EXEGETICAL NOTES ON MALACHI 3: 1-4
Douglas McC.L. Judisch
The reading from the Old Testament which is assigned to the
Second Sunday in Advent in Series C of Lutheran Worship consists
in the first four verses of the third chapter of the Book of
Malachi. (The exegesis of these verses below is, in answer to
several enquiries, in no way designed to promote the use in the
main service of the week of the three-year series provided in
Lutheran Worship nor of any other modern selections from the
gospels and epistles in such a context. This exegete, on the
contrary, would continue to urge, on various grounds, fidelity to
the pericopal tradition inherited from the ancient church by the
church of the reformation and modified only slightly by the
Blessed Reformer of the Church, if one is speaking specifically
of the gospels and epistles to be read in the main (eucharistic)
service of the week. No comparable series of readings, on the
other hand, from the Old Testament was either handed down from
the ancient church or bestowed on us by the Blessed Reformer;
nor, indeed, is there such a program of readings from the New
Testament to be used in all the possible additional offices of
any given week. In such cases, therefore, even such a
traditionalist as this exegete is able, with consistency, to make
use of any pericope drawn from the region of Holy Scripture
THE HISTORICAL AND LITERARY SETTING
The superscription to the last of the prophetic books of the
Old Testament identifies the author quite simply as "Malachi"
(1:1). Malachi presumably has at least two reasons to forbear
any note of his paternity. His descent, firstly, was evidently
of no particular distinction. He would, secondly, have been well-known to everyone in a post-exilic community which was still
The name "Malachi" clearly signifies "my messenger" (BDB,
522a), by virtue of adding the first singular pronominal suffix
to the noun mal'akh (BDB, 521b). In 3:1, however, mal'aki is a
title rather than a name. Here it refers, not to the author of
the Book of Malachi, but rather to a clearly future figure, who
was to be the special precursor of the mal'akh-berith.
Most modern scholars, to be sure, taking mal'aki as a
common rather than as a proper noun, see the Book of Malachi as
in some way an anonymous composition. Some, to be specific, view
the appellative as the pen-name of an author desiring to remain
anonymous, while others regard the superscription as an addition
to the book. Brown, Driver and Briggs, for instance, reject
construing the last word in the superscription either as the
"historical name" of the author or as a "pseudonym for Ezra" in
favor of taking it instead as "a conjecture based on 3:1,"
presumably by editors of Malachi in particular or of the Minor
Prophets in general (BDB, 522a). The theory of the anonymous
authorship of the Book of Malachi in one form or another is now
commonly accepted even in conservative circles. The
interpretation, however, of mal'aki as an appellative in verse
one of his book is to be rejected as totally fallacious on all
the various ground enunciated in The Prophetic Books of the
Babylonian Exile and the Persian Empire.
Despite the lack of any chronological notation, the time-frame is clearly Persian, since the chief executive in Judah is a
governor (1:8). The word pecah, restricted almost wholly to the
post-exilic era, is applied elsewhere to Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:1)
and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:14). Malachi's ministry is, however,
considerably subsequent to the time of Haggai and Zechariah, who
prophesied in the late sixth century B.C., and, indeed, can
scarcely precede the first governorship of Nehemiah (444-433
B.C.) in view of the various considerations stated in The
Prophetic Books of the Babylonian Exile and the Persian Empire
Malachi's preaching, to be sure, does not fit well within
the strictly regulated regime of Nehemiah himself. At the same
time, however, the Book of Malachi must antedate the final
edition of the Old Testament composed by Ezra and Nehemiah during
Nehemiah's second term as governor of Judah, around 420 B.C. (as
asserted in the exegete's canonics of the Old Testament). Thus,
the Book of Malachi emanates from the hiatus between the first
and second gubernatorial terms of Nehemiah. His first term
lasted twelve years, ending in 433 or 432 (Nehemiah 5:14; 13:6).
His second term began "after some time," but still in the reign
of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 13:6). Since the king named died in 425
or 424 B.C., Nehemiah apparently took up his second governorship
in the year 425 or shortly theretofore. Thus, the Book of
Malachi, in the final form passed down to all ensuing
generations, came into existence, in all probability, circa 430
This conclusion corresponds to Malachi's implicit self-consciousness of being the last of the prophets of the Old
Testament. He indicates as much in the verses which are the
object of this study when he speaks of a sudden coming of the
Messiah preceded only by His special herald (3:1-4). The same
indication recurs in the conclusion to the book (3: 23-24 MT;
The logical locale of Malachi's ministry was Jerusalem, the
recently repopulated capital of Judah. The post-exilic capital
was still in the process of reconstruction (Nehemiah 11).
