Prophetic Debate Two, Three, and Four
Second Prophetic Debate (1:6-2:9): Israel's Half-Hearted Offerings Condemned.
Malachi begins here to level Yahweh's judgment at the priest for their contempt of the sacrificial system and their destruction of Yahweh's plan to teach Israel grace through substitutionary sacrifice. In order to experience grace, great honor had to be extended to Yahweh and reverence for His Word. Because the priests were abusing honor, curses were being sent on them and on their blessing. Actually, the curse had already begun because they had not taken any of Malachi's words to heart (1-2).
The curse would come in three ways:
a) their offspring would be cursed
b) their honor would be cursed
c) they would be swept away out of office (3)
The curse was to have a twofold outcome:
a) the priests would come to know it was Yahweh Who sent the curse and they would come to accept the reason for it
b) Yahweh would purge the priesthood so the covenant He had made with Levi to be His priest would be preserved (4)
Malachi then defines the ideal components of Levi's privileges and responsibilities Yahweh wanted restored to the priesthood:
a) A covenant to grant life and peace to those to whom they ministered (5a)
b) A covenant to grant reverence and humility to those to whom they ministered (5b)
c) The responsibility to teach pure, infallible, and unchangeable truth and not dabble in speculation and human theories (6a)
d) The responsibility to walk with Yahweh with a heart of godliness, enjoying continual fellowship (6b)
e) The responsibility of turning people away from rebellious and godless actions and attitudes (6c)
f) The responsibility to study the law and speak as a messenger of Yahweh to preserve the covenant (7)
Instead of being the priests Yahweh had designed them to be, they were corrupting the spiritual life of the nation and Yahweh was coming to make their esteem as leaders despised. Yahweh was going to begin to expose the bias in their teaching and their preferential treatment of some Israelites over others (8-9).
Third Prophetic Debate (2:10-16): Intermarriage and Divorce Condemned While the Marriage Covenant Endorsed
Marriage Issue Number One (10-12)
Malachi then takes on the marriage issue, opening with a question, “Have we not all one Father?" Malachi is not referring to the creation of the world but the creation of the nation of Israel. Malachi was pointing out the priests were profaning the covenant and the purpose of Israel's creation as a nation (10).
Malachi then jumps into the abominable practice of intermarriage. This had already been dealt with by Ezra forcing the Israelites to divorce the foreign women they had married (Ezra 10:3-5). Malachi was having to deal with the problem once again.
The marriage to foreign women was a certain and ultimate return to idolatry. The foreign gods of the women the Israelites would marry always corrupted the worship of Yahweh, ending up in destroying their passion for worship (11). Malachi pronounces Yahweh's judgment by saying, "may those who practice intermarriage be cut off from Jacob" (12).
Marriage Issue Number Two (13-14)
Malachi is not done with the marriage issue—he flies right into the issue of divorce. Some of the Israelites threw their older wives out and were marrying younger ones, maybe even foreign ones. They would then come to the temple, weep and groan over their new and difficult circumstance due to the intermarriage. They were finding their tears and humility empty forces in seeking to gain favor with Yahweh (13). Malachi tells these men who have divorced their wives exactly what their problem is: they have participated in impure and unloving covenant-breaking. They had been unfaithful to the wives of their youth by suppressing their memories and affection for them. The very wives with whom they had raised children, they had hardheartedly rejected for something younger, a despicable act before Yahweh. They had been unfaithful to their marriage covenant through which they were commanded to cleave (Genesis 2:24) to the wives of their youth in affection (14).
The Issue of Design (15)
Malachi points out that God made the original husband and wife one; He united them with His Spirit and His purpose in the one wife, one husband, and one Spirit motif which was to produce godly offspring. Malachi is clear: godly offspring is the purpose of marriage and godly offspring is best produced in the context of a marriage between one man and one woman and one Spirit. If there had been a marriage system better to fulfill Yahweh's purpose, then God would not have instituted that marriage motif.
Malachi warns that none were to be faithless to the wife of their youth and divorce her for a younger model (15).
Yahweh Hates Divorce (16)
Malachi makes the point that Yahweh hates divorce because it was not part of His original design for marriage; it destroys the power to raise up godly offspring and it produces emotional violence toward the one being divorced, so Malachi calls upon Israel to guard their spirit and not be unfaithful toward their wives and the marriage covenant.
Fourth Prophetic Debate (2:17-3:6): Adultery and Other Moral Sins Condemned
Malachi recognizes the priests have wearied Yahweh, accusing Him of blessing evil and cursing those who are good. They were perpetually asking God why He would justify evil people by blessing them. Their accusing questions were becoming a wearisome trial to Yahweh.