Mal 2.1-17 tells us about a rebuke given to the priests (kohanim) for their sins. They were to be the teachers (Ezek 44.23) but they were neglecting their duty. A punishment was coming if they did not listen to this admonition. In Babylon, synagogues were developed and the priests had lost their influence, and teaching was done by certain rabbis and scholars, called sages. The priests could not teach very well and by 70 AD their influence was almost entirely gone. This made way for what is known as Rabbinic Judaism today, which moved away from following the Torah and Moses to following the teachings of the rabbis and sages. The foundation for this can be found in this chapter.
v 1…”And now, this commandment is for you, O priests.
v 2…If you do not listen and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to my name,” says the Lord of hosts (Yehovah tzavaot or Lord of the armies), “then I will send a curse upon you (for not taking care of his worship and services), and I will curse your blessings (make ineffective the blessings uttered by the priests upon the people); and indeed I have cursed them (it had already started) because you are not taking to heart (the covenant relationship to be a priest).
v 3…Behold (take note and see), I am going to rebuke your seed (the LXX and the Latin Vulgate translate seed, or “zera”, as arm, and this means the “hand” which was raised to bless; this signifies the negating of their official duties performing in the Temple); and I will spread dung on your faces (they will be subject to contemptuous treatment), the refuse of your feasts (chaggim); and one will carry you away to it (they offered blind and lame animals in contempt, so Yehovah will repay them by turning them over to contemptuous treatment).
v 4…Then you will know that I have sent this commandment (mitzvah-when the threats happen it will be proof that the Lord has spoken), that my covenant (Torah at Sinai) may continue with Levi,” says the Lord of hosts.
v 5…”My covenant with him was life and peace (guaranteed and given to Levi), and I gave them to him for fear (of Yehovah); so he revered me and stood in awe (trembling) of my name (he humbled himself before Yehovah).
v 6…True instruction (“torah emet”, and is the same as “mishpat emet” in Zech 7.9 ) was in his mouth (to teach the people), and unrighteousness was not found on his lips (unrighteous behavior not dictated by the Torah); he walked with me in peace and uprightness (he had a close relationship with Yehovah, by his side) and he turned many back from iniquity (the priests led the people in the right way-the Torah).
v 7…For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge (of the Torah) and men should seek instruction (Torah) from his mouth; for he is a messenger of the Lord of hosts (“malak Yehovah tzavaot”-the same name given to the angels as God’s messengers were given to the priests).
v 8…But you have departed from the way (the priests had abandoned the Torah and their calling); you have caused many to stumble at the law (Torah); you have corrupted the covenant of Levi (the priesthood),” says the Lord of hosts.
v 9…So I (not bound by the covenant any longer) also have made you despised and abased before all the people (disgusting), just as you are not keeping my ways (“derechi” or Torah) but are showing partiality in the instruction (Torah).
v 10…Do we not all have one father (Yehovah-1.6)? Has not one God (El) created us? Why do we deal treacherously (faithlessly) each against his brother so as to profane (treat as common) the covenant of our fathers (the Torah-Exo 19.5-6, 24.8).
v 11…Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the sanctuary (the community that returned from the exile) of the Lord which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god (they married foreign wives who did not give up their idolatry-Ezra 9.2; Neh 13.23).
v 12… As for the man who does this, may the Lord cut off (karet) from the tents of Jacob one who awakes and one who answers (any descendant of such sinners), but anyone who presents an offering to the Lord of hosts (offer a korban for him).
v 13…And this is another thing you do: you (compel the wives who have been wronged to) cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, so that he no longer regards the food offering (minchah) or accepts it with favor from your hand (the divorced lawful wives come to the Temple and weep because of the injury and damage done to them; Yehovah rejects their legal korbanot-no blessing).
v 14…Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth (God witnessed their acts and she was the love of his young life), against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion (and shared joy and pain with you) and the wife of your covenant (unscriptural divorce was prevalent at the time they had a covenant of mutual promises).
v 15…And not one did so who still had a remnant of the spirit (in other words, no one who had a sense of right and wrong would ever do this). And what of the one (the well-known one, Abraham, who put way Hagar; he is rebutting their appeal to Abraham’s conduct with Hagar)? He sought seed of God (Abraham sought to obtain the seed promised him by God, so he put away Hagar because God had promised to give him an heir, not with Ishmael, but through Sarah in Isaac; Abraham was acting on the word of Yehovah). Take heed then, to your spirit (your attitude), and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth.
v 16…For I hate divorce (those not permitted in the Torah-Deut 24.1-4; Exo 21.10),” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and he who covers his garment with wrong (“hamas” or violence, iniquity),” says the Lord of Hosts. So guard your spirit (attitude, that you do not deal treacherously.
v 17…You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say (those in opposition to Yehovah), “How have we wearied him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them (the prosperity of the wicked looked like Yehovah took pleasure in their behavior, but he didn’t),” or (if this was not the case then, “Where is the God of justice (why does he not judge these people, not taking into account Yehovah’s patience and long-suffering; this is the scoffing of the rashim, or wicked-2 Pet 3.3; the answer to this question in v 17 will be given in the next chapter).”