Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
And now this is My commandment unto you - , not a commandment, which He gave them, but a commandment in regard to them. As God said of old, upon obedience , "I will command My blessing unto you," so now He would command what should reach them, but a curse. "He returns from the people to the priests, as the fountain of the evil, whose carelessness about things sacred he had rebuked before. Let the priests of the new law hear this rebuke of God, and conceive it dictated to them by the Holy Spirit to hear, from whom God rightly requires greater holiness, and so will punish them more grievously, if careless or scandalous in their office." All Christians are, in some sense Pe1 2:9, "a royal, holy priesthood," over and above the special "Christian priesthood;" as the Jews, over and above the special priesthood of Aaron, were a Exo 19:6, "kingdom of priests." What follows then belongs, in their degree, to them and their duties.
If ye will not lay to heart - , namely, the rebukes addressed to them, "to give glory to God." For the glory of God is the end and aim of the priesthood. This should be the principle and rule of their whole life, "to the greater glory of God." "I will send the curse upon you," namely, that which He had threatened in the law upon disobedience; and will "curse your blessings," will turn your blessings into a curse. He does not say, I will send you curses instead of blessings, but, I will make the blessings themselves a curse. Psa 69:23. "The things which should have been to their wealth became to them an occasion of falling;" to the proud, the things which lift them up; to the gluttonous, their abundance; to the avaricious, their wealth; which, if used to the glory of God, become blessings, do, when self not God is their end, by God's dispensation and Providence, become a curse to them. "The goods of nature, the goods of fortune, the goods of the Church allowed to you, I will turn to your greater damnation, permitting you to abuse them to pride; and your damnation shall be the more penal, the more good things ye have received from Me. Whence Christ declares in the Gospel Luk 12:48, 'Unto whomever much is given, of him shall be much required. '"
Yea, I have cursed them - (literally, it), i. e., each one of the blessings, "already." God's judgments as well as His mercies are individual with a minute care, showing that it is His doing. The curse had already gone forth, and had begun to seize upon them from the time that they began to despise His Name. His judgments do not break in at once, but little by little, with warnings of their approach, that so we may turn to Him, and "escape the wrath to come."
Lo, I will rebuke the seed for your sake - o, i. e., that it should not grow. He who worketh by His sustaining will all the operations of nature, would at His will withhold them. Neither priests nor Levites cultivated the soil; yet, since the tithes were assigned to them, the diminution of the harvest affected them. The meal-offering too was a requisite part of the sacrifice. (See also Joe 1:13; Joe 2:14.)
And spread dung upon your phaces, the dung o of your solemn feasts - , or, "of your sacrifices." It was by the law carried without the camp and burned with the animal itself. They had brought before the face of God maimed, unfitting sacrifices; they should have them cast back, with their refuse, upon them; "as a lord that rejecteth a gift, brought to him by his servant, casts it back in his time." "Of your sacrifices, not of Mine, for I am not worshiped in them: ye seek to please, not Me, but yourselves." So God said of Eli Sa1 2:30, "them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."
And one shall take you away with it - , literally "to it." They should be swept away, as if they were an appendage to it, as God said Kg1 14:10, "I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, until all be gone." As are the offerings, so shall it be with the offerers.
And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you: - this, which He had just uttered. They who believe not God when threatening, know that He is in earnest and not to be trifled with, through His punishing. "That My covenant might be with Levi." God willed to punish those who at that time rebelled against Him, that He might spare those who should come after them. He chastened the fathers, who showed their contempt toward Him, that their sons, taking warning thereby, might not be cut off. He continues to say, what the covenant was, which He willed still to be, if they would repent.
