Biblical Exegesis of Malachi 1:6 – 2:9 (With Emphasis on 1:11)
BY STEVEN LOVISON
Thesis and Justification Statement
The purpose of this exegesis is to examine the verses of Malachi 1:6 – 2:9 with primary emphasis and exegesis being placed on Mal 1:11. The intent is to show that Mal 1:11 is indeed a prophecy that has been fulfilled in an extremely obvious worldwide manner, ie, the Catholilc Mass. In order to prove the thesis statement this paper will begin by examining Malachi giving a brief overview of the book’s historical context and literary form. A study will be described from the point of view of the Jews at the time of Malachi followed by studies taken in the light of Jesus Christ. A summary of various interpretations will draw a conclusion to defend this thesis.
Historical Context and Literal Form
Malachi is generally agreed to be dated somewhere between the completion of the temple and renewal of temple sacrifices (515 B.C.) and the time of Ezra (458 B.C). There is a tradition in the Targum that Malachi is Ezra and St Jerome has stated this opinion as well. Whether “Malachi” is Ezra or not does not change the message of the book because surely the message of the book relates to the problems that existed before the reforms of Ezra took effect. There are a number of theories on whether the prophet’s name was actually Malachi. These theories are not critical to this exegesis other than noting we will refer to the prophet as “Malachi”.
At the time of Malachi temple sacrifice had been back in practice long enough for the Jews to, once again, as with the entire history of God’s chosen people, neglect their religion and get lax in their religious practices. These problems are addressed by Malachi.
The form of the book of Malachi is a “catechetical” format presented as disputation dialogues. Each subject is presented first as a statement from God or the Prophet, followed by a question or objection, followed by a clarification.
Position of 1:6 – 2:9 in Relation to the Entire Book of Malachi
In verses 1:1-5 God is once again declaring to his people his love for them and showing how he protects them and punishes their enemies. The Jews will see this again and proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Thus Malachi begins by emphasizing God’s love for his people so that the subsequent criticisms spoken through the prophet will be taken as the loving reprimands.
In fact, Mal 1:6 – 2:9, which immediately follow God’s declaration of love, begins by God describing himself as father. Verses 1:6 – 2:9 can be broken into two related units. The first 1:6-14 is a speech of condemnation and then 1:15 – 2:9 is a speech of punishment. These verses are the first major issue dealt with by Malachi and set the tone of the succeeding disputations. The importance of correct temple worship and rituals is stressed by this section being the first one addressed. While 1:6 – 2:9 are clearly a “seam” section of Malachi, verse 1:11 can be seen as a stand-alone verse, or a seam in and of itself within a seam.
Prophecy From the View of the Period
Mal 1:6 – 2:9 will first be looked at from the point of view of the Jews at the time of the prophecy. In 1:6-10 the Lord compares his people to unloving children and disrespectful servants. At this point the message could be applied to all God’s people but then the priests, the people’s mediators with God, ask the Lord for proof of their disrespect i.e., their sinfulness. The Lord points to their guilt in not following the Law regarding the rituals of the temple sacrifice and the quality of the sacrificial animals. This guilt is stressed by asking the priests what would happen if they dared to present these polluted sacrifices to their current governor.
Up to verse 1:10 there is no doubt the people of the time would have understood everything God is pointing out to be related to the sacrificial offerings of the temple. And the Hebrew words מנחה (minchâh) and נגשׁ(nâgash) in these texts bear this out. The priests and the people are lacking in respect for God in the rituals they are to carry out and God is not pleased with this situation. Further evidence will be presented in verse 1:12 – 2:9 but a specific prophecy is given to the people in verse 1:11 and this exegesis will now concentrate on this prophetic verse.
The Mal 1:11 prophecy tells of a time when in every nation pure offerings will be accepted by God. The verse’s starting phrase “For from the rising of the sun to its setting” is also found in Ps 50:1; Ps 113:3; Is 45:6; and Is 59:19. These verses look towards a future display of the God’s greatness and power to the whole world. Some scholars say the entire Mal 1:11 text should be removed because its universality does not seem to flow with the local issue of temple sacrifice but this opinion ignores, rejects, or is unaware of the official Catholic interpretation which points this verse to the Mass, and will be discussed later. For now, we are looking at these Scriptures from the perspective of the Jews at the time of Malachi, who would know nothing of the Mass, but would know of the prophecies regarding a universal triumph of God and his people and their religion.