Malachi means by "Israel" (1:1) the small population of post-exilic Judah (2:11), composed of the descendants of the
participants in the First Return from Babylonia in 586, only
slightly augmented by the so-called Second Return of 457 and
Third Return of 444 B.C. The Prophet Malachi addresses, in
particular, the priests of Judah, who were supposed to be the
spiritual leaders of the community (1:6-10, 12-13; 2:1-9).
A quick relapse of Judah into spiritual laxity following the
recall of Nehemiah to Babylon around 433 B.C. was the occasion of
the Book of Malachi. Although absent from Judah no more than
several years between his two gubernatorial terms (as mentioned
above in discussing the date of Malachi), Nehemiah nevertheless
found pervasive corruption and spiritual negligence upon his
return around 425 (Nehemiah 13). The prevailing sins of
Malachi's society correspond closely, then, to those confronting
Ezra and Nehemiah both preceding and following his preaching and
writing. Corruption was widespread in the priesthood (1:6-10,
12-13; 2:1-9). Mixed marriage was uniting believers in the One
True God with the adherents of other gods (2:10-12). Negligence
in ceremonial matters (1:6-10, 12-14) was manifesting itself,
above all, in faithless tithing (3:8-10). Oppression of the
impoverished was common (3:5).
The following historical circumstances are worth bearing in
mind as one studies and expounds any passage from the Book of
465 B.C. On the assassination of Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I
Longimanus ascended the throne of the Persian Empire.
457 B.C. Ezra the Scribe, vested with full authority in
spiritual affairs in Judah, led the so-called Second Return (Ezra
7-8). Finding priestly corruption and mixed marriage rampant
there, he imposed reforms which were sealed with a national
444 B.C. In the so-called Third Return Nehemiah, cupbearer
to Artaxerxes and newly appointed to the governorship of Judah,
arrived in Jerusalem with a special commission to rebuild its
walls. He found the rich oppressing the moneyless and took an
oath from the leaders of Judah to end this injustice (Nehemiah
444 B.C. Probably yet in this same year the people of
Judah, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, pledged
themselves in a solemn covenant to keep the law with care,
including the rules about marriage, tithing, and providing the
needs of the temple (Nehemiah 8-10).
444-433. During his first governorship Nehemiah initiated
the reconstruction and repopulation of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:11-7:4; 11:1-24).
433 (or 432). Nehemiah returned to Babylon for "some time"
and the people of Judah quickly relapsed into their old ways.
This spiritual recession clearly implies the additional absence
in this period of Ezra, who had, of course, responsibilities
elsewhere -- in the rest of Abarnahara (Ezra 7:25), in Babylonia
(Ezra 7:16), and perhaps, as chief rabbi and minister of Jewish
affairs, in the whole Persian Empire.
433-425 or shortly theretofore. The recidivism of Judah
provoked divine displeasure in the form of drought, locusts, and
dearth (Malachi 3:10-11).
425 or shortly theretofore. Nehemiah returned to Judah to
reassume the governorship, taking drastic steps against backsliders of all kinds (Nehemiah 13).
The purpose of Malachi in writing the book bearing his name
was to prepare the people of Judah for the coming of the Messiah
(so as to receive, not His condemnation through impenitence, but
rather His salvation through faith) (3: 1-6, 16-24 MT; 4: 1-6,
16-24 EV). The theme, correspondingly, of the Book of Malachi
may be stated thus: True faith in the grace of God heeds the law
of God. (The central verse is 3:22 [MT; 4:4 EV], which, however,
is correctly understood only in conjunction with a true appreciation of 1:2 and the messianic prophecies of the book).
A unique feature of Malachi is his systematic use of the
dialectic method of teaching. He quotes the question posed by
his addressees (whether with their lips or in their minds) and
then delivers the divine answer. Thus, no fewer than twenty-three interrogative sentences occur in a book of but fifty-five
verses. Thus, although the style may be more prosaic than in the
earlier prophetic books, the running debate produces a lively
The book is basically a divine disputation with Judah in which God demonstrates His own faithfulness to His word (both law and gospel) and, on the other hand, Judah's faithlessness to Him.