My covenant was with him life and peace; - literally "the life and the peace;" that, which alone is true "life and peace." The covenant was not with Levi himself, but with Aaron, his representative, with whom the covenant was made in the desert, as is indeed here expressed; and, in him, with all his race after him, who succeeded him in his office; as, when it is said, that Ch1 6:49, "Aaron and his sons offered upon the altar of burnt-offering," it must needs be understood, not of Aaron in person alone and his sons then living, but of any of his race that succeeded in his and their room. So our Lord promised to be with His Apostles Mat 28:20, "always to the end of the world," i. e., with them and those whom they should appoint in their stead, and these others, until He should Himself come. God promised, if they would keep the law, that they should live in peace on the earth; yea, that they should have peace of mind and a life of grace. "Life" is an indefectible being, which man does not forfeit by sin, to which death is no interruption, changing only the place of the soul's life.
And I gave them to him - , in, or as, "fear," "Fear, not servile but filial and pure, as Paul bids Christians Phi 2:12, 'work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.'" God gave them an awful gift, to be held with fear and awe, for its very preciousness, as one would hold anxiously what is very precious, yet very fragile and easily marred.
And he feared Me, and was afraid before My Name - Malachi unites two words, the second expressive of strong fear, by which a man is, as it were, crushed or broken. They are often united in Hebrew, but as expressing terror, which men are bidden not to feel before men. Toward man it is ever said Deu 1:21; Deu 31:8; Jos 1:9; Jos 10:25; Ch1 22:13; Ch1 28:20; Ch2 20:15, Ch2 20:17; Ch2 32:7; Isa 51:7; Jer 23:4; Jer 30:10; Jer 46:27; Ezr 2:6; Ezr 3:9, "fear not, neither be ye dismayed;" toward God Alone, it is a matter of praise. Man's highest fear is too little, for he knows not, who God is. So Isaiah says Isa 8:12-13, "Fear ye not their fear (the fear of this people), nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread." "What can be more precious (than this fear)? For it is written Pro 13:13, 'He who feareth the Lord will be rewarded.' (Ecclesiasticus 1:11), 'The fear of the Lord is honor and glory and gladness and a crown of rejoicing.' He saith, "the fear, wherewith he feareth Me and was afraid," i. e., he received the fear of God in his whole heart and soul. For these reduplications and emphases suggest to the hearer how rooted in virtue are those thus praised."
The law of truth was in his mouth - Apart from those cases, which were brought to the priests at the tabernacle (Deu 17:9-11; Deu 19:17 (add Deu 21:5; Eze 44:23-24), hence, the use of אלהים Exo 21:6; Exo 22:7-8.), in which their voice was the voice of God through them, to teach the law was part of the office both of the priest and Levite. Of the priest God says; Lev 10:11, "that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes, which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses:" of the tribe of Levi generally Moses says Deu 33:10, "They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments and Israel Thy law." After the schism of the ten tribes, a prophet says to Asa, that "Israel" had Ch2 15:3, "for long time been without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law." They are evil times, of which Ezekiel says Eze 7:26, "the law shall perish from the priest;" and God says of corrupt priests Jer 2:8, "The priest said not, where is the Lord? And they that handle the law knew Me not. Eze 22:26; Zep 3:4 they did violence to My law." Upon their return from the captivity Ezra was known to Artaxerxes as Ezr 7:12, Ezr 7:21, "a scribe of the law of the God of heaven," and he looked upon him apparently, as one who should keep the people in good order by teaching it. Ezr 7:25-26, "thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God which is in thy hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people which are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God, and teach ye them that know them not: and whosoever will not do the law of thy God or the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him." Ezra says of himself, that he Ezr 7:10, "had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments."
"God's Psa 119:142 law is the truth; the true doctrine of this law did he teach the people, and instruct them in the true meaning and intent thereof, that, according to the right rule, they might frame all their actions; nothing of it did he conceal from them, nor teach any thing contrary to it or false. This was in his mouth; nothing contrary to it was found in his lips."
And iniquity was not found in his lips - He expresses the perfectness of that teaching, first positively, then negatively. The true priest taught truth without any admixture of wrong. "Not only is he a betrayer of the truth, who, transgressing the truth, openly teaches a lie for the truth; but he too, who does not freely utter the truth, which he ought to utter freely, or who does not freely defend the truth which he ought to defend freely, is a betrayer of the truth. Rom 10:10, 'For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.'" "Nothing," says Ambrose to the Emperor Theodosius, "is so perilous to the priest with God, so disgraceful with men, as not to utter freely what he thinks. For it is written Psa 119:46, 'I spake of Thy testimonies before kings, and was not ashamed.' And, therefore, a priest's silence ought to displease your Clemency; his freedom, to please you. For you are involved in the peril of my silence, art aided by the good of my free speech."
