Lesson 48: “The Great and Dreadful Day of the Lord”
The current manual struggles with the amazing feat of covering Zechariah and Malachi in a single lesson, and does that by reducing the incredible variety of prophecies in these two relatively short Old Testament book to the single point: prophecies that have been or will be fulfilled by the time of the Lord’s Second Coming. This point is illustrated by a few favorite Mormon proof-texts (“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” and “I will send you Elijah the Prophet”). Teachers with the urge to “cover all the material” will find they have time for only the shallowest coverage of such disparate topics, especially if they try to include the supplemental points of the Savior’s appearances to modern man and the timing of the Second Coming.
I have no way of knowing how much time – how many college class periods, with outside reading hours – the books of Zechariah and Malachi consumed when Sidney B. Sperry taught them at BYU, but as you’ll see if you even skim the following chapters from his 1952 text (Sidney B. Sperry. The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952), you’ll get an idea of the richness of these two books and the importance their prophecies ought to command among Latter-day Saints.
Zechariah – Prophet and Seer of Israel’s Restoration
THE PROPHET’S LIFE AND TIMES. – Zechariah, whose name means “Jehovah remembers,” is said in the superscription to be the “son of Berechiah, son of Iddo.” At least twenty-nine different persons mentioned in the Old Testament bear the same name. In the Book of Nehemiah there occurs the following notice.
Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: … Iddo … These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua. [Neh. 12:1, 4, 7.]
This passage shows that Zechariah’s family was a priestly one that returned from exile with Zerubbabel and Joshua about 537 B.C. [Concerning the return of Zerubbabel and Joshua see chapter on Haggai.] The Book of Nehemiah further states (12;16) that in the high-priesthood of Joiakim, the son of Jeshua, the head of the house was a Zechariah. If this be our prophet, which seems to me quite likely, he was probably a mere youth in 520 B.C. when he was called to the ministry. Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 speak of Zechariah as “the son of Iddo.”
Zechariah appears to have been still young when called to fulfil the office of a prophet. It is, indeed, a mistake to suppose him to be specially referred to in chap. 2:4 as “this young man,” though that view has been taken by many commentators. Although, however, that passage ought to be explained otherwise, the youth of Zechariah may be fairly inferred from the fact that his grandfather, Iddo, is mentioned as a person of some importance in the days of Joshua the high priest, having been one of the priests who returned with Zerubbabel and Joshua from Babylon, and that Zechariah is spoken of as having prophesied during the high priesthood of Joshua, most probably in the lifetime of his grandfather Iddo; while in the days of Joiakim, the successor of Joshua in the high priest’s office (Neh. 12:10), Zechariah is mentioned as being then the head of the family. His father Berechiah must, therefore, have been already dead. But if Zechariah entered on his prophetic work during the lifetime of his grandfather, he must have been young at the time; and his grandfather being at that period the head of the family, Zechariah was naturally termed “the son of Iddo.” [C.H.H. Wright, Zechariah and His Prophecies, 2nd Ed., Intro., XVI.]
The Aramaic of the passages in Ezra mentioned above shows that Zechariah took a part with Haggai in instigating the work of building the Second Temple. One of these passages reads as follows:
And the elders of the Jews were building and prospering, through the prophesying of haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, by the commandment of the God of Israel, and by the decree of Cyrus and Darius, and Artaxerxes, king of Persia. [Ezra 6:14.]
An examination fo Zechariah 6:9-15, one of the undated prophecies of the book, would seem to indicate that Zechariah prophesied even earlier than when assisting Haggai to persuade the Jews to build the Temple. The first of Zechariah’s dated prophecies, as the superscription indicates, comes from “the eighth month, in the second year of Darius.” This is equivalent to November, 520 B.C. The latest dated prophecy is the ninth month of the fourth year of Darius (December, 518 B.C.). [Zech. 7:1.] None of the prophecies following Zechariah 7 are dated.
No one knows the length of Zechariah’s ministry. The ancient and widespread tradition that he lived to a ripe old age may possibly have had some historical basis of which we now know nothing. Beyond what has been indicated we are entirely dependent upon the book under his name.
Jewish and Christian traditions of him are, as those of other prophets, not to be trusted. According to Jewish tradition, Haggai and Zechariah were members of the Great Synagogue, to whose labors the Jews credit the reorganization of the Jewish Church and the arrangement of the canon of scripture. The accounts of the early Christian writers of the fourth and fifth centuries are very plainly legendary. Zechariah is said to have foretold to Salathiel the birth of Zerubbabel, and to have made known to him his son’s future career. He prophesied to Cyrus the victory which he afterwards obtained over Croesus, as well as the accomplishments of Cyrus at Jerusalem. He died in Judea in his extreme old age and was buried in a tomb near that of the prophet Haggai. Another legend states that Zechariah was the son of Berechiah mentioned in Isaiah 8:2. As a matter of fact Isaiah speaks of Zechariah “the son of Jeberechiah.” Hesychius states that the prophet belonged to the tribe of Levi, and was born in Gilead.
The Greek, Old Latin, Vulgate, and Syriac versions of the Old Testament credit Zechariah as being a poet as well as a prophet, associating him with the prophet Haggai in the authorship of several parts in the Book of Psalms.
A statement made by our Lord in the New Testament concerning the purported death of Zechariah “between the temple and the altar” should be discussed. The passage in question occurs in Matthew 23:35 and reads as follows:
That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Barachiah, whom he slew between the temple and the altar. [See also the parallel in Luke 11:51. In this passage the words “son of Barachiah” do not occur.]
The statement as it stands seems, on the highest possible authority, to indicate that the prophet we are discussing was slain by assassins in the court of the Temple. However, few scholars, even the most conservative ones, at the present time consider the reading “Barachiah” to be correct, not because the best New Testament manuscripts do not contain the reading, but because some writer or copyist mistakenly inserted the name. The reasons for this opinion are as follows: Sometime during the reign of Joash, king of Judah, the monarch gave command that one Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, be slain. The account states:
And the Spirit of God clothed (came upon) Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said to them, Thus says god, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord. [II Chron. 14:20, 21.]
This event took place about 798 B.C., several hundred years before the time of Zechariah the prophet. The manner of the death of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, fills in all respects the description given by our Lord in Matthew. Only the name “Barachiah” gives us pause. Had Zechariah the prophet been murdered, some allusion would no doubt have been made to the deed in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, or in the prophecies of Malachi, or the writings of Josephus. It seems highly improbable that two prophets having the same name should have perished in the same manner and place, one before the days of the Exile and the other after it. There is also the possibility that Berechiah may also have been a second name of Jehoiada. Then it ought not to be forgotten that St. Jerome (circa 400 A.D.) in his commentary on Matthew 23:35, points out that in the Gospel of the Nazarenes “son of Jehoiada” was found instead of “son of Barachiah.” That a copyist should mistakenly insert “Barachiah” in the mouth of the Savior is no more to be wondered at than the error found in the Targum on Lamentations 2:20 where Zechariah the son of Jehoiada is called “Zechariah the son of Iddo, the high priest and faithful prophet.” It is further thought by many that our Lord alludes in His statement first to the cry of Abel’s blood from the ground (Genesis 4:10),l and secondly to the dying prayer of vengeance of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada who cried out, ‘Lord look upon it, and require it.” [Chron. 24:22.]
Such is the case usually given against our prophet being the one assassinated “between the temple and the altar.” In the “Inspired” revision of the bible the prophet Joseph Smith does not change “Zacharias, son of Barachiah” to “Zacharias, son of Jehoiada.” But on the other hand neither does he correct Matthew 27:0 where a statement is attributed to Jeremiah that plainly is from Zechariah 11:13. Nowhere in the Book of Jeremiah is the statement to be found. Natural curiosity on the part of every individual as to the final end of Zechariah may not be satisfied in the light of the evidence given.
The times of Zechariah are those we have already mentioned in connection with Haggai. The Jews were under the domination of the Persians who had permitted them to return and build the Temple. They faltered, however, and became poor and despondent. They lost their initial enthusiasm and not until Haggai and Zechariah preached to them and revived their spirits did they get the Temple under way. it was under these conditions that Zechariah did his work.
THE CONTENT AND LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS OF ZECHARIAH. – The Book of Zechariah seems to fall naturally into two parts, chapters one to eight and chapters nine to fourteen. The record opens with an urgent appeal on the part of the prophet for his people to turn from their evil ways and seek the Lord. if they fail to do this they may suffer a similar fate to that of their fathers. About three months after he delivered this message, that is to say, on the twenty-fourth day of February, 519 B.C., the Lord vouchsafed to Zechariah in a single night eight symbolical visions, the meaning of which was explained by a heavenly visitor. These deal with the destruction of the powers that have scattered Israel, the redemption of Israel, the cleansing of the Lord’s people from their iniquities, the raising up of a man called “Branch” (who has been variously interpreted as (1) the Messiah, (2) Zerubbabel, and (3) a king by the name of David of the stock of the ancient king having the same name) to build a temple of the Lord and bear rule on his throne, and the encouragement of the Jews under Zerubbabel to continue their work of rebuilding the Second Temple. Unfortunately for us now, many of the allusions and symbols which were probably clear to the ancient Jews and easy to be understood escape us. Added to this is the involved and redundant style of the visions, the loose syntax, the apparent omission fo words and some serious disarrangements of the text. Nor does the “Inspired” revision of the bible by the prophet Joseph Smith help us much in respect to omission of words and textual disarrangements. it is quite evident that he did not finish his revision of Zechariah. Chapter seven is occupied with replies to questions relative to certain fasts which the Jews had observed, but which certain ones supposed might no longer be binding after the restoration of their prosperity. Zechariah is commanded to reprove them for their selfish observance of the days appointed for fasting; to call their attention to the weightier matters of the law; and to caution them, by placing before them the rebellious conduct of their fathers, and the punishment which had been dealt them because of it. In chapter eight the prophet speaks words of advice, promise, and blessing to his own generation and also foresees the renown of his people in the latter days when “ten men of all languages of the nations will take hold of the skirt of a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” [Zech. 8:22.]