This body of the book consists in all the verses intervening
between the simple superscription of 1:1 and the general
conclusion embracing the final three verses (3:22-24 MT; 4:4-6
EV). The following outline emerges, therefore, of the divine
disputation with Judah (1:1-3:21 MT; 1:1-4:3 EV), with special
emphasis on the section containing the verses currently before
A. Concerning God's Deportment (1:2-5)
B. Concerning Judah's Deportment (1:6-2:17)
1. Profanation of the Temple (1: 6-14)
2. False Teaching (2: 1-9)
3. Marriage with Unbelievers (2: 10-12)
4. Widespread Divorce (2: 13-16)
5. Impious Impatience (2: 17)
C. Concerning God's Deportment (3: 1-6): His Fidelity to His Word (Both Law and Gospel)
6. Its Central Realization: His Coming as Man (verse (verses 1-5)
a. Its Introduction by His Special Herald (verse 1a)
b. Its Occurrence (verse 1b)
(1.) Its Circumstances in Time and Place (verse 1b1)
(2.) Its Purpose and Certainty (verse 1b2)
(a.) Its Purpose (1b2a)
(b.) Its Certainty (1b2b)
c. Its Results (verses 2-5)
(1.) The Separation of Believers and Unbelievers (verse 2)
(2.) The Purification of Believers (verses 3-4)
(a.) The Ministry of the New Testament (verse 3)
(b.) The Church of the New Testament (verse 4)
(3.) The Condemnation of Unbelievers (verse 5)
7. Its Eternal Basis: His Changelessness as God (verse 6)
D. Concerning Judah's Deportment (3:7-12)
E. Concerning God's Deportment (3:13-21 MT; 3:13-4:3 EV)
The four verses before us, then, in this exegetical study
comprise the majority of those in the middle section of the Book
of Malachi. The final verse of the preceding chapter (2:17) is
of special importance in setting the stage for this whole section
which follows. For verses 1-6 of Malachi 3 serve, in fact, to
rebuke to the expression of impious impatience with which Malachi
2 concludes: "Where is the God of the judgment?"
***********A LITERAL TRANSLATION AND COMMENTS
1. Behold, I am sending My messenger,
And he shall clear a way before Me,
For suddenly will come unto His temple the Lord
whom ye are seeking,
Yea, the Messenger of the Testament
in whom ye are delighting --
Behold, He shall come, the LORD of Hosts has said.
The Second Person of the Trinity is clearly the speaker here
in accordance with His general role, from the time of creation,
as the spokesman of the Holy Trinity to His creatures. For He
clearly refers to Himself in the first person by means of the
pronominal suffixes of mal'akhi and lphanai which are rendered
"My" before "messenger" and as "Me" following "before" in the
translation above. He then refers to Himself in the third person
as "the Lord" and "the Messenger of the Testament" and with all
the pronouns and verbal forms which are rendered as "He" and
"His" in the lines which follow. Such references to Himself in
the third person by God the Son are as common as the same usage
by the Hebrew historians and prophets.
The "LORD" printed in all capitals in the translation above
represents the Divine Name, YHWH, which is ordinarily pointed
with the vowels of 'adhonai in the Massoretic Text since, from
time immemorial in the reading of the TaNaK, a form of 'adhon has
been substituted for the tetragrammeton by virtue of a pious
aversion to pronouncing the most exclusive name of the One True
God. The Divine Name was, indeed, invented and assumed by God
specifically to emphasize His exclusive nature as the only Self-Existing One from eternity to eternity, from whom all things else
receive being and preservation in time. The tetragrammeton,
then, occurs as the penultimate word of verse 1 and in the final
clause of verse 3 and the initial clause of verse 4.
It is, however, the actual noun 'adhon which serves as the
subject of the third clause of verse 1 and so is printed as
"Lord" with only the initial capital in the translation above.
The definite article would be used, of course, even without the
ensuing clause, in referring to the Lord who Lord beyond compare
as the Lord of Lords. Here, however, the definite article serves
syntactically to tie 'adhon to the relative clause which ensues
and thereby defines the specific Lord to whom reference is being
made: "the Lord whom ye are seeking."