He walked with Me - To awe of God, truthfulness of teaching, he adds a devout continual contact with God. Like the patriarchs of old, Enoch and Noah, he Gen 5:24; Gen 6:9 "walked with God." He not only lived in the presence, but walked up and down with Him, through his whole life, as a Friend, "having respect in all things to Him and His glory."
In peace and equity - The inward peace with God overflowing in peace to men. The brief words comprise the duties of both tables; as that Heb 12:14; Rom 12:18, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God; Co2 13:11. Live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you; Mat 5:9. blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." "God's covenant with him was of peace Mal 2:5, so he observed it on his part." Even "equity," or real considerate justice, would alienate those, whom it found wrong, so he joins with it "peace," that even equity was not administered but with love. "To have peace with God, what is it but to will to be mended and to do what He willeth, and in nothing to offend Him?"
And turned away many from iniquity - They, the true priests of the Old Testament then, were not satisfied with their own sanctification, but were zealous for the salvation of souls. What a history of zeal for the glory of God and the conversion of sinners in those, of whom the world knows nothing; of whose working, but for the three words in the closing book of the Old Testament, we should have known nothing! The prophets upbraid the sins of the many; the Psalms are the prayers given to and used by the pious; such incidental sayings as these, record some of the fruits. "Be of the disciples of Aaron," said Hillel "who loved peace and followed peace, and who loved men and brought them near to the law." Yet even under the Gospel Gregory complains "The world is full of priests; yet in the harvest of God the laborers are few. For we undertake the priestly office, but do not fulfill its work. We receive the fruit of holy Church in daily stipend, but labor not for the everlasting Church in preaching." "There are many priests," says a writer in the 4th century, "and few priests; many in name, few in deed. See then, how ye sit on your thrones, for the throne maketh not the priest, but the priest the throne; the place sanctifieth not the man, but the man the place. Whoso sitteth well on the throne, receiveth honor from the throne; whoso ill, doth injustice to the throne. Thou sittest in judgment. If thou livest well and teachest well, thou wilt be a judge of all; if thou teachest well and livest ill, thine own only. For by teaching well and living well thou instructest the people, how it ought to live; by teaching well and living ill, thou teachest God, how He should condemn thee." "We who are called priests, above the ills which we have of our own, add also the deaths of others. For we slay as many as we, in tepidity and silence, see daily go to death. He who is placed under thee dies without thee, when in that which causes his death, thou hast withstood him. For to that death, which thou hast not withstood, thou wilt be added."
For the priest's lips should keep knowledge - o "He assigns the reason for what he had just said, the law of truth was in his mouth; they had done what it was their duty to do; as in Ecclesiasticus it is said of Aaron (Ecclesiasticus 45:17), 'God gave unto him His commandments, and authority in the statutes of judgments, that he should teach Jacob the testimonies, and inform Israel in His laws.' So Paul requires of Titus to ordain such overseers, as shall be able to Tit 1:9, 'exhort by sound doctrine and to convince gainsayers.' Wherefore Ambrose calls the Bible, which contains the law of God, 'the book of priests,' as specially belonging to them, to be specially studied by them. Jerome notes that he says keep, not 'give forth,' that they should speak seasonably, and give their fellow-servants meat in due season."
For he is the messenger (or angel) of the Lord of hosts - Malachi gives to the priest the title which belongs to the lowest order of the heavenly spirits, as having an office akin to theirs; as Haggai does to the prophet, Hag 2:11. as an extraordinary "messenger" of God; and Paul tells the Galatians Gal 4:14, "ye received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus;" and Christ, by John, speaks to the leaders of the seven congregations, good or bad, or of mixed good and bad, as "the angels Rev 1:20 of those churches."