Verse 1:11 would not refer to isolated areas of sacrifice outside the temple such as those practiced by the Samaritans or possibly Jews in the Diaspora. It has even been suggested that this verse refers to a heretical Jewish sect in Egypt or that some heathen sacrifices were actually to Yahweh or at least acceptable to Yahweh. Commentaries along this line attempt to explain away the universal aspect of Mal 1:11. None of these are acceptable possibilities because none of them meet the universality called for in Mal 1:11 when the prophet states that “in every place” there will be sacrificial offerings. In addition they all go against the law of Deuteronomy that sacrifices must take place in Jerusalem. Elsewhere in scripture it is prophesied that Yahweh will be acknowledged as king and all the nations will seek Him in Jerusalem (Mic 4:1ff, Is 2:3ff, 42:4, 51:4, Jer 3:17, Zech 8:22) so these theories would not be valid.
So the people to whom this prophecy was directed would foresee that at some point in the future God would perfect his people and perhaps establish many temples in every nation where the pure offerings would be made and with which God would be pleased. The context of the verses before and after 1:11 are in relation to temple sacrifices and the people at this time are unaware of Jesus Christ, of his passion, death, and resurrection, and unaware of the New Jerusalem as the bride of the Lord i.e. the Church (Rev 21:2), and that the true temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (Rev 21:22).
Some interpreters propose the incense and pure offerings of Mal 1:11 are the acceptable offerings presented by foreigners in Is 56:6-7, 60:7 and understand incense to mean prayers (Rev 5:8) and “offerings” to mean “praise” (Heb 3:15). The offerings spoke of and to which the Jews would understand were a lot of work for those involved. Animal sacrifice and burnt offerings took time, strength, and dedication in addition to the sacrificial animals/objects themselves. The Hebrew words in Mal 1:11 tell us these offerings are of the same type that God has been complaining about in the previous Malachi verses. This prophecy of universal offerings was no mere “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” and if anyone at the time would have suggested that simple prayer to Almighty God was all that was being talked about in verse 1:11, they would have been thought בער ולא אדע(ignorant and stupid).
No, the prophecy of 1:11, taken in the context of 1:6-10 and 1:12-2:9 surely referred to physical sacrifice and not merely prayers or sacrifices of praise. In fact, the Hebrew uses the words תּודה (tôdâh) and שׁם(shêm) for “sacrifice of praise” as can be found in Lev 22:29, Psalms 50:14, 50:23, 116:17, and Amos 4:5. These verses clearly show an offering of prayer and had that been the intent of Mal 1:11, this wording would have been used.
The Hebrew word מנחה (minchâh) for the “offering” found in Mal 1:10,1:11, and 1:13 is used almost two hundred times in the Old Testament and consistently refers to such offerings as those of Cain and Abel in Genesis, the lamb offered in Ex 29:41, the holocaust offering in Ex 40:29, the offering of fine flour in Lev 2:1, the meal-offerings in Lev 2:3-6, Num 6:15, Judges 13:19, the showbread and cereal offerings of Neh 10:33, and the sacrifices of Psalms 20:3, 40:7, Is 1:13, 66:20.
Malachi uses the Hebrew word נגשׁ(nâgash) four times in the sense “to bring an offering” (1:7, 1:8 (2x), 1:11) and is also used in relation to the meal-offering in Lev 2:8, the sin-offering in Lev 8:14, offering sacrifices and bread to the Lord (Lev 21:21), entering the Holy of Holies (Num 4:19), approaching the Ark of the Covenant in Num 8:19 and numerous other places in the Old Testament to reference offerings to God.
A final note will be made about Malachi’s obvious direction of 1:6 – 2:9 toward priests. In Exodus 19:6 the Lord refers to his chosen people as “a kingdom of priests” and so even though there is an official Levitical Priesthood and Mal 1:6 – 2:9 is directed primarily at the priests, the lay people of the time could look within themselves and how they take part in the rituals of worship to see if, in their hearts, they are not guilty of the same types of sins as the priests.
Prophecy in the Light of Christ
It should be noted that verses 1:11-14 are often “excised” by commentators on the grounds that they are superfluous to the text. Verse 1:11 is especially troublesome to modern biblical scholars because to most, its universality makes no sense within the context of the section’s seemingly local temple subject matter. As we will see, the official Catholic teaching of verse 1:11 sheds perfect light on this confusion while most other commentaries tend to gloss over verse 1:11 or turn it into a “sacrifice of prayer” which, as has been shown, is not in line with the actual wording of the text when compared to the rest of the Old Testament.
One area already mentioned that should not be overlooked is the “Kingdom of Priests” doctrine as described by 1 Peter 2:9 which refers to Exodus 19:6. Unlike the Old Testament, where the people considered themselves a Kingdom of Priests and yet had no difficulties with an ordained priesthood, much of the New Testament Christianity does have a problem with the ordained priesthood. Even though Jude does warn us not to “perish in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 1:11 KJV) which was one of the few times in the Old Testament where the people tried to usurp the Old Testament Priesthood and were severely punished by God, most Christian denominations reject an ordained priesthood. Even with an ordained priesthood, we all are, like the Jews, a kingdom of priests and would do well to look on Malachi’s warning to priests in relation to our own devotions be they in the context of the Catholic Mass or within our own spiritual practices.