The definite ha'adhon, therefore, is harking back to the
Lord whose coming the murmurers in Judah were demanding in the
preceding verse (2:17): "Where is the God of the judgment?" The
reference is thereby, however, specifically to the Second Person
of the Trinity, who was to come as the Messiah both to judge and,
more importantly, to save. It was, indeed, by virtue of his
saving work, rather than His judging, that the people of Judah
should have been "seeking" His coming while recognizing the sin
in themselves which made His salvation an absolute necessity if
they were to escape temporal and eternal damnation.
The same relation to chapter 2:17 obtains also in the
relative clause which follows the parallel "Messenger of the
Testament": "in whom ye are delighting." The masculine plural
participle of chphtz in 3:1 reflects back, with irony, on the
third masculine singular perfect of chphtz employed by the
critics of God in the preceding verse:
Everyone doing evil is good in the eyes of the LORD,
Yea, in them He Himself has delighted.
The contrite believers, of course, are continually delighting in
the Messiah for the very reason that they realize themselves to
be, in fact, evildoers in whom He has nevertheless graciously
delighted Himself and to whom, therefore, He has imputed His own
goodness in the eyes of the Lord.
The one whom the Second Person of the Godhead calls "My
messenger" whom "I am sending to clear a way before Me" is the
special herald of the Messiah who was to announce that the He was
already in the world and about to reveal Himself in a public way.
Isaiah had already spoken of him in similar terms as the
culmination of the prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah 40: 3):
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:
Prepare ye the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Malachi, indeed, is clearly building here upon the foundation
which the Prophet Isaiah had previously laid in the memorable
prediction of the Messiah's special precursor with which he
begins the third main unit of his book (40: 3-8). Malachi then
returns to the predicted forerunner's function in the conclusion
to his book, namely, in his final two verses (3: 23-24 MT; 4: 5-6
The reference of "My messenger" is directly and exclusively
to the man whom we know as John the Baptist. Mark explicitly
asserts the fulfilling of this specific prophecy already in the
third verse of his gospel (Mark 1:3), and our Lord Himself
confirms the assertion (Matthew 11: 7-11). All the evangelists,
moreover, and, indeed, John himself speak of him and none other
as the one predicted by Isaiah in the verse (40:3) on which
Malachi builds here (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; and John
1:23). Both the Angel Gabriel, furthermore, and our Lord Himself
identify John as the prophet like Elijah fulfilling the verse in
which Malachi himself, in his conclusion (Malachi 3:23 MT, 4:5
EV), reflects back on the verse before us now (Luke 1: 16-17 and
Matthew 11: 12-15).
The words which are rendered "clear" and "before Me" in the
original text are members of the same lexical family, the
relationship being, unfortunately, incapable of reproduction in
the English language. The basic meaning of the verb pnh is
"turn" and is so used with an intransitive sense in the qal [BDB,
815a-b]. The hiphil, with its causative significance, means
"turn" in the transitive sense and "make a turn" (especially in
Jeremiah), while the passive "be turned back" and "is faced"
express the two instances of the hophal [BDB, 815b].
The piel of pnh has the distinctive significance of "turn
away" in the sense of "put out of the way" (as in Zephaniah 3:15)
and hence "make clear" or even "empty" (as in Leviticus 14:36).
Brown-Driver-Briggs explains the usage in Genesis 24:31 as "clear
away things scattered about, make orderly" and compares it to the
German aufraeumen [BDB, 815b]. In Psalm 80 the verb piel, with
no stated object, means "clear away" the "ground" -- or, really,
other plants from the land selected -- in preparing the ground for
the planting of a vine (verse 10). In half, however, of the
instances of the piel, which is to say four out of eight, the
object of the verb is derekh ("way") [BDB, 815b]. Besides the
verse of Malachi before us (3:1) and the verse of Isaiah on which
Malachi is building (40:3), the same combination occurs in Isaiah
57:14 and 62:10. The idea is to "free" the road involved "from
obstacles" which would otherwise hinder progress along it [BDB,
The plural noun panim means "face" -- presumably as those
points "turned toward" others which are most widely associated
with the specific person by others [BDB, 815a, in 815a-819a].
The use of the plural in this case is the variety known as the
plural of local extension (as is noted in Classical Hebrew and
Modern English). Of the eight or so combinations of the
construct pnei with prepositions, liphnei is, apparently, the
most common [BDB, 816b-817b, in 816b-819a]. Although the word
used most generally in the Hebrew Bible to mean "before" in the
sense of being "in the presence of" someone or something, it is
properly "at the face or front of" a person or thing [BDB, 816b].
