We cannot close our discussion and exposition of these first five verses of the first chapter of Malachi without saying a bit more in detail about the hatred of the LORD for Esau. This hatred for Esau is, indeed, not presented and mentioned here as a fact by itself; it is emphatically stated by the LORD to show Israel, on this background, that the love of God for Jacob is entirely sovereign. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth. Nevertheless, we must briefly analyze and trace this hatred of the LORD for Esau as this is taught and traced out in the Old Testament Scriptures, both as to Esau’s person and as to his posterity, Edom as a nation!
There is something culminative in the text, “And Esau have I hated, and made his mountains a desolation, and gave his inheritance to the dragons of the wilderness.” There is a finality here in these words which shuts the mouth of unbelievers with irrefutable evidence. It has come to pass!
Lest it be misunderstood that Esau as a person was hated of the LORD, let it be noticed that Esau was a profane man. He was what the Greek calls “bebeelos,” that is, one who did not distinguish between what was in the Sanctuary of God and dedicated to God and His service, and what was common. He did not and could not differentiate. He did not desire the difference between the church and the world, between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman. He belonged to all those who are born in the line of the Covenant and who, nevertheless, hate God. He did not belong to those who love God because they are first beloved of Him.
“Esau have I hated” must refer, first of all, to him as a person. It was before the person, Esau, had done good or evil, that it was said to Rebekah: the elder shall serve the younger. And thus it is presented by Paul in Romans 9:11-13. Were it thus, that God hated Esau for his evil works’ sake, then it would be because of his not willing and not running. But that is emphatically excluded in . And if any then ask the brutal question: “Why doth he then find fault? For who withstandeth his will?” the answer must be: “Who art thou that repliest against God.” Romans 9:19, 20.
We see a bit of this mouth-stopping reality in Isaac’s blessing of Esau. Jacob had, indeed, deceived his father Isaac, and obtained the preeminent blessing. When Esau returns from the field and learns that Jacob has prevented him, he weeps with tears. And even though Isaac loved Esau and would have given him the blessing, he does not change the blessing, but refuses to change it. He does this by faith.” Heb. 11:20. Isaac had “trembled exceedingly.” Why? Because he saw, that, through the deception of Jacob, the LORD had thwarted his purpose to bless Esau, who had, by selling his birthright for a mess of pottage, despised the birthright!
He indeed blessed also Esau “concerning things to come”; but, as we pointed out in our former essay, Esau will have the place of subservience. Esau will come to an ignoble end; He must be great for twelve to fourteen centuries, only to demonstrate that “Esau have I hated!”
We stated above that there is here something of the dreadful and awful finality of God’s finished work upon earth in the end of Edom. Let us try to see what the LORD here states concerning Edom. Verse 3 speaks of the “mountains” of Edom as well as of Edom’s “inheritance.” The question may be asked: what is meant by the term “mountains?” Does this refer to literal mountains and hills, or is this figurative speech? We do know that the mountain is the highest point of the land, and is often a symbol of a nation’s glory, pride and strength. Then the phrase would mean that the LORD will humble the pride of Edom. Pride is self-elevation. Thus we read in Isaiah 16:6: “We have heard of the pride of Moab, that he is very proud; even of his arrogancy, and his pride and his wrath; his boastings are nought.” If the phrase refers literally to the mountains of Edom, it must mean that the Lord is going to change the very earth’s surface. The beauty of the land will be taken away, and God will make a desert of it. That Edom has an “inheritance'” does not refer to an eternal inheritance, but must simply refer to the land which they called after their name, when they took it from the inhabitants of Mount Seir. Gen. 36:7. They took it by force and dwelt there. Yet, this was not outside of the providential guidance of the LORD, who determines Edom’s appointed seasons and the bounds of his habitation. Acts 17:26.
What did the LORD do to Edom? He made his mountain to be a “desert.” The Hebrew term for desert is really the term “Shamamah.” It is from the root of the verb “Shameem” which means: to be astonished. The primary notion is that of silence, being put to silence. One who is astonished is completely stunned, in a paralyzed condition. Hence, the mountain of Edom and all her greatness will be such that it is an utter astonishment, a cause for silence. It will have written upon it indelibly: the judgment of the LORD! Only thus would this great change in Edom be understandable and have meaning after so many centuries of greatness. For the LORD says: I have rendered it thus. He has caused it to come to pass. The verb in Hebrew is “aashim,” Kal. future of “shum,” the future of volition. God has set, has placed it thus, and rendered it such an object of astonishment.
