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Christ In Type And Prophecy: Volumes 1&2 by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

THE MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECY.—The reference of the prophecy to the Messias may be derived from the meaning of three expressions: “Angel of the Testament,” “the Lord,” and “my Angel.”

1. The Phrase “my Angel” denotes John the Baptist.—The expression is an allusion to, or repetition of, Is. 40:3; the people had complained (Mal. 2:17) that the Messianic promises had not been accomplished. Hence Malachias had the best of reasons to repeat Isaias’ prophecy, thus showing that it would surely be fulfilled in its own good time. The expression “he shall prepare the way before my face” repeats the prediction of Is. 40:3; 57:14; 62:10, in which passages there is question of the preparation of the way for the coming Messias. Hengstenberg, Eichhorn, Theiner, and a few others are of opinion that this “angel” denotes a series of persons who must prepare the way for the Messias. But the context of the prophecy seems to require that the coming of the “angel” is a chronological sign of the approaching Messias. If there were question of a series of “angels,” they could not furnish such a chronological determination. Whether this herald sent to prepare the Messias’ way will be an angel as in Ex. 33:1, or mere man, cannot be determined with certainty from the words of the text. But starting from the analogy between the present passage and Mal. 4:5, it becomes probable that the preparing angel is a man; this probability increases still more if we consider that the Messias himself will be a man (cf. Is. 7:14; Jer. 31:22; Mich. 5:2). For us Christians it has been determined in the New Testament that the preparing angel is a man, and none other than John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 3:3; 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:17; 3:4). The opinion (Barh.) that the angel literally refers to St. Michael (cf. Dan. 12:1), and typically to John the Baptist, is not only against the context of the prophecy, but also against the unanimous testimony of the Fathers, who regard the passage as referring to John the Baptist (cf. Kilber, Analysis Biblica, ed. II. i. 525). Reinke gives the Jewish opinion about the Messias the son of Joseph, and about the devastating angel who will destroy all the people’s enemies (Reinke, Mal. p. 455). There can be no doubt as to the fact that Jewish tradition considered the “angel” as preparatory to the Messias; for Pirque de R. Eliezer, c. 29, refers Mal. 3:1 to Elias as preparing the way for the Messias. In Bemidbar R. 17 (ed. Warsh. p. 69, a.) Mal. 3:4 seems to be applied to the acceptable sacrifices in the Messianic days. On Mal. 3:16 Vayyikra R. 34 (ed. Warsh. p. 51, b. line 4 from the bottom) has the following comment: “If any one in former times did the commandment, the prophets wrote it down. But now, when a man observes the commandment, who writes it down? Elias and the king Messias and the Holy One, blessed be his name, seal it at their hands, and a memorial book is written, as it is written Mal. 3:16.” The promise of the following verse 17 is also extended to Messianic days in Shemoth R. 18. According to the tradition of the Synagogue, therefore, the prediction evidently has a Messianic meaning. And even the Jews might have inferred from this that the “angel” would be a man sent to prepare the Messias’ way.

2. The Lord is Jehovah himself.—a. The Hebrew word Adon with the definite article occurs only seven times besides Mal. 3:1 in the Old Testament. But in all these instances it means Jehovah himself (cf. Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Is. 1:24; 3:1; 10:16; 10:33; 19:4). Hence it must mean Jehovah in our passage too. b. The same conclusion follows from the context; for the speaker is “the Lord of hosts.” Now the speaker is also he that will come; for “he shall prepare the way before my face.” Hence the very Lord of hosts will be the Lord “whom you seek,” and who will come. c. Again, “the Lord … shall come to his temple.” But the temple belongs to Jehovah. Hence the Lord who shall come must be Jehovah. The accuracy of the rendering “temple” follows from the circumstance that the Hebrew word “hechal” signifies “temple” fifty-eight times, while it means “palace” only five times (3 Kings 21:1; 4 Kings 20:18; Ps. 10 (11):5; Is. 39:7; Dan. 1:4; cf. Corluy, Spicil. i. p. 526). Besides, at the time of Malachias, the royal palace existed no longer, so that “hechal” naturally signified “temple” only. Then, the Lord who comes shall purify the temple, and reform its ministers, so that he must be understood to come into the temple. Finally, Malachias appears to allude to the promise of Aggeus 2:9, where the future glory of the temple is described as being derived from the presence of the Messias in it. Hence, on this account, too, “the Lord” here spoken of must denote Jehovah.

