sinai covenant is done away with (see below), because it was focused on the theocracy, which had an end in mind from the beginning (when the Gentiles would receive the light in large measure)—and at the same time to affirm that this covenant has embedded in it principles that cannot pass away, because they are part of the larger story of which the Sinai covenant is one chapter.

THE OT AS CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURE

The OT presents itself, then, as a story that is headed somewhere. The OT closes with both anxiety and hope under Persian rule (see Malachi). The books of the Second Temple period (between the Old and New Testaments) continue this notion of Israel as God’s people chosen for a purpose, but not all strands of this material make clear what that purpose is. Some of these Second Temple books offer endings for the story (e.g., in the Qumran community as the elect); but the faithful were looking for more. (For more information on the Second Temple period, see The Time between the Testaments.) The NT authors, most of whom were Jewish Christians, saw themselves as heirs of the OT story, and as authorized to describe its proper completion in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the messianic era that this ushered in. These authors appropriated the OT as Christian Scripture, and they urged their audiences (many of whom were Gentile Christians) to do the same. There is debate over just how the NT authors used the OT as Scripture (see How the New Testament Quotes and Interprets the Old Testament), but the simplest summary of the NT authors’ stance would be to say that they saw the OT as constituting the earlier chapters of the story in which Christians are now participating.

This construct, of earlier and later chapters in the story of God’s work for his people, allows us to understand how the OT era and the Christian era will have elements both of continuity and of discontinuity. The OT had looked forward to an internationalized people of God, without explaining exactly how that would connect to the theocracy of Israel (see note on Ps. 87:4–6). The theocracy defined the people of God as predominantly coming from a particular ethnic group in a particular land; Gentile converts (“sojourners”) were protected (Ex. 12:49; 20:10; 22:21; Lev. 19:10) but could not be full-status members of the theocratic community (cf. Deut. 14:21; 15:3; Num. 34:14–15, which shows that land was allocated to Israelites alone). The NT abolishes the distinction (Eph. 2:19), because the theocracy as such is no longer in existence and many of its provisions are done away with (cf. Acts 10:34–35; Heb. 9:11–14). At the same time, the character of the one Creator God, and his interest in restoring the image of God in human beings, transcends the specific arrangements of the theocracy: hence the moral commands of God apply to Christians as they did to the faithful in Israel (cf. Rom. 13:8–10).

AUTHOR AND TITLE

The Hebrew name “Malachi” means “my messenger,” or perhaps “messenger of (the Lord)” if “Malachi” is a shortened form of “Malachiah” (2 Esd. 1:40). Based on the lxx and Targum Jonathan, some scholars have argued that “Malachi” in 1:1 ought to be understood as a title, “my messenger,” rather than as a proper name. It appears more likely, however, that “Malachi” is a proper name, as it is interpreted by many other ancient sources (2 Esd. 1:40, the Gk. translations by Symmachus and Theodotion, the Syriac Peshitta translation, etc.). If so, the book of Malachi follows the pattern of 14 other prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the other 11 Minor Prophets), where the author is introduced by name in the opening verses using language similar toMalachi 1:1. Accordingly, 3:1 offers an important wordplay on the prophet’s name: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” This wordplay suggests that Malachi’s own ministry was intended to foreshadow that of the coming messenger, who is identified in the NT as John the Baptist (see notes on 3:1 and 4:4–6).

DATE

The book of Malachi offers no clear pointer to the date of its composition. Nevertheless, most scholars agree that Malachi was probably a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah in the mid-fifth century b.c.This is supported by the implied existence of the temple (Mal. 1:10; 3:1, 8), which requires a date after its reconstruction c. 516 b.c. Further support is offered by the reference to a “governor” (1:8), since this term is often used for regional officials during the Persian period (539–332 b.c.). The most compelling evidence for dating Malachi, however, is the substantial parallel between the sins reproved by Malachi and those reproved by Ezra and Nehemiah. These include corruption of the priesthood (Neh. 13:4–9, 29–31; Mal. 1:6–2:9), marriage to idolaters (Ezra 9–10; Neh. 10:30; 13:1–3, 23–27; Mal. 2:10–12), abuse of the disadvantaged (Neh. 5:1–13; Mal. 3:5), and failure to pay tithes (Neh. 10:32–39; 13:10–13;Mal. 3:8–10).

