Malachi 4:5
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Elijah.—There is no more reason to suppose that this refers actually to “Elijah” the prophet, and that he is to appear upon earth, than to imagine from Hosea 3:5; Ezekiel 24:23; Ezekiel 37:24; Jeremiah 30:9; that David himself is to come again in the flesh. When John the Baptist answered the question of the deputies of the Sanhedrim, “Art thou Elias?” by “I am not,” he simply gave a negative reply to their question, which was formulated on their misapprehension. On the other hand, that John the Baptist is the “messenger” of Malachi 3:1 and the “Elijah” of this verse is shown conclusively (as far as Christians are concerned) by Luke 1:16-17 before his birth, by Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:2-8, Luke 3:2-18, at the commencement of his ministry. Moreover, our Lord Himself assured the people that John was this “messenger” and “Elijah” (Matthew 11:10, seq.; Luke 7:27, seq.), and His disciples that he had appeared, and not been recognised (Matthew 17:11, seq.; Mark 9:1, seq.). Finally, it is a significant fact that these two greatest of Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elias, who are mentioned together in this last prophetic exhortation, are the two who appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, when all that which is contained in the Law and the prophets was about to be fulfilled.

Malachi 4:5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet — The first prophet that I shall send to you, after him who now speaks to you, will be Elijah the messenger, that shall go before the Messiah to prepare his way. In him the spirit of prophecy shall be revived; and he shall be another Elijah for zeal, for courage, austerity of life, and labour for reformation. “It was the universal opinion in Christ’s time, received by the learned and unlearned, the governors and the common people, that Elijah should usher in the Messiah, and anoint him; all expected that Elijah should first come and restore all things; and long before that time the son of Sirach grounded his expectation of him on the passage now before us: see Sir 48:10. The Jews have not since varied from this notion: in all their later writings the coming of Elijah and of the Messiah are usually mentioned together; and this is the reason why they pray so heartily for the coming of Elijah, even without mention of the Messiah, because the coming of the one, according to Malachi, infers the coming of the other.” But it is neither said nor implied in the text that Elijah the Tishbite should come in person, but only that one should come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and when such a one did come, Malachi’s words were fulfilled; who meant no more that Elijah should rise again, than Hosea and Jeremiah did that David should be restored to life, in order to reign over Israel and Judah, when they prophesied that the tribes should hereafter serve David their king. Whoever this Elijah was, he must, according to the next clause of this verse, precede the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, that is, the time of the final destruction of the Jewish city, temple, and commonwealth, which events actually took place near one thousand seven hundred years ago, and no other Elijah than John the Baptist, followed by the Messiah, came to warn them of it, as is confessed by them.

It is allowed by the Jews as a fact, that prophecy was sealed up with Malachi, and that when he died the Holy Spirit was taken away from Israel. They expected, however, that it would be restored in the days of the Messiah, and they ought, therefore, to have concluded that John the Baptist, in whom this gift did revive, must be the Elijah of Malachi: for all the people held John as a prophet, Matthew 14:5; Matthew 21:26. Even the members of the Sanhedrim, astonished at his preaching and actions, (see John 1:19-25,) thought he must be Elijah, or that prophet, namely, the Messiah, mentioned by Moses: and the scribes and Pharisees, as well as the rest of the country, went to be baptized of him, confessing their sins, Matthew 3:5-7. Add to this, that his preaching exactly answered the description given of it by Malachi. As Elijah was to give notice of the coming of the day that should burn as an oven, Malachi 4:1, that great and dreadful day, wherein the Lord, Messiah, should smite the land of Judea with a curse: Malachi 4:6; so did John the Baptist exhort to repentance, from this motive, that the kingdom of God was at hand, that wrath was coming, from which they ought to flee, and that the person coming after him, who was mightier than he, with his fan in his hand, would thoroughly purge his floor, and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire: see Matthew 3:2; Matthew 3:7; Matthew 3:10-11; and Bishop Chandler’s Defence. The reader will be pleased to see the sacred historians’ account of John confirmed by a wise, learned, and well-disposed Jew, who was not a Christian, namely the well-known historian Josephus: “It was the opinion of the Jews,” says he, “that Herod’s army was cut off by the Arabs through God’s just judgment, for the sake of John, who was surnamed the Baptist. For he killed that excellent man, who excited the people to the exercise of all virtues, especially piety and justice, and to receive his baptism, which, he assured them, would be pleasing to God, if to purity of body they added purity of life, and first cleansed their souls, not from one or two, but every sin. But when the people resorted in numbers to him, eager to hear his doctrine, and ready to do any thing by his counsel, fearing what might be effected through so great authority of the man, he first imprisoned and then slew him.” — Antiq., lib. xviii, cap. 7.

