Malachi 3:9-18

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Malachi 3:9

"You are under a curse -- the whole nation of you -- because you are robbing me."

The Hebrew word for curse, here in verse 9, is RARAH, which means "to curse, mostly as to its effect." [145] And the initial effects of this curse have already been discussed in the list of 'social sins' of Mal. 3:6.

In the Hebrew, the phrase reads, "with the curse you are being curse." And the second use of 'RARAH, the niphal participle, denotes a "maximum execration" which continues in action and intensity. This, then, is cursing directly from God Himself. And verse 9 is the formal charge from God that has resulted in this cursing: "because you are robbing me." To any right thinking person, direct cursing from God is ghastly to contemplate. For "the 'arur-formula is the most powerful 'decree' expressed by an authority, and by means of it a man or a group that has committed a serious transgression against the community or against a legitimate authority (God, parents) is delivered over to misfortune." [146]

Malachi 3:10

"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'"

Malachi 3:10 provides the answer, the example, to the "how they may return" question that the people posed in Mal. 3:7. "He calls upon them to bring all the tithes into the storehouse, in this way to acknowledge their stewardship under Him, and that needful provision may be made for those who served in the Temple, thus releasing them from attention to carnal things." [147]

This, then, is a command from God. The tithe to support the priests is to be brought into the storehouse. And the plural designates that both believers and unbelievers are required to pay the levy.

The term for "food" is PERET which is defined as a "leaf, freshly plucked; provision." [148] And the word has come to mean "food" or, perhaps, "prosperity" in a conditional sense. Which means that the priests would again find themselves in conditions of physical sustenance. Moreover, this is an instance of synecdoche, which is a figure of speech in which a shift is made between two connected or associated ideas: [149] in this case, by paying the 10 percent levy, a part of the blessings they have received from God, the whole, the entirety of the blessings from God, are emphasized. In other words, the point is this: all blessings originate with God.

"In my house" refers to the second Temple which had been rebuilt circa 516 BC.

The next phrase, "test me," is one of extreme interest. The word means "examining to determine essential qualities, especially integrity." [150] And in almost every instance the term refers to God's examination of his people. "In the exceptions, it is God who is tested. It is evident that this is abnormal procedure. In Psalm 95:9 the people are reminded of the folly of testing God at Meribah. In Malachi, it is only because of the people's apathy that God calls them to test him." [151]

Thus, God requests that the Jews test or try His perfect essence and grace. And remember, God does not merely bestow grace, God is grace.

And on the surface this appears to be a dependent situation, that is, if the Jews obey God, He will bless them. However, such a conclusion is wrong. For the Jews have already disobeyed, yet God in His grace provides them with another opportunity, and even suggests that they test Him. This is, in fact, grace not only demonstrated, but conferred where otherwise unwarranted. God, then, by His very offer to be tested, is conferring grace upon the Jews. He is, indeed, grace.

And in His grace, God promises more grace blessings than ever before, to a people who have neglected Him, and spurned His edicts. "And see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Again, remember, this promise of extravagant prosperity is made to a people and priests that have even now proven themselves unworthy of anything but judgment.

Malachi 3:11,12

"'I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,' says the Lord Almighty. 'Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,' says the Lord Almighty."

Here, then, God will stop the depravations of the "locusts," and the vines "will not cast their fruit," i.e., "be barren." And all the other nations of the world will RASHAH "pronounce Israel blessed or happy," for Israel (Judah) will be a land of delight, CHEPETS which means "that in which God finds delight." [152] And God "delights" in obedience to His word, according to Isa. 56:4; God "delights" in those who have a knowledge of Him, according to Hosea 6:6; God "delights" in His "truth," according to Psalm 51:8; and according to Psalm 115:3 and 135:6, God "delights" in His own essence and sovereignty; and finally, God "delights" in His "mercy," which is His grace dispensed, in Hosea 6:6, which reads, "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."

