Posted by: mattcolvin | November 16, 2011

Malachi 2:1-16: Disgraced Priests and Divorce

Thursday of the 21st week after Trinity: Malachi 2:1-16.

This is Malachi’s indictment of the wickedness of Israel’s priests in marrying pagan wives and in forsaking the wives of their youth contains several puzzles.

I question whether the real import of 10-16 is literal marriage. I wonder if it is symbolic of some other relationship and duty of Israel’s priests.

Second, we have this phrase, used of a priest: “For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” the word “messenger” is מלאך, which is of course the root of the name “Malachi”. It is translated as άγγελος in the LXX, and this verse is sometimes used to argue that the “angels of the churches” in Revelation 2-3 are pastors. (I don’t find that compelling.)

Intermarriage with pagans had always been a snare to Israel (Solomon, Ahab, Baal of Peor incident). Some like to claim that this was a peculiarly Old Testament matter, but I can see no reason to think so. Paul’s instructions to younger widows in 1 Timothy allow them to marry whomever they want only “in the Lord.” Especially in our individualistic day, many Christians are tempted to marry outside the faith. This is “treachery.”

Particularly poignant is the image used in 16, “covering one’s garment with violence” —
וכסה חמס על-לבושו . This is a deliberate travesty of Jewish wedding imagery, in which, to this day, the husband’s promise of protection and affection for his wife is symbolized by the huppah, a canopy. In Ruth, the title character asks Boaz to “spread the corner of your garment over your maidservant.” In Luke, Mary is told that “the power of the Most High will overshadow (επισκιάζω) you.” Song of Solomon 2:4 contains the line, used in certain evangelical praise choruses, “His banner over me is love.” But here in Malachi, the garment itself is covered, with violence.


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