Malachi 1: 1-5… What does it mean?

The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”

Comment: This may be a bit long winded but I think necessary if we are to make sense of the book! Following the book of Proverbs the second Old Testament book I have chosen to look at in series with the New Testament book of Hebrews is the last book of the OT, the oracle of Malachi. It is the final book in the Bible time wise until the time of Jesus. After a short statement of His love for Israel, it consists of a series of accusations which God makes against the nation of the Jews. Malachi means ‘messenger’.

The book doesn’t make much sense unless we understand that God made promises to the descendants of Jacob at various stages, essentially all the same. If you like to look up one as an example Deuteronomy chapter 28 lays out the Mosaic Covenant. God promises great blessing if the people obey Him but there are curses, possibly we would say judgements, if they disobeyed. So this oracle comes in a time of disobedience.

God says ‘I’ve loved you guys!’ The people reply ‘You haven’t! What is God to say to that?

Jacob and Esau were twins, Esau the elder. If you read the story back in Genesis it seems as if Esau was a man’s man, but prepared, for a decent meal, to sell his birthright as a member of the line through whom God intended to send the Messiah. (we’re dealing a lot about that in the Hebrew stream of this series). He exchanged it for just a decent meal when he was starving hungry. In fact Jacob sounds a bit weak, a mummy’s boy, at least initially, but he now has the birthright as a progenitor of the Messiah. The nation of the Jews came from Jacob; the Edomites came from Esau. They were neighbouring countries.

So God says I’ve loved Jacob and hated Esau, and this has extended to their descendants. Hated sounds harsh and doesn’t sound much like the God we often want to believe in. Some say it is linguistics because they didn’t have comparatives and superlatives, like ‘more’ and ‘most’, to say ‘I loved Jacob more than Esau’ or ‘I loved Jacob most’. Quite frankly that doesn’t fit the surrounding talk. Edom is under the judgement of God! Is this all because of Esau’s mistake? I don’t think so. There are many prophecies against Edom by a number of the prophets for their mode of worship and acts. There is a Judgemental aspect to God, which we need to remember. The Covenant had curses as well as blessings!

Prayer: Teach me to listen to You, O God!

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