The second part of Zechariah is mainly apocalyptic in character and consists of a number of loosely connected prp0hecies dealing with events that lead up to the final triumph of God’s kingdom. Judah’s hostile neighbors are to be cut off, while the Lord protects His people; the Messiah is to come to speak peace to the nations, to have dominion from sea to sea, and to free prisoners from the pit. The Lord in the latter days will visit, gather, and redeem His people, while the pride of wicked nations shall be brought low. This is followed in chapter 11:4 ff. by an allegorical description of the Lord’s dealings with Israel, the latter’s ingratitude, and the resulting judgment. Chapter twelve opens with an account of a miraculous deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem from destroying nations in the latter days. A description of the spirit of grace, supplication, and mourning on the part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem over “him whom they have pierced” follows. The next chapter (13) points out that a fountain is to be opened up to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness; idols are to be cut off and false prophets are to cease their activities; and the people are to ask concerning the wounds in the hands of “him whom they have pierced (12:10).” In the final chapter (14) another account is given of the great assault of the nations on Jerusalem; while standing upon the Mount of Olives, the Lord delivers His people. The mount parts asunder to open up a way for them to escape; the enemy is destroyed with the exception of a remnant who adopt the worship fo the Lord. Jerusalem is to dwell in safety and be a holy city unto the Lord.
We append, herewith, an outline of Zechariah which may be found useful in studying the book.
The superscription (1:1).
I. Prophecies of exhortation, consolation, and encouragement (1:2-8:23).
A. Call for Israel to repent (1:2-6).
Eight symbolic night-visions (1:7-6:8).
1. The angelic band of horsemen (1:7-17).
2. The four horns and the four smiths (1:18-21).
3. The man with the measuring line (2:1-13).
4. Joshua the high priest bears the sins of himself and of his people (3:1-10).
5. The golden candlestick and the two olive trees (4:1-14. Cf. Rev. 11:3, 4).
6. The flying roll (5:1-4).
7. The woman in the ephah (5:5-11).
8. The four chariots (6:1-8).
C. The symbolic crowning of Joshua the high priest (6:9-15).
D. Israel’s fasts versus the weightier matters of the law (7:1-14).
E. Words of advice, promise, and blessing (8:1-19); the renown of the Jews in the latter days (8:20-23).
II. Prophecies concerning the future of the wicked world powers and the eventual triumph of God’s kingdom (9:1-14:21).
A. Part one (9:1-11:17).
1. Judah’s hostile neighbors to be cut off; the preservation of Jerusalem (9:1-8).
2. Prediction of the Savior’s entrance into Jerusalem on an ass; His dominion and redemptive power (9:9-11. Cf. Matthew 21:5; John 12:14, 15).
3. The 3eventual power of Israel over the Gentiles; the exaltation of God’s people (9:12-17).
4. Exhortation to ask the Lord for blessings and not rely on false oracles (10:1, 2).
5. The lord to visit, strengthen, gather, and redeem His people; the pride of wicked nations to be brought low (10:3-12).
6. A prelude to judgment (11:1-13).
B. Part two (12:1-14:21).
1. The wonderful deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem from all the nations that come against them in the latter days (12:1-9).
2. The spirit of grace, supplication, and mourning to come upon the Jews because of the part taken by them in the crucifixion of our Lord (12:10-14. Cf. D. & C. 45:51-53).
3. Fountain for sin and uncleanness 9baptism?) to be opened up to the Jews (13:1).
4. Idols to be cut off and false prophets to cease their activities (13:2-5_.
5. The Savior to explain the wounds in His hands 913:6. Cf. D. & C. 45:51, 52).
6. The fate of the sheep after the death of the shepherd; the Lord reclaims the remnant refined as with fire 913:7-9).
7. The final conflict and triumph of the Lord’s work 914:1-21).
a. The Lord’s deliverance of Jerusalem from the assault of all nations; the Lord to be king over all the earth 914:1-9). Cf. Revelation 11:1-13; D. & C. 45:47-5-; 133:20).
b. The felicity of the land (14:10, 11).
c. The fate of the hostile nations 914:12-15).
d. A remnant of the hostile nations to be converted (14:16-19).e. Judah and Jerusalem to be holy unto the Lord (14:20, 21).
7. Allegory of the good shepherd (11:4-14).
a. The shepherd’s loving care (11:4-6).
b. The people do not appreciate the shepherd (11:7, 8).
c. The good shepherd withdrawn (11:9-14; note especially verse 13 and compare Matthew 27:9, 10).
8. Allegory of the foolish shepherd (11:15-17).
a. Actions of the foolish shepherd (11:15, 16).
b. A woe pronounced upon the foolish shepherd (11:17).
Most scholars are agreed that, in substance, chapters 1 to 8 are to be credited to Zechariah, but that chapters 9 to 14 are not his. Some very good scholars have, however, defended Zechariah’s authorship of the whole book and with them the writer is content to cast his vote. The scholars who hold against Zechariah’s authorship of chapters 9-14 are themselves divided between pre-exilic and post-Zecharian theories as to the date of their origin, and fail to supply the name of their author or authors. Their conjectures regarding these chapters are often unconvincing and it seems apparent in certain instances that they fail to enter into the true spirit of the prophecies. [For a good account of the various views held in respect to the unity and date of Zechariah see F.C. Eiselen, The Prophetic Books of the Old Testament, II, 558-581.]
The Hebrew text of Zechariah is somewhat unsatisfactory. The corruptions in some cases are small, but they spoil the sense. Dislocations of the text occasionally occur to make our problems greater. The Greek text is often a great help.
The language of Zechariah outside of the visions in the first part of the book, is simple, direct, and pure, which fact reminds one of some of the older prophets. Both parts of the book in matters of language and style have much in common, though not so much so as to make this fact a strong argument for their unity. There are also decided differences. The first part of the record is not so adorned and poetical as the last part. [The Jewish Publication Society translation of Zechariah prints all of the first part as prose and the second part, with the exception of the last six verses, as poetry. Some other modern translations vary somewhat from this procedure.]
In point of style, our prophet varies, according to the nature of his subjects, and the manner in which they were presented to his mind. He now expresses himself in simple conversational prose, now in poetry. At one time he abounds in the language of symbols; at another in that of direct prophetical announcement. His symbols are, for the most part, enigmatical, and require the explanations which accompany them. His prose resembles most that of Ezekiel; it is diffuse, uniform, and repetitious. His prophetic poetry possesses much of the elevation and dignity to be found in the earlier prophets, with whose writings he appears to have been familiar; only his rhythmus is sometimes harsh and unequal, while his parallelisms are destitute of that symmetry and finish, which form some of the principal beauties of Hebrew poetry. [E. Henderson, The Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, 2nd Ed., p. 365.]
THE INTERPRETATION OF ZECHARIAH: PART ONE. – In many respects the Book of Zechariah is one of the most difficult of interpretation in the Old Testament. Many early commentators, Jewish and Christian alike, were forced to concede that they failed “to find their hands” in the interpretation of the prophet’s visions, and that they became lost in the mazes of his thought. Indeed, the writer confesses freely that in comparison to Zechariah all of the other Minor Prophets are easy to interpret. Members of the Church generally will probably agree to what has been said about the difficult nature of the record. Zechariah had a great scope of vision and his spiritual insight was profound. He saw the spiritual needs of his own day, and in addition saw the future with great clearness – so much so that he records the struggle and final triumph of his people, with the Lord’s aid, over their enemies. He saw the coming of the Lord in the latter days to rule and reign in the world. So important for our generation were some of the things which he saw, that the Lord makes very plain allusions to them in certain sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. The author is inclined to believe that Moroni quoted and explained a number of passages from Zechariah when he appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith on the evening of September 21, 1823. I emphasize that this is only a belief, but by no means an improbable one.
The first part of Zechariah (chapters 108) is not as significant – and decidedly not of as much interest – to Latter-day Saints as the second part. In this respect it somewhat resembles the Book of Malachi as we have treated it in the following chapter. We shall now proceed to treat some of its more interesting features.
ZECHARIAH’S EIGHT NIGHT-VISIONS. – On or about the evening of February 24, 519 B.C., Zechariah received a series of eight visions, the symbolism of which was explained to him by a heavenly messenger. In the first vision (1:7-17) he saw a man riding a red horse among the myrtle-trees and behind him mounted on red, sorrel, and white horses, were other horsemen. The angel explains that these have been appointed by the Lord to walk to and fro through the earth. The horsemen respond by saying:
We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest. [Zech. 1:11.]
