What of the people? On March 16, 597 B.C., the Babylonian captivity began.

In October 539 B.C., Jerusalem, the greatest city of the ancient world fell to the Persians.

The captivity formally ended in 538 B.C., 60 years later, when the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great, gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine.

Cyrus the Great, king of the Achaemenid Empire, ended the Babylonian captivityIn the first year of his reign he was prompted by God to decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that Jews who wished to could return to their homeland for this purpose.

In the Bible (e.g., Ezra 1:1–4), Cyrus is famous for freeing the Jewish captives in Babylonia and allowing them to return to their homeland.

“1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’” (Ezra 1:1-4 NIV).1.

Consider how you would feel if you were enslaved, chained, and forced to walk hundreds of miles away from your home, your culture, your customs, and you weren’t able to return until 59 years later. When you did, you were aged, your adult children had been scattered, some into slavery, some into pagan temple service, some you know not where. When you returned home, Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Persians.

Ezra the priest was still living in Babylon when in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, king of Persia (c.457 BCE), the king sent him to Jerusalem to teach the laws of God to any who did not know them. Ezra led a large body of exiles back to Jerusalem, where he discovered that Jewish men had been marrying non-Jewish women.

Malachi, Disposition 2 continues. Malachi exposes the priest’s offenses and rebukes them for condoning these, thereby violating the Lord’s covenant with Levi.

The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took Ezra the priest and the caravan he was traveling with four months to traverse the nearly 900 miles (1,448 km). An army could have traveled much faster, but Ezra’s entourage probably included children and elderly people.2.

The new temple in Jerusalem was completed in 516 B.C.

Malachi addresses the priests in approximately 450 B.C., some sixty-six years after the new temple in Jerusalem was completed in 516 B.C.

Therefore, the LORD makes it all clear.

Certain words in this prophecy require definitions, for we may be unfamiliar with some of these concepts. We have to start here as we dissect what the priests have done that has misguided all of Israel.

God wants us to know: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?‘ (Malachi 1:6 ESV).

Honor” means: in Hebrew #3519 in the Strong’s Concordance, כָּבוֹד kāḇôḏ,: “A masculine singular noun meaning honor, glory, majesty, wealth. Commonly used of God.3.

Turning from the people to the priests, Jehovah asks, whereas His love to the people was so great, where was their love towards Him?

If the priests, as they profess, regard Him, the LORD God, as their Father (Is 63:16) and Master, let them show the reality of their profession by love and reverential fear (Ex 20:12; Lu 6:46). 

Once more it’s the issue of Jacob have I loved. The Lord has loved His people, the descendants of Jacob — Israel, keeping them a people group even through a captivity of nearly seventy years. The Lord knows how the behavior of the priests can either turn the people toward Him or away from Him, and so . . .

He addresses the priests because they ought to be leaders in piety to the rest of the people, but instead, they are rather the foremost in “despising His name.” 4 The priests have failed in the purpose and their responsibility yet again.

We don’t talk much about reverential fear of the LORDbut our love and commitment to Him must enable us to recognize the need to respect and to exalt Him and His holy Name.

Our God holds the power of life and of death. He is the Creator of the universe.

When facing death, we hope our love has been faithful and true and our faith solid so that we may be admitted to an eternity with Him.With reverential fear and deep longing, we await the precious face of Christ welcoming us. Our lives are in HIs hands. Come, Lord Jesus, come.CLICK TO TWEET

With reverential fear and deep longing we await the precious face of Christ welcoming us. Our lives are in His hands.

Love and reverential fear look like this: Strong’s Concordance #4172…”2. reverence, fear, i.e., respect toward a superior (Malachi 1:6; 2:5+); 3. an awesome deed, a wonder, i.e., a sign that causes awe, as a nonverbal sign of power (Dt 4:34; 26:8; 34:12+); 4. One who is feared, i.e., a title of God (Ps 76:12[EB 11]+)…”3.

Now, imagine the priests at the temple having no respect for the Lord. What would happen in your local church if the pastor and all the leaders despised God, how would that impact your church?