Surely, here we see an indignation which is not to be repented of.
The change is so completely different from what happens to a nation that is conquered by another nation and made tributary. That had happened to Edom during the reign of David. But now the land of Seir is no longer inhabited. The dwelling-place of man is made the abode of only the most savage of wild beasts. The term for the wild beasts, in Hebrew “tannoth,” is translated in different Bible translations variously. It is rendered: dragons, monsters and jackals. It was possibly a wild dog, the wolf and fierce scavengers of the wilderness who lurk for their prey to forage a meager livelihood. What a picture of Edom’s heritage. Such is the description of all the great cities of man when God comes to destroy. It is noteworthy, that, when Solomon had finished building the temple, he is told by the LORD that if Israel will go and serve other gods, and worship them, then they will become a proverb and a byword among all people, and “at this house, which is high, every one that passes by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss, and they shall say, Why bath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house?” The same destruction would come upon Israel which turned from the LORD.
And making the matter very final, the LORD tells Israel that Edom will never again arise from the dust. She has no future, nor has she any glory. Edom may say: we will undo this; we shall again be a country, and we shall establish the glory of the fatherland. But the Lord says: it shall not come to pass. They may build, but he will throw it down. It is the enclosure of wickedness. There is nothing good within Edom. It is wholly evil, wickedness. And, as such, Edom is a pattern of what happens to all the nations of the world, outside of the “border of Israel.” Such wickedness cannot be within the land of God, where the temple stands in the midst of its capital city, called Jerusalem. Here is where the LORD has made His dwelling place forever.
Against this contrast of Edom we must see what the LORD has in store for Israel, within the territory (legebul—borderline) of the holy land where he will measure with the plumb line of his justice and holiness. Here He will maintain the difference between Jacob and Esau, between the objects of His love and hatred. Edom may be profane, but the LORD’s ways continue to run through the holy place.
Every eye shall see it. Isaac trembled exceedingly as he saw it by faith in distant perspective! Yes, the LORD loved Jacob and Esau He hated. But, let then the true Israel of God take courage, is the “burden” of Malachi!
The House of Levi, the Priests, Reproved for Their Contempt of the LORD’s House. Malachi 1:6-2:17.
It ought to be evident that a few introductory observations are in order here. It is true that we have made a few introductory observations concerning this entire section in our first installment in the Jan. 1, 1964 issue. There we called attention to the nature of the sins of the priests which are rebuked in our prophets. They are the sink of apostates, we saw: principally the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. We need not elaborate, but for the rest we refer the attentive reader to the aforementioned essay.
The remarks we here desire to make pertain to the relationship of this part of the prophecy to, the fundamental key-note of “Jacob have I loved.” For this entire section which we now will consider deals still with this problem. It demonstrates very graphically and emphatically that it is not all Israel that is out of Israel. The mere fact that the priests, that Levi, is out of Jacob’s loins through Leah, does not mean that they also are the beloved of God, the Seed called in Isaac! For the principle here too is: say not, We have Abraham as our fader! It is not a mere coincidence that John, the Lord’s messenger, preached to all desecraters of the temple and profaners of the land of Immanuel, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Matt. 3:8, 9; Luke 3:8. And Christ, speaking with de unbelieving Jews of His day, tells them that if they were Abraham’s children, they would do the works of Abraham. John 8:33-58.
Such is the underlying principle here in this passage. The point of departure here is in the sovereign love of God; there is a difference between the lovers of the temple and the desecraters of the holy-place in the land of Immanuel. Within the border of Israel the LORD’s holiness will be maintained. For God loved Jacob, that is, the true Israel according to the election’s purpose.
When Christ comes, he will begin his labors by cleansing the temple. John 2:13-22. The zeal of the LORD’s house consumes him. At the age of twelve he said to his mother, “Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s business?” Through the Spirit of Christ, (I Peter 1:11) Malachi speaks to the desecraters of the temple, and it is a warning for the next four hundred years, till the time of the LORD’s suddenly coming to His temple. Then shall the LORD make his temple, by breaking down the middle-wall of partition, a house of prayer of all nations. Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46; Eph. 2:14-16.
The borders of the land of Immanuel shall be extended. “For from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered in my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.” Mal. 1:11.
Jacob shall, indeed, do valiantly!