The angel then asks the Lord how long He will be in showing compassion upon Jerusalem and the cities of Judah after their seventy years of punishment in captivity. The Lord speaks words of comfort by saying that He is sore displeased with the nations that are at ease; He will have compassion upon Jerusalem and have His house built in it. He then proclaims again, saying:
My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem. [Zech. 1:17.]
One may have to make some hair-splitting decisions before deciding whether this last passage has reference to Jerusalem in the near future viewed from Zechariah’s own time or has reference to the final redemption in the latter days. The context, especially verse 12 and the reference in verse 16 ofv the Second Temple then in the process of building, seems to decide for many in favor of the first view.
In the next vision (1:18-21_ Zechariah is first shown four horns [The horn seems to be a symbol of power.] that are said to have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. he is then shown four smiths [The Hebrew may also mean “engravers,” “artificers,” “craftsmen,” etc. The word “carpenters” used in the Authorized Version is borrowed from the Septuagint.] whose duties are to frighten and cast down the horns of the nations or the powers which scattered Judah. It is impossible here to give a good conspectus of the various opinions held as to the identity of the “four horns” and the “four smiths.” I personally feel that it is unnecessary to be specific in identifying these powers. Any nation or agency that has helped scatter Israel is undoubtedly included among the “horns.” The “smiths” are the forces that in part have already broken down or shall yet break down the powers that have scattered Israel.’
The vision of the man with the measuring line has 92:1-13), in my opinion, definite reference to the latter days when the Lord will be in the midst of Jerusalem (v. 5) and when “many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day (v. 11).” Verse 7, “Ho, Zion, escape, thou that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon,” seems undoubtedly to refer to our present day Israel, which has received the command:
Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon. [D. & C. 133:14.]
In the fourth vision (3:1-10) Joshua the high priest, who stands in filthy garments before the angel of the Lord with Satan ready to accuse him, seems to the author to represent Israel in her sins. The act of replacing the filthy garments with clean garments and the setting of a regal diadem [The headdress is that worn by eminent men. It may be a turban, for the Hebrew word comes from a root meaning “to wrap,” “to wind around.” The adjective following the word indicates that the turban was to be a clean one.] upon Joshua’s head with abn injunction to walk in the Lord’s ways indicates the final state of Israel when she is cleansed, redeemed, and glorified before the Lord. That this is to take place in the latter days is indicated by verse 10. Verses 8 and 9 present the greatest difficulties in this vision. The identity of the Branch or Shoot in verse 8 is thought by many commentators to be the Messiah. he is referred to again in chapter 6:12, 13, where it is said that he shall build the temple and sit and rule upon his throne. The writer is not so certain the Messiah is meant. Those who believe that He is the individual referred to quote Jeremiah 23:5, 6; 33:15, 16; Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; 53:2 to prove their point. I can see no good reason whatever for identifying the “Branch” of Isaiah 4:2 with the Messiah, and the Hebrew words used in the other passages of Isaiah are not identical with those used in Zechariah. We are thus left with the passages in Jeremiah, which at first sight seem convincing. Let us examine the first one.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
That I will raise unto David a righteous Branch,
And he shall reign as king and prosper,
And shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
And Israel shall dwell safely;
And this is his name whereby he shall be called,
The Lord our righteousness. [Jer. 23:5, 6.]
The fact that the “Branch” is to be a descendant of David and the further fact that he is called “Lord” by the words in italics seem to decide the identification in favor of the Messiah. But we call attention to the fact that in Jeremiah 33:16 it is not the “Branch” but Jerusalem that is called The Lord our righteousness. Furthermore, the original Hebrew may be translated the Lord is our righteousness, which changes the sense considerably, especially in the first quoted passage in Jeremiah. We should further call the reader’s attention to the verse that immediately follows the second passage in Jeremiah.
For thus saith the Lord: There shall not be cut off unto David a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel. [Jer. 33:17.]
This passage does not appear to have reference to the Messiah. It appears from the passages in Jeremiah that in the latter days some individual of David’s lineage is to be raised up to be king over Israel and to execute righteousness and justice. The prophet Joseph Smith seems to have taken cognizance of this fact for on one occasion he said:
Although David was a king, he never did obtain the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the Priesthood; and the Priesthood that he received, and the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage. [D.H.C., VI, 253.]
May we throw it out as a suggestion that the Branch spoken of in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12, 13, may be the latter-day David spoken of by Joseph Smith and presumably by Jeremiah also.
The stone spoken of in Zechariah 3:9 is difficult to interpret. It is evidently one prepared under divine direction and not by human hands.
The vision of the golden candlestick and the two olive trees (4:1-14) is made difficult by the fact that the text seems topsy-turvy in places. It is suggested that it be read in the following order: Verses 1-5, 7a (Then he answered and spake unto me, saying,), 10b (These seven are the servants of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth), 11-14, 6b (This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, etc.), 7-9, 10a (read as far as “Zerubbabel”). in 10b we have read with the “Inspired” revision of the bible “servants” instead of “eyes.” In interpreting this vision the reader should consult Rev. 11:3, 4, which suggests that in the candlesticks and the olive trees Zechariah may have reference to the two prophets whom the Lord shall raise up in the latter days to save the Jews from their enemies. [See also D.&C. 77:15.] Especially note the similarity in language between Zechariah 4:14 and Revelation 11:4.
In the sixth and seventh visions – the flying roll and the woman in the ephah (5:1-11) – the symbolism signifies the destruction of the wicked and the removal of sin to the land of Shinar [See Gen. 10:10; 11:2.] in which was located Babylon, the center of wickedness.
The eighth and last vision – the four chariots (6:1-8) – presents to the eye of the prophet four chariots drawn by horses of different colors coming forward from between two mountains of bronze. The chariots are said to represent the four winds (or spirits) of the heavens, coming forth from presenting themselves before the Lord. One chariot goes to the land of the north followed by another. The third goes to the south and no special destination is given for the fourth. It is said to go up and down through the earth. Finally, the Lord indicates that those who went north have quieted His Spirit. The writer is not prepared to interpret this vision. Many commentators think that the chariots represent divine messengers of judgment, and that the vision is supposed to reveal the fate of the enemies of the Jews, especially those in the north country.
THE SYMBOLIC CROWNING OF JOSHUA THE HIGH PRIEST. – In a passage (6:9-15) that is really an appendix to the visions, Zechariah is commanded to adorn Joshua the high priest with a crown [This crown in the Hebrew is plural. Doubtless one splendid crown is meant, consisting of several gold and silver twists wound together, or rising one above another, as in Revelation 19:12.] made of gold and silver brought by the Babylonian exiles and to say to him:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, Behold, a man called Branch; and a branch will come forth from his roots, and he will build he temple of the Lord; even he will build the temple of the Lord; and he will bear the glory, and sit and rule on his throne; and he will be a priest on his throne: and the counsel of peace will be between the two of them. [Zech 6:12, 13.]
This passage seems to mean that Joshua is crowned as a type of the Branch spoken of above who is to arise from David’s lineage and to bear his name in the latter days. This king is to rule over the Jews and unite in himself royalty and priesthood and shall counsel and promote the peace of his people. Inasmuch as the latter-day Branch was to build the temple of the Lord, so doubtless Joshua was to urge his people and help in the building of the temple then in the process of construction. The crown was then to be placed in the Temple as a memorial in honor of Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah, the exiles from Babylon. Zechariah then says to Joshua the high priest:
And those who are far away will come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me unto you. And it shall come to pass, if ye will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your god – [Zech 6:15]
Here the words suddenly break off and we are left without knowing what blessing the Lord was going to bestow upon Joshua.
ISRAEL’S FASTS VERSUS THE WEIGHTIER MATTERS OF THE LAW. – On December 4, 518 B.C., a deputation of men came up to Jerusalem to inquire whether or not the fasts that had been instituted to commemorate Jerusalem’s destruction were still obligatory. Zechariah is commanded to reprove them for their selfish observance of the days appointed for fasting (7:4-7) and to enforce attention to the matters of the law that are really weighty. In words that are characteristic of a great prophet, Zechariah said:
Thus spoke the Lord of hosts, Execute true judgment, and practice toward each other mercy and compassion; and the widow, and the orphan, the stranger, and the poor do not oppress; and do not think evil one of another in your hearts. [Zech. 7:0, 10.]
He then points out that the Lord had been obliged to drive Israel among the nations because of its resistance to the requirements of love, truth, and righteousness made known to them through the former prophets (7:11-14). Now, however, the Lord will favor the people with His love and blessings (8:1-15). To merit these they are required to do the following things:
Speak truth to one another; truth and a judgment of peace practice in your gates: and do not think evil in your hearts against each other; and love not a false oath; for it is all these that I hate, saith the Lord. [Zech. 8:16, 17.]
If they do these things the Lord will make their previous fast days into days of joy and delight. Then looking far into future time – so it seems to the writer – Zechariah foresees that in the latter days his people will be so favored of God as to win the approbation of many and powerful nations.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts: It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities; and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying: Let us go speedily to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will go also. Yea, many peoples and mighty nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying: We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you. [Zech. 8:20-23.]
THE INTERPRETATION OF ZECHARIAH: PART TWO. – We have already pointed out that the second part of Zechariah consists of loosely connected prophecies that deal with events leading up to the triumph of God’s kingdom in the latter days. The prophecies in this section are very Messianic. Many of them should prove especially interesting to members of the Church.