"Since in the heavenly hierarchy the order of angels is the lowest, and in the eucharistical hierarchy the order of the priesthood is the highest" , "most truly is the priest of God called angel, i. e., messenger, because he intervenes between God and man, and announces the things of God to the people; and, therefore, were the Urim and Thummim placed on the priest's breastplate of judgment, that we might learn, that the priest ought to be learned, a herald of divine truth." Much more in the New Testament. "Who, as it were in a day, can form one of earth, to be the defender of truth, to stand with angels, to give glory with archangels, to transmit the sacrifices to the altar above, to be partaker of the priesthood of Christ, to reform the thing formed, and present the image, to re-create for the world above, to be a god and make men partakers of the divine nature?" Pe2 1:4. "The priesthood is enacted on earth, but is ranked with the heavenly ranks. Very rightly. For not man, not angel, not archangel, not any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself hath ordained this office, and persuaded them, while yet abiding in the flesh, to conceive the ministry of the angels. Wherefore, he who is consecrated as priest, ought to be pure, as if he stood among the heavenly powers." , "The throne of the priesthood is placed in the heavens, and he is entrusted with ministering things of heaven. Who saith this? The King of heaven Himself. For He saith, 'Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.' So the priest standeth in the middle between God and human nature, bringing down to us divine benefits, and transmitting thither our supplications."
But ye - o are departed out of the way "of knowledge, truth, equity, fear of God, which I appointed to Aaron and the Levites." "Ye have caused many to stumble at the law." He does not simply say, "in the law," but "at" it. The law was what they stumbled at. They did not only misunderstand the law, through the false teaching of the priests, as though it allowed things which in truth were sins (although this too); itself was their source of stumbling. As Jesus Himself was "a rock of offence" whereon they stumbled, because through His divine holiness He was not what they expected Him to be, so contrariwise the law became an offence to them through the unholiness and inconsistency of the lives and ways of those who taught it; much as we now hear Christianity spoken against, because of the inconsistency of Christians. So Paul saith to the Jews Rom 2:24, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written;" and, for the sins of Eli's sons (Sa1 2:17, Pococke) "men abhorred the offering of the Lord."
And have corrupted the covenant of Levi - as it is said in Nehemiah, Neh 13:29, "They have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood and of Levi, that covenant which was life and peace" Mal 2:5, and, therefore, forfeited them.
Therefore have I made you contemptible - They had said in their hearts Mal 1:7, "The table of the Lord is contemptible." So God would requite them "measure for measure." Yet not only so, but in their office as judges, against the repeated protestations in the law Lev 19:15, "Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty, in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor Deu 1:17, ye shall not respect persons in judgment Deu 16:19, thou shall not wrest judgment," he says,
Ye have accepted persons in the law - You have interpreted the law differently for rich and poor, or have put it in force against the poor, not against the rich. It would include actual bribery; but there are many more direct offences against equal justice. How differently is the like offence against the eighth commandment visited upon the poor who have real temptation to it, and the rich who have none, but the lust of the eyes!
Crows he condones, vexes the simple dove - That contempt which they cast upon God and His law, by wresting it out of respect to persons, that so they might gain favor and respect from them, so honoring them more than Him, and seeking to please them more than Him, will He cast back on them making them contemptible even in the eyes of those, from whom they thought by that means to find respect.
Have we not all one Father? - o
Hath not one God created us? - Malachi turns abruptly to another offence, in which also the priests set an evil example, the capricious dismissal of their Hebrew wives and taking other women in their stead. Here, as before, he lays down, at the outset, a general moral principle, which he applies. "The one Father" (it appears from the parallel), is manifestly Almighty God, as the Jews said to our Lord Joh 8:41, "We have one Father, even God." He created them, not only as He did all mankind, but by the spiritual relationship with Himself, into which He brought them. So Isaiah speaks (Isa 43:1, Isa 43:7, Isa 43:21, add Isa 44:2, Isa 44:21, Isa 44:24), "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel. Every one that is called by My Name; I have created Him for My glory; I have formed him; yea I have made him. This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise."