Regarding our main focus on Mal 1:11, the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation and the rejection of the Mass officially interprets 1:11 as being the prophecy that is fulfilled by the Catholic Mass. According to Is 66:21, the new sacrifice, or “pure offering” will be carried out by a priesthood not solely Jewish.
This interpretation was not new to the Council of Trent. It is the interpretation put forth by the Church Fathers since the first generations of Christianity. The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, a catechism from approximately 140 A.D. quotes Mal 1:11 when speaking of the practice of “gather[ing] together [to] break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.” This is the Mass. In 155 A.D. St. Justin Martyr quotes Mal 1:10-12 saying these verses refer to “the sacrifices offered to Him by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist and likewise the cup of the Eucharist”. In 180 A.D., while discussing the Mass and the Eucharist, St Irenaeus quotes Mal 1:11 as the “new sacrifice of the new covenant”.
Trent was in part reacting to the ideas of the Protestant Reformation. Ideas which Pope Leo XIII describes as being opposed to the traditions and teaching office of the Church, such as the Council of Trent itself and to teachings of the Church Fathers like those previously quoted. Leo XIII advises that “whenever there be ambiguity or want of clearness, the ‘examination of the older tongues’ to quote St. Augustine, will be useful and advantageous”. This advise is particularly useful for Mal 1:11 as one of the Fathers of the Reformation, John Calvin, in his book Institutes of Christian Religion, rather vehemently rejects Trent’s interpretation of Mal 1:11 and along with it the interpretation of the Church Fathers. Calvin writes that Mal 1:11 “refers to the spiritual mode of worshipping God, and tacitly opposes it to the carnal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. Thus, to do good and communicate are called sacrifices with which God is well pleased (Heb 13:16)”. Yet Calvin neglects to notice, or chooses to ignore Hebrews 13:15 which admonishes us all to “offer up a sacrifice of praise” which, as we discussed when looking at the Hebrew, is clearly not the “pure offering” Malachi prophecies about.
The Hebrew word מנחה (minchâh) for the “offering” or “sacrifice” is used for both bloody (Gen 4:4.; 1 Sam 2:17) and unbloody sacrifices, or food offerings. It was never used to indicate a prayer offering. It is well known that John Calvin studied the works of St. Augustine yet in his interpretation of Malachi, he surely did not follow his advice regarding “older tongues”.
Another Protestant Reformer, John Wesley, says that the pure offering Mal 1:11 refers to is “prayers and praises”. Again, this interpretation is clearly refuted when one performs an “examination of the older tongues”. In the 1800’s several Fundamentalist Christian bible scholars achieved what can almost be considered “Church Father” status in today’s Protestant world. They have limited views on Mal 1:11. John Nelson Darby, in his commentary on Malachi, declines to comment at all on Mal 1:11. From the same era, Adam Clark writes ‘From the rising of the sun— The total abolition of the Mosaic sacrifices, and the establishment of a spiritual worship over the whole earth, is here foretold. The incense of praise, and the pure offering of the Lamb without spot, and through him a holy, loving heart, shall be presented everywhere among the Gentiles; and the Jews and their mock offerings shall be rejected”. This hints at the Lamb being offered throughout the world but really suggests only a “sacrifice of prayer” manner.
Clark’s interpretation is interesting because he links the pure offering of the Lamb to Mal 1:11. When taken to its natural conclusion, Clark would be saying that the sacrifice of Christ occurs over and over and not “once for all” (Heb 10:10) which defies the universally standard anti-Mass objection. It also does not account for the “food offering” aspects of מנחה (minchâh). The Sacrifice of the Cross was not offered “in every place” but only on Golgotha so these attempts to explain Mal 1:11 are incomplete at best.
Summary of Interpretations
It seems that the biblical exegesis of Mal 1:11 takes one of three forms. The first and oldest is the “Catholic Interpretation” which can be found all the way back to the earliest generations of Christianity. The second, which may be called the “Sacrifice of Prayer Interpretation” seems to have originated in the Protestant Reformation in direct opposition to the Catholic Interpretation. The third “Who Knows? Interpretation” seems to ignore the verse or discount it altogether. In addition to modern Christian biblical scholars, modern Jewish commentary seems to adhere to the third interpretation.
Anyone who believes the Holy Spirit has inspired the author Malachi and is therefore also the author cannot accept an interpretation that is incomplete or contradicts. It is interesting to note that of Malachi in general, John Wesley states “he speaks more clearly of the Messiah, than any other of the prophets had done.” In the matter of Mal 1:11, proponents of the Catholic Interpretation would agree. It can be seen so literally.