OVERTHROW OF THE WICKED NATIONS AND THE APPEARANCE OF THE MESSIANIC KING. – In chapter 9:1-7 the prophet utters a threat of judgment against the wicked nations about Palestin. Hadrach [Little or nothing is known of this place.], Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, Zidon, Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron representing the countries of Syria, Phoenicia, and Philistia are to fall while Jerusalem (verse 8) is to be protected by the power of God. Then follows a passage that is referred to by the Gospels of Matthew and John as a prediction of the triumphal entry fo Jesus into Jerusalem upon an ass.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion,
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem;
Behold, thy king cometh unto thee,
He is triumphant, and victorious,
Lowly, and riding upon an ass,
Even upon a colt the foal of an ass. [Zech. 9:9.]
Matthew uses this passage in the following way:
And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, to the mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, Go into the village that is over against you, and straightway ye will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to me. and if any one say aught to you, ye shall say, The Lord has need of them; and straightway he will send them. Now all this has come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying:
Say to the daughter of Zion,
Behold, thy King comes to thee,’
Meek, and riding on an ass,
And on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
And the disciples went and did as Jesus directed them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon. And most of the multitude spread their own garments in the way; others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the way. And the multitudes that went before him and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest. And when he entered into Jerusalem, all the city was shaken, saying: Who is this? The multitudes said: This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee. [Matt 231:1-11.]
In John 12:12-15 the passage in question is used quite similarly. John then makes the following comment:
These things his disciples understood not at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of him, and that they did these things to him. [John 12:16.]
It is quite apparent that Zechariah 9:9 was regarded in New Testament times as having reference to the Christ.
In Zechariah 9:10 the Messiah’s dominion is represented as being “from sea to sea, and from the River [Probably the Euphrates river is meant.] to the ends of the earth.” He also shall “speak peace unto the nations.” We naturally expect the Messiah to give a message of peace. this verse still awaits its complete fulfillment.
The next verse is somewhat difficult to interpret. It reads:
As for thee also, because of the blood of thy covenant
I send forth thy prisoners out of the pit
Wherein is no water. [Zech 9:11.]
The verse is addressed to the “daughter of Zion” i.e., all Israel as verse 10 indicates. Most commentators seem to think it has reference to the release of Israelites from captivity in foreign lands. That may possibly be the true meaning, though Latter-day Saints may have some reason to believe that it is a brief reference to salvation for the dead. (See D. & C. 128:22).
ISRAEL’S POWER OVER THE NATIONS. – Zechariah promises (9:12-17) Israel that the Lord ‘will render double to thee” i.e., give her a double measure of glory in place of the sufferings she has had in times past. Not only will the Lord liberate His people from bondage and captivity, but He will also give them strength to gain victory over the power of the world so as to subdue it completely. the sons of Zion will be pitted according to Zechariah’s figure against the sons of Greece who represent the Gentile world.
For I bend Judah for Me,
I fill the bow with Ephraim;
And I will stir up thy sons, O Zion,
Against thy sons, O Greece,
And will make thee as the sword of a mighty man. [Zech. 9:13.]
This description reminds one of Micah’s predictions concerning the way in which Israel shall triumph over her foes in the latter days. Zechariah proceeds to tell how the Lord will help defend and exalt His people.
And the Lord shall be seen over them,
And His arrow shall go forth as the lightning;
And the Lord God will blow the horn,
And will go with whirlwinds of the south.
The Lord of hosts will defend them;
And they shall devour, and shall tread down the sling-stones;
And they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine;
And they shall be filled like the basins, like the corners of the altar.
And the Lord their God shall save them in that day
As the flock of His people;
For they shall be as the stones of a crown,
Glittering over His land.
For how great is their goodliness, and how great is their beauty!
Grain shall make the young men flourish,
And new wine the maids. [Zech. 9:14-17.]
THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL AND THE OVERTHROW OF WICKED NATIONS. – After exhorting (10:1, 2) Israel to ask the Lord for blessings and not to rely on false oracles, Zechariah again looks forward to the dispensation of the fullness of times when the Lord will fight for His people and restore them.
And they shall be as mighty men,
Treading down in the mire of the streets in the battle,
And they shall fight, because the Lord is with them;
And the riders on horses shall be confounded.
And I will strengthen the house of Judah,
And I will save the house of Joseph,
And I will bring them back, for I have compassion upon them,
And they shall be as though I had not cast them off;
For I am the Lord their God, and I will hear them.
And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man,
And their heart shall rejoice as through wine;’
Yea, their children shall see it, and rejoice,
Their heart shall be glad in the Lord.
I will hiss for them, and gather them,
For I have redeemed them;
For they shall increase as they have increased.
And I will sow them among the peoples,
And they shall remember Me in far countries;
And they shall live with their children, and shall return.
I will bring them back also out of the land of Egypt,
And gather them out of Assyria;
And I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon,
And place shall not suffice them. [Zech. 10:5-10.]
The prophet then symbolizes the fall of the wicked nations by referring to Egypt and Assyria, but his own people are to be strengthened in the Lord.
And over the sea affliction shall pass,
And the waves shall be smitten in the sea,
And all the depths of the Nile shall dry up;
And the pride of Assyria shall be brought down,
And the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away.
And I will strengthen them in the Lord;
And they shall walk up and down in His name,
Saith the Lord. [Zech. 10:11, 12.]
THE ALLEGORIES OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND THE FOOLISH SHEPHERD. – Chapter 11:1-3 is a prelude of judgment that serves as an introduction to the allegories that follow in verses 4-14. By means of these allegories the prophet dips into the history of the past. He points out the Lord’s relations with His people, the insensibility of the latter, the divine anger, and the judgment that resulted. The Lord appointed a good shepherd to take care of the flock, which he wished to deliver from oppression (4-6). However, the flock was so lacking in appreciation (7, 8) that the shepherd finally decided to discontinue his labors (9-14). Verses 12 and 13 are so interesting, especially in connection with Matthew 27:9, 10, that we shall say a little about them. They read as follows:
And I said unto them: “if ye think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear.” So they weighted for my hire thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me: “Cast it to the potter, the goodly price that I was prized at of them.” And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them (lit. “it”) to the potter, in the house of the Lord. [Zech. 11:12, 13.]
When Matthew tells the story of the end of Judas and his thirty pieces of silver he seems to quote this passage from Zechariah – perhaps from memory – but refers it to Jeremiah.
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
And they took the thirty pieces of silver,
The price of him that was priced,
Whom some of the sons of Israel priced,
And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me. [Matt. 27:9, 10.]
No person who knows the passage in Zechariah can read that in Matthew without being struck by the similarity in all essential points between the two. But no such passage can be found in Jeremiah. The answer to this may lie in the corruption of the Greek text. In any event, we are more interested in the fact that the passage from Zechariah is regarded by Matthew as being fulfilled in the betrayal of the Christ and in the death and burial of Judas the arch traitor.
When the good shepherd gives up shepherding the flock the result is disastrous, for the Lord gives it into the care of a foolish shepherd. The latter not only neglects the sheep, but he eats the flesh of the fat and abuses the flock generally (15, 16). a woe is pronounced upon him and he is to be visited with a terrible judgment (17).
To the thoughtful and spiritual reader these allegories are full of meat for reflection. They ought to be read in connection with John 10:7-15.
THE LORD TO SAVE JERUSALEM AND APPEAR TO THE JEWS. – In a remarkable prophecy (12;1-14) yet awaiting fulfillment, Zechariah sees Judah and Jerusalem assaulted by the nations of the earth, which shall be gathered against it. Through the aid of the Lord the inhabitants of Jerusalem are to be defended and most of the armies of the nations destroyed. Then shall the Messiah appear and there shall come a change upon the Jews. In the words of the record:
And I will pour upon the house of David,
And upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
The spirit of grace and of supplication;
And they shall look unto Me whom they have pierced;
And they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son,
And shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. [Zech. 12:10.]
John 19:37 quotes part of this scripture as having reference to the crucifixion of the Christ, and Revelation 1:7 seems to allude to it. Christians for centuries have regarded it as Messianic, not to mention many Jews, ancient and modern. In this they are right, but the passage in question ought to be considered in connection with Zechariah 13:6; 14:1-5, and revelation 11:1-13. The first mentioned passage (13:6) seems out of place in its present connection. It would give much better sense if placed immediately after 12:10. The verse in question reads:
And one shall say to Him: “What are these wounds between thy hands?” then He shall answer: “Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends (lit. ‘lovers’).” [Zech. 13:6.]
Chapter 14:1-5 gives more detail concerning the assault on Jerusalem by the nations as mentioned in 12;1-9. In verses 3 and 4 of this passage another very interesting reference to the Lord’s appearance among the Jews is made. They tell us that after part of Jerusalem has been taken by the enemy
Then shall the Lord go forth,
And fight against those nations,
As when He fighteth in the day of battle.
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives,
Which is before Jerusalem on the east,
And the mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof
Toward the east and toward the west,
So that there shall be a very great valley;
And half of the mountain shall remove toward the north,
And half of it toward the south.