Thus, pnei is used, with reference to position, to mean "before"
in the sense of "in front of" someone or something [BDB, 817b].
Such is especially the case with verbs "of motion (with which
negedh is hardly used)" [BDB, 817b].
Here in Malachi, in contextual terms, the main obstacles
which would have to be cleared away from before the Lord to make
His coming a blessing to people are the self-satisfaction which
prevents them from feeling the need of salvation and the
impenitence which keeps them from acknowledging this need. The
"way" concerned here, then, can only be cleared by producing
repentance in the hearts of sinners. The special herald of the
Messiah was to be dispatched, in consequence, with remarkable
powers to proclaim the law and gospel of God to this end. His
relentless fulminations against sin were invested with the
ferocity of Elijah, so as to bring contrition to Judah. He was
empowered, on the other hand, with the new sacrament of holy
baptism, so as to immerse the contrite in the salvation which was
now already in the course of being won by the God who had now
become man in Jesus Christ. All the gospels testify to the
forcefulness of his ministry (Matthew 3:2, 7-12; Mark 1: 4-8;
Luke 3: 7-18; John 1: 6-8, 19-36; 3: 22-36; etcetera).
The "Messenger of the Testament" is the Messiah Himself.
The combination, to be sure, of mal'akh with berith in the
construct chain mal'akh-berith is unique to this verse. It draws
together, however, two aspects of the Messiah which were already
well-known to the church of the Old Testament by the time of
Malachi. All the way back to Genesis, for one thing, the Second
Person of the Godhead is often called the Messenger of the LORD
or, to say the same thing, the Angel of the Lord. He receives,
indeed, many similar names in the Old Testament by virtue of His
customary role as the spokesman of the Holy Trinity to the
creatures of God. The prophets, secondly, had already predicted
the execution of a new testament of God on the basis of the
vicarious suffering unto death of the God-Man, most directly in
Isaiah 42:6. By the terms of His will the Messiah was to
bequeath to us sinners forgiveness of sins and so eternal life
with Him (Jeremiah 31: 31-34).
In prophecies of the Messiah the word "temple" can certainly
denominate the church of the New Testament. Here, however,
nothing is predicated of this temple, such as eternity, which
would lead us to abandon the ordinary significance of the term,
which is also more in line with the references to the temple and
its use in the preceding and succeeding contexts. The prime
glory, indeed, of the Second Temple would be the sudden
appearance therein of the God-Man Himself in the course of His
accomplishing the redemption of the world. There He would be
presented already as a infant of but forty days (Luke 2:22-38),
and there He would often preach the message of His own coming
(Matthew 26:55 and passim in all the gospels). In the
tabernacle, to be sure, and the Temple of Solomon the people saw
the theophany of the Messiah in the form of a cloud; in the
Second Temple the people saw the Messiah in actual flesh. His
incarnate revelation in this place which had long been the
central site of His self-revelation before His incarnation was
one of the many signs by which the Messiah was to be recognized
by His people and distinguished from any counterfeits. The
destruction of the Second Temple was certain proof of the His
coming having already occurred in the person of Jesus of
Nazareth, who both proclaimed there the message of His testament
and also announced there the impending destruction of the place
to be rendered obsolete by His testate death.
2. But who will be enduring the day of His coming?
Yea, who will be the one standing at His appearing?
For He is as a fire of a refiner,
Yea, as soap of fullers.
The "coming" of verse 2 is still the first coming of the
Messiah, as in the preceding verse. There is no contextual need
to jump suddenly to the parousia, nor would the analogy of faith
require such an alteration in the chronological frame of
reference. The claims of the chiliasts notwithstanding, the
prophets of the Old Testament were always fully aware of the era
of the New Testament intervening between the first and second
advents of the Messiah and carefully distinguished between them.
The first coming of our Lord was not merely a coming in grace,
nor will grace be lacking in His coming again.
There will be both grace and condemnation when He appears
again; there was condemnation as well as grace when He came long
ago. His own message embraced both the law of God and His
gospel, as did the ministry of His messenger John. The
destruction of the temple to which He came teaching both law and
gospel occurred in the course of the terrible refining of Judah
in which the unbelieving dross was clearly separated from the
precious metal of those believing in Him. St. Simeon foresaw the
results of His coming to Judah when first our Lord came within
the courts of His temple as a man-child (Luke 2: 34-35, RSV):
Behold, this child is set for the fall
and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against ...,
that the thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.