4:4-6 Here is a solemn conclusion, not only of this prophecy, but of the Old Testament. Conscience bids us remember the law. Though we have not prophets, yet, as long as we have Bibles, we may keep up our communion with God. Let others boast in their proud reasoning, and call it enlightening, but let us keep near to that sacred word, through which this Sun of Righteousness shines upon the souls of his people. They must keep up a believing expectation of the gospel of Christ, and must look for the beginning of it. John the Baptist preached repentance and reformation, as Elijah had done. The turning of souls to God and their duty, is the best preparation of them for the great and dreadful day of the Lord. John shall preach a doctrine that shall reach men's hearts, and work a change in them. Thus he shall prepare the way for the kingdom of heaven. The Jewish nation, by wickedness, laid themselves open to the curse. God was ready to bring ruin upon them; but he will once more try whether they will repent and return; therefore he sent John the Baptist to preach repentance to them. Let the believer wait with patience for his release, and cheerfully expect the great day, when Christ shall come the second time to complete our salvation. But those must expect to be smitten with a sword, with a curse, who turn not to Him that smites them with a rod. None can expect to escape the curse of God's broken law, nor to enjoy the happiness of his chosen and redeemed people, unless their hearts are turned from sin and the world, to Christ and holiness. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all. Amen.Behold I will send (I send, as a future, proximate in the prophet's mind) you Elijah the prophet - The Archangel Gabriel interprets this for us, to include the sending of John the Immerser. For he not only says Luke 1:17. that he shall "go before" the Lord "in the spirit and power of Elias," but describes his mission in the characteristic words of Malachi, "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children:" and those other words also, "and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just," perhaps represent the sequel in Malachi, "and the hearts of the children to the fathers;" for their hearts could only be so turned by conversion to God, whom the fathers, patriarchs and prophets, knew, loved and served; and whom they served in name only. John the Immerser, in denying that he was Elias, John 1:21 denied only, that he was that great prophet himself. Our Lord, in saying Matthew 11:14, "This is Elias, which was for to come Matthew 17:12 that Elias is come already and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed," met the error of the scribes, that He could not be the Christ, because Elias was not yet come. When He says Matthew 17:11, "Elias truly shall first come and restore all things," He implies a coming of Elijah, other than that of John the Immerser, since he was already martyred, and all things were not yet restored. This must also be the fullest fulfillment. "For the great and terrible Day of the Lord" is the Day of Judgment, of which all earthly judgments, however desolating, (as the destruction of Jerusalem) are but shadows and earnests. Before our Lord's coming all things looked on to His first coming, and, since that coming, all looks on to the second, which is the completion of the first and of all things in time.

Our Lord's words, "Elias truly shall first come and restore all things," seem to me to leave no question, that, as John the Immerser came, in the spirit and power of Elias, before His first coming, so, before the second coming, Elijah should come in person, as Jews and Christians have alike expected. This has been the Christian expectation from the first. Justin Martyr asked his opponent "Shall we not conceive that the Word of God has proclaimed Elias to be the forerunner of the great and terrible day of His second Coming?" "Certainly," was Trypho's reply. Justin continues, "Our Lord Himself taught us in His own teaching that this very thing shall be, when the said that 'Elias also shall come;' and we know that this shall be fulfilled, when He is about to come from heaven in glory." Tertullian says "Elias is to come again, not after a departure from life, but after a translation; not to be restored to the body, from which he was never taken; but to be restored to the world, from which he was translated; not by way of restoration to life, but for the completion of prophecy; one and the same in name and in person." "Enoch and Elias were translated, and their death is not recorded, as being deferred; but they are reserved as to die, that they may vanquish Antichrist by their blood."

And, in proof that the end was not yet , "No one has yet received Elias; no one has yet fled from Antichrist." And the ancient author of the verses against Marcion; , "Elias who has not yet tasted the debt of death, because he is again to come into the world." Origen says simply in one place, that the Saviour answered the question as to the objection of the Scribes, "not annulling what had been handed down concerning Elias, but affirming that there was another coming of Elias before Christ, unknown to the scribes, according to which, not knowing him, and, being in a manner, accomplices in his being cast into prison by Herod and slain by him, they had done to him what they listed." Hippolytus has , "As two Comings of our Lord and Saviour were indicated by the Scriptures, the first in the flesh, in dishonor, that He might be set at naught - the second in glory, when He shall come from heaven with the heavenly host and the glory of the Father - so two forerunners were pointed out, the first, John, the son of Zacharias, and again - since He is manifested as Judge at the end of the world, His forerunners must first appear, as He says through Malachi, 'I will send to you Elias the Tishbite before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come. '"

Hilary , "The Apostles inquire in anxiety about the times of Elias. To whom He answereth, that "Elias will come and restore all things," that is, will recall to the knowledge of God, what he shall find of Israel; but he signifies that John came "in the spirit and power of Elias," to whom they had shown all severe and harsh dealings, that, foreannouncing the Coming of the Lord, he might be a forerunner of the Passion also by an example of wrong and harass." "We understand that those same prophets (Moses and Elias) will come before His Coming, who, the Apocalypse of John says, will be slain by Antichrist, although there are various opinions of very many, as to Enoch or Jeremiah, that one of them is to die, as Elias."