THEME

Malachi’s contemporaries may have been free from blatant idolatry (though see 2:11) and relatively orthodox in their beliefs, but theirs had become a dead orthodoxy. They were all too ready to make ethical compromises and to dilute the strenuous demands of proper worship. In response to the cynicism and religious malaise of his contemporaries, Malachi’s prophecy comes as a wake-up call to renewed covenant fidelity (see Key Themes).

PURPOSE, OCCASION, AND BACKGROUND

Malachi’s ministry took place nearly a hundred years after the decree of Cyrus in 538 b.c., which ended the Babylonian captivity and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple (2 Chron. 36:23). This was some 80 years after Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the rebuilding of that temple with promises of God’s blessing, the engrafting of the nations, prosperity, expansion, peace, and the return of God’s own glorious presence (cf. Haggai 2; Zech. 1:16–17; 2:1–13; 8:1–9:17). To Malachi’s disillusioned contemporaries, these predictions must have seemed a cruel mockery. In contrast to the glowing promises, the harsh reality was one of economic privation, prolonged drought, crop failure, and pestilence (Mal. 3:10ff.).

After the return from exile, Judah remained an almost insignificant territory of about 20 by 30 miles (32 by 48 km), inhabited by a population of perhaps 150,000. Although they enjoyed the benefits of Persia’s enlightened policy of religious toleration and limited self-rule, the Jews acutely felt their subjugation to a foreign power (Neh. 1:3; 9:36ff.), and they suffered persistent opposition from their neighbors (Ezra 4:23; Dan. 9:25). Judah was no longer an independent nation and was no longer ruled by a Davidic king.

Worst of all, in spite of the promises of the coming Messiah and God’s own glorious presence (e.g.,Zech. 1:16ff.; 2:4, 10–13; 8:3–17, 23; 9:9–13), Israel experienced only spiritual destitution. Unlike Bible books from earlier periods, the postexilic books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are remarkably candid in their description of Judah as generally lacking miraculous evidences of God’s presence. In contrast to both Solomon’s temple and the prophetic promise of the restored temple (Ezekiel 40–43), the actual postexilic temple was physically and spiritually inferior. As Malachi 3:1 implies, the Most Holy Place in this second temple had no visible manifestation of the glory of God. Though God was certainly alive and well (as revealed, e.g., by his remarkable providences in the book of Esther), it was a period in which God’s people had to live more by faith than by sight.

KEY THEMES: MALACHI’S SIXFOLD WAKE-UP CALL TO RENEWED COVENANT FIDELITY

DisputationReferenceSummaryFocus
Disputation 11:2–5Malachi begins by defending the reality of God’s elective love for Israel, a love which calls for robust covenantal obedience and sincere worship as its proper response. Instead, the people were dishonoring God by their worthless offerings and the hypocritical formalism of their worship.Israel is to remember the Law of Moses.
Disputation 21:6–2:9Malachi exposes these offenses and rebukes the priests for condoning them and thereby violating the Lord’s covenant with Levi.
Disputation 32:10–16Malachi condemns marriage to an idolater as infidelity against Israel’s covenant with the Lord, and he condemns unauthorized divorce as infidelity against the marriage covenant between a husband and his wife, to which the Lord is witness.
Disputation 42:17–3:5Malachi broadens his indictment as he promises that the Lord will vindicate his justice. This will take place when “the messenger of the covenant” comes to judge the wicked (when the Lord will function as a witness not only against adulterers, as in 2:10–16, but also against other offenders) and to purify his people so that their offerings will be acceptable at last.Israel is to remember the promise of Elijah and the coming day of the Lord.
Disputation 53:6–12Malachi returns to the subject of Israel’s begrudging offerings. The people experienced material adversity and were under a curse—not in spite of their behavior, but because of it. Accordingly, Malachi challenges them to conscientious tithing, which will be rewarded with divine blessing.
Disputation 63:13–4:3Malachi assures his grumbling contemporaries that evildoers, who seem to escape divine justice because of their prosperity, will yet be judged, while the Lord will deliver those who fear him.
Summary4:4–6Malachi summarizes the main points of his prophecy: remember the Law of Moses (the focus of disputations 1–3), and remember the promise of Elijah and the coming day of the Lord (the focus of disputations 4–6).

