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The authorised KJV translates Malachi 3:1 as follows: "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 come, saith the LORD of hosts."

Are each of the following interpretations possible or can some be eliminated and are there other interpretations that could be considered?

  1. The verse is in response to the last part of Malachi 2:17 "Where is the God of judgement?". There will be a messenger who will prepare the way and then God (who the people are wondering where he is in Malachi 2:17, and who the people delight in) who is also the messenger of the covenant (the covenant given to Moses), will suddenly come to his temple. "Behold he shall come" refers to the messenger who will prepare the way, otherwise it would be behold I shall come.

  2. The verse is in response to the last part of Malachi 2:17 "Where is the God of judgement?". There will be a messenger who will prepare the way and then God (who the people are wondering where he is in Malachi 2:17, and who the people delight in) who will also be the messenger of a new covenant, will suddenly come to his temple. "Behold he shall come" refers to the messenger who will prepare the way, otherwise it would be behold I shall come.

  3. The verse is in response to the last part of Malachi 2:17 "Where is the God of judgement?". There will be a messenger who will prepare the way, and then God (who the people are wondering where he is in Malachi 2:17) will suddenly come to his temple, as will the messenger who will prepare the way who is also the messenger of a new covenant, and is a messenger the people delight in (presumably the Messiah). Behold he shall come refers to the Messiah messenger, otherwise it would be behold I shall come.

  4. The verse relates to the last part of Malachi 2:17 "Where is the God of judgement?" but is not a response to it. There will be a messenger who will prepare the way, and then another messenger will come to the God of judgement's temple and this other person will be the messenger of a new covenant, and will be a Lord that the people seek and delight in (presumably the Messiah). "Behold he shall come" refers to the Messiah messenger.

  5. The verse relates to the last part of Malachi 2:17 "Where is the God of judgement?" but is not a response to it. There will be a messenger who will prepare the way, and will also be a messenger of a new covenant, and who will also be a Lord that the people seek and delight in (presumably the Messiah), and that this messenger will come to the God of judgement's temple.

While I haven't explicitly mentioned it, God in interpretation (1) and (2) could also be considered the Messiah. I didn't explicitly mention it because in those interpretations I was assuming "the Lord, whom ye seek" didn't refer to the people seeking the Messiah, instead it was a response to the question "Where is the God of judgement?" in Malachi 2:17 and so referred to the "God of judgement".

Just to be clear the question isn't explicitly about how you would interpret the verse but which of these interpretations could be eliminated (perhaps through the Hebrew grammatical construction, or something else) and whether there are other interpretations that should be considered. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

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    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your thoughtful question. Please remember to take the tour (link below) to fully understand the type of questions appropriate here.
    – Dottard
    Jun 24 '20 at 23:12
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    Which of these interpretations of Malachi 3:1 can be eliminated ? - None.
    – Lucian
    Jun 25 '20 at 0:31
  • @Lucian - I agree that all of these have their merit and any final interpretation must include them. This is particularly rich verse and many layers of meaning and has been recognised as such by Jewish interpreters for a long time. It is clearly Messianic.
    – Dottard
    Jun 25 '20 at 1:30
  • @Dottard Thank you for the welcome. Though I did not notice tour link. Did you think the question inappropriate?
    – Glenn
    Jun 25 '20 at 8:42
  • Thank you @Lucian also for the reply.
    – Glenn
    Jun 25 '20 at 8:42
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It is Mark who interprets this passage for us in the opening two verses of his gospel account :

As it is written in the prophets "Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee". [Mark 1:2 KJV]

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God ... is what is written in Malachi 3:1 - is what Mark is telling us.

Then he quotes Isaiah :

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord". [Mark 1:3 KJV]

Then he refers, immediately, to John the Baptist :

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for (it is εις, better translated 'unto') the remission of sins. [Mark 1:4 KJV]

In quoting the prophet Malachi, Mark alters the Septuagint (assuming that he is using the Septuagint in the first place, otherwise he is giving his own, unique translation) and by so doing he adds further revelation to the prophet's words.

For Malachi says 'prepare the way before me'.

Mark says 'prepare thy way before thee.'

What could not (yet) be revealed in the days of the prophet, is revealed by the apostolic word after the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the 'Lord' mentioned but in further revelation Mark says 'thy way' and 'thee' instead of 'my way' - the revelation of the Person of the Son of God.

For it is clear, by Mark's words, that the 'Messenger of the Covenant' is 'the Lord himself' as said Malachi.

And Mark makes it clear that the 'messenger of preparation' - the messenger sent before the face of the Lord - is none other than John the Baptist, who baptises unto the remission of sins and prepares a way for the Lord who shall 'suddenly appear'.

This is further seen in John's gospel account when two disciples, Andrew and another (arguably John himself) John 1:35-42, are already following John's ministry when, finally, 'John stood' (going no further) and 'Jesus walked' (making progress).

John the Baptist's preparatory ministry is at an end, with regard to these two disciples. At John's words 'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world' they (perforce) must follow the walking Jesus or lose sight of his disappearing back. In order to conform to John's word (Behold) they are obliged to leave the stationary John and follow the walking Jesus.

The preparation is over. The Messenger of the Covenant has appeared. And they follow.

Yet again, this is apparent according to the writer to the Hebrews who calls Jesus Christ the 'Apostle' and High Priest of our profession, Hebrews 3:1. There is considerable similarity in the epithet 'Messenger' to the even stronger title 'Apostle' - added to Christ after his ascension.


It is not for me to 'eliminate' any of your interpretations, I would rather leave you to decide about that. But I do suggest that the emphasis of your own interpretations is not quite as I see in Mark's interpretation, nor in the Providential circumstances which demonstrate the matter, recounted by John.

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    Thanks, @NigelJ - excellent exposition using the Bible to interpret itself.
    – Dottard
    Jun 25 '20 at 7:11
  • Thank you @NigelJ for the feedback. I do not know what happened to the post, when I posted it there were 5 interpretations (and logical gaps for more). It has now had the formatting changed and I can see why you thought maybe there were only 2 interpretations. I assume someone has edited the post. Thank you for your response, but the reason I posted is that I did not know if any of the options could be eliminated, because I did not know if the Hebrew grammar for example eliminated any of them.
    – Glenn
    Jun 25 '20 at 8:48
  • @NigelJ Thanks.
    – Glenn
    Jun 25 '20 at 11:53

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