Hilary the Deacon, 355 a.d., has on the words, "I suppose God hath set forth us the Apostles last;" "He therefore applies these to his own person, because he was always in distress, suffering, beyond the rest, persecutions and distresses, as Enoch and Elias will suffer, who will be Apostles at the last time. For they have to be sent before Christ, to make ready the people of God, and fortify all the Churches to resist Antichrist, of whom the Apocalypse attests, that they will suffer persecutions and be slain." "When the faithless shall be secure of the kingdom of the devil, the saints, i. e., Enoch and Elias being slain, rejoicing in the victory, and 'sending gifts, one to another' as the Apocalypse says Revelation 11:10 sudden destruction shall come upon them. For Christ at His Coming, shall destroy them all." Gregory of Nyssa quotes the prophecy under the heading, that "before the second Coming of our Lord, Elias should come."

Ambrose , "Because the Lord was to come down from heaven, and to ascend to heaven, He raised Elias to heaven, to bring him back to the earth at the time He should please." "The beast, Antichrist, ascends from the abyss to fight against Elias and Enoch and John, who are restored to the earth for the testimony to the Lord Jesus, as we read in the Apocalypse of John."

Jerome gives here the mystical meaning; "God will send, in Elias (which is interpreted 'My God' and wire is of the town Thisbe, which signifies 'conversion' or 'penitence') the whole choir of the prophets, "to convert the heart of the fathers to the sons," namely, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the patriarchs, that their posterity may believe in the Lord the Saviour, in whom themselves believed: 'for Abraham saw the day of the Lord and was glad.'" Here, he speaks of the "coming of Elias before their anointed," as a supposition of Jews and Judaizing heretics. But in commenting on our Lord's words in Matthew, he adheres twice to the literal meaning. On Matthew 11:14-15, "Some think that John is therefore called Elias, because, as, according to Malachi, at the second coming of the Saviour. On Matthew 17:11-12, Elias will precede and announce the Judge to come, so did John at His first coming, and each is a messenger, of the first or second coming of the Lord:" and again concisely, On Matthew 17:11-12, "He who is to come in the second Coining of the Saviour in the actual body, now comes through John in spirit and power;" and he speaks of Enoch and Elias as "the two witnesses in the Revelation, since, according to the Apocalypse of John, Enoch and Elias are spoken of, as having to die."

Chrysostom , "When He saith that Elias "cometh and shall restore all things," He means Elias himself, and the conversion of the Jews, which shall then be; but when He saith, "which was to come," He calls John, Elias, according to the manner of his ministry."

In Augustine's time it was the universal belief. , "When he (Malachi) had admonished them to remember the law of Moses, because he foresaw, that they would for a long time not receive it spiritually, as it ought, he added immediately; "And I will send you Elias the Thisbite" etc. That when, through this Elias, the great and wonderful prophet, at the last time before the judgment, the law shall have been expounded to them, the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, i. e., in our Christ, is everywhere in the mouths and hearts of the faithful. For not without reason is it hoped, that he shall come before the Coming of the Saviour, as Judge, because not without reason is it believed that he still lives. For he was carried in a chariot of fire from things below; which Scripture most evidently attests. When he shall come then, by expounding the law spiritually, which the Jews now understand carnally, he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children."

Cyril of Alexandria, his antagonist "Theodoret, and Theodore" of Mopsuestia, who was loose from all tradition, had the same clear belief. Cyril; "It is demonstrative of the gentleness and long-suffering of God, that Elias also the Tishbite shall shine upon us, to foreannounce when the Judge shall come to those in the whole world. For the Son shall come down, as Judge, in the glory of the Father, attended by the angels, and shall 'sit on the throne of His glory, judging the world in righteousness, and shall reward every man according to his works.' But since we are in many sins, well is it for us, that the divine prophet goes before Him, bringing all those on earth to one mind; that all, being brought to the unity through the faith, and ceasing from evil intents, may fulfill that which is good, and so be saved when the Judge cometh down. The blessed John the Baptist came before Him "in the spirit and power of Elias." But, as he preached saying, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight,' so also the divine Elias proclaims His then being near and all-but-present, that He may 'judge the world in righteousness.'" Theodoret; , "Malachi teaches us how, when Antichrist shall presume on these things, the great Elias shall appear, preaching to the Jews the coming of Christ: and he shall convert many, for this is the meaning of, "he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children," i. e., the Jews (for these he calls fathers, as being older in knowledge) to those who believed from the Gentiles. They who shall believe through the preaching of the great Elias, and shall join themselves to the Gentiles who seized the salvation sent to them, shall become one church.

