Malachi 2 – The Puke Punishment

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Today’s PassageMalachi 2

Most of Malachi 1 is an indictment of the priests of Israel, but I spent the entire post on how God hates Esau and how it is even possible that God hates something. Sometimes that happens! But the priests have been offering food that’s not copacetic and animals that are blemished, and that’s mostly what the first chapter is about, and in this chapter the priest critique continues.

It gets acerbic, too–literally. Look, when I was growing up, there were some words I wasn’t allowed to say. Mom and Dad relented on some of them, such as “puke” when I was in third grade, because I was in third grade. You gotta let out the leash a little. But here, God says, “I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it” (3). And that word “refuse?” That’s פֶּרֶשׁ, peresh, which the NASB notes might also be translated “vomit,” and which the NIV straight-up translates as “dung.” And whatever this stuff is, this waste product from the priests’ feasts, God is going to wipe it on their faces and throw them out with it. Dang!

God holds up the Levitical priests’ original ancestor, Levi himself, as an example of how to properly respect God. Levi was one of the twelve sons of Jacob from whom came Israel’s twelve tribes. “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence” (5), God tells the present-day priests. And what did Levi do with these gifts? Here’s what he did: “True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness” (6). He walked with God, he spoke the truth, he accepted the invitation and built his life on the relationship. The priesthood was initiated during his lifetime, but even before he became a priest he was living like one. And God likes that.

God doesn’t like it when you disrespect his name; we’ve already established that. But God also doesn’t like it when you disrespect each other. Malachi delivers the indictment: “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?” (10). God’s case against Israel here deals specifically with disrespect in marriage and divorce, but the two-pronged question “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” applies more broadly to us as humans. We’re made in the image of God, and when we drag each other through the (ahem) refuse, we’re doing that to God’s image. We can do it by marrying people who are into worshipping garbage gods like the Baals (or, more modernly, sex or money or power), or by divorcing our perfectly good actual spouses: “deal[ing] treacherously against the wife of your youth” (15), as the text puts it.

And there are countless ways you can disrespect God and man without even getting married to anybody! I don’t have room to list them all there. But before you’re about to do a thing, especially a big thing, ask yourself: does this disrespect God and/or man? And if it does, don’t do it.


2 thoughts on “Malachi 2 – The Puke Punishment

  1. Could be the translation. I don’t know. The second half of this chapter, v10-17, reminded me stylistically of Paul’s writing. Had a lot to do with the sequence of rhetorical questions. Perhaps it had some influence on him? Don’t think it’s the only place in the prophets where we get this kind of style, but here there was just a string of them packed in close together, kind of the way Paul does it. Not sure any of that’s really conclusive of anything, but it did feel to me like there were some similarities. Anyway.


    1. They’re not dissimilar. Malachi seems more to be bringing God’s actual responses to the things people of his day are saying, while Paul uses his rhetorical questions to anticipate potential counter-arguments to his theological points.



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