In this word "delight," then, in Hosea 6:6, is the principle that God is gratified by recognition of Himself as the God of grace, not by empty rituals. And these empty rituals and what pleases God is the subject of the next section of Malachi 3.

Malachi 3:13,14

"'You have said harsh things against me,' says the Lord. 'Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?' 'You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?'"

The Hebrew word for "harsh" is CHAZAK, which is defined as "strong, insolent obstinate language." [153] In other words, the Jews of Malachi's generation have closed their minds to God and His word. And then the Jews ask, "Of what are we guilty?" "What have we said that was harsh?" And God repeats their words: "It is useless to serve God."

And the word for "futile" or "useless" is SHAWEH, which is "useless, emptiness, vanity, nothingness." [154] And the Hebrew for "serve" is ABAD, and is rendered "to serve another; to serve in a religious sense." [155] In other words, "it is useless for us to worship God."

For "what did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners?" They ask, "What do we profit?" "Implicit in the question was the assumption that religion ought to 'pay.' If God is just, he ought to take care of the people who worship him. The prophet laid the blame on the people and the priests for their moral and ritual failures; the people blamed God and concluded that he would not deliver." [156] Thus, the Jews seek tangible payment from God for worshipping Him. They are concerned only with 'things.' For they are pursuing happiness through 'things.' They have no true love for God; there is no "love-response" [157] to God.

And the term for "requirements" is MISHMERET, and the word refers to "an 'obligation' or 'service' to be performed." [158] And in context, the word designates the ritual sacrifices of Codex II. [159] In other words, the Jews of Malachi's generation have diligently completed and performed the sacrifices and rituals as prescribed by God. But that is all they have done. They have "skimmed off the ritual." [160] They perform the rituals because they believe that by doing so they will 'gain' tangible 'kick back' from God in the form of the 'things' they desire. No love for God exists, only ritual; they desire no relationship with God, no knowledge of God, only lucre or profit. Thus, the ritual is empty; and they claim that God is empty, that the profit is not forthcoming.

It is equivalent to a man or a woman having sexual intercourse with a partner they have no relationship with, or feelings for -- it is just copulation for the sake of sex; the profit is sexual excitement, the payoff is brief pleasure. Yet there is no intimacy, and no meaning to the sex. There is no love, and the act is only an act -- it is devoid of poignancy. It is empty; it is nothing.

"We have walked mournfully." They have worn sackcloth, wept, wailed, and professed to have confessed their sins and changed their ways. But it is a "facade." [161] No shift has truly taken place within their souls. They perform the functions to impress God, and expect compensation in return. They are worse than prostitutes, they are merely 'whores.'

Malachi 3:15,16

"'But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.' Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name."

Here, in context, the "arrogant" are those who have duped God of his levy. They have gained the 'things' that their accusers desire. They have retained their money, they have defrauded others, including widows and the poor; they have swindled others in business deals, and the result: "they have prospered." Or so it seems to those who observe them. "They have challenged God and escaped." In other words, they have "gotten away with it."

Verse 16 introduces a believing, faithful remnant and, perhaps, others who are beginning to see the truth of the situation. These are described as those who "fear God." The word for "fear" is xreyA, jare', which is defined as "reverence or worship."

And the term refers, in context, to those who "put God first; those that respond to God's love with a love-response of their own." [163] And as these 'lovers of God' speak to others of similar love-response, they have great rapport, concord and harmony. This, then, is the great compatibility and mutual appreciation of soul that exists between spiritually mature believers. And this appreciation exceeds common rapport, it is the discovery of an elegance of soul that clings and never dissipates. This, then, is the association or, perhaps, 'atmosphere,' that existed between David and Jonathan. And here is the true "douceur de vivre," the "sweetness of life," that can exist between two persons. For they have put God first, and thus may derive joy from each other.