He hints, how when these things are done by Antichrist, Michael the Archangel will set all in motion, that Elias should come and foreannounce the coming of the Lord that the then Jews may obtain salvation." And on this place, "Knowing well, that they would neither obey the law, nor receive Him when He came, but would deliver Him to be crucified, He promises them, in His unspeakable love for man, that He will again send Elias as a herald of salvation, 'Lo, I will send you Elias the Tishbite.' And signifying the time, He added, 'Before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come:' He named the Day of His Second Coming. But He teaches us, what the great Elias shall do, when he comes, 'Who shall bring back the heart of the father to the son' etc. And pointing out the end, for which Elias should first come, 'Lest I come and smite the earth utterly.' For lest, finding you all in unbelief, I send you all to that endless punishment, Elias will first come, and will persuade you, O Jews, to unite you indissolubly with those, who from the Gentiles believe in Me, and to be united to My one Church."

Theodore of Mopsuestia paraphrases: "In addition to all which I have said, I give you this last commandment, to remember My law, which I gave to all Israel through Moses, plainly declaring what they ought to do in each thing, and as the first token of obedience, to receive the Lord Christ when He cometh, appearing for the salvation of all men: Who will end the law, but show His own perfection. It had been well, had you immediately believed Him when He came, and known Him, as He whom Moses and all the prophets signified, Who should put an end to the law, and reveal the common salvation of all men, so that it should be manifest to all, that this is the sum and chief good of the whole dispensation of the law, to bring all men to the Lord Christ, Who, for those great goods, should be manifested in His own time. But since, when He manifested Himself, ye manifested your own ungainliness, the blessed Elias shall be sent to you before the second Coming of Christ, when He will come from heaven, to unite those who, for religion, are separated from each other, and, through the knowledge of religion, to bring the fathers to one-mindedness with the children, and in a word, to bring all men to one and the same harmony, when those, then found in ungodliness, shall receive from him the knowledge of the truth in the communion with the godly thence ensuing."

"The African author of the work on the promises and predictions of God." (between 450 and 455 a.d.)

, "Against Antichrist shall be sent two witnesses, the prophets Enoch and Elijah, against whom shall arise three false prophets of Antichrist."

continued...

5. I send you Elijah—as a means towards your "remembering the law" (Mal 4:4).

the prophet—emphatical; not "the Tishbite"; for it is in his official, not his personal capacity, that his coming is here predicted. In this sense, John the Baptist was an Elijah in spirit (Lu 1:16, 17), but not the literal Elijah; whence when asked, "Art thou Elias?" (Joh 1:21), He answered, "I am not." "Art thou that prophet?" "No." This implies that John, though knowing from the angel's announcement to his father that he was referred to by Mal 4:5 (Lu 1:17), whence he wore the costume of Elijah, yet knew by inspiration that he did not exhaustively fulfil all that is included in this prophecy: that there is a further fulfilment (compare Note, see on [1197]Mal 3:1). As Moses in Mal 4:4 represents the law, so Elijah represents the prophets. The Jews always understood it of the literal Elijah. Their saying is, "Messiah must be anointed by Elijah." As there is another consummating advent of Messiah Himself, so also of His forerunner Elijah; perhaps in person, as at the transfiguration (Mt 17:3; compare Mt 17:11). He in his appearance at the transfiguration in that body on which death had never passed is the forerunner of the saints who shall be found alive at the Lord's second coming. Re 11:3 may refer to the same witnesses as at the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah; Re 11:6 identifies the latter (compare 1Ki 17:1; Jas 5:17). Even after the transfiguration Jesus (Mt 17:11) speaks of Elijah's coming "to restore all things" as still future, though He adds that Elijah (in the person of John the Baptist) is come already in a sense (compare Ac 3:21). However, the future forerunner of Messiah at His second coming may be a prophet or number of prophets clothed with Elijah's power, who, with zealous upholders of "the law" clothed in the spirit of "Moses," may be the forerunning witnesses alluded to here and in Re 11:2-12. The words "before the … dreadful day of the Lord," show that John cannot be exclusively meant; for he came before the day of Christ's coming in grace, not before His coming in terror, of which last the destruction of Jerusalem was the earnest (Mal 4:1; Joe 2:31).

I will send; though the spirit of propheey cease for four hundred years, yet at the expiring of those years you shall have one sent, as great as Elijah, and therefore he is now called Elijah, that shall prepare Messiah’s way.

Elijah; not the same in person who reproved idolatrous Israel, who destroyed Baal, though both Jews and many Christians would gladly have it so, in favour of some errors they have adopted and would maintain. But this person here called Elijah was John Baptist, as is clear from Matthew 17:1213,

Elias is come, and they have done to him whatsoever they listed. Then the disciples understood that he spake of John the Baptist. And he was that Elias, if they would receive him, Matthew 11:14. Elias, was to come when Malachi lived; Elias was come, and the Jews had ill treated him, and Herod had beheaded him, when Christ here lived; this Elijah then was John the Baptist, who came

in the spirit and power of Elias, Luke 1:17, and therefore bears his name in this prophecy.

