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Malachi 3 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Malachi 3 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

(3:1; 4:1, 5) The gospel of Mark claims that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy given in Malachi. But the Malachi prophecy says that God will send Elijah before "the great and dreadful day of the LORD" in which the world will be consumed by fire. Yet John the Baptist flatly denied that he was Elijah (Elias) in John 1:21 and the earth was not destroyed after John's appearance.

2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope:

3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.

5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

God disapproves of adultery, lying, oppressing workers, and mistreating widows, orphans, and strangers. Does this mean that he also disapprove of slavery?
Does God approve of slavery?
It depends a bit on the meaning of slavery. Which was quite different in the Middle East than in the 17th century for example. For example every on in the Middle East called themselves slave of the king or emperor, even his minsters. So we have to look at the context...
It seems that the Bible does not find it wrong to sell someone into slavery to pay off his debts. But this doesn't mean he can be worked to death. Being a slave didn't include sexual access, etc. But indeed, based on Biblical principles all modern forms of slavery are to be rejected, and the Bible has been the main source of inspiration for campaigners to abolish it.

6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

"For I am the Lord, I change not." Does God repent?
On the word repent, see 1 Sam. 15:11.

7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

"Will a man rob God?"
God is robbed by those who don't pay the full tithe.
This was clearly a part of living in Israel and commanded by Moses. If you didn't like it, you could always move.

9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

"Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me."
God curses the Israelites for "robbing" him by not paying the proper amount of money in tithes.
The tithes were God's part and were meant to be given to God's servants, the priests and Levites. Who could not own land, but should have been maintained by the rest of the population so they could maintain the service of God. By withholding the tithes, what would the priests and Levites eat? As with every law, if you don't obey it, there is a punishment. And so it is in this case, not different from any other law.

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.