All of the verses we have quoted give us a surprisingly clear picture of the part to be taken by our Lord when He appears to deliver His ancient covenant people. Furthermore, this picture is fully confirmed in the Doctrine and Covenants. In a revelation given to Joseph Smith on March 7, 1831, the Lord tells of events to take place at His coming. in the following will be noted some clear allusions to the passages in Zechariah we have just quoted:
And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount (Olivet), and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake. And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly. and calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed; and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: these wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God. And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their King. [D. & C. 45:48-53. See also 133:20, 35.]
The account of the assault of the nations on Jerusalem and the Lord’s defense of His people is amplified in Revelation 11:1-13. Two prophets or witnesses of the Lord are raised up to defend Jerusalem against the assaults of the enemy. By supernatural authority and power they do this until their testimony is finished. They are then overcome by their foes and slain. After their bodies have lain on the streets of Jerusalem three days and a half they are revived by the power of god and caught up to heaven. Fear seizes those who behold this. Then great destruction and judgment come upon the city.
Zechariah and John were prophets and seers of the highest order to be privileged to see these great events of the latter days.
JUDAH AND JERUSALEM TO BE HOLY UNTO THE LORD. – Following the great events of which we have spoken, Judah and Jerusalem are to become holy unto the Lord. In Zechariah 13:1 it is stated that a fountain will be opened for sin and for uncleanness to the Jews. Many views have been given respecting the meaning of this passage, but in the absence of more specific information the writer suggests that it has reference to the ordinance of baptism. When the Jews have recognized in the Christ their long-looked-for Messiah what is more natural than to suppose that the Gospel will be preached to them and the essential ordinances of the Church administered?
False prophets are to cease their activities and current idolatrous practices eliminated (13:2-5). The Lord in that day will be king over all the earth (14:9). Palestine shall no longer be cursed and Jerusalem shall dwell safely (14:10, 11). Most of the peoples who have warred against Jerusalem shall come to a terrible end and their wealth shall be swept up. The remnant that are left will be converted and are to worship the Lord (14:16-19).
The Book of Zechariah closes with the following ideal picture:
In that day there will be on the bells of the horses, Holy to the Lord; and the pots in the Lord’s house will be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the Lord of hosts; and all they who sacrifice will come, and take of them, and boil therein; and in that day there will no longer be the Canaanite (or “trafficker”) in the house of the Lord of hosts. [Zech. 14:20, 21. See the prophet Joseph Smith’s allusion to this passage in D.H.C., II, 357, or in Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 93.]
Zechariah was such a great seer that his book deserves greater attention on the part of Latter-day Saint students. It is to be hoped that careful study by many will materially help in the interpretation of parts of the record whose meanings now elude us.
Malachi, Prophet to the Sons of Levi, Past and Present
MALACHI AND HIS NAME. – As we have observed with so many of the prophets, little is known of the life of Malachi apart from what can be learned in his book. And many scholars of our day even suppose that the prophecy is anonymous. They point out that the name Malachi occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament and that, furthermore, some of the ancient Jewish interpreters did not believe the superscription contained a person’s name. Thus the Septuagint, ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, begins the prophecy with the words, “the burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by the hand of His messenger.” And the Targum of Jonathan, an ancient Aramaic paraphrase of the prophets, reads My messenger, and goes on to state that Ezra the Scribe was the person designated. At first such evidence seeks quite convincing, when it is kept in mind that male’akhi, the Hebrew form of Malachi, means My messenger Again, it is urged that the name male’akhi must have been taken bodily from Chapter 3:1, “Behold, I send My messenger”
It should be pointed out to the reader, however, that such plausible evidence is by no means decisive. First of all, there is no good linguistic reason why male’akhi or Malachi should not be the name of a person. Second, the ancient interpreters of the text cited above may have been relatively ignorant of Hebrew history and so translated the proper noun without being aware of it. [A good illustration of how even modern scholars have translated proper names is found in Amos 6:13, where Lodebhar and Karnaim, names of two cities, have been translated “a thing of nought” and “horns” respectively.] Practically every Hebrew name has a meaning, whether or not it is easily recognized. Third, the fact that no other Old Testament prophet is anonymous should make us cautious in accepting this one as being such. In a most exhaustive examination of the evidence, requiring forty-six pages, Alexander von Bulmerincq of Dorpat reaches the conclusion that “the meaning of the name Male’achi involves no hindrance to explaining it as a proper name,” “the real name of the author under which he was known to his contemporaries.” [See George Adam Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets (New and Rev. Ed.) II, 325 ff.]
But aside from all these considerations, convincing or otherwise, latter-day Saints have a more sure word on the matter. When the resurrected Savior visited this continent, according to the account in the Book of Mormon, He delivered to the ancient Nephites the last two chapters of Malachi’s prophecy and explained their significance. Preliminary to quoting the text, the ancient historian, Mormon, writes the following words:
And it came to pass that he [Christ] commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them. And it came to pass that after they were written he expounded them. And these are the words which he did tell unto them, saying: Thus said the Father unto Malachi. … (3 Nephi 24:1; italics ours.)
Then follows the text of Malachi 3, 4, and substantially as in the Authorized Version of the Bible. The point is clear so far as we are concerned. The Savior would surely not quote the prophecy as coming from Malachi if he did not actually write it.
THE TIMES OF THE PROPHET. – According to synagogue tradition, Malachi lived after the prophets Haggai and Zechariah [Haggai and Zechariah, as we have seen, may be dated about 520 B.C.]. It is clear from the prophecy that the Temple had been completed, and in addition enough years had passed by to see the Jews become worldly and negligent toward their spiritual duties. The priests, who should have led and taught their people correct principles, were themselves corrupt and guilty of being partial in their administration of the Law. Many marriages with the heathen women of the land were taking place and men were guilty of divorcing their wives unjustly. Improper sacrifices were being offered up, contrary to the letter and spirit of the Law of Moses. Failure to pay tithes and offerings is also mentioned. The book seems to make clear that the Jews were living under a pechah, or Persian governor, who was kind to them. These facts and others not here mentioned lead us to believe that Malachi was written during the reign of Artaxerxes I, king of Persia, or sometime between 464 B.C. and 424 B.C. I tentatively date the book at 450 B.C.
THE LITERARY STYLE OF MALACHI. – While Malachi has some things in common with the style of others of the prophets, it must be admitted that, on the whole, his style is very peculiar. It is much like the style of the scribes in that it puts and answers questions and is somewhat argumentative in form. The method of the prophet partly resembles that of Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, who, in fact, was a contemporary of his. Using this so-called didactic-dialectic method, Malachi proceeds to make an accusation against the priests or people; in imagination he has them raise an objection, which he then proceeds to show is without foundation, thus substantiating the truth of his original pronouncement. Here are two examples:
I have loved you, saith the Lord.
Yet ye say: ‘wherein hast Thou loved us?’
Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?
Saith the Lord;
Yet I loved Jacob;
But Esau I hated,
And made his mountains a desolation. (1:2, 3)
Will a man rob God?
Yet ye rob me,
But ye say: ‘wherein have we robbed Thee?’
In tithes and offerings. (3:8)
The style of Malachi is animated and vigorous; it may lack some of the grandeur of the earlier prophets, but is extremely forceful. Some scholars think that the prophecy is an epitome of several addresses so cleverly put together as to give the effect of one continuous discourse. This the author is inclined to doubt.
The Hebrew of Malachi is good, and the text is fairly well preserved. It has probably suffered little in the course of its transmission through the centuries.
THE INTERPRETATION OF MALACHI: PART ONE. – The Mormon people have been particularly blessed in the fact that modern revelation has made it possible for us to interpret the most difficult part of Malachi – namely, the last two chapters. The true significance of these chapters was lost from the days of the Early Church until the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Commentators have done very well, however, on the first two chapters. The prophecy divides naturally into two parts. The first of these, comprising chapters one and two, deals with situations that confronted Malachi in his own day. the second, composed of the last two chapters, deals in part with matters yet future in relation to Malachi’s own time. In fact, the prophet deals with certain important events pertaining to the opening scenes of this dispensation. All of this helps explain why the Savior, in quoting part of Malachi to the Nephites, used the last two chapters. [See III Nephi 24, 25,.] These deal with matters of greater significance and interest to them and future generations than those of Malachi’s own day portrayed in the first two chapters. These facts we shall presently bring out in greater detail. Let us proceed to consider the first part of the book.
Chapters one and two of Malachi may be conveniently studied under four heads:
The superscription (1:1)
I. The proof of the Lord’s love for His people (1:2-5).
II. The Lord’s condemnation of Israel for her faithlessness (1:6-2:9).
III. A reproof for foreign marriages and divorce (2:10-17). Verse 17 is really a reiteration of the Lord’s displeasure with faithless Israel and provides a reason for presenting the matter that follows in section two of the prophecy.
Of the superscription we need not say anything. It is sufficiently clear as it stands.
THE LORD’S LOVE FOR ISRAEL. – In Chapter 1:2-5 the Lord answers Israel’s fancied question, “Wherein has thou loved us?” He points out that Esau (here representative of Edom) was Jacob’s (Israel’s) brother, but Jacob He loved and Esau He hated. That is to say, of two brothers whom one might fancy to be on equal terms before God, the one is loved and the other hated. And in proof that He loved Israel more than Esau, the Lord indicates what He did to his despised rival:
I … made his mountains a desolation,
And gave his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness.