The prophet; who foretold Christ the true Messiah’s sudden manifestation, who indeed was already among them, but had not yet diseovered himself; on whom he persuades the Jews to believe, and receive his person and his law, Luke 1:15-17 Mark 1:7,8; who was greater than a prophet, Matthew 11:9; nor doth John’s denying himself to be a prophet, John 1:21, in their sense contradict this.

Before; that is, immediately before; so he was born six months before Christ, and began his preaching but few years before Christ began to exercise his public office.

Great: this day was great indeed, yet it is not the day of the last and great judgment, though the Jews perversely affirm it to evade the acknowledgment of Messiah’s being already come. But this day of Messiah was great for the alterations he was to make in worship and church affairs, taking down the Mosaic ceremonies and enlarging the church; great for the miracles he wrought, and empowered others to do; great for the reconciliation between God and man, for the conquering of Satan, and casting him out of his throne. It was great too against the Jews his obstinate enemies.

Dreadful: it was a time of vengeance executed upon a people whose sins were full ripe; and such sufferings fell on the Jews at that time, as may very well be an emblem of the day of judgment, and which may be remotely meant hereby. But the first, the literal and plain, meaning of the words refer to the times of vengeance upon the Jews from either the birth, or first preaching, or death of Christ to the final desolation of the city and temple, and irrecoverable overthrow of their government, of which Christ speaks at large, Mt 24 Mr 13; which places point out first the sad and dismal miseries of the Jews, and next, by accommodation, the end of the world and last judgment. Such a description of this day, Joel 2:31, by St. Peter interpreted and applied to this day of Christ, Acts 2:20, more fully clears this. The Lord; Jesus Christ, preaching to the Jews, calling them to repentance, reproving their sins, encouraging their compliance, threatening their impenitence, and labouting to gather the children of Jerusalem together under his wings, but they would not, Matthew 23:34-39; and therefore at last destroying by the Romans these obstinate and incorrigible sinners.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet,.... Not the Tishbite, as the Septuagint version wrongly inserts instead of prophet; not Elijah in person, who lived in the times of Ahab; but John the Baptist, who was to come in the power and spirit of Elijah, Luke 1:17 between whom there was a great likeness in their temper and disposition; in their manner of clothing, and austere way of living; in their courage and integrity in reproving vice; and in their zeal and usefulness in the cause of God and true religion; and in their famous piety and holiness of life; and in being both prophets; see Matthew 11:11 and that he is intended is clear from Matthew 17:10. It is a notion of the Jews, as Kimchi and others, that the very Elijah, the same that lived in the days of Ahab, shall come in person before the coming of their Messiah they vainly expect, and often speak of difficult things to be left till Elijah comes and solves them; but for such a notion there is no foundation, either in this text or elsewhere. And as groundless is that of some of the ancient Christian fathers, and of the Papists, as Lyra and others, that Elijah with Enoch will come before the day of judgment, and restore the church of God ruined by antichrist, which they suppose is meant in the next clause.

Before the coming of the great and, dreadful day of the Lord; that is, before the coming of Christ the son of David, as the Jews (r) themselves own; and which is to be understood, not of the second coming of Christ to judgment, though that is sometimes called the great day, and will be dreadful to Christless sinners; but of the first coming of Christ, reaching to the destruction of Jerusalem: John the Baptist, his forerunner, the Elijah here spoken of, came proclaiming wrath and terror to impenitent sinners; Christ foretold and denounced ruin and destruction to the Jewish nation, city, and temple; and the time of Jerusalem's destruction was a dreadful day indeed, such a time of affliction as had not been from the creation, Matthew 24:21 and the Talmud interprets (s) this of the sorrows of the Messiah, or which shall be in the days of the Messiah.

(r) T. Bab. Eruvin, fol. 43. 2. & Gloss. in ib. (s) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol 118. 1.

Behold, I will send you {e} Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and {f} dreadful day of the LORD:

(e) This Christ interprets of John the Baptist, who both for his zeal, and restoring or religion, is aptly compared to Elijah; Mt 11:13,14.

(f) Which as it is true for the wicked, so does it waken the godly, and call them to repentance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. Elijah the prophet] The reading of the LXX., “Elijah the Tishbite” (τὸν Θεσβίτην), has been thought to indicate their belief that the actual return of Elijah to earth is here foretold. Some have traced the same belief in the appropriation by the Son of Sirach to the literal Elijah of Malachi’s description of the work of the coming prophet (Malachi 4:6) (Sir 48:10); though it may well be doubted whether the passage proves anything more than his acquaintance with our prophecy. The belief, however, was certainly current among the Jews in our Lord’s time (Matthew 17:10; Mark 9:11; John 1:21). Nor does it follow that the belief was unfounded, because He Himself distinctly claims the prophecy for John the Baptist, identifying him at the same time with the “messenger” foretold by Malachi (Matthew 11:10; Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:12-13). The prophecy had a first fulfilment in the Baptist, who went before the face of the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, to do the work here described (Luke 1:17). In one sense he was “Elias which was for to come”; but in another sense, and on his own confession (John 1:21), he was not. For the prophecy awaits a second and (as some believe) more literal fulfilment; and as the typical Elijah came before Christ’s first Advent, and “they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they listed”, so before His second Advent shall another Elijah come “and shall restore all things.” (Matthew 17:10-13).