Malachi 1:11 is fulfilled in the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is an unbloody food offering. It is universal in regard to place and time and its incorporation of the gentiles. It uses a delegated priesthood differing from that of the Jews, with Christ as the High Priest and Victim. The Council of Trent calls it a “pure oblation, which cannot be defiled by unworthiness and impiety on the part of those who offer it, and concerning which God has predicted through Malachi, that there would be offered up a clean oblation in every place to His Name, which would be great among the Gentiles”.
When one understands the Mass as the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ and when one recognizes the Catholic Church and the Mass as Universal and practiced everyday beginning with the rising of the sun until its setting, one cannot help but rejoice in the fulfillment of the Mal 1:11 prophecy. Consider that this sentence is being written in California at 3:45 AM in a Catholic Church during Eucharistic Adoration, i.e., in the Holy of Holies; in front of Jesus Christ himself and (hopefully) under His inspiration. The sun is rising on the Eastern United States and Masses have already begun there and will be carried on throughout the morning, with noon Masses, and then evening masses all the way until the sun sets on the West Coast and evening Masses take place. The same is happing in Latin America and Canada. The same will happen in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, in Australia, “in every nation”.
And so around the world from the rising of the sun until its setting the pure offering of our Lord Jesus Christ is being offered without blemish, free from the errors Malachi condemned because Christ Himself is both our pure sacrifice and our sinless priest, the showbread fulfilled, the manna from heaven fulfilled, the Passover Lamb fulfilled; and Mal 1:11 fulfilled as our spiritual food-offering that will give us eternal life. To paraphrase Mal 1:5, my own eyes have seen this and I say “Great is the Lord, beyond the border of Israel!” (Hallelujah!)
 Adele Berlin and Marck Zvi Brettler (Editors), The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), 1,268
 The Navarre Bible: Minor Prophets (Scepter Publishers, 2005), 337
 Beth Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger (Scholars Press, 1987) 55,60
Raymond Brown, S.S., Joseph Fitzmeyer, S.J., Roland Murphy, O. Carm, The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, 1968), 400
 John Barton and John Muddiman (Editors), The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2001), 616
 Glazier-McDonald, 57-58
 Kenneth Baker (Editor), The NIV Study Bible (Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 1418
 Glazier-McDonald, 5
 Remy Lafort S.T.D and Arthur Scanlan, D.D., “Sacrifice of the Mass”, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907-1914 (www.newadvent.org)
 William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1 (The Liturgical Press, 1970), 8, 135, 232
 Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, Encyclical on the Study of Holy Scripture, 1893 (www.vatican.va) 9, 13
 John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, 1559 (The Complete Christian Collection, Packard Technologies, 1999), 4th Book Chapter 18
 Remy Lafort S.T.D and Arthur Scanlan, D.D
 John Wesley, Notes On The Whole Bible, (The Complete Christian Collection, Packard Technologies, 1999)
 John Wesley
 Norman P. Tanner, S.J., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Volume II, (Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990) (Council of Trent, 1545-1563, Session 22, Ch 1) 733
Adele Berlin and Marck Zvi Brettler (Editors), The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004)
John Barton and John Muddiman (Editors), The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2001)
Kenneth Baker (Editor), The NIV Study Bible (Zondervan Publishing House, 1995)
Kenneth Baker (Editor), The NIV Study Bible (Zondervan Publishing House, 1995)
John Barton and John Muddiman (Editors), The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2001)
Raymond Brown, S.S., Joseph Fitzmeyer, S.J., Roland Murphy, O. Carm, The Jerome Bibilical Commentary (Prentice Hall, 1968)
John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, 1559 (The Complete Christian Collection, Packard Technologies, 1999)
Beth Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger (Scholars Press, 1987)
Paul Heinissch, Christ in Prophecy (The Liturgical Press, 1956)
William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1 (The Liturgical Press, 1970)
The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (Scepter Publishing, 1966)
Remy Lafort S.T.D and Arthur Scanlan, D.D., The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907-1914 (www.new advent.org)
Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, Encyclical on the Study of Holy Scripture, 1893 (www.vatican.va)
David Levy, Malachi: Messenger of Rebuke and Renewal, (Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1992)
The Navarre Bible: Minor Prophets (Scepter Publishers, 2005)
James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995)
Norman P. Tanner, S.J., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Volume II, (Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990) (Council of Trent, 1545-1563, Session 22, Ch 1)
E-Sword Electronic Bibles, Concordances, Commentary King James Version, Revised Standard Version, Douay-Rheims, Hebrew Old Testament with Strong’s Numbers, Jewish Publication Society Old Testament (www.e-sword.net, 2000-2005)
John Wesley, Notes On The Whole Bible, (The Complete Christian Collection, Packard Technologies, 1999)