3. The Angel of the Testament is the Messias.—a. The difference between “the Angel of the Testament” and “the Angel who is to prepare the way” is plain from the following circumstances: the latter prepares the way, the former comes to his temple; the Angel of the Testament is he “whom you desire” (Is. 42:6; Heb. 12:24; 8:6), while the preparatory angel cannot be identified with this latter. b. The “Angel of the Testament” is identical with “the Lord,” Jehovah, as appears from the parallelism of the two clauses. c. The same identity is strictly maintained throughout the Old Testament (Ex. 23:20, 21; Is. 63:9; Jos. 5:13–15; 6:2; Ex. 3:2; 3:4, 5; Gen. 28:11–22; cf Os. 12:4; Gen. 32:28–30; cf. Os. 12:4). d. The name “Angel of the Testament” accurately expresses the office of the promised Messias. For according to a Lapide and Tirinus the expression signifies the legate or the mediator of the covenant; while Albertus and Sanchez consider it as equivalent to the herald of the covenant, its instructor and fulfiller. Now all the patriarchal promises are to have their accomplishment in the Messias; in the Messias the new covenant promised to the patriarchs is to be established, and all the nations of the earth are to be blessed through the Messias. Hence the Messias and the Angel of the Testament are coextensive and therefore identical terms (cf. Is. 42:6; 49:8; 55:3; 54:10; 59:21; 61:8; Jer. 31:31; 32:40; 33:20; Ezech. 16:60; 34:25; Dan. 9:25; Os. 2:18). This argument may be confirmed by the circumstance that St. Paul (Heb. 9:15) calls Christ the mediator of the New Testament. e. Finally, the context of our prophecy requires that the Angel of the Testament should be identified with the Messias. The prophet, it must be remembered, consoles the people disheartened on account of the non-fulfilment of the Messianic promises. What better motive of consolation, then, could Malachias offer to the discontented multitude than the identical promises of the future Messias, about the non-fulfilment of which they were complaining?

MAL. 2:17–3:6

You have wearied the Lord with your words, and you said: Wherein have we wearied him? In that you say: Every one that doth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and such please him; or else where is the God of judgment? Behold, I send my Angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord whom you seek, and the Angel of the Testament whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold, he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts, and who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire and like the fuller’s herb. And he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold, and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years. And I will come to you in judgment, and will be a speedy witness against sorcerers, and adulterers and false swearers, and them that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widows and the fatherless, and oppress the stranger and have not feared me, saith the Lord of hosts. For I am the Lord, and I change not, and you the sons of Jacob are not consumed.

1. From this prophecy it follows that the Messias will be identical with Jehovah, since the Angel of the Testament is identical with the Lord. The Messias’ divinity had been predicted in other prophecies: Ps. 2; Is. 9:6; Ps. 44:7; Ps. 109:1, 3; Zach. 12:10. But Malachias speaks so clearly that all doubt must vanish.

2. The predictions of this prophecy must be understood partly literally, i.e., in the proper sense of the prophetic words, partly metaphorically. The Messias will literally come to the temple, but he will purify the sons of Levi in a metaphorical sense, instituting a new priesthood, which is typically represented by the Levites of the Old Testament. See, however, Jo. 4:13 f.

3. The prophecy may be used as an argument against the Jews, because several of their own commentators have admitted its Messianic character (Abarbanel, Kimchi, Saadias, Aben-Ezra). But at the same time they must admit that the temple has long ceased to exist. Hence the Messias must have come.

4. We need not mention the fact that the argument for the Eucharistic sacrifice may be confirmed by what is said concerning the sacrifices instituted by the Messias.

5. Corluy and Pusey are of opinion that the prophet has blended in this prediction the first and the second advent of the Messias. The first coming appears in the light of pure mercy rather than of justice and judgment. This is confirmed by the words of Christ himself (Jo. 3:17), who did not come to judge the world, but to save it. Hence the threats of Malachias’ prophecy seem to belong to Christ’s second advent.








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