Verse 5. - Elijah the prophet. This is not the same personage as the "messenger" in Malachi 3:1; for the latter comes before the first advent of the Lord, the former appears before the day of judgment; one comes to prepare the way of the Lord, and is followed immediately by Messiah's coming to his temple; the other is sent to convert the chosen people, lest the land be smitten with a curse. There seems to be no valid reason for not holding the literal sense of the words, and seeing in them a promise that Elijah the prophet, who was taken alive from the earth, shall at the last day coma again to carry out God's wise purposes. That this was the view adopted by the Jews in all ages we see by the version of the LXX., who have here, "Elijah the Tishbite;" by the allusion in Ecclus. 48:10; and by the question of our Lard's disciples in Matthew 17:10, "Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come." Christ himself confirms this opinion by answering, "Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things." lie cannot be referring here to John the Baptist, because he uses the future tense; and when he goes on to say that "Elias is come already," he is referring to what was past, and he himself explains that he means John, who was announced to come in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17), but of whom it could not be said that he "restored all things." The same opinion is found in the Revelation (Revelation 11:3, 6), where one of the witnesses is very commonly supposed to be Elijah. It is argued by Keil, Reinke, and others, that, as the promise of King David in such passages as Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24; Hosea 3:5, etc., cannot imply the resurrection of David and his return to earth, so we cannot think of an actual reappearance of Elijah himself, but only of the coming of some prophet with his spirit and power. But, as Knabenbauer points out, for the attribution of the name David to Messiah, long and careful preparation had been made; e.g. by his being called "the rod of Jesse," the occupant of David's throne, etc.; and all who heard the expression would at once understand the symbolical application, especially as David was known to have died and been buried. But when they found Malachi speaking of the reappearance of "Elijah the prophet," who, as they were well aware, had never died, of whose connection with the coming Messenger they had never heard, they could not avoid the conclusion to which they came, viz. that before the great day of judgment Elias should again visit the earth in person. This prophecy concerns the very last days, and intimates that before the final consummation, when iniquity shall abound, God will send this great and faithful preacher of repentance, whose mission shall have such effects that the purpose of God for the salvation of Israel shall be accomplished. We may therefore assume that in the gospel the appellation "Elias" stands both for John and for Elijah himself; for the messenger who prepared the way for Christ's first advent, and for the prophet who was to convert the Israelites before the judgment day; for him who came in spirit and power, and him who shall come in bodily presence. The great and dreadful day. The day of final judgment. No other crisis could be named in such terms (see Joel 2:31, whence the words are taken). Malachi 4:5Concluding Admonition. - Malachi 4:4. "Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him upon Horeb for all Israel, statutes and rights.

(Note: The lxx have put Malachi 4:4 at the end of the book, not to call attention to its great importance, but probably for the very same reason for which the Masora observes, at the close of our book, that in the יתקק, i.e., in the books of Isaiah, the twelve prophets, the Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes, the last verse but one of these books was to be repeated when they were read in the synagogue, namely, because the last verse had too harsh a sound. The transposition is unsuitable, inasmuch as the promise in Malachi 4:5 and Malachi 4:6 does not fit on to the idea expressed in Malachi 4:2 and Malachi 4:3, but only to that in Malachi 4:4. According to the Masora, the ז in זכרוּ should be written as litera majusc., although in many codd. it has the usual form; and this also is not to show the great importance of the verse, since these Masoretic indications have generally a different meaning, but in all probability it is simply to indicate that this is the only passage in the book of the twelve prophets in which the word is pronounced זכרוּ (cf. זכרו in Hosea 12:6; Hosea 14:8), whereas in the other books, with the exception of Job 18:17, this is the only pronunciation that is met with.)