Whereas Edom saith:
‘We are beaten down,
But we will return and build the waste places’;
Thus saith the Lord of hosts:
They shall build, but I will throw down;
And they shall be called The border of wickedness,
And the people whom the Lord execrateth forever.
And your eyes shall see,
And ye shall say:
‘The Lord is great beyond the border of Israel.’ (1:3-5)
The reader will remember our relatively full discussion of the relations between Edom and Israel in the chapter on Obadiah. Any discussion of the ethics and religion of the scripture just quoted must revolve around what was said there. It is a fact of history that, during Israel’s exile in Babylon, Edom was conquered by the Nabateans, and their continued bondage is clearly reflected in the above passage. The lines distinctly reveal God’s love for Israel and her divine election. If this love seems unfair, let it be remembered that God’s choices are based on character and performance; between Israel and Edom His choice was historically justified. The Old Testament doctrine of election, in the words of Sir George Adam Smith, “is of election to service only. That is to say, the Divine intention in electing covers not the elect individual or nation only, but the world and its need of God and truth.”
ISRAEL CONDEMNED FOR HER FAITHLESSNESS. – The prophet now proceeds (1:6-2:9) to berate the people, and especially the priests, for the lack of honor and respect accorded God. Israel not only has questioned His love, but has stooped to such low actions that even His majesty or authority is at stake:
A son honoreth his father,
And a servant his master;
If then I be a father,
Where is My honor?
And if I be a master
Where is My reverence? (1:6)
Malachi is much concerned over this behavior, for to the Hebrew mind honor and respect is expected before love. And we see how far his people had strayed from the concept of God as a king and loving Father to them. The prophet points out how cheap and without conscience Israel’s worship has become. The Lord is despised, hje declares, because polluted bread is offered upon His altar, not to mention sick, lame, and blind animals, when the letter and spirit of the Law of Moses had required the finest. Would even their Persian governor accept these as a gift?
Bring it now to thy governor;
Will he be pleased with thee?
Or respect thee?
Saith the Lord of hosts. (1:8)
Malachi believes it would be far better for the doors of the Temple to be shut than for such sacrifices to be burnt:
O that there were even one among you that would shut the doors
That ye might not kindle mine altar in vain! (1:10)
Malachi’s teaching is highly applicable even to our own day. We may build inexpensive houses of worship, but let not our worship be cheap and unworthy. We may build temples economically, but let us not work in them without a due sense of the dignity and respect that God requires.
The prophet was thoroughly aroused against his own generation because it depreciated the Temple and was dishonest and stingy in its offerings. Malachi, like all the other prophets, was opposed to the ritual of worship, even that provided by the Law of Moses, being conducted unworthily by men whose lives were a discredit to their religion. In a statement remarkable for its vigor, breadth, and generosity, Malachi says:
For from the rising of the sun to its going down
My name is great among the nations;
And in every place incense is offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name is great among the nations,
Saith the Lord of hosts. (1:`11)
The inspired writer is here making a contrast between the smallness and contempt in which his own people hold God and the reverence and respect paid Him by the heathen. It is most interesting to notice that the offerings of the heathen are quite acceptable. Malachi would have his people know that in proportion to their light and knowledge of God, the heathen nations were as good as or better than Israel.
In Chapter 2:1-9, the prophet particularly admonishes the priests. To do so was timely and appropriate, for if the religious leaders of the people failed in their duties and responsibilities to God, how could the masses be expected to comply with the requirements of the good life: the priests were told to give glory to God, or in other words to mend their ways and change their attitudes. And if they did not receive this commandment – called in verse 4, “My Covenant with Levi” – they were to be cursed. By departing from the ways of their fathers they had neutralized or broken the covenant originally made with God. At first, the tribe of Levi had walked uprightly before Him. Of this fact that prophet says:
The law of truth was in his mouth,
And wickedness was not found on his lips;
whole-heartedly and in righteousness he walked with Me,
And many he turned from iniquity. (2:6)
Malachi shows that the priests not only are irreverent and slack in their worship but are failing to live up to their intellectual responsibilities. Of all people who should gain knowledge and seek to improve their intellectual talents, it is those who are in the service of God:
For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge,
And they should seek instruction from his mouth;
For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. (2:7)
This is a remarkable statement and one of the finest in all of prophetic literature.
Religion needs all the brains we mortals can put into it. There is a priesthood of knowledge, a priesthood of the intellect, says ‘Malachi,’ and he makes this part of God’s covenant with Levi. Every priest of God is a priest of truth; and it is largely by the Christian ministry’s neglect of their intellectual duties that much irreligion prevails. [Smith, op. cit.; p. 353. And, as Elder Joseph Fielding Smith has said: “Not only brains, but the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, which every member of the Church is entitled to receive, if he righteously seeks it.”]
In our own generation the Lord has re-emphasized this teaching of Malachi by telling us that “it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance,” [D. & C. 131:6.] and that “the glory of God is intelligence.” [D. & C. 93:36.] And if the ancient prophet were now living, he would remind us strongly to read and re-read these words:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; see learning, even by study and also by faith. (D. & C. 88:`117)
And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people. (D. & C. 90:15)
Verily, religion has little use for the intellectual slacker. The Lord’s work is too important to entrust to mental sluggards.
A PROTEST AGAINST FOREIGN MARRIAGES AND DIVORCE. – Malachi’s next protest is against the covenant breakers of Israel, who put aside the wives of their youth and marry among the half0heathen peoples, who know little or nothing of the requirements of Israel’s God. Since Israel believed in the Fatherhood of God, all members of the nation were thus one brotherhood. To divorce one’s wife uner these circumstances was unnatural and cruel.
Have we not all one father?
Hath not one God created us?
Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother,
Profaning the covenant of our fathers?
Judah has dealt treacherously,
And an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem;
For Judah hath profaned the sanctuary of the Lord which He loveth,
And hath married the daughter of a strange god.
. . .
And this further ye do:
Ye cover the altar of the Lord with tears,
With weeping, and with sighing,
Insomuch that He regardeth not the offering any more,
Neither receiveth it with good will at your hand.
Yet ye say: ‘wherefore?’
Because the Lord hath been witness
Between thee and the wife of thy youth,
Against whom thou hast dealt treacherously,
Though she is thy companion,
And the wife of thy covenant.
And not one has done so
Who had the right spirit.
For what seeketh the one?
A seed given of God.
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
And let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
For I hate divorce,
Saith the Lord, the God of Israel,
And him that covereth his garment with violence,
Saith the Lord of hosts;
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That he deal not treacherously. (2:10, 11, 13-16)
Malachi was right in protesting against mixed marriages. The experience of the race proves that. But as to His covenant people, the Lord wanted all their good qualities, built up through the centuries, to be conserved within the group. To marry outside of it not only involved the breaking of sacred covenants; it tended to dilute, squander, and dissipate the desirable qualities of the race. The spiritual loss was incalculable. It is precisely for these reasons that modern Israel is constantly reminded by its leaders not to marry outside of the Church. And common hard sense says they are right.
No finer or more spiritual pronouncement on marriage has ever been made except by the Christ Himself. Those who have held Malachi to be a legalist have missed entirely, in the opinion of the author, the spirit of the prophet. And when the prophet says, “Ye cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with sighing,” one is strongly reminded of another branch fo Israel in ancient America where the men were guilty of the same offenses. The Lord, through His prophet Jacob, says:
For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of hosts. For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of hosts … Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you … [Jac. 2:31-33, 35.]
THE INTERPRETATION OF MALACHI: PART TWO. – We indicated above that verse 17 of chapter 2 provides the key of Malachi for considering certain future events in part two of his prophecy.
Ye have wearied the Lord with your words.
Yet ye say: “Wherein have we wearied Him?”
In that ye say: “Every one that doeth evil
Is good in the sight of the Lord,
And He delighteth in them;
Or where is the God of justice?”
The prophet is saddened, as the above words show, by the low spiritual state of his people. He sees a day in the future when the answer to the question, “Where is the god of justice?” will be answered with a vengeance. The Israel of that day will be tried and refined, but out of its experiences great good to the human race shall result.
Part Two of Malachi, as we have said, comprises chapters 3 and 4 in our usual English versions. In the Hebrew Version these are combined in one chapter. Let us study this part of Malachi under the following heads:
I. The coming of a messenger to prepare the way of the Lord; the Lord to purify and refine the sons of Levi that they may offer an offering in righteousness (3:1-4).
II. Condemnation of Israel for various sins, with promised blessings if she complies with God’s requirements (3:5-18). These verses probably have reference to Malachi’s own times, but application may be made of them to future Israel.
III. The coming of Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord in which judgments shall befall the wicked (4:1-6).
THE COMING OF A MESSENGER TO PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD. – We pointed out earlier in the chapter that, thanks to modern revelation, we can now interpret the last two chapters of Malachi better than ever before. When the angel Moroni appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith on that eventful evening of the 21st of September, 1823, he quoted at length from the scriptures and proceeded to expound them. The prophet did not make known the names and chapters of the various Old Testament books that were quoted to him with the exception of three. these consisted of part of the third and all of the fourth chapter of Malachi, the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, and the second chapter of Joel, verses 28-32. We have already considered the words of Moroni bearing on Joel in the chapter on that prophet.
