Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Who Was Robbing God in Malachi?
Who has thus far robbed God in the context of Malachi 3:8?
First, Bible students simply cannot ignore Malachi 1:13-14 which is clearly addressed to the priests from 1:6. The NAS reads, “…you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering!…But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord…” Again, where the KJV reads “torn,” the NAS says “taken by robbery,” the NKJV says “the stolen,” the RSV says “taken by violence,” and the TLB says “stolen.” God says that the priests had “stolen” either more than their tenth of the tithe, more than their share of offerings, or both! Malachi also points out that the priests had robbed God by not giving Him the best which they had vowed.
Second, when we compare Nehemiah 10:37, 38 and 12:44, 47 with 13:4, 5, 10, 11 it is clear that the high priest had stolen the Levites’ share of the tithe because everything else was at hand to replace. Undeniably the priests had stolen the tithe from the Levites! “And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field” (Neh. 13:10).
The objector says, “No! No! You have it all wrong! The priests are completely innocent! The people are guilty of not bringing tithes to the priests! The people are guilty of robbing God!”
I answer this objection by asking, “Where do you find this from Malachi 1:6 to 3:7?” Throughout the book of Malachi, THE PRIESTS HAVE BEEN THE VILLAINS, the guilty party, the robbers—and, now, suddenly, you say that they are the mistreated party. How inconsistent can one be! God has already CURSED the priests FOUR TIMES for robbing him and for not bringing what they already possessed. The priests are not the poor innocent victims which so many preachers want us to think. The priests are the “robbers” and “swindlers” who already have the tithes and offerings (from Nehemiah 10:38; 12:44, 47), are not giving God the best and are not sharing with the Levites in Nehemiah 13:10 and the needy in Malachi 3:5.
The phrase “tithes and offerings” “tithes” PLUS “offerings.” And it does not mean (as many teach) that everybody must give tithes first and offerings can only be given after tithes have been given. That is a lie! In reality tithes were never required from everybody (especially the poor) and legitimate tithes could only come from inside national Israel (see chapter one). Only farmers and herdsmen could tithe from the increase produced by God. Everybody else only gave freewill offerings from what they produced.
Mal. 3:9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed me, even this whole nation.” KJV
Mal. 3:9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! NASU
“Finally,” the tithe-teacher will say, “you must admit that NOW God is speaking to the WHOLE NATION and not to the priests in this verse!”
I reply, “What is the context? Up to this point, the pronoun, you, has almost exclusively referred to the priests receiving the curses which God had placed on them because of their guilt. Are we justified in concluding that NOW the pronoun, you, suddenly refers to the people, and that the people have wronged the priests?” The first four curses had been placed on the dishonest priests (1:14 and 2:2). These ministers were guilty of robbing God and received the longest and most harsh rebuke in Malachi (1:6 to 2:9). They had dishonored Him and despised His name (1:6). They had robbed Him by not offering the best (1:7-8)). Their worship was not acceptable (1:8). God desired that one of them would stop the hypocritical worship and lock the temple doors (1:10). He was tired of their dishonesty (1:13-14) and cursed them as deceivers or swindlers (1:14). Even their children would be affected by their sin and rebuked (2:3). God promised to even spread dung in their faces during their religious festivals (2:3).
“But,” objects the tithe-teacher, “verse 9 clearly says “this whole nation.”
I reply, “Look at the verse more closely.” For some good reason many scholarly Hebrew translators think that verse 9 should read, “this whole nation OF YOU.” Although “of you” does not appear in the King James Version, it does appear in the more literal NAS and RSV (and also the very popular NIV). The purpose of adding “of you” is unclear unless it distinguishes the whole nation “of you priests” from the rest of the nation! A possible contextual biblical precedent is seen in the theft of tithes from ministering Levites by Eliashib in Nehemiah 13:7-10 which had to involve other priests. Again, the main point thus far, however, is that (until now at least) God had been cursing the priests as thieves instead of expressing sorrow for them.
If Malachi 3:9 continues the curse of 2:2, then it is an addition to it. “I will even send a curse upon you (priests), and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because you do not lay it to heart.” Even the priests’ offerings were cursed, “And this is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand” 2:13 NAS.
The priests needed a serious cleansing indeed, “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” 3:3. Why would God so quickly switch from cursing the priests to assisting them a few verses later (as some say)?