Malachi 4:5. Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the day of Jehovah comes, the great and terrible one. Malachi 4:6. And he will turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, that I may not come and smite the land with the curse" (mit dem Banne, with the ban). The admonition, "Remember ye the law of Moses," forms the conclusion not only of the last section (Malachi 3:13-4:3), but of the whole of the book of Malachi, and cannot be connected with Malachi 4:3 in the sense of "Remember what Moses has written in the law concerning Christ, or concerning the judgment," as Theod. Mops. and others maintain; nor must it be restricted to the time previous to the coming of the Messiah by the interpolation of interim (v. Til and Mich.). It is rather a perfectly general admonition to lay to heart and observe the law. For this is referred to here, "not according to its casual and transient form, but according to its real essence as expressing the holiness of God, just as in Matthew 5:17" (Hengstenberg). Malachi thus closes by showing to the people what it is their duty to do, if on the day of judgment they would escape the curse with which transgressors are threatened in the law, and participate in the salvation so generally desired, and promised to those who fear God. By the expression "my servant," the law is traced back to God as its author. At the giving of the law, Moses as only the servant of Jehovah. אשׁר צוּיתי אותו is not to be rendered "whom (אשׁר אותו) I charged with statutes and rights to all Israel" (Ewald, Bunsen), for we do not expect any further explanation of the relation in which Moses stood to the law, but "which I commanded him upon (to) all Israel." Tsivvâh is construed with a double accusative, and also with על governing the person to whom the command refers, as in Ezra 8:17; 2 Samuel 14:8; Esther 4:5. The words chuqqı̄ı̄m ūmishpâtı̄m are an epexegetical definition belonging to אשׁר: "which I commanded as statutes and rights," i.e., consisting of these; and they recall to mind Deuteronomy 4:1 and Deuteronomy 8:14, where Moses urges upon the people the observance of the law, and also mentions Horeb as the place where the law was given. The whole of the admonition forms an antithesis to the rebuke in Malachi 4:4, that from the days of their fathers they went away from the ordinances of Jehovah. These they are to be mindful to observe, that the Lord when He comes may not smite the land with the ban.

In order to avert this curse from Israel, the Lord would send the prophet Elijah before His coming, for the purpose of promoting a change of heart in the nation. The identity of the prophet Elijah with the messenger mentioned in Malachi 4:1, whom the Lord would send before Him, is universally acknowledged. But there is a difference of opinion as to the question, who is the Elijah mentioned here? The notion was a very ancient one, and one very widely spread among the rabbins and fathers, that the prophet Elijah, who was caught up to heaven, would reappear (compare the history of the exposition of our verse in Hengstenberg's Christology, vol. iv. p. 217 translation). The lxx thought of him, and rendered אליּה הנּביא by Ἠλίαν τὸν Θεσβίτην; so also did Sirach (48:10) and the Jews in the time of Christ (John 1:21; Matthew 17:10); and so have Hitzig, Maurer, and Ewald in the most recent times. But this view is proved to be erroneous by such passages as Hosea 3:5; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24, and Jeremiah 30:9, where the sending of David the king as the true shepherd of Israel is promised. Just as in these passages we cannot think of the return or resurrection of the David who had long been dead; but a king is meant who will reign over the nation of God in the mind and spirit of David; so the Elijah to be sent can only be a prophet with the spirit or power of Elijah the Tishbite. The second David was indeed to spring from the family of David, because to the seed of David there had been promised the eternal possession of the throne. The prophetic calling, on the other hand, was not hereditary in the prophet's house, but rested solely upon divine choice and endowment with the Spirit of God; and consequently by Elijah we are not to understand a lineal descendant of the Tishbite, but simply a prophet in whom the spirit and power of Elijah are revived, as Ephr. Syr., Luther, Calvin, and most of the Protestant commentators have maintained. But the reason why this prophet Elijah is named is to be sought for, not merely in the fact that Elijah was called to his work as a reformer in Israel at a period which was destitute of faith and of the true fear of Jehovah, and which immediately preceded a terrible judgment (Koehler), but also and more especially in the power and energy with which Elijah rose up to lead back the ungodly generation of his own time to the God of the fathers. The one does not exclude but rather includes the other. The greater the apostasy, the greater must be the power which is to stem it, so as to rescue those who suffer themselves to be rescued, before the judgment bursts over such as are hardened. For Malachi 4:5, compare Joel 3:4. This Elijah, according to Malachi 4:6, is to lead back the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers. The meaning of this is not that he will settle disputes in families, or restore peace between parents and children; for the leading sin of the nation at the time of our prophet was not family quarrels, but estrangement from God. The fathers are rather the ancestors of the Israelitish nation, the patriarchs, and generally the pious forefathers, such as David and the godly men of his time. The sons or children are the degenerate descendants of Malachi's own time and the succeeding ages. "The hearts of the godly fathers and the ungodly sons are estranged from one another. The bond of union, viz., common love to God, is wanting. The fathers are ashamed of their children, the children of their fathers" (Hengstenberg). This chasm between them Elijah is to fill up. Turning the heart of the fathers to the sons does not mean merely directing the love of the fathers to the sons once more, but also restoring the heart of the fathers, in the sons, or giving to the sons the fathers' disposition and affections. Then will the heart of the sons also return to their fathers, turn itself towards them, so that they will be like-minded with the pious fathers. Elijah will thereby prepare the way of the Lord to His people, that at His coming He may not smite the land with the ban. The ban involves extermination. Whoever and whatever was laid under the ban was destroyed (cf. Leviticus 27:28-29; Deuteronomy 13:16-17; and my Bibl. Archol. i. 70). This threat recals to mind the fate of the Canaanites who were smitten with the ban (Deuteronomy 20:17-18). If Israel resembles the Canaanites in character, it will also necessarily share the fate of that people (cf. Deuteronomy 12:29).