And from the first in Moses' song Deu 32:6, "Is not He thy Father that created thee? Hath He not made thee and established thee?" This creation of them by God, as His people, gave them a new existence, a new relation to each other; so that every offence against each other was a violation of their relation to God, who had given them this unity, and was, in a nearer sense than of any other, the common Father of all. "Why then," the prophet adds, "do we deal treacherously, a man against his brother, to profane the covenant of our fathers?" He does not yet say, wherein this treacherous dealing consisted; but awakens them to the thought, that sin against a brother is sin against God, Who made him a brother; as, and much more under the Gospel, in which we are all members of one mystical body Co1 8:12, "when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ." He speaks of the sin, as affecting those who did not commit it.
Why do we deal treacherously? So Isaiah, before his lips were cleansed by the mystical coal, said Isa 6:5, "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips," and the high priest Joshua was shown in the vision, clothed with defiled garments; (Zac 3:3-4. See ab. pp. 354, 355) and the sin of Achan became the "sin of the children of Israel" Jos 7:1, Jos 7:11, and David's sinful pride in numbering the people was visited upon all. 2 Sam. 24. He teaches beforehand, that Co1 12:26, "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." They "profaned" also "the covenant of their fathers," by marrying those whom God forbade, and who would seduce, as pagan wives had Solomon, from His worship. Paul in sanctioning the remarriage of widows, adds, "only Co1 7:39. in the Lord," i. e., Christian husbands. "He who treated as null the difference between the Israelites and a pagan woman, showed that the difference between the God of Israel and the God of the pagan had before become null to him, whence it follows."
Treacherously has Judah dealt; an abomination is committed in Israel - The prophet, by the order of the words, emphasizes the "treachery" and the "abomination." This have they done; the very contrary to what was required of them as the people of God. He calls the remnant of Judah by the sacred name of the whole people, of whom they were the surviving representatives. The word "abomination" is a word belonging to the Hebrew, and is used especially of things offensive to, or separating from, Almighty God; idolatry, as the central dereliction of God, and involving offences against the laws of nature, but also all other sins, as adultery, which violate His most sacred laws and alienate from Him.
Hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which He loved - , in themselves, who had been separated and set apart by God to Himself as a Exo 19:6. "holy nation. Jer 2:3. Israel was holiness to the Lord." "The Lord is holy, perfect holiness; His name, holy; all things relating to Him, holy; His law, covenant and all His ordinances and institutions holy; Israel, His special people, an holy people; the temple and all things therein consecrated to Him, holy; Jerusalem, the city of the great God, holy; yea, the whole and of His inheritance, holy; so that whosoever doth not observe those due respects which to any of these belong, may be said to have profaned the holiness which He loved."
Unlawful marriages and unlawful lusts were in themselves a special profanation of that holiness. The high priest was to Lev 21:14-15, "take a virgin of his own people to wife, and not to profane his seed among the people." The priests who "married stranqe wives, defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood" Neh 13:29. The marriage with idolatresses brought, as one consequence, the profanation by their idolatries. The prohibition is an anticipation of the fuller revelation in the Gospel, that Co1 6:15-20 the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and so, that "sins against the body" are profanations of the temple of God. "As those who acknowledge, worship and serve the true God are called His Deu 32:19; Co2 6:18 sons and daughters, so they that worshiped any strange god are, by like reason, here called the daughters of that god. Hence, the Jews say, 'He that marrieth a pagan woman is, as if he made himself son-in-law to an idol. '"
Hath married the daughter of a strange god - And so he came into closest relation with idols and with devils.
The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar - , literally "The Lord cut off from the man that doeth this, watcher and answerer." A proverbial saying apparently, in which the two corresponding classes comprise the whole. Yet so, probably, that the one is the active agent; the other, the passive. The one as a "watcher" goes his rounds, to see that nothing stirreth against that which he is to guard; the other "answereth," when roused. Together, they express the two opposite classes, active and passive sin; those who originate the sin, and those who adopt or retain it at the instigation of the inventor or active propagator of it. It will not exempt from punishment, that he was led into the sin.