And to these, God "listened and heard." And He recorded their name in His "book of remembrance;" this, then, is God's 'scrapbook.' [164] God "delights" in them. This is the book referred to in Exodus 32:32-33, Psalm 69:29; 87:6 and Daniel 12:1. Daniel 12:1c reads: "But at that time your people -- everyone whose name is found written in the book -- will be delivered."

Malachi 3:17

"'They will be mine,' says the Lord Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him."

These, then, who "fear" God will be His "special possessions." These will be His "own peculiar possession." They will be 'princes or lovers of God.' That which Adolf Deissmann has described in the Greek as philos theou, 'prince of God.' And in context, a 'prince or princess' is one who is royalty, one who is always welcome in the throneroom of God. And the phrase "in the day" refers to the Millennium and beyond, into Eternity.

They will be as the family of God. They will hold the same position in God's affections that His Son, "the one who served Him," holds.

In conclusion, then, who does not desire to be a 'prince' or 'princess' of God? Who hopes against hope that his or her name would not be so inscribed in God's scrapbook?

A Few Loose Ends

The "special possessions" in Malachi 3:17, which are also called "jewels" in the King James Version, are those believers who have an intimate, personal, special relationship with God, i.e., they have understood and comprehended His love, with the result that they have a love-response to Him. And in context, the "special possessions" are the Old Testament saints at the Second Advent of our Lord. This concept of "specialness" is found in Exodus 19:5, Deut. 7:6, 14:2, 26:18. "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then our of all nations you will be my treasured possession." [Ex. 19:5]

Additionally, this passage, Mal. 3:17, directs attention to another aspect of "love." If the question is asked, "What is love?" Many will answer, "Sex, or caring, or forgiveness, or regard," etc., ad infinitum. But few would answer, "Conversation." Yet conversation is the foundation of a truly loving relationship. Not communication, for communication can include hate, bitterness, etc. But actual conversation is the concept in Mal. 3:17. If you love someone, you desire to speak to them. God speaks to mankind, and mankind has the privilege of speaking back to God. And remember, words have power; for words convey ideas, thoughts, notions, concepts. And ideas and concepts influence those who hear them, rightly or wrongly. Indeed, words which strike to the heart and soul are more powerful than any force known to mankind.

Just as Eve, in the garden, was swayed by the words of Satan, so mankind is swayed by the same words. And it is interesting to note that Satan did not use violence, coercion, or even dynamite to misdirect Eve. He used the simplest and most powerful of all the weapons at his disposal: words.

Malachi 3:18

"And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."

Here, in verse 18, God states through Malachi that the Jews will see, at the Second Advent, "the distinction between the righteous and the wicked." The righteous are believers, and the wicked are unbelievers. And the final destination of the righteous at the Second Advent is the millennium and then the eternal state; whereas the final destination of the wicked is the Lake of Fire.

[145] Wilson, William. Ibid.; page 105.

[146] Botterweck, Ringgren, Eds. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament; vol. i, page 411.

[147] Ironside, H.A. Notes on the Minor Prophets; page 453.

[148] Wilson, William. Ibid.; page 246.

[149] Bullinger, E.W. Figures of Speech Used in the Bible; page 613.

[150] Harris, Archer, Waltke, Eds. Ibid.; vol. i, page 229.

[151] ibid.

[152] Harris, Archer, Waltke, Eds. Ibid.; vol. i, page 715.

[153] Wilson, William. Ibid.; page 421.

[154] Ibid., page 465.

[155] Ibid., page 382.

[156] Redditt, Paul. Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi; page 182.

[157] Thieme, Robert. Malachi; from notes.

[158] Harris, Archer, Waltke, Eds. Ibid.; vol. ii, page 940.

[159] Thieme, Robert. Ibid.

[160] Thieme, Robert. Ibid.

[161] Ibid.

[162] Wilson, William. Ibid.; page 159.

[163] Theime, Robert. Ibid.

[164] Ibid.

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