I imagine that a church like this wouldn’t exist for very long. What would its purpose be?

The priests of this time knew this, but had ceased to live it out, never directing Israel to honor God with this type of deep personal respectcoupled with love and an awareness of God’s might.

All of these descriptions are true of God and indicate various ways we respond to His majesty. Not only did the priests not show love, reverence, and respect — what they should have been feeling and demonstrating — but they instead showed contempt toward the LORD of hosts.

It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you say, “How have we despised your name?” (Malachi 1:6b NIV).

Show contempt” means: Strong’s #959. In Hebrew: בָּזָה bāzāh: A verb meaning to hold in contempt or to despise. The verb means to hold in disdain, to disrespect…or not to treat something with proper respect (Ezek. 16:59; 22:8; Mal. 1:6).”4

This is the exact opposite of deep personal respect, coupled with love and an awareness of God’s might.

The situation is truly bad when the priests don’t believe in the words and actions that they daily perform. This is hypocrisy. They act out of contempt for the LORD by mocking and disdaining the acts of worship, by talking about Him with disrespect, and by holding the entire idea of their faith in disdain.

The priests failed the people, for the responsibility of the priesthood was to instruct the Jewish nation, no longer in captivity, how to worshiphow to approach God, and how to know their God.

They had not worshiped the LORD in temple worship in sixty to seventy years, yet the instructions were written down in the Old Testament scrolls. The priests knew this. They ignored it. They blew it.

Meeting together in smaller gatherings while they were in Babylon may have laid the future groundwork for the synagogue for Jews scattered abroad. Synagogues didn’t require any of the sacrificial rituals. This may have been part of the problem. Now the priests had relearn the skills necessary for the temple.

What was their place now? To instruct. To teach. To pass on the Scriptures as memorized by them.

Did they let all of this slip away?

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?‘ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?‘ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised (Malachi 1:6-7 ESV).

Because of their distrust, disdain, and contempt for the LORD, the priests neglected their duty to instruct and to guide the people in how to worship and how to approach their God.

Through Malachi, the Holy Spirit explains more thoroughly how to honor the LORD:

When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is not that wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animalsis not that wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?” —says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 1:8-9 NIV).

Animals which were blind, lame, or diseased were unacceptable to offer to the LORD. These were in “a ceremonial unclean state and so not acceptable as covenantal behavior…” (Malachi 1:7b+) (Malachi 1:7a, 12+).

The Lord Almighty Himself instructs the people in how to please Him, so that He may be gracious toward them. Of course, the people won’t know unless the priests pass on what God has instructed.

The offering they have been giving is a shabby representation of the perfect offering God requires.

The perfection required of the offering was a foreshadowing of when Messiah would be sacrificed for us, the final necessary sacrifice. His perfection would far excel this meat market brawl of what is clean and what is not clean, what is worthy behavior, and what most decidedly is not.

“In this letter, Malachi defends the reality of God’s elective love for Israel, a love which calls for robust covenant obedience and sincere worship as its response. Instead, the people were dishonoring God by their worthless offerings and the hypocritical formalism of their worship.”5

Again, this reminds us of the current state of the church in our nation. Are we doing the same? In what ways do we carry out dishonor toward God?

“‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD” (Malachi 1:2 ESV) are God’s first words to Israel. This fact, the most significant reality in their lives, is where they need to focus. God’s love for them surpasses all.

Jacob I have loved (chosen as patriarch of Messiah’s lineage). Esau I have hated (not chosen, though he was the firstborn).

They should have focused on the good that God had done for Jacob’s descendants. But they did not.

Like them, do we forget to focus on the goodness of God and of all of His blessings?

a. A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

Sources consulted:

  1. ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, study notes for these passages.
  2. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 737). Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  3. Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). In The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 529). AMG Publishers.
  4. Swanson, J. (1997). In Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Logos Research Systems, Inc.Swanson, J. (1997). In Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament). (electronic ed.), Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  5. ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, study notes for these passages were examined.
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