The New Testament gives us a sufficient explanation of the historical allusion or fulfilment of our prophecy. The prophet Elijah, whom the Lord would send before His own coming, was sent in the person of John the Baptist. Even before his birth he was announced to his father by the angel Gabriel as the promised Elijah, by the declaration that he would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the unbelieving to the wisdom of the just (Luke 1:16-17). This address of the angel gives at the same time an authentic explanation of Malachi 4:5 and Malachi 4:6 of our prophecy: the words "and the heart of the children to their fathers" being omitted, as implied in the turning of the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the explanatory words "and the unbelieving to the wisdom of the just" being introduced in their place; and the whole of the work of John, who was to go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, being described as "making ready a prepared people for the Lord." The appearance and ministry of John the Baptist answered to this announcement of the angel, and is so described in Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:2-18, that the allusion to our prophecy and the original passage (Isaiah 40:3) is obvious at once. Even by his outward appearance and his dress John announced himself as the promised prophet Elijah, who by the preaching of repentance and baptism was preparing the way for the Lord, who would come after him with the winnowing shovel to winnow His floor, and gather the wheat into His granary, but who would burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Christ Himself also not only assured the people (in Matthew 11:10., Luke 7:27.) that John was the messenger announced by Malachi and the Elijah who was to come, but also told His disciples (Matthew 17:1.; Mark 9:1.) that Elijah, who was to come first and restore all things, had already come, though the people had not acknowledged him. And even John 1:21 is not at variance with these statements. When the messengers of the Sanhedrim came to John the Baptist to ask whether he was Elias, and he answered, "I am not," he simply gave a negative reply to their question, interpreted in the sense of a personal reappearance of Elijah the Tishbite, which was the sense in which they meant it, but he also declared himself to be the promised forerunner of the Lord by applying to his own labours the prophecy contained in Isaiah 40:3.

And as the prophet Elijah predicted by Malachi appeared in John the Baptist, so did the Lord come to His temple in the appearing of Jesus Christ. The opinion, which was very widely spread among the fathers and Catholic commentators, and which has also been adopted by many of the more modern Protestant theologians (e.g., Menken and H. Olshausen), viz., that our prophecy was only provisionally fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist and the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus Christ, and that its true fulfilment will only take place at the second coming of Christ to judge the world, in the actual appearance of the risen Elijah by which it will be preceded, is not only at variance with the statements of the Lord concerning John the Baptist, which have been already quoted, but as no tenable foundation in our prophecy itself. The prophets of the Old Testament throughout make no allusion to any second coming of the Lord to His people. The day of the Lord, which they announce as the day of judgment, commenced with the appearance on earth of Christ, the incarnate Logos; and Christ Himself declared that He had come into the world for judgment (John 9:39, cf. John 3:19 and John 12:40), viz., for the judgment of separating the believing from the ungodly, to give eternal life to those who believe on His name, and to bring death and condemnation to unbelievers. This judgment burst upon the Jewish nation not long after the ascension of Christ. Israel rejected its Saviour, and was smitten with the ban at the destruction of Jerusalem in the Roman war; and both people and land lie under this ban to the present day. And just as the judgment commenced at that time so far as Israel was concerned, so does it also begin in relation to all peoples and kingdoms of this earth with the first preaching of Christ among them, and will continue throughout all the centuries during which the kingdom spreads upon earth, until it shall be ultimately completed in the universal judgment at the visible second coming of the Lord at the last day.

With this calling to remembrance of the law of Moses, and this prediction that the prophet Elijah will be sent before the coming of the Lord Himself, the prophecy of the Old Testament is brought to a close. After Malachi, no other prophet arose in Israel until the time was fulfilled when the Elijah predicted by him appeared in John the Baptist, and immediately afterwards the Lord came to His temple, that is to say, the incarnate Son of God to His own possession, to make all who received Him children of God, the segullâh of the Lord. Law and prophets bore witness of Christ, and Christ came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them. Upon the Mount of Christ's Transfiguration, therefore, there appeared both Moses, the founder of the law and mediator of the old covenant, and Elijah the prophet, as the restorer of the law in Israel, to talk with Jesus of His decease which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem (Matthew 17:1.; Mark 9:1.; Luke 9:28.), for a practical testimony to the apostles and to us all, that Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for us, to bear our sin and redeem us from the curse of the law, was the beloved Son of the Father, whom we are to hear, that by believing in His name we may become children of God and heirs of everlasting life.

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