Verse 2 of Malachi 3 provides a good example of the
prophet's unique dialectic method of preaching and writing, which
includes his common use of rhetorical questions. Here, indeed,
he is responding in kind to the carping question which concludes
the preceding chapter (2:17): "Where is the God of the judgment?"
There the murmurers in Judah are complaining of the delay of the
Messiah in coming to judge and destroy all the enemies of the
people of God. The Messiah was, of course, to come to judge men,
but also and, more importantly, to save men. It was, indeed, as
stated above, by virtue of his saving work, rather than His
judging, that the people of Judah should have been "seeking" His
coming while recognizing the sin in themselves which made His
salvation an absolute necessity if they were to escape temporal
and eternal damnation.
3. For He shall sit as a refiner,
Yea, as a purifier of silver,
And He shall purify the sons of Levi,
Yea, He will prove them as the gold and as the silver,
And they will be ones bringing nigh to the LORD
An offering by means of righteousness.
Malachi 3:3 is quoted in Article XXIV of the Apology to the
Augsburg Confession (section 34) immediately following a more
lengthy discussion of Malachi 1:1 [section 31-33]. Both
citations find an appropriate place in the portion of the article
on the mass entitled "What a Sacrifice Is, and What Are the
Species of Sacrifice" (sections 16-65) [CT, 389-407]. The
occasion is the use of the verse in the Roman Confutation to
defend the papal doctrine of the profitability of the sacrament
of the altar ex opere operato. The Apology, however,
sufficiently refutes this misuse of Malachi from the words
themselves and the parallel language of verse 16 of Romans 15
This passage clearly requires the sacrifices of the
righteous, and hence does not favor the opinion concerning
the opus operatum. But the sacrifices of the sons of Levi,
i.e., of those teaching in the New Testament, are the
preaching of the Gospel, and the good fruits of preaching,
as Paul says ...: "Ministering the Gospel of God, that the
offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being
sanctified by the Holy Ghost," i.e., that the Gentiles might
be offerings acceptable to God by faith, etc. For in the
Law the slaying of victims signified both the death of
Christ and the preaching of the Gospel, by which this
oldness of flesh should be mortified, and the new and
eternal life be begun in us.
In the original Latin of the Apology the quotation of Romans 15
begins with "sacrifico evangelium Dei" [BELK, 359a; CT, 394a]
where the New American Standard Bible speaks of "ministering as a
priest the gospel of God" and the Revised Standard Version of
"the priestly service of the gospel of God" (verse 16) [as also
in BC, 256].
The Messiah who has promised His precursor's coming and then
His own coming in verse 1, now promises in verse 3 His companions
and successors in the ministry of the New Testament. Within the
contextual contours, clearly, of the preceding chapters, the
"sons of Levi" are the public priests of the people of God. The
public priesthood of the New Testament stands, on the one hand,
in continuity with the public priesthood of the Old Testament,
even as the priesthood of the new church as a whole stands in
continuity with the priesthood of Israel as a whole.
The coming of the Messiah, nevertheless, would change the
public priesthood in many ways. He Himself would assume the high
priesthood and prime pastorate of His church, and He would then
make His apostles the first ministers with Him of the New
Testament. In the transition the majority of the public priests
of the Second Temple would reject the True High Priest and would
so be purged as dross from the new ministry of the church of God.
4. And the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
shall be pleasing to the LORD,
According to days of eternity,
even as according to early years.
In accordance with the usual usage of the messianic
prophecies, the phrase "Judah and Jerusalem" is a pleonastic
reference to the church, here to the church of all history. For
the "offering" of the church in the era of the new testament is
compared with her offering in her early years. The "early years"
of the church would carry us back to the life of repentance led
by the patriarchs and, indeed, to the life of repentance led by
Adam and Eve following the calamitous fall into sin and the
contrition and saving faith then worked by a gracious God.
The phrase, however, "days of eternity" traces the history of the church back even further into a boundless past, even as it thereby assumes a boundless future. For here the Lord smites again the self-satisfaction of the flesh and strengthens the hope of His penitents by reminding us that the righteousness of the church in His eyes harks back ultimately to His election of people in eternity to faith in the saving work of the Messiah and so to eternal glory with Him.