HISTORY OF SALVATION SUMMARY

Even though God has disciplined his people severely by means of the exile, he still intends for his name to be honored among the Gentiles (1:11, 14). God’s chosen vehicle for bringing his name to the Gentiles is his people loving him faithfully. This is therefore the time for Israel to renew its commitment to the covenant. (For an explanation of the “History of Salvation,” see the Overview of the Bible. See alsoHistory of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ.)

LITERARY FEATURES

The content of the book of Malachi places it in the category of prophecy, but the form in which that content is packaged is out of the norm for OT prophecy. The book is written entirely in prose. Further, the material is not embodied in the conventional format of oracles of judgment and salvation. The dominant genre is satire—an attack on vice in a discernible literary form, and with a satiric norm by which the criticism is conducted. The object of attack is halfhearted and negligent religious service, which in the prophet’s day took multiple forms (e.g., inappropriate offerings, untruth promoted by the priests, and the prevalence of divorce). The satiric norm is God’s law. The primary vehicle in which the satire is embodied is a rhetoric of question and answer, as the people of Judah are pictured as asking a series of questions that God answers in an accusatory and condemning way.

One of the organizing patterns is an accumulating litany of attitudes and actions that are offensive to God. Another is an expanding portrait of the coming Messiah and the blessings that he will bring. Finally, a common repeated pattern is as follows: (1) God voices an indictment of his people for bad behavior; (2) the people are pictured as asking God how his charge is true; (3) God replies to the question, in the process of which he expands the charge. God’s indictments are sometimes phrased as rhetorical questions (e.g., 1:6 and 8; 2:10 and 15).

THE SETTING OF MALACHI

c. 460 b.c.

Malachi likely prophesied several decades after the first exiles of Judah, now under Persian rule, had returned from Babylon to the minor province of Judea and rebuilt the temple. Edomites had migrated northwest from their traditional homeland just south of Moab into the area immediately south of Judea, and this land was now called Idumea. Territory that once belonged to the northern kingdom of Israel had been divided into several different minor provinces, including Samaria.

The Setting of Malachi

OUTLINE

The book of Malachi is carefully structured in terms of a heading (1:1), followed by six pericopes or disputations (1:2–5; 1:6–2:9; 2:10–16; 2:17–3:5; 3:6–12; 3:13–4:3) and a conclusion (4:4–6). Each disputation is relatively coherent and is introduced by an assertion from either the Lord or the prophet. This is followed by an anticipated challenge from those being addressed, which is invariably introduced by the expression, “But you say” (1:2, 6, 7, 13; 2:14, 17; 3:7, 8, 13). Each challenge, in turn, is answered with fuller substantiation by the Lord or by the prophet speaking on the Lord’s behalf.

The book also has an unobtrusive concentric (chiasmic) structure. One conspicuous literary indicator of this pattern is the double introductory assertion (“But you say”) and the anticipated response, which are found only in the parallel second (1:6–2:9) and fifth (3:6–12) disputations (the “B” sections below).

  1. Heading (1:1)
  2. A. First disputation: Does God make a distinction between the good and the arrogantly wicked? God’s elective love vindicated in his judgment (1:2–5)
  3. B. Second disputation: Israel’s begrudging offerings condemned (1:6–2:9)
  4. C. Third disputation: Marriage to an idolater—and divorce based on aversion—condemned by the Lord, who is witness to the covenant of marriage (2:10–16)
  5. C′. Fourth disputation: The Lord is a witness against adultery and other moral offenses (2:17–3:5)
  6. B′. Fifth disputation: Israel’s begrudging offerings condemned (3:6–12)
  7. A′. Sixth disputation: Does God make a distinction between the good and the arrogantly wicked? God’s elective love vindicated in his judgment (3:13–4:3)
  8. Conclusion (4:4–6)

MALACHI

CHAPTER 1

1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

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,

3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.

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 hath indignation for ever.

5 And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

CHAPTER 2

1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.

2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, 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.

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.

4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

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.

7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

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 the LORD of hosts.

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 God 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 the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.

12 The LORD 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 the LORD of hosts.

13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD 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.

14 ¶ Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD 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 the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

17 ¶ Ye have wearied the LORD 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 the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

CHAPTER 3

1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope:

3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.

5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

7 ¶ Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

8 ¶ Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

13 ¶ Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

16 ¶ Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

CHAPTER 4

1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

2 ¶ But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.

4 ¶ Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

5 ¶ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

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