In his account of the heavenly vision, the prophet Joseph Smith declared that Moroni quoted only part of the third chapter of Malachi, but he did not state what part. Quite natural curiosity may prompt one to ask the question. Which verses of this chapter did Moroni quote? The writer is convinced that he quoted the first three verses and perhaps also verse four. Hence the division as given in the first study head just above. The reasons for our conviction in this regard follow: Verses one to four would be of prime importance to Moroni, since they deal with the events of the latter days as our study will show. Then again, verses five to eighteen may be interpreted as dealing with infractions of the moral and religious code of Malachi’s own times. They could not possibly be of immediate use to Moroni in explaining to Joseph Smith the great events that were shortly to come to pass in the world.
The first three verses of the chapter are quoted herewith:
Behold, I will send My messenger,
And he shall prepare the way before Me;
And the Lord, whom ye seek,
Shall suddenly come to His temple;
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
Whom ye delight in,
Behold, He shall dome,
Saith the Lord of hosts.
But who may abide the day of His coming?
And who shall stand when He appeareth?
For He is like a refiner’s fire,
And like fuller’s soap;
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. [Mal. 3:1-3.]
Most of us can agree, I believe that Moroni appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith for the express purpose of explaining to him the significant events relative to the restoration and the rise of the Church of Jesus Christ in the last dispensation, and more particularly the part that Joseph Smith himself was to play in these events. the above verses must, therefore, have received careful attention on the part of the angelic visitor. They refer to three or four striking events. In the first place, a messenger was to come and prepare the way before the Lord. Secondly, the Lord was to appear suddenly. Thirdly, His coming was to be one of purification and judgment. And fourthly, He was to make it possible for the sons of Levi to “offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Let us deal with these in the order given.
Who was the messenger to prepare the way before the Lord? some of our brethren in the Church believe that it was the prophet Joseph Smith. Indeed, this conjecture is quite plausible, for did not he help prepare the way for the yet future advent of our Lord? In revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 34:65 and 35:4 respectively, Orson Pratt and Sidney Rigdon were expressly told that they were preparing the way before the Lord’s coming. If that was true of these elders, how much more so in the case of the prophet Joseph Smith. But Malachi very evidently had in mind one special individual. This individual is believed by others of our brethren, on the authority of the Gospels and the Book of Isaiah [See Matt. 3:1, 2; 11:10 (especially important); Mark 1:2-4; Luke 3:2-6; John 1:19-23; Isa. 40:1-5.] to be John the Baptist. These brethren pointy out that one of the Gospels, Matthew to be exact (11:10), specifically states that John the Baptist was the messenger spoken of by Malachi. Speaking of John the Savior said:
This is he about whom it is written, Lo, I send my messenger before thy face, and he shall prepare thy way before thee. (11:10)
If the passage in question refers to John the Baptist, as the Savior states, it would have to have a double meaning to refer to Joseph Smith. This seems highly improbable in view of the fact that John’s first appearance only in part fulfilled the prediction in Malachi 3:1. When the priests and Levites questioned John as to his standing, he frankly admitted that he was acting in the office of Elias, one preparing the way before the Lord, by saying:
I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said Isaiah the prophet. (John 1:23)
It should be noted that John was quoting Isaiah 40:3 when he affirmed himself to be the “voice” crying in the wilderness. If one examines this verse and its context, it is found that many of the events recorded therein could be fulfilled only in our dispensation. We quote:
Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,
Saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,
And cry unto her,
That her time of service is accomplished
That her guilt is paid off;
That she hath received of the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth:
‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up
And every mountain and hill shall be made low;
And the rugged shall be made level,
And the rough places a plain;
and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isa. 40:1-5; cf. D. & C. 49:23; 133:19-25)
It is evident that Jerusalem’s service is not yet accomplished, nor is her guilt paid off. Neither have the valleys been lifted up and the mountains and hills made low. Nor has the glory of the Lord been revealed. The context would seem to imply that if John the Baptist is the “voice” spoken of, his mission also included the preparing of the way of the Lord in the latter days. Moroni, in all probability, explained this to Joseph Smith and pointed out to him that he would yet receive the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood from the resurrected John the Baptist, who would thus fulfill his two-fold mission of preparing the way before the Lord. [This was fulfilled on May 15, 1829. See D. & C. 13.] John was, of course, only one of many to prepare the way, but Malachi 3:1 could just as well refer to him as to any other individual.
Having thus explained John’s mission, we can reasonably suppose that the angelic visitor would then reveal to Joseph the imminent advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was to come in His glory and rule for a thousand years over His saints, but before that event there should be great judgments in the earth and more especially at His appearance [See D. & C. 29:7-11, where the Lord alludes to these very things.]; consequently, He would be, as the scriptures say, “like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” Here was a good opportunity to impress Joseph Smith with the importance of having the righteous people of the earth duly warned and prepared for the judgments to come.
Now the question arises as to whom Malachi was referring when he mentions the sons of Levi, who were to be purged as gold and silver that they might “offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Moroni undoubtedly expounded it all to the young prophet, and we are fortunate in finding the answer to our query in the Doctrine and Covenants. Once, when in an exalted mood, the prophet wrote as follows?
Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand;
And who can abide the day of His coming,
And who can stand when He appeareth?
For He is like a refiner’s fire,
And like fuller’s soap;
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.
Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in His holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation. (D. & C. 128:234; italics ours)
The answer is clear and unmistakable, because the passage in Malachi which we have been considering is given along with it. The Latter-day Saints, as a Church and a people, are the ones who are to offer up an offering in righteousness in the Temple in the form of a book containing the records of our dead. We are now performing functions that will be required of the sons of Levi when they come into the Church. In a figurative sense we may be called sons of Levi. That this conclusion is correct is made even more certain by other references in the Doctrine and Covenants. In the Doctrine and Covenants 84:31-34, the Lord says:
Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses – for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed – and the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye … For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. (Italics ours.)
The attention of the reader is called especially to the portions of this passage which the writer has italicized. Part of verse 31 seems to be an allusion to Malachi 3:1, in that it refers to an acceptable offering, i.e., “an offering in righteousness.” A point of doctrine not generally noticed in the Church is that those who hold the Priesthood are called “the sons of Moses and of Aaron.” That is to say, they are to all intents sons of Levi, since both Moses and Aaron were literal descendants of Levi. [See I Chron. 6:1-3.] In a sermon on the Priesthood, the Prophet Joseph Smith also points out that the ordinance of sacrifice as it existed before the day of Moses will be performed by the sons of Levi as a part of the acceptable offering. [See D.H.C., IV, 210-212. See also D. & C. 124:39 where the sacrifices by the “sons of Levi” are spoken of in connection with the Temple.] Those who presently hold the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods are, indeed, the sons of Levi in a certain sense and are among the ones whom Malachi apparently had in mind when he gave his great pr9ophecy. We have no wish to exclude any of the literal descendants of Levi who may later come into the Church and perform temple work. It is possible, then, that Moroni began his explanation of temple work and of salvation for the dead in connection with the Third Chapter of Malachi rather than with the Fourth Chapter, as so many persons in the Church commonly suppose.
In the light of our explanation of Malachi 3:1-3, it would be entirely appropriate for Moroni to quote verse 4:
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
Be pleasant unto the Lord,
As in the days of old,
And as in the former years.
After the gathering of Israel and the restoration of the Church in the latter days, Malachi foresees that a change will come over Jacob’s descendants and that their worship will be acceptable to the Lord as it was many long years before his time. And these visions of the future bring him back with a start to the sad state of his people in his own times. Again, he is forced to condemn them for their dire misdeeds.
FURTHER CONDEMNATION OF ISRAEL FOR WRONG-DOING. – The Lord in His judgment, Malachi points out, will be a swift witness against the sorcerers who became numerous among His people after the Babylonian captivity; against the adulterers who were all too prevalent because of the influence of foreign peoples; against the false swearers and perjurers and those who hold back the pay of poor men and defraud or oppress the widow and the orphan; and, finally, against those who thrust aside the foreigner, stranger or guest and fail in other ways to fear God. These indictments through Malachi show how alert and aware the prophet must ahve been of social injustices among his people. Malachi knew as did Amos that men can not worship God acceptably and be unjust to their fellows. To find God, a man must first find his neighbors.
Malachi proceeds to rebuke further the people because they have robbed God in tithes and offerings. In ancient Israel tithes were paid to the Lord for his servants the Levites, who had been given no other inheritance. They in turn were tithed, and the proceeds given to the priests. [See Num. 18:24-29.]
The offerings were of several varieties such as bread and cake [Num. 15:19, 20.], the annual half-shekel [Exo. 30:13-15.], the tabernacle offerings [Exo. 25:2, 3; 35:5, 21, 24; 36:3, 6.] and the offerings for the Second Temple when first erected [Ezra 8:25.]. The prophet then implies that because they rob God of these things, the blessings of the fields have been withheld from them. The teaching that there is a relationship between man’s service to God and the way in which the earth yields her fruits is most interesting.
Will a man rob God?
Yet ye rob Me.
But ye say: “Wherein have we robbed Thee?”
In tithes and offerings.
Ye are cursed with the curse,
Yet ye rob me,
Even this whole nation.
Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house,
And try Me now herewith,
Saith the Lord of hosts,
If I will not open you the windows of heaven [*],
and pour you out a blessing,
Until there is no more need.
And I will rebuke the devourer for you,
And he shall not destroy for you the fruits of the ground;
Neither shall the vine in the field miscarry for you,
Saith the Lord of hosts.
