“Babylonian Captivity, also called Babylonian Exile, the forced detention of Jews in Babylonia following the latter’s conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 598/7 and 587/6 BCE. Historians agree that several deportations took place (each the result of uprisings in Palestine), that not all Jews were forced to leave their homeland, that returning Jews left Babylonia at various times, and that some Jews chose to remain in Babylonia—thus constituting the first of numerous Jewish communities living permanently in the Diaspora.
“Many scholars cite 597 BCE as the date of the first deportation, for in that year King Jehoiachin was deposed and apparently sent into exile with his family, his court, and thousands of workers. Others say the first deportation followed the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar in 586; if so, the Jews were held in Babylonian captivity for 48 years. Among those who accept a tradition (Jeremiah 29:10) that the exile lasted 70 years, some choose the dates 608 to 538, others 586 to about 516 (the year when the rebuilt Temple was dedicated in Jerusalem).”1.
The priests of this time knew their duties for they had consulted the Book of the Law, but they had ceased to obey their prescribed instructions because they had no older priests to instruct them more fully. The Babylonians had brought only the young priests, killing some of these even, and had deliberately left behind the older priests who would have instructed them more thoroughly.
Therefore, these poorly trained young priests never directed Israel to honor God with deep personal respect, coupled with love and an awareness of God’s might. It is likely that they themselves instead harbored bitterness, given how they now lived and what they had lost.
Jacob I have loved was a reality that they doubted.
Yahweh, the LORD God was worthy of their respect and love. This fact indicates that they should show their love of Him in various ways as they 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. Perhaps this sprang from bitterness in their hearts over the destruction of the temple and the loss of their livelihoods.
“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).”8
Disdain and disrespect, contempt and despising of God are the exact opposites 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. On top of this, 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, how to worship, how 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:
“8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is not that wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is not that wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “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+).9
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.”10
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?