From the tabernacles of Jacob - Perhaps "he chose the word, to remind them of their unsettled condition," out of which God had brought them.
And him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of hosts - i. e., him, who, doing these things, offereth an offering to God, to bribe Him, as it were, to connivance at his sin. In the same meaning, Isaiah says, that God hateth Isa 1:13. "iniquity and the solemn meeting," and Isa 61:8, "I hate robbery with burnt-offering;" or Solomon Pro 15:8, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord Pro 28:9; he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, his prayer shall be an abomination." And God by Amos says , "I hate, I despise, your feast-days, and will not accept your solemn assemblies." In one sense the sacrifice was an aggravation, in that the worship of God made the offence either a sin against light, or implied that God might be bribed into connivance in the breaking of His laws. The ancient discipline of removing from communion those guilty of grievous sin was founded on this principle.
And this ye have done again - , adding the second sin of cruelty to their wives to the taking foreign women; "they covered the altar of God with tears," in that they by ill-treatment occasioned their wives to weep there to God; and God regarded this, as though they had stained the altar with their tears.
Insomuch that He regardeth not the offering anymore - God regarded the tears of the oppressed, not the sacrifices of the oppressors. He would not accept what was thus offered Him as a thing well-pleasing to Him, acceptable to win His good pleasure.
And ye say, Wherefore? - They again act the innocent, or half-ignorant. What had they to do with their wives' womanly tears? He who knows the hearts of all was Himself the witness between them and the wife of youth of each; her to whom, in the first freshness of life and their young hearts, each had plighted his troth having been entrusted by her with her earthy all. Gen 31:49-50. "The Lord," said even Laban, when parting from his daughters, "watch between me and thee, when we are absent, the one from the other; if thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness between me and thee."
And he dealt treacherously against her - , violating his own faith and her trusting love, which she had given once for all, and could not now retract. "And she is thy companion;" she has been another self, the companion of thy life, sharing thy sorrows, joys, hopes, fears, interests; different in strength, yet in all, good and ill, sickness and health, thy associate and companion; the help meet for the husband and provided for him by God in Paradise; and above all, "the wife of thy covenant," to whom thou didst pledge thyself before God. These are so many aggravations of their sin. She was the wife of their youth, of their covenant, their companion; and God was the Witness and Sanctifier of their union. Marriage was instituted and consecrated by God in Paradise. Man was to leave father and mother (if so be), but to cleave to his wife indissolubly. For they were to be Mat 19:6, "no more twain, but one flesh." Hence, as a remnant of Paradise, even the pagan knew of marriage, as a religious act, guarded by religious sanctions. Among God's people, marriage was a Pro 2:17 "covenant of their God." To that original institution of marriage he seems to refer in the following:
And did not He - , God, of whom he had spoken as the witness between man and his wife, "make one," namely, Adam first, to mark the oneness of marriage and make it a law of nature, appointing "that out of man (created in His own image and similitude), woman should take her beginning, and, knitting them together, did teach that it should never be lawful to put asunder those, whom He by matrimony had made one?" "Between those two, and consequently between all other married, to be born from them, He willed that there should be one indivisible union, for Adam could be married to no other save Eve, since no other had been created by God, nor could Eve turn to any other man than Adam, since there was no other in the world. 'Infringe not then this sanction of God, and unity of marriage, and degenerate not from your first parents, Adam and Eve.'" "If divorce had been good, Jesus says, God would not have made one man and one woman, but, having made one Adam, would have made two women, had He meant that he should cast out the one, bring in the other; but now by the mode of creation, He brought in this law, that each should have, throughout, the wife which he had from the beginning. This law is older than that about divorce, as much as Adam is older than Moses."
Yet had he the residue of the spirit - Gen 2:7, "the breath of life, which He breathed into Adam, and man became a living soul." All the souls, which God would ever create, are His, and He could have called them into being at once. Yet in order to designate the unity of marriage, He willed to create but one. So our Lord argues against divorce Mat 19:4-6, "Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female?" They both together are called "one man" Gen 1:27, and, therefore, should be of one mind and spirit also, the unity of which they ought faithfully to preserve.