And all nations shall call you happy.
For ye shall be a delightsome land,
saith the Lord of hosts [Mal. 3:8-12.]
[* The Hebrew words here translated “windows of heaven” are precisely the ones used in the story of the Flood (Gen. 7:11). The words may refer to the rain that will be poured upon the fields to make them produce. this would be in harmony with the verses that follow.]
After the prophet has disclosed why the Lord has withheld His blessings from the people, he proceeds to show them that their complaints against Him are unjust, and that in the forthcoming judgment day a clear distinction will be made between the righteous and the wicked. The wicked who mourn and fast before God and then complain that their piety has brought them no gain are contrasted with the righteous who do not believe that mere outward worship is sufficient to please Him. In respect to the righteous
A book of remembrance [*] was written before Him,
for them that feared the Lord,
And that thought upon His name,
And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
In the day that I make up My treasure;
And I will spare them, as a man spareth
His own son that serveth him. [Mal. 3:16, 17. See also D. & C. 60:4; 64:23.]
[* In early times the “book of remembrance” was one in which inspired writings were recorded. See Moses 6:5, 6. In Persian times those who rendered service to the king had their names entered in a book with a notice of their merits, so that they might be rewarded at a future time. See Esther 6:1, 2. In the light of this custom the metaphor is readily understood.]
When Malachi mentions those things to his people he sees the coming of the Day of the Lord and great judgments upon the earth in the latter days. This is the time in which the Lord will make up His treasure and “discern between the righteous and the wicked.” In chapter 4 we have the prophet’s description of this great period, which we shall now consider.
THE COMING OF ELIJAH BEFORE THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE DAY OF THE LORD. – In our opinion, Malachi foresaw many of the same events mentioned by Joel, Obadiah, Zephaniah, and others of the prophets. Prior to and at the coming of our Lord the world will be visited with sorrow, distress, and devastation. Malachi states this in the following words:
For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven;
And all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble;
And the day that cometh shall burn them up,
Saith the Lord of hosts,
That it shall leave them neither root nor branch. [Mal. 4:1.]
When Moroni was explaining this verse to the prophet Joseph Smith, he quoted it with a little variation from that given. The lines that were changed read as follows:
And all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble;
For they that come shall burn them. [D.H.C., I, 12.]
This verse in question is alluded to in the Doctrine and Covenants at least three times [D. & C. 29:9, 24; 133:64. The last reference mentions Malachi specifically.], and in every case the Lord explains it as having to do with the judgments to be poured out upon the wicked at the time of His Second Advent. Section 64:23, 24 is a good illustration.
Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming. For after today cometh the burning – this is speaking after the manner of the Lord – for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
The prophet then turns from the unhappy state of the wicked and gives in somewhat figurative language a picture of the fortunate situation of the righteous.
But unto you that fear My name
Shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings [*]
And ye shall go forth, and grow up
As calves of the stall.
And ye shall tread down the wicked; [The power to be given Israel over her enemies was referred to by the Savior in His discourses to the Nephites. See III Nephi 21:11-22 where he quoted Micah 5:7-15.]
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
In the day that I shall do this.
Saith the Lord of hosts. [Mal. 4:2, 3.]
[*This line may occasion some difficulty in interpretation. The Book of Mormon text, III Nephi 25:2, reads “Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” The Hebrew text of Malachi clearly reads “sun” and not “son,” and “her wings” instead of “his wings.” The reading “her wings” would point in the direction of “sun” as the correct reading and not “son,” even though “sun” in Hebrew is either masculine or feminine in gender. It occurs to the writer that in recording the dictation of Joseph Smith during the translation of the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery may have written “son” for “sun” because both words are pronounced alike. But in spite of this logic, there are two other places in the Book of Mormon where “Son of Righteousness” is used and obviously as a title of the Christ. See II Nephi 26:9; Ether 9:22. And it is an interesting fact that the fathers from Justin downwards, and most early commentators understood “sun of righteousness” to apply to the Christ, who is supposed to be described as the rising sun, like Jehovah in Ps. 84:11 and Isa. 60:19, 20. In the “Inspired” revision of the Bible the prophet has not changed “sun” to “son.”
Merrill Y. Van Wagoner, one of my former students, adds the following very acceptable note: Had he (Joseph Smith) changed it, it would have been the resolution fo a symbol and not translation. Since son:sun are homonyms only in English and not at all confuseable in Hebrew; and, since we have the Hebrew text of Malachi with shemesh (sun), at the same time not having the original Book of Mormon texts for verification, then, if we accept (as we must) the reading “Son” in III Nephi as an error in transcription by Oliver Cowdery, we may be justified in assuming the readings in II Nephi and Ether are likewise errors. There is nothing in the last two passages, even though they obviously refer to Christ, either to prevent the use of the symbolic “Sun of Righteousness,” or even to indicate with any certainty that this symbol was not found in the original Nephite texts.]
In the final verses of the prophecy, Malachi gives notice of a glorious event that is to precede the “coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord,” which, as we have already seen, “shall burn as an oven.” He makes reference to the coming of Elijah the prophet to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” The real meaning of these verses has always eluded commentators, and not until the Lord sent heavenly messengers to Joseph Smith and elucidated it has it been possible to clear up the difficulties. The notion was widespread in ancient times among the rabbis and fathers that Elijah the prophet, who was caught up to heaven without tasting death, would sometime reappear. Some believed him to be the individual mentioned in Malachi 3:1 as “My messenger.” This was a mistake, for, as we have already seen, the “messenger” was John the Baptist. The verses in question read:
Behold I will send you
Elijah the prophet
Before the coming
Of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers,
Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. [Mal. 4:5, 6.]
When the angel Moroni quoted this part of Malachi, he did so with some changes as follows:
Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood,
By the hand of Elijah the prophet,
Before the coming
Of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he shall plant in the hearts of the children
The promises made to the fathers,
If it were not so,
The whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. [D. & C. 2; D.H.C., I, 12.]
The above may be a paraphrase of the original text to help Joseph Smith comprehend its true significance. Otherwise, we should find it difficult to explain why the Savior in His appearance to the Nephites quoted it in accordance with the text found in the Authorized Version. (See III Nephi 25:5, 6.) We do not know, of course, the exact words of Moroni to Joseph smith explaining the mission of Elijah, but they must have been in accordance with the prophet’s writings on the subject. Moroni taught the prophet at intervals for several years, and during that period Joseph must have become thoroughly grounded in the principles underlying Elijah’s keys and authority. We have already discussed the work of John the Baptist, who was to prepare the way before the Lord (Malachi 3:1). A person who is set apart to do such work is known as an elias. Hence the title spoken of by the Lord to His apostles as recorded in Matthew 17:12. In the New Testament it is not always safe to make the noun Elias equivalent to Elijah for it is both a name and a title. Speaking of the spirit of Elias, Joseph Smith says:
The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood of Elias, or the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained unto. And when god sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater work, holding the keys of the power of Elias, it was called the doctrine of Elias, even from the early ages of the world. [D.H.C., VI, 250.]
On the other hand, the mission of Elijah has to do with the higher spiritual functions of the Gospel fo Jesus Christ. Elijah was the last prophet to hold the keys of the sealing powers of the Priesthood, that is, to seal in heaven what is bound upon the earth. The spirit of Elijah implies the power to invoke a fulness of Priesthood. The prophet Joseph Smith states it in the following way:
The spirit, power and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelation, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven. [Ibid., 251.]
Through the powers of the Priesthood of Elijah, men and women may be sealed to each other in marriage for time an eternity in the temples of God. Children born of these unions may be claimed by their parents forever, since the latter are united by an everlasting covenant. The family organization thus continues beyond the grave, and one generation is thus sealed to another back to the days of Adam. Families that have passed into the spirit world without a knowledge of the Gospel, and hence without being sealed to each other, must have the work done vicariously for them in the temples of the Lord. All of the Gospel ordinances that are necessary to be performed for a living person to obtain salvation must also be performed for the dead. The Lord has made no exceptions other than for children who die under the age of eight years. That is the reason why the fathers (the dead) spoken of in Malachi 4:6 turn to their children, their living descendants, to have all the Gospel ordinances, from baptism to marriage, performed vicariously for them in the temples. If the children do not turn their hearts to their ancestors and perform this necessary work for them, it will make it impossible for the Lord to accomplish His purpose of making this earth the celestial abode of the righteous. “”Blessed are the meek,” said the Savior, “for they shall inherit the earth.” In consequence of default in performing the ordinances required, the only course left for the Lord would be to “smite the earth with a curse.”
I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you will receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah. [D.H.C., VI, 252. Read also Joseph Smith’s statement at the end of the chapter on Obadiah, p. 90; also D. & C. 124:26-55; 128:1-18, 24. For a detailed exposition of Elijah’s mission see Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, chs. 24-26.]
The sublime mission of Elijah to return and restore the keys of his power before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” was duly fulfilled on April 3, 1836, when he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple in Ohio. Their description fo that notable appearance follows:
Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said: Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi – testifying that he (Elijah) should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come – to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse – therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. [D. & C. 110:13-16.]
It is evident that the Book of Malachi, like that of Joel and others of the prophets, contains a word of warning to this generation. And to the Mormon people it must ever remain one of the most vital books of the Old Testament.