Superscription. The book has a double title, a (prophetic) pronouncement and the word of the Lord. It is important to note that the word is to Israel, meaning here Israel as a people with a particular relation to the LORD (see, e.g., 2.16
), a particular history, and a particular obligation to follow the Torah of Moses (cf. 3.22
) and to worship in Jerusalem. This conception of Israel is especially associated with the Persian period Yehud (or Judah),
and it assumes a partial overlap between the concepts of “Israel” and “Judah” (a more geographico‐political term). Thus references
to Judah in
2.11 and 3.4
are identical with Israel in
The ancient readers of the book in ancient Yehud most likely identified themselves with both Judah and Israel.
The Lord loves Jacob. This section is meant to persuade or remind the readers of the LORD's special relationship with them. This is shown in the divine preference of Jacob over Esau. Esau stands both for Edom and
for all the other nations. The contrast between the fates of the siblings (Esau/Edom and Jacob/Israel) is a central motif
in the book of Obadiah. (On the later identifications of Esau/Edom, see notes on Obadiah.) In the book of Malachi, however,
the issue is not central; rather it is used for rhetorical purposes within an argument developed against a particular group
in Israel. The central point is that Israel is beloved, even if certain of its members are acting improperly.
Improper cultic practices at the Temple.
The logic of the argument is that if an animal cannot be offered to a provincial governor without risking punishment, it is
certainly not a suitable offering for the King of Kings (cf. vv. 13–14
). From the LORD's perspective, the fact that these offerings are still brought demonstrates the priests' disrespect for, and lack of fear
of, the LORD, as proven by the validity of the previous statement of the LORD, O priests who scorn My name (v. 6
). There are numerous references in the Bible to the belief that blemished animals were not acceptable for sacrifice (e.g., Exod. 12.5; 29.1; Lev. 1.3, 10; 3.1; 22.22, passim).
The first sentence may be translated as, “Oh, that someone among you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not kindle
fire on my altar in vain” (NRSV). The LORD prefers no sacrifices at all, and even the closing of the Temple, over the improper situation described in these vv.
[Unblemished] male: Blemished animals, which were not fit for sacrifice (cf. Lev. 1.3
), were offered even by those who had unblemished animals. The main opposition in the text is not between female and male
offerings, but between blemished and unblemished male animals. In Israel, as in other agrarian societies, the most common
sacrifice was that of a male animal. Female sacrifices were rarer and more expensive, since each female is potentially a separate
breeding animal, but any number of males can be sacrificed as long as one is kept to impregnate the females.
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