And wherefore one? - "Seeking a seed of God," i. e., worthy of God, for from religious marriage, religious offspring may most be hoped from God; and by violating that law, those before the flood brought in a spurious, unsanctified generation, so that God in His displeasure destroyed them all. "And take heed to your spirit," which ye too had from God, which was His, and which He willed in time to create. He closes, as he began, with an appeal to man's natural feeling, "let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth."
He hateth putting away - o He had allowed it "for the hardness of their hearts," yet only in the one case of some extreme bodily foulness discovered upon marriage, and which the woman, knowing the law, concealed at her own peril. Not subsequent illness or any consequences of it, however loathsome (as leprosy), were a ground of divorce, but only this concealed foulness, which the husband "found" upon marriage. The capricious tyrannical divorce, God saith, "He hateth:" a word Naturally used only as to sin, and so stamping such divorce as sin.
One covereth violence with his garment - o or, "and violence covereth his garment," or, it might be, in the same sense, "he covereth his garment with violence" , so that it cannot be hid, nor washed away, nor removed, but envelopes him and his garment; and that, to his shame and punishment.
It was, as it were, an outer garment of violence, as Asaph says Psa 73:6, "violence covereth them as a garment;" or David Psa 109:18, "he clothed himself with cursing as with a garment." It was like a garment with "fretting leprosy," unclean and making unclean, to be burned with fire. Lev 13:47-58. Contrariwise, the redeemed saints had Rev 7:14 "washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb." Having declared God's hatred of this their doing, he sums up in the same words, but more briefly; "and this being so, ye shall take heed to your spirit, and not deal treacherously."
Ye have wearied the Lord with your words - o "By your blasphemous words, full of unbelief and mistrust, you have in a manner wearied God. He speaks of God, after the manner of men, as a man afflicted by the ills of others. Whence also the Lord says in Isaiah Isa 1:14, "I am weary to bear them," and Isa 43:24, "thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities." In like way the Apostle says Eph 4:30.
With the same contumacy as before, and unconsciousness of sin, they ask, "Wherein?" It is the old temptation at the prosperity of the wicked. "Does God love the wicked? if not, why does He not punish them?" "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." "The people, when returned from Babylon, seeing all the nations around, and the Babylonians themselves, serving idols but abounding in wealth, strong in body, possessing all which is accounted good in this world, and themselves, who had the knowledge of God, overwhelmed with want, hunger, servitude, is scandalized and says, 'There is no providence in human things; all things are borne along by blind chance, and not governed by the judgment of God; nay rather, things evil please Him, things good displease Him; or if God does discriminate all things, where is His equitable and just judgment?' Questions of this sort minds, which believe not in the world to come, daily raise to God, when they see the wicked in power, the saints in low estate; such as Lazarus, whom we read of in the Gospel, who, before the gate of the rich man in his purple, desires to support his hungry soul with the crumbs which are thrown away from the remnants of the table, while the rich man is of such savagery and cruelty, that he had no pity on his fellow-man, to whom the tongues of the dogs showed pity; not understanding the time of judgment, nor that those are the true goods, which are for ever, say, He is pleased with the evil, and, Where is the God of judgment?"
Where is the God of the judgment? - o "i. e., of that judgment, the great, most certain, most exact, clearsighted, omniscient, most just, most free, wherein He regards neither powerful nor rich nor gifts, nor anything but justice? For He is the God of the judgment, to whom it belongs by nature to judge all men and things by an exact judgment: for His nature is equity itself, justice itself, providence itself, and that, most just, most wise. To Him it belongs to be the Judge of all, and to exercise strict judgment upon all; and He will exercise it fully on that decisive and last day of the world, which shall be the horizon between this life and the next, parting off time from eternity, heaven from hell, the blessed from the damned forever, through Christ, whom He